Washington DUI Laws & Penalties

Washington Drunk Driving Laws Explained in Easy to Understand Simple Terms

Washington State takes DUI (Driving Under the Influence) offenses very seriously, with laws designed to deter impaired driving and ensure public safety.

It’s important to note that DUI laws can evolve, and there might have been changes or adjustments since my last update. For the most current information, it would be advisable to consult with a legal professional or check the latest resources from the Washington State Department of Licensing.

Here’s an overview of the DUI laws in Washington State as of my last update:

Key Aspects of DUI Laws in Washington State

  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits: In Washington, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher if you’re 21 years old or older. For drivers under 21, the limit is 0.02%. Commercial drivers have a limit of 0.04%.
  • Implied Consent Law: By driving in Washington, you automatically consent to chemical testing (breath, blood, or urine test) to determine your BAC or the presence of drugs. Refusing to take a test when asked can result in automatic license suspension and other penalties.
  • Penalties: The penalties for DUI can include jail time, fines, driver’s license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle, and enrollment in drug or alcohol education programs. The severity of the penalties generally depends on the number of prior offenses and the level of impairment.

Table of Contents

Penalties for a First Offense DUI in Washington State

The penalties for a first-offense DUI in Washington can vary based on the circumstances of the arrest, including the driver’s BAC level and whether there was any property damage or injury. However, typical consequences include:

  • Jail Time: A minimum of 24 hours to a maximum of 364 days in jail. For those with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or who refuse to take a BAC test, the minimum jail time starts at 48 hours.
  • Fines and Fees: Fines can range from $940.50 to $5,000, not including legal fees or other court costs. Higher BAC levels or refusal to take a BAC test can result in higher fines.
  • Driver’s License Suspension: A suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days to 1 year. Refusing to take a BAC test can lead to a one-year license suspension.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock device on any vehicle driven by the offender is required. The period for this requirement can vary.
  • Probation: Up to 5 years of probation may be imposed, including conditions such as alcohol/drug treatment programs and not committing further law violations.
  • Alcohol/Drug Education or Treatment: Mandatory completion of an alcohol/drug education or a treatment program as assessed and recommended by a chemical dependency assessment.

Given the complexity and the severe implications of a DUI charge, it is highly recommended that anyone facing a first offense DUI in Washington State seek legal representation. A qualified DUI attorney can provide guidance, potentially negotiate penalties, and help navigate the legal system more effectively.

Top of page

Penalties for a Second Offense DUI in Washington State

Facing a second DUI offense in Washington State significantly escalates the penalties and consequences compared to a first offense. Washington State takes DUI offenses very seriously, and the laws reflect a strong stance against repeat offenders. Here’s an overview of what you can expect with a second offense DUI in Washington State, assuming the second offense occurs within seven years of the first:

  • Jail Time: The mandatory minimum jail time is 30 days for those with a BAC below 0.15% and 45 days for those with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or if you refuse to take a BAC test. The maximum jail time is 364 days.
  • Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM): In addition to jail time, the court will order 60 days of EHM for a BAC below 0.15% or 90 days for a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or if you refuse the BAC test.
  • Fines: Fines range from $1,195.50 to $5,000, not including other legal or court costs. Higher BAC levels can result in higher fines.
  • Driver’s License Suspension: Your driver’s license will be suspended for 2 years to 900 days. Refusing a BAC test can lead to a 2 to 3-year license suspension.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID): You will be required to install an IID in any vehicle you drive for at least 1 year following the reinstatement of your driving privileges.
  • Alcohol/Drug Education or Treatment: Mandatory completion of an alcohol/drug education or treatment program as recommended by a chemical dependency assessment.
  • Probation: Up to 5 years of probation, which may include conditions such as not committing further law violations and adhering to the treatment program.

Given the increased severity of penalties for a second DUI offense, it’s crucial for anyone facing such charges in Washington State to seek experienced legal representation. An attorney specialized in DUI law can provide essential guidance, potentially negotiate penalties, and help navigate through the legal system effectively.

