A driver under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both can get a citation known as a DUI. A DUI in the state of Washington can stay on your driving record for 15 years. This can affect your auto insurance and may affect your employment potential. Knowing the Washington DUI laws can be beneficial in ensuring you maintain a positive driving record. Getting a DUI can be confusing and stressful whether it’s your first offense or your third. Below is an overview of DUI laws in Washington and general information on everything you need to know.
Washington DUI Laws
What Is the Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit?
The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit in Washington, determined by either breathalyzers or blood tests, varies by certain factors. The limit for drivers 21 years old and over is 0.08 percent. The limit for drivers under 21 years old is 0.02 percent. Individuals driving a commercial vehicle have a limit of 0.04 percent.
The punishment varies depending on how high the driver’s BAC is at the time he or she is arrested. A driver with a BAC under the limit can still get a DUI-related citation if the driver appears to be under the influence, according to the Washington State Department of Licensing.
What Happens If I Get Pulled Over?
Upon being pulled over, the officer will ask for proof of your driver’s license, car insurance and registration. All three are required in Washington. You may be asked to take the Field Sobriety Test (FST) if the officer thinks you may be under the influence. You can refuse to take this test.
The driver will be asked to take a blood or breathalyzer test. Blood tests are usually requested for unconscious drivers or drivers who appear to be under the influence of drugs. Individuals being tested for drugs cannot have a concentration of more than five nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood. The officer may choose to arrest you on the spot and impound your vehicle.
Can I Refuse the BAC Test?
One of the Washington DUI laws worth remembering is the “Implied Consent” law. According to the Washington State Legislature, by driving a motor vehicle, it is assumed you are giving consent to a BAC test if an officer has probable cause to believe you’re under the influence.
You can be required to take the test any time you’re physically in possession of the car even if you’re not actually driving. If you’re sitting in your car that’s out of gas or taking a nap and an officer happens upon you and suspects alcohol, you may be required to take the BAC test. Typically, the BAC test should be taken within two hours after driving.
What Happens if I Refuse It?
If you refuse to take the BAC test, the officer will warn you of the possible consequences. Penalties for refusing to take the BAC test may be even harsher than being charged with a DUI. This penalty is in addition to any penalties you face when you appear in court. Washington DUI laws mandate that refusing to take a BAC test can result in the driver’s license being suspended or revoked for at least a year.
Can I Plead “Wet Reckless”?
“Wet reckless”, typically used as a plea bargain in a reckless driving charge, can also be used in some DUI cases in Washington. The advantage of a wet reckless charge is that the penalty is less severe than for a DUI. The penalties for DUIs depend on if the driver has any priors. While a wet reckless conviction has lesser consequences than a DUI, the wet reckless will still show up on your driving record as a prior.
What Are the Penalties I Should Expect?
The penalties for a DUI depend on the circumstances of the arrest, the driver’s BAC, and prior convictions. Drivers with DUIs are typically charged with misdemeanors unless they have prior convictions for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide, in which case it would be felonies.
The Washington DMV states that drivers can be charged with felonies if the DUI involves a child as a passenger; a serious injury or death; a suspended or revoked license; or a high BAC. Drivers convicted of breaking Washington DUI laws receive administrative penalties from the Department of Licensing and criminal penalties from the court system. All penalties below are stiffer if a minor is in the vehicle.
First Offense DUI
Penalties for your first DUI offense are determined by various factors, including number of prior convictions, BAC level or your refusal to take BAC. If convicted, you can get a 90-day to one-year license suspension. Additionally, there are fines from $550 to $5,200, jail time or the use of an electronic home monitor system in lieu of jail. You may be able to drive with a suspended license if you have an ignition interlock device (IID) system installed in your vehicle.
Second Offense DUI
For a second DUI, drivers may have their license suspended for two years. They must also use an IID for five years. In addition to these administrative penalties, they could also get 45 days to a year in jail, 90 days of electronic home monitoring, fines from $950 to $5,200 and an additional 900-day license suspension as well as drug and alcohol counseling.
Third Offense DUI
It is considered the third violation of Washington DUI laws if the first two happened in the prior seven years. Administrative penalties include two-year suspension, two-year suspension for failure to take the tests and use of IID for ten years. Criminal penalties include 90 days to one year in jail, 120-150 days of electronic home monitoring, six months of alcohol counseling, three-year license suspension and fines of $1,500 to $5,200.
Fourth Offense DUI
The minimum fines and jail time are the same for the third and fourth offense. However, the amount is based on the BAC test and the willingness or refusal to take the test. In addition to using the IID for ten years, completing drug and alcohol treatment/assessment, and paying fines up to $5,200, the convicted driver may experience a four-year suspension.
Are you concerned how Washington DUI laws may affect you, your family or friends? If you’re in fear of having a DUI conviction, know that it’s not the end of the world. Often, people are confused or misinformed on what the laws actually are in their state. We hope that this article helps readers understand the DUI laws and possible penalties. While Washington DUI laws may appear to be strict, their purpose is to keep their residents and the streets as safe as possible!