Is Drunk Driving a Serious Offense?
In Washington (and every other state in the country), driving under the influence (DUI) is treated very seriously and carries some very stiff penalties. This is especially true for individuals who hold commercial driver’s licenses because they are subject to an even lower blood alcohol content (BAC) threshold and face stiffer penalties for driving under the influence.
Many believe that the penalties assessed for a DUI conviction are too harsh for the behavior they are meant to govern. On the other hand, many others insist that a DUI is a very serious crime and it should be treated as such.
DUI penalties are put in place to both hold offenders accountable for their actions and to protect the public by bringing about a behavioral change that lessens the frequency with which people engage in drunk driving.
Here are a couple of the primary reasons why a DUI is treated so seriously in the state of Washington:
The Cost to Society
Alcohol-related deaths remain the leading cause of death on U.S. roads and highways accounting for more than 29% of all traffic-related fatalities each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 10,874 DUI fatalities in 2017.
While the problem had been steadily getting better over the past 30 years, it now seems that the number of annual alcohol-related traffic fatalities is beginning to rise again. Today, there are more than 300,000 injuries suffered in alcohol-related crashes every year. What’s more, approximately 68% of these injuries involved a driver with a BAC that was two times over the universal limit (0.08%).
Moreover, the total cost to society attributed to alcohol-related accidents is enormous. If you add up all of the different costs—the lost lives, damage to property, medical expenses, funeral arrangements, lost income, court costs, and all of the other consequences, DUI accidents and the associated damages cost the U.S. society roughly $44 billion in 2010 (the last year for which this figure is available).
The Effect of Alcohol Consumption Has on a Person’s Ability to Drive Safely
How the consumption of alcohol will affect your ability to drive safely depends on a lot of factors, including:
- Your gender;
- Your weight and body fat;
- What you are drinking and how much;
- How quickly you drink; and
- Your personal tolerance level;
Your BAC level is determined by a combination of these factors and people usually have a very difficult time assessing their level of impairment.
However, if you consider a 180-pound male and 110-pound female, just one drink in an hour will raise both their BAC levels above .01%, the legal limit for drivers under 21.
Once their BAC levels reach .02% or higher, they will experience a loss of judgment and trouble doing two things at once. Already at this point, neither of them should be driving.
At two standard drinks in an hour, their coordination will be reduced, they will have trouble tracking moving objects, and difficulty steering.
After three drinks in one hour, the female’s BAC will already be above .08% and she will have trouble controlling the speed of a vehicle and difficulty reasoning and processing information.
Another drink in that same hour will raise their BAC levels even more. The female will be significantly more impaired, because of her smaller size, but both will be slower to react and have a hard time staying in their lanes when driving. Furthermore, they will also have trouble seeing clearly and controlling their vehicles.
Once their BAC levels are over the legal limit, they will remain there for quite a long time. This is because, while the effect of alcohol on your body depends on many factors, the only thing that will aid in metabolizing the alcohol through your system is time.
It takes at least one hour to process one drink. So, it will usually take about 4 hours for the male’s BAC level to drop below .01% and even longer for the alcohol to leave the female’s system––at least 7 hours.
The Personal Cost of a DUI
Some people make the huge mistake of treating a DUI like it just another traffic citation. In Washington, traffic citations are merely infractions. That means that they are punishable by a fine and there is no probation and no jail time.
On the other hand, a DUI conviction is a misdemeanor crime, at best, and can result in a criminal record, a suspension of your driver’s license, probation, alcohol classes, heavy fines, and up to 364 days in county jail.
In addition, there are significant collateral consequences associated with a drunk driving conviction. The collateral consequence is not imposed by the state or the Secretary of State, but are imposed by other entities such as:
- An employer;
- A licensing agency; or even
- Immigration officials
The most significant collateral consequences are usually those that affect your occupation or employment. For example, if you are a licensed professional, a doctor, a lawyer, a CPA, a realtor, etc., you may face the revocation of your professional license if you get a DUI.
What’s more, your employer may impose sanctions against you if you are convicted of drunk driving. This may even include being fired from your job.
Furthermore, it can be very difficult to obtain new employment after being convicted of drunk driving. Your DUI conviction will be a matter of public record and will show up on any background check you undergo.
It is therefore important that before you plead guilty to a DUI charge, you consider all of the possible consequences that could apply to you if convicted.
How an Experienced DUI Attorney Can Help
DUI Charges are treated seriously in Washington. But, hiring a knowledgeable and experienced Washington DUI attorney to represent you can help you avoid a conviction and the resulting consequences you will face.
A good DUI attorney will have knowledge of the laws and technicalities involved with a DUI arrest:
- Was police behavior proper?
- Was there proper use of the breathalyzer?
- Was the evidence handled correctly?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, your attorney may be able to have the charges against you dismissed completely.
After being arrested for a DUI, your driver’s license will likely be suspended by the DMV. An experienced attorney can help you to get your license reinstated by providing you with the proper forms and making sure that you fill out all of the necessary paperwork.
Lastly, an experienced DUI attorney will likely have worked with many of the different judges and prosecutors you may face. This can help you tremendously when determining what plea to enter.
For more information, contact Bugbee Law Offices, P.S at (509) 337-5082 or visit our contact page here to arrange a free consultation with an experienced Spokane DUI attorney.
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.