Washington DUI Laws - Common Questions
Answers from a Snohomish County DUI Defense Attorney
- Have there been any changes to Washington DUI laws?
- What are the penalties for DUI?
- What are the laws for a first-time DUI?
- What do I need to know about a first-time DUI?
- What are the penalties for two or more DUIs?
- How will a DUI affect my commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
- What should I do if I’m arrested for a DUI while out of state?
- How much will a DUI cost me?
- Can I get a DUI for taking OTC medications?
- What is a physical control charge?
- What are common myths and misconceptions about DUI laws?
1. Have there been any changes to Washington DUI laws?
The State of Washington has changed or adjusted many of the laws regarding
DUI, and these laws will continue to evolve. For example, did you know
that Washington State no longer offers occupational driver’s licenses
for people convicted of DUI? In the past, first-time DUI offenders were
able to have their employers’ sign forms that would allow them to
have a provisional driver’s license to get to and from work, but
the offender could not drive anywhere else or during non-work hours. Unfortunately,
these occupational driver’s licenses have been eliminated.
The good news is that the law now allows eligible drivers to use an ignition
lock device while keeping their driver’s license full-time and with
no restrictions. The ignition lock device requires the driver to provide
a DUI breath test before starting their vehicles. They also include cameras
so that no one can start the car but the authorized driver. These new
laws will allow for many drivers to retain their driver’s licenses
despite a DUI conviction.
Because driving under the influence facts continue to change, an experienced
and knowledgeable law firm is an invaluable resource for assisting you
with any DUI questions or issues you may face.
2. What are the penalties for DUI?
According to Washington State law, you are considered to be driving under
the influence if you have a blood alcohol content, or BAC, of more than
.08%. If you are found guilty of a DUI in Washington State, some of the
consequences you might face include:
Jail time – Anywhere from 1 day to 365 days may be imposed, with a mandatory
minimum of 24 consecutive hours or 48 consecutive hours if your BAC was
.15% or higher, or if you refuse to take the breath test.
Electronic home monitoring – Monitoring can be imposed for a minimum of 15 days instead of
jail time if you are a first time offender. If your BAC was .15% or higher,
home monitoring can be imposed for a minimum of 30 days.
Fine – Fines from $350 to $5,000 may be imposed. The fine minimum is
$1,078 for individuals with a BAC of .15% or higher, or if you refuse
to take the breath test.
Driver’s license suspension – 90 days suspension or 1 year suspension may be imposed if your
BAC is .15% or higher or 2 years if you refuse to take a breath test.
Ignition interlock device – This device is required if you are convicted of a DUI.
Alcohol / drug education or treatment – Education or treatment is ordered at the discretion of the judge.
This typically involves completing an alcohol evaluation, as well as participating
in follow-up treatment for one eight-hour class for up to two years.
3. What are the laws for a first-time DUI?
A driver is considered legally impaired if his or her BAC is more than
.08%. For individuals who are under the age of 21, a BAC of .02% or over
is considered legally drunk; a BAC of .04% is legally drunk for a commercial
driver. If you are a first time offender, or if you have not had any administrative
actions taken against you in the last seven years, your consequences generally
are not as severe as those a repeat offender might face.
Under Washington State laws regarding DUI, some of the consequences a first
time offender might face include:
- Mandatory jail time of at least 24 hours
- Mandatory loss of your driver’s license for at least 90 days
- Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
- Mandatory alcohol evaluation and follow-up treatment
Even if criminal charges are not filed,
DUI regulations dictate that your driver’s license can be automatically suspended
if your BAC was more than .08%, or if you refused to submit to a breath
test. If criminal charges are filed against you and you are convicted,
you may also lose your driver’s license.
4. What do I need to know about a first-time DUI?
First, you can be arrested and convicted for driving under the influence
of both alcohol and drugs, which includes prescription medications. The
most important factor the law will consider is whether your ability to
drive has been impaired enough that you are a threat to the general public’s safety.
Second, the deferred prosecution program allows individuals to petition
the court for deferral of their case while they seek treatment for alcoholism,
drug addiction or mental illness. This means no jail time, fines, loss
of driver’s license, or special insurance requirement.
Finally, first time DUI laws require mandatory sentencing. Even if you
drove under the influence by mistake, or have never had a prior DUI, you
need to be able to defend yourself in court to make sure you take advantage
of all your rights.
5. What are the penalties for two or more DUIs?
For two or more DUI convictions, if your blood alcohol content tested at
less than 0.15%, you will receive at least 30 days or at most 1 year in
jail. If your blood alcohol content was above 0.15%, you will find yourself
behind bars for a minimum of 45 days or up to 1 year. On a second or subsequent
offense, jail time is very hard to avoid. When you are released from jail,
electronic home monitoring may also be required for a period of at least
60 days. This ankle-bracelet type monitoring device will keep track of
where you are at all times. The monitoring device cannot be removed, or
additional penalties will be imposed.