Top of page

Penalties for a Third Offense DUI in Washington State

In Washington State, the penalties for a third DUI offense are particularly severe, reflecting the state’s strong stance against impaired driving. Here’s an overview based on the information from various sources:

  • Jail Time and Electronic Monitoring: For a third offense within ten years with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) under 0.15%, the mandatory minimum jail time is 90 days, but a judge might order 120 days or more of house arrest instead. If the BAC is 0.15% or higher, or if the offender refused a BAC test, the minimum jail time increases to 120 days, with the possibility of 150 days under house arrest, of which 10 days must be served in jail​ (Veitch Ault Defense)​​ (Milios Defense)​.
  • Fines: Fines range significantly based on BAC levels. For those with a BAC less than 0.15%, fines start at $2,095.50, while for those with a BAC of 0.15% or higher, or for those who refused the test, fines begin at $2,945.50​ (Veitch Ault Defense)​.
  • License Suspension: A third DUI offense results in a three-year license suspension if the BAC is under 0.15%. If the BAC is 0.15% or higher, or if there was a refusal to take a BAC test, the suspension period extends to four years​ (Veitch Ault Defense)​.
  • Other Penalties: Additional requirements include mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on any vehicle driven by the offender and potential alcohol or drug education or treatment as determined by the court​ (Milios Defense)​.

It’s also important to note that if a person has at least three prior DUI convictions within the past ten years, the next DUI could be classified as a felony, leading to even more severe penalties. This could include up to ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $20,000 for a class B felony, among other consequences​ (dui.drivinglaws.org)​.

Top of page

Penalties for an Underage DUI in Washington

In Washington State, underage DUI laws are strict, with zero tolerance for alcohol and THC in the system for drivers under 21. The underage DUI law applies if a breathalyzer or blood test shows a BAC of 0.02% to 0.07% within two hours of driving, or any amount of THC. The consequences for violating underage DUI laws can include:

  • Administrative Penalties: License suspension for a minimum of 90 days and up to 2 years if charged with underage DUI. This can extend to a maximum of 4 years if convicted.
  • Criminal Penalties: Possible jail time of up to 90 days (with underage drivers under 18 serving time in juvenile detention), fines up to $1,000, and up to 2 years of DUI probation, with strict conditions such as driving restrictions and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device upon violation​ (Evolve)​.

A Minor DUI is a misdemeanor charge in Washington State, significantly impacting the future of underage drivers. The maximum penalty includes 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, but no mandatory jail time, fines, or ignition interlock device requirements are set unless decided by a judge. Penalties may instead include community service, work crew, fines, or alcohol classes. Additionally, a Minor DUI arrest triggers a mandatory license suspension of at least 90 days by the Department of Licensing, which is based on the arrest, not conviction. This suspension can be contested by requesting a hearing within 20 days of the arrest​ (DellinoLawGroup)​.

For juveniles, an arrest or conviction for Minor DUI can affect the ability to obtain a standard license in the future, leading to a suspension of driving privileges and the requirement of SR-22 insurance (high-risk auto insurance). Convictions can result in additional restrictions on current driving privileges, on top of jail time, probation, and fines​ (Beckwith DUI Law)​.

If a driver’s BAC content level measures at 0.08% or higher, or if a driver’s THC level exceeds five nanograms per milliliter of blood, being a minor does not exempt them from being arrested and charged with the standard “adult” DUI, nor does it shield them from the penalties for a “standard” DUI conviction​ (Kevin Trombold Law)​.

Washington’s DUI laws stipulate it’s illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, and drivers under 21 with a BAC level at or above 0.02 percent can be charged with underage DUI. This law reflects Washington’s zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving​ (Findlaw)​.

