Driving Under the Influence, popularly known by its acronym DUI is the offense of driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any drug to the extent that makes operating the vehicle unsafe. DUIs are such a big deal due to the negative effects it has on the driver as well as other road users. Between 2009 and 2018, Washington state recorded 1,602 drunk driving fatalities, and even with fewer drivers on the road, 2020 went down as one of the deadliest years in Washington with the highest number of polydrugs (drug positive for two or more drugs or any alcohol and drugs) related fatalities (180). In this post, we will be looking at all you need to know about DUI in Washington State and some of the consequences that make it such a big deal.

DUI Penalties in Washington State

If you are arrested for driving under the influence, or you know someone facing similar charges, the thought of going to court is always a terrifying experience. Even if it’s your first offense, Washington State has one of the harshest DUI penalties in the country, which is why it’s advisable to have a skilled attorney by your side to guide you through potential penalties. The penalties you receive depend on several factors, such as your first, second, or third offense conviction, aggravating factors, and if you agreed to a Breath Alcohol Test (BAC test). In Washington State, DUI is considered a gross misdemeanor if it’s a first-time drunk driving. The maximum penalty for a gross misdemeanor is a $5,000 fine and 364 days in jail. Under RCW 46.61.502, the DUI charge could be upgraded from gross misdemeanor to a felony if you have three or more criminal traffic-related offenses within ten years of your most recent DUI charge. In Washington, a felony is classified as a Class B offense and is punishable by a $20,000 fine and up to ten years in prison. Here are some possible civil and criminal penalties you can expect to receive for a DUI offense conviction.

Jail Time

First offense: If you have no prior DUI convictions within the past seven years and your BAC levels were below .15 or the test wasn’t administered, you may be sentenced to a minimum of 24 hours in jail or a maximum of 364 days. If the BAC level was .15 or above or you refused to provide a breath sample, you may be sentenced o a minimum of 48 hours in jail or a maximum of 364 days. Second offense: If you have been convicted of a DUI offense within the past seven years and you had a BAC of less than 0.15 or no BAC test was done, you may face a minimum sentence of 30 days in jail followed by 60 days of home confinement. The maximum penalty you can receive is 364 days in jail. If your BAC level was .15 or above or you refused to provide a breath sample, you may get between 45 to 364 days in jail, followed by 90 days of electronic home monitoring/ arrest. Third offense: Individuals with two prior DUI convictions within seven years will get their penalties doubled up. If the BAC is above .15 or more or you failed to provide a breath sample, you may receive a minimum sentence of 120 days in jail followed by 150 days on electric monitoring. The maximum sentence you can receive is up to 364 days in jail. If no BAC test was conducted or your BAC level was below .15, you could get 90 days in jail followed by 120 days of home arrest. Fourth offense: If you receive a fourth DUI within ten years, the charge will automatically upgrade from a gross misdemeanor to a felony DUI. The sentence will vary based on the charged individual’s history of felony convictions as well as criminal traffic convictions. If you are facing your fourth DUI charge, it would be best to seek the help of an experienced DUI defense counsel who will assist you with developing an effective case strategy.

Probation and Fines

Courts can place a person convicted of a DUI on probation for up to 60 months.  Fines range from $990.50 to $5,000.

Aggravating Factors

In Washington State, additional factors could enhance your DUI penalties, consequently increasing the jail term and/or the fine. For example, committing a DUI offense with a passenger under the age of 16 could result in a harsher sentence.

Need Help with DUI Meaning and Process?

Given the harsh penalties you are likely to face when charged with DUI in Washington State, it would be wise to seek the services of an experienced DUI defense attorney who can help by further explaining DUI meaning and the processes involved when facing such charges. If you are in Spokane or Spokane Valley, WA, you should contact us to learn more about how we can help you if you or someone close to you has been convicted of a DUI.