In addition to jail time and 24-hour-a-day monitoring, fines will likely
be imposed, ranging from $1,000 up to $8,000. In addition, and your driver’s
license may be suspended for up to 2 years. With these penalties, you
can see you will have lost your freedom and incurred some hefty blows
to your pocketbook!
Further, as this is your second conviction, you may also be facing alcohol
or drug assessment and up to five years’ probation. This means,
for up to five years from your release from jail, you must be on good
behavior and you may not encounter any difficulties with law enforcement.
Violating your probation can result in additional fines and fees, as well
as additional jail time.
6. How will a DUI affect my commercial driver’s license (CDL)?
If you have been arrested on a DUI charge and you hold a CDL, it’s
best to contact a Washington State DUI attorney as soon as possible to
learn how your driver’s license will be affected in your state.
Below is some important information regarding the consequences for people
with a commercial driver’s license:
In most states, if you are arrested for a DUI, law enforcement will confiscate
your CDL. Even if it isn’t confiscated immediately, it is very likely
that it will be taken at some point in the process. This means that you
cannot drive a commercial vehicle at all. In many states, you will lose
both your personal and commercial driver’s licenses. In most states,
it does not matter if you were driving a personal vehicle or a commercial
vehicle at the time of your arrest, the
consequences are usually about the same as far as your CDL is concerned.
Once your CDL has been confiscated, you won’t be able to get a temporary
one to use while you are fighting the case in court. Unfortunately, there
are federal regulations that govern this and most states are not going
to issue a temporary permit, even if you need it to work.
If you are driving a commercial vehicle, the legal blood alcohol limit
in most states is only .04%. This means that a BAC of more than .04% is
grounds for an arrest on a DUI charge. This is half the legal limit of
.08% when driving a non-commercial vehicle. For most states, a refusal
to submit to alcohol level tests is grounds for an automatic loss of your
commercial driver’s license for at least a year.
If you are convicted of a DUI for the first time, you could lose your CDL
for at least a year, especially if you are convicted of a DUI that occurred
while driving a commercial vehicle. The good news is that it is possible
to get it reinstated at some point, which is great if you depend on the
CDL for your livelihood. However, if you are convicted of a second DUI,
you will lose your commercial driver’s license altogether, even
if you were driving a non-commercial vehicle at the time of arrest. This
lifetime ban on a second conviction is generally the rule in most states
because it is based on federal guidelines.
7. What should I do if I’m arrested for a DUI while out of state?
If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) in
a state other than your own, you will probably have to go through the
same process as residents of that state. If you’ve been arrested
for an out of state DUI, here are some steps you will most likely have to take:
Call a lawyer: The very first thing you should do if you are arrested for a DUI is to
call an attorney in the local area. A local law firm can guide you through
the ins and outs of that state’s legal process. Tell the officer
that you would like to speak with legal counsel so that you can get advice
as soon as possible. If you want to learn more about the specific process
in a state, try checking online for DUI facts.
Driver’s license issues: Contact the licensing agency or department both in the state where you
were arrested and in your home state. You should find out what actions
are being taken against you and what steps you need to take to fight these
actions. Make sure that you don’t forget to contact your home state
to find out about any additional steps you might need to take to keep
your driver’s license at home. Your attorney should also be able
to answer some of these questions for you.
Arraignment: This generally happens very soon after an arrest. Time frames can vary,
but expect to appear in court for the first time as soon as the next business
day following your arrest. This is where you enter your plea and your
appearance is mandatory. Most courts will advise you of your rights at
Hearings and court dates: You will have to appear in person for these, even if you live out of
state. This could mean multiple trips back and forth between your home
state and the state in which you were arrested. A good attorney can make
this easier on you by working with your schedule, especially if you have
to fly in from far away.
Treatment: In many states, receiving alcohol treatment or taking classes is part
of the process. Enrolling into treatment as soon as you possibly can is
a very good thing. Treatment may even be mandatory, so the sooner you
begin, the better. If you are from out of state, you may be able to get
this treatment in your home state, but check with your lawyer to make
sure of this first.
Sentencing: Depending on your history, you could get jail time, community service,
fines, in-home detention, or mandatory alcohol classes or treatment.
8. How much will a DUI cost me?
If you were arrested for a DUI, it can have a devastating effect on your
pocketbook in more ways than you may realize. In fact, many people fail
to realize the financial costs involved with a DUI conviction, as most
concern themselves primarily with the loss of driving privileges or other
freedoms. The reality is that there are a number of potential financial
burdens associated with being convicted of a DUI, which is exactly why
it is so important to hire our Washington State DUI attorneys who will
work hard to win your case.
