Under Washington DUI laws, you can be taken into custody for DUI if your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, is measured at or above .08 percent. Limits for commercial drivers and minors are .04 and .02 percent, respectively. DUI charges may also apply to individuals found to be driving under the influence of other controlled substances such as stimulants, hallucinogens, and prescription drugs. While relatively recent state legislation, I-502, has decriminalized the possession and personal use of a small amount of cannabis, you may still be charged with DUI if a blood test reveals more than 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood in your system.
Washington is also among the many states with an implied consent law, which stipulates that you consent to a blood or breath test to measure your BAC if an officer has probable cause to believe that you are intoxicated at the time of an arrest. Washington DUI laws further note that this test should ideally be administered within two hours of the initial stop in which the officer assessed you for possible DUI. A breath test is standard when alcohol intoxication is suspected, but a blood test may be administered instead if you are unconscious or suspected of being under the influence of a substance other than alcohol. Importantly, you need not be driving to be evaluated and arrested for DUI; you may still be subject to the same charges if you pulled over to “sleep it off” since you are still considered to be in control of the vehicle.
If you refuse to take a blood or breath test when you are taken into custody, your driver’s license will automatically be suspended for a year, and your refusal may be used against you by the prosecution as an admission of guilt.
According to the Washington State Legislature, a DUI is deemed a Class C felony if you have four or more prior offenses within a ten-year period or if you have ever been convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence of a controlled substance in Washington or another state. A conviction for felony DUI may result in a prison sentence of up to five years along with a $10,000 fine, installation of an ignition interlock device and mandatory license revocation.
Changes to Washington DUI Laws in 2008 and 2011
On March 31, 2008, the state governor signed a bill making it possible for DUI offenders to become eligible for a special “ignition interlock license,” or IIL, and continue to drive if they have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle and purchase SR-22 insurance. The bill, HB-3254, was drafted to address the fact that many individuals with suspended licenses due to DUI convictions continued to drive illegally.
In January 2011, an amendment to Washington DUI laws went into effect that further extended restricted driving privileges for individuals convicted of DUI. It additionally mandated reporting if minors younger than 13 were found in a vehicle driven by an intoxicated parent, guardian or legal custodian.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Washington?
In the state of Washington, driving under the influence (DUI) is regarded as a very serious offense. As throughout the rest of the U.S., the legal alcohol limit is .08 percent. Not all classes of drivers, however, are subject to the same threshold for blood alcohol concentration (BAC), and different levels of intoxication can result in varying punishments.
Some important BAC distinctions under Washington law include:
- Drivers age 21 and over who have a BAC above .08 percent and below .15 percent are typically charged with a standard DUI.
- Motorists of legal drinking age who have a BAC of .15 may be charged with an aggravated DUI offense and face enhanced penalties if convicted.
- Commercial drivers are subject to a stricter alcohol limit and can be charged with DUI for having a BAC of .04 percent or greater.
- Drivers under age 21 face the strictest alcohol limits of all and can be prosecuted with a BAC of .02 or higher.
Penalties for driving under the influence can include jail time, fines, loss of driving privileges, required attendance at alcohol education courses and mandatory compliance with ignition interlock law.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Washington
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a piece of equipment that requires passing breath test before a vehicle will start. In the state of Washington, anyone who is convicted of a driving under the influence offense will be required to have an IID installed before driving privileges are restored.
People convicted of DUI are responsible for all IID-related costs, including:
- Expenses related to the device’s installation, leasing, and removal
- A non-refundable application fee
- Charges for servicing and monitoring a device
Only state-approved vendors are authorized to install IIDs. For compliance with ignition interlock law, a person must have a device installed by one of these vendors.
Washington DUI Penalties
A DUI charge in Washington can occur any time a driver is found to have a blood-alcohol concentration meeting or exceeding .08 percent. In this case, it does not matter whether the motorist was driving erratically or if the individual’s ability to drive appeared to be impaired. Minors may not exceed a BAC of .02 percent.
As in other states, Washington DUI penalties can include hefty fines, a license suspension, time in jail and other penalties. The severity of the penalties depends on several factors, such as whether or not one has prior DUI convictions on record or whether another individual was severely injured or killed in an accident stemming from DUI. If convicted, a person will have a DUI on his or her record for 15 years and may additionally face license suspension or revocation, proof-of-insurance requirements, license reapplication requirements and fees, fines, and vehicle seizure or loss. With any conviction, an SR-22, or “safety responsibility,” form confirming that the convicted person has car insurance coverage will need to be filled out by the person’s insurance company and filed with the state DMV upon reinstatement of his or her license.
Penalties for a 1st DUI offense
First DUI offenses in Washington that occur with a BAC of under .15 percent may be accompanied by penalties such as a day in jail, electronic monitoring, a minimum 90-day license suspension, a fine of at least $865.50 and potentially the installation of an ignition interlock device. Various exceptions to these penalties include longer jail time for a BAC in excess of .15 percent or a death or injury resulting from the DUI event. A license suspension of two years is also possible with aggravated circumstances.
In some cases, the electronic monitoring can be substituted for jail time. A special exception occurs with license suspensions. If the driver contests the suspension within a 20 day period, it is possible to get it reversed if the court rules in his or her favor. However, if the conviction stands, the suspension resumes 45 days after notice of the conviction is received by the Department of Licensing. License suspension times start at 90 days and may last up to two years depending on the BAC of the person convicted.
Penalties for a 2nd DUI Offense
A second DUI conviction may result in Washington DUI penalties that include 30 to 45 days of jail time and a license suspension of up to one year. Other potential consequences include electronic monitoring for 60 to 90 days, vehicle confiscation and ignition interlock installation at the driver’s expense. Fines can be at least $1,210.50 and up to $5,000 depending on the circumstances of the case and the court’s decision.
Penalties for a 3rd DUI Offense
A third DUI offense is likely to result in jail time of 90 days up to a year and includes 120 days of monitoring with an electronic device. Further license suspension depends on the BAC at the time of the arrest but can be up to four years. The driver will also be required to install an ignition interlock device at his or her own expense. Fines may range anywhere from $1,970.50 to $5,000.