DUI Washington
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DUI WA Overview

Driving under the influence in the state of Washington is a serious, criminal offense. In accordance with the state implied consent law, which becomes effective as soon as you obtain a valid driver’s license, an officer has the right to  request a breath test if they suspect that you are impaired due to alcohol or drugs.

You can suffer dire consequences if your blood alcohol content or BAC reaches .08% or more. If you are a minor, under the age of 20, the acceptable BAC level decreases to .02%.

If the results prove the officer’s suspicions correct, they will arrest you for driving under the influence, tow your vehicle and your driver’s license will either be suspended or revoked, pending a hearing or trial, if applicable. The period varies from 90 days to two years; read the information listed on the documents you receive from the state of Washington.

In most instances, the arresting officer supplies you with a temporary driver’s license that lasts approximately 60 days.  This is so you can request a telephonic hearing to contest the suspension.  The expiration date usually coincides with the hearing date.  The outcome of the hearing is generally provided in written notice at some point after the hearing is conducted.

Under normal circumstances, you are required to request a hearing with in 20 days from the arrest and the hearing is scheduled within 60 days of the arrest.  You are required to pay a fee of $375, although sometimes they waive the fee. Your criminal defense attorney can assist you with the hearing request process.

If your hearing results in a suspension,  you must take steps required by the State of Washington Department of License to reinstate your driver’s license after the suspension ends, such as expensive insurance, proof of alcohol/drug treatment, and fees.

In addition to the DOL hearing you will also have to respond to the criminal case and appear before the judge in court.  Beware – failure to report to court during the specified time and date will result in a warrant for your arrest.  Once you appear, the judge reads the charges and possible sentences for the crime.

In the state of Washington, the sentence for a conviction of a DUI may be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on two factors:

  • Repeat offender, more than four offenses relating to a DUI within 10 years – Felony
  • Vehicular homicide or assault relating to a DUI – Felony

Felonies are much more serious and the penalties for these crimes are extremely severe. Felonies are measured as Class A, B or C, with a Class A felony being the most serious. Someone who commits vehicular assaults commits a Class B felony.

Repeat offenders often receive the highest sentences and penalties, as they pose a greater risk to the general public. A repeat DUI offender who commits a felony DUI may receive no less than twenty-two months in jail, with fines totaling up to $10,000.00. They can be sentenced to up to five years in prison. In addition, if your BAC level is very high, the sentence is more severe.

Other times, a conviction results in a gross misdemeanor. A gross misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to 364 days in jail, court costs, fines, an alcohol evaluation followed by alcohol treatment or classes. You must also submit to a breath test whenever a police officer requests one, keep a valid driver’s license and insurance, and drive with an ignition interlock device. If you violate one or all of these requirements, you must receive a minimum of 30 days in jail as a punishment.

However, many DUI charges can be amended to lesser criminal offenses such as negligent driving, reckless driving, or reckless endangerment.

A negligent driver is a simple misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and $1000 in fines.  There is no license suspension associated with the charge and it occurs when someone drives in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or marijuana or any drug.

Reckless Driving is a gross misdemeanor and has a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and $5000.00 in fines and carries a 30 day license suspension with it. The description of reckless driving is someone who willfully places someone in danger, by committing gross misconduct behind the wheel. A reckless driver operates their vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

Reckless endangerment is also a gross misdemeanor. Reckless endangerment places others at substantial risk of death or physical injury.

Regardless of your type of crime and the sentence, you will still have the DUI conviction listed on your driving record. It will remain for a the rest of your life. The negative impact of a DUI is long lasting and can affect many others, besides you.

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