Some of the costs you may face if convicted of a DUI include:
- Court fees and other legal fees associated with the conviction
- Increased insurance rates
- Payment for required rehabilitation classes
- Loss of income, which may occur when you are unable to drive to your job,
have to take time off to serve jail time, attend alcohol classes, or participate
in community service
- An ignition interlock device installed in your car
9. Can I get a DUI for taking OTC medications?
When you feel a case of the sniffles coming on, you pick up your favorite
over-the-counter cold remedy and off you go. You would never think that
this act may lead to a traffic stop and a potential DUI charge. If you
fail a field sobriety test, have traces of cold medicine in your system,
or admit to have taken cold medicine, you could face a DUI.
Obviously you understand that taking too much of any medicine can impair
your judgment and could present potential dangers. This is why you always
follow the directions on the label and only take medicines you have used
before and with which are comfortable. However, if you are pulled over
for a minor traffic violation, the effects of your medication could cause
an officer to ask you to take a field sobriety test. One slip up or refusing
to take the test could lead to a charge of DUI.
At the Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC, we are available to defend your
rights. Before you do anything, you should call our firm to retain the
representation of our skilled Washington State DUI attorney.
10. What is a physical control charge?
You may have been told by your friends, a bartender, or even a law enforcement
officer to go to your car and “sleep it off.” This sounds
like a good idea, but it can get you in just as much trouble as a DUI
if you are arrested for a physical control charge. The best thing to do
is call a cab or have someone call for you.
The term "physical control" is only defined by example. There
is no legal definition for the term by statute. The most common example
of actual physical control is a driver sitting in the driver’s seat
of a parked car with the keys in the ignition. This happens a lot when
a driver decides to wait in the car until they can become sober. Unfortunately,
many drivers arrested for physical control believe they were doing the
right thing by waiting in their parked car.
The bad news: A physical control (PC) charge is the same as a DUI charge. This means
that if you are convicted of physical control, the court must impose mandatory
jail time, fines, an ignition interlock device, and driver’s license
suspension; just like a DUI charge. As a matter of fact, they are both
more or less, the same charge. With this said, a DUI charge and a physical
control charge require the government to prove different elements of the
crime. In most states involving a DUI case, the government must prove
you drove a vehicle. However, to prove the crime of physical control,
the government must prove that you were in “actual physical control”
of a vehicle.
The Good News: There is defense for being in physical control of a motor vehicle which
is called “safely off the roadway.” If you have parked your
car safely off the roadway, you can assert this defense and ask a jury
or judge to find you not guilty of physical control. A defendant has the
burden of proving the safely off the roadway defense. It is a question
for the jury or judge to decide what is safe and they may consider the
location of the vehicle, the extent of the drivers control over the vehicle,
and any other relevant evidence. Be aware that some jurisdictions will
argue that "roadway" is defined as "curb to curb"
and therefore even a vehicle legally parked on the side of the road is
not "safely off the roadway" for purposes of the affirmative defense.
11. What are common myths and misconceptions about DUI laws?
DUI laws are constantly changing and refining as the government tries to
keep up with the very best research in public safety. However, these constant
changes, when coupled with a healthy dose of urban legends, mean that
people have serious misconceptions about
DUI stops and arrests. To stay safe and to be responsible, you need to make sure you know some
real driving under the influence facts. Here are some common myths about
refuse a blood alcohol test
, they can’t charge me because they will have no evidence.
WRONG. The law has evolved, and there are serious sanctions for refusing
a test. The state will try to take your driver’s license away. However,
this doesn’t mean you should automatically submit to tests either.
Immediately contacting a lawyer for advice before you submit to any tests
You can beat a
DUI breath test
by “insert zany advice here.”
WRONG. DUI breathalyzers have come a long way, and they are designed so
that they aren’t easily “tricked” by all of the urban
myths about which you hear. Even the show
MythBusters tried, and found that the test couldn’t be beat. If you get stopped
and are scrambling to shove in the breath mints or suck on a penny, chances
are you will only antagonize the officer which never helps matters.
My car wasn’t moving, therefore I can’t be charged with DUI.
WRONG. We have a concept of physical control in Washington State, and
it means that you can be charged if the car is stopped but the keys are
still in the ignition, or even if the keys are on the floor of the vehicle.
It depends on whether the court determines that you were still in physical
control of the vehicle while drunk, not just driving.
Get Strong Defense for DUI Charges in Washington
Because the consequences for DUI are severe, you want to make sure you
secure the representation of an experienced Washington State DUI lawyer
as soon as possible if you or someone you love had been charged. The Law
Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC handles the most complicated DUI cases around,
including DUI with children in car. We know the complexities of state
laws inside and out, and when your back is against the wall, you want
to know that you have a seasoned attorney on your side, fighting for both
your driver’s license and your freedom.
Contact us today learn how we can help with your DUI charges.