Top of page

CDL DUI Penalties

In Washington State, the consequences of a DUI for commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are particularly strict, reflecting both federal and state laws designed to ensure high standards of safety on the roads. Here’s a breakdown of what CDL holders can expect if they’re arrested for DUI, whether in a commercial or personal vehicle:

  • Disqualification Periods: A CDL holder arrested for DUI faces a disqualification for a minimum of one year. This disqualification applies to a range of scenarios including loss at an administrative hearing under implied consent law, a conviction for DUI (due to alcohol or any drug), minor driving after consuming alcohol, driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or more, and a conviction for leaving the scene of an accident. A second offense in these categories leads to a lifetime disqualification​ (DUI Washington)​.
  • Administrative Actions: Even without a DUI conviction, administrative actions can lead to CDL revocation. This can occur for driving a personal vehicle over the legal limit for alcohol or marijuana, refusing a breath or blood sample, driving a commercial vehicle with a BAC of 0.04 or higher, driving a commercial vehicle with any detectable level of marijuana, or refusing a breath or blood sample in a commercial vehicle. After receiving a notice of intent to suspend, CDL holders have 20 days to request a hearing to contest the suspension​ (Milios Defense)​.
  • Concurrent Suspensions: If a CDL is administratively revoked and there’s also a DUI conviction, the revocations generally run concurrently, meaning the CDL won’t be revoked twice for the same incident. However, an exception exists if the administrative suspension was due to refusing to provide a breath or blood sample; this refusal is categorized differently than a DUI conviction, potentially leading to a longer overall suspension period if there’s a significant time gap between the administrative action and the conviction​ (Milios Defense)​.
  • Impact of Federal Rules: According to federal regulations, any CDL holder convicted of refusing a test, a DUI, or operating a CMV with a BAC of .04% must be disqualified for at least one year. The disqualification period extends to at least three years if the offense occurred in a hazmat CMV. A second or subsequent DUI conviction results in a lifetime disqualification. Moreover, CMV drivers caught with any level of alcohol or drugs in their system are prohibited from driving a CMV for 24 hours​ (www.drivinglaws.org)​.

For CDL holders, the repercussions of a DUI extend beyond the immediate legal penalties to potentially end their driving career, underscoring the importance of legal guidance and understanding the specific legal landscape for commercial drivers in Washington State.

Top of page

Aggravated DUI Circumstances

In Washington State, DUI penalties can be heightened under certain aggravated circumstances, leading to more severe consequences than standard DUI charges. The state has implemented stringent DUI laws, with aggravating factors that can significantly increase penalties for those convicted.

For first-time DUI offenders in Washington, the offense is typically charged as a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalties include 364 days of jail time and a $5,000 fine. Mandatory minimum sentences are imposed in all cases where a conviction is entered, including at least 24 hours of jail time, a license suspension for 90 days or more, possible installation of an ignition interlock device, alcohol evaluation treatment, and attendance at a DUI victim’s panel. If you refuse to take a mandatory breath test or if your test results show a BAC of .08 percent or above, your license can be suspended even before any criminal conviction​ (Aggravated DUI)​.

Washington has also introduced two specific aggravating factors that allow judges to impose additional penalties:

  • Having a Passenger Under the Age of 16 in the Vehicle: If convicted of DUI with a passenger under 16 years old in the vehicle, the judge is required to impose additional penalties. These include an extra 24 hours of jail time for a first conviction, five days for a second offense, and ten days for a third offense. Additionally, there’s a mandatory $1,000 fine that can’t be suspended unless the defendant is indigent​ (Milios Defense)​.
  • Driving the Wrong Way on a Multiple Lane Highway: While this aggravating factor does not mandate additional penalties, it allows the court to consider enhanced jail sentences. This is part of a broader approach to handle DUI cases with circumstances that increase the risk of harm to the public​ (Milios Defense)​.

For those facing a fourth DUI within a 10-year period, the charge could escalate to a Class B felony, with penalties including up to ten years in prison, a $20,000 fine, and a four-year driver’s license suspension, among other consequences​ (Aggravated DUI)​.

Given the severe impact of aggravated DUI charges, including potential jail time, hefty fines, and long-term license suspensions, it’s crucial for those facing DUI charges in Washington to seek experienced legal representation. This is especially true when aggravating factors are present, as they significantly increase the severity of the penalties.

