A state trooper pulls someone over for a DUI in Washington State. There are various legal terms and laws surrounding DUIs in Washington State. Perhaps, you’re wondering what the big difference is between a DUI vs. a DWI and what that means for your driving privileges. Maybe you’re curious about the following questions:
  • Will I face jail time?
  • Do I have to pay a fine?
  • Can I be charged if I’m a minor?
  • Is a DUI or DWI a felony or misdemeanor?
In this article, we’ll cover all of the basics about DUIs vs. DWIs in Washington State, including the penalties, so that you know what will happen if you are charged with driving under the influence at any point.

What is the difference between a DUI vs. a DWI?

Many people think that DUIs and DWIs are two types of charges, and this is true in some states. However, in the majority of states, there is no difference between a DUI vs. a DWI. Washington is one of those states.  DUIs and DWIs might be used in conversation. However, the law recognizes “DUI” as the official charge in Washington State, and you can be penalized whether you’re a minor or an adult. Let’s talk about the definition of driving under the influence and what it can mean for you.

What is driving under the influence?

In Washington State, driving under the influence means that you got behind the wheel after drinking, taking marijuana, or taking other drugs. Also, your blood or breath alcohol concentration is 0.08+ two hours post-driving, or your THC concentration is 5.00+ to be charged with a DUI, according to RCW 46.61.502. An exception to the blood or breath alcohol concentration is minors (those below the age of 21). Minors only have to have an alcohol concentration of .02 to be charged with a DUI. What happens if you decline a breath test? Your driver’s license can be suspended for a year automatically due to the “implied consent” law in Washington State. You can be arrested on suspicion of a DUI alone, though your breath test administered when you get to the jail is the evidence that will be shown in court–not necessarily the other reasons (swerving, etc.) that the officer believed you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving. A DUI can come with as much as 364 days in jail and $5,000 dollars in fines. You may also be required to go to a treatment program, use an ignition interlock device, or surrender your license for the time being. For minors, DUI charges are different. Generally, someone aged 20 and below who was charged with driving under the influence will get a misdemeanor. This may result in no more than three months behind bars and up to $1,000 in fines. It is not required for a minor to serve jail time, pay fines, or get an ignition interlock device in Washington State. You may get your license suspended for a 90-day period. However, it is possible to contest this within the first 20 days after getting arrested. Whether you’ve had a DUI before makes a difference when it comes to sentencing. First-time DUIs, for instance, don’t have as harsh penalties as third or fourth DUIs. However, Washington State still does not go easy on them. DUIs are generally gross misdemeanors in Washington State. Although, they can be a felony if this is your fourth DUI in a decade, if you have another felony DUI, or if you injured or killed someone in the past when you were behind the wheel after having a few drinks or taking drugs. A DUI of this nature is considered a Class B felony, and it could land you in prison for upwards of 10 years and cost you as much as $20,000 in fines.

What is driving while intoxicated?

As we mentioned above, driving while intoxicated and driving under the influence are the same thing in Washington State. Some states (such as Texas) consider these two separate offenses. In these states, which is worse: a DUI or DWI? Most often, DUIs are the most serious of the two charges. In Washington State, you can expect a DUI charge–not a DWI–if you were found driving after indulging in alcohol, marijuana, or even prescription drugs (assuming that you meet the blood or breath alcohol concentration or THC concentration requirements).

Bugbee Law can help.

Driving under the influence is a dangerous activity that can result in significant fines, jail time, and beyond. A DUI charge can also be elevated from a gross misdemeanor to a felony, depending on the circumstances around your arrest and charges. Fortunately, an experienced DUI attorney can help you get through this charge and come out on the other side with a minimal amount of penalties. Here at Bugbee Law Office, we are well versed in Washington State DUI laws. We know the proper legal verbiage surrounding a DUI vs. a DWI, and we know what it takes to get your license reinstated. We also have successfully helped many of our clients get their charges lowered or dropped.  Working with a DUI attorney, such as ourselves, can make the DUI process go much smoother since we can advise you on everything you need to know from the moment you’ve been arrested. That can make the charges easier to handle and ensure that you do everything you can to put the charges behind you. Are you facing a DUI charge? An experienced DUI attorney can make a major difference in your case. Schedule your free case evaluation with Bugbee Law Office today.

Bugbee Law Office, P.S.  (509) 337-5082

1312 N Monroe St, Ste 147

Spokane, WA 99201 |  View Map

View Our Privacy Policy

The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

© 2016 Bugbee Law Offices, P.S.