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. 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.