Top of page

Additional Consequences

In Washington State, the consequences of a DUI go beyond immediate legal penalties and have long-term impacts on various aspects of a person’s life.

Upon being arrested for a DUI, there’s an immediate effect on your driving privileges. The Department of Licensing (DOL) will suspend your driver’s license unless you request and win a hearing to contest the suspension within 7 days of your arrest. Without a hearing or if the hearing decision is not in your favor, license suspensions range from 90 days to 2 years based on prior offenses and incident severity. If you’re convicted of DUI in court, the suspension period could extend from 90 days up to 4 years​ (Department of Licensing)​.

Additional penalties for DUI offenses can escalate with subsequent convictions. For instance, a second DUI offense within seven years might lead to jail time ranging from 30 to 364 days, with possible alternatives like house arrest or enrollment in a 24/7 sobriety program. The financial penalties also range from $500 to $5,000. A third DUI conviction within seven years further increases the severity, including longer jail times and larger fines. Importantly, DUI offenses involving serious injuries or deaths can lead to felony charges, with consequences including significant prison time and hefty fines​ (dui.drivinglaws.org)​.

Moreover, Washington State has provisions for enhancing DUI penalties under certain circumstances, such as having a child under 16 years old in the vehicle at the time of the offense. The presence of a minor passenger can lead to additional jail time and fines on top of the standard penalties​ (dui.drivinglaws.org)​.

Beyond these immediate legal repercussions, a DUI conviction carries additional consequences that can affect your life significantly. These include mandatory alcohol/drug assessment and treatment, the installation of an ignition interlock device, and possible vehicle forfeiture. The impact extends to employment opportunities, immigration status, and even your ability to travel to countries like Canada. If you hold a commercial driver’s license or a pilot’s license, a DUI conviction can jeopardize your professional licenses and career​ (Milios Defense)​.

Given the complexity of DUI laws and the severe implications of a conviction, it’s crucial to seek experienced legal representation if you find yourself facing DUI charges in Washington State.

Top of page

DUI Education Classes

In Washington State, DUI offenders may be required to complete alcohol education classes as part of their sentencing. These classes are designed to provide information about the effects of alcohol and drugs on driving abilities, health, relationships, and life in general. The specific requirements can vary based on the court’s decision or the specific circumstances of the DUI offense.

For first-time DUI offenders in Washington, a typical requirement is to complete a 10-hour DUI education class. There are options available for taking these classes online, which can offer convenience and flexibility. For example, the DUI Law Center offers a 10-hour online DUI class specifically designed for first-time offenders in Washington. This class can be started immediately upon registration and payment​ (DUI Law Center)​.

For those who may need to complete a more extensive program, subsequent DUI offenses could necessitate a 20-hour DUI education program. Additionally, some individuals might be required to participate in a Victim Impact Panel, which is a separate component focusing on the personal stories of individuals affected by DUI incidents​ (DUI Law Center)​.

An alternative option available in Seattle and Washington State is the Virtual Alcohol & Drug Information School offered by Associated Behavioral Health. This is an 8-hour course available online, designed to fulfill the legal requirements for court-referred clients under the Washington Administrative Code. The course covers the impact of alcohol and drugs on health, relationships, and life, among other topics​ (DiscoveryMD)​.

It’s crucial for DUI offenders in Washington to verify with their court, probation officer, attorney, or the Department of Licensing to ensure that an online class will meet the requirements of their sentencing. Compliance with these educational requirements is a significant step towards reinstating driving privileges and moving forward after a DUI offense.

Top of page

Ignition Interlock Requirements

In Washington State, if you’re convicted of a DUI or related offenses, you’re required to install an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in your vehicle. The period for having an IID installed varies: a first offense requires at least 1 year, a second offense at least 5 years, and a third or subsequent offenses at least 10 years. The device prevents your vehicle from starting if your breath alcohol content is above .025. You must have the IID installed on any vehicle you drive, including employer vehicles under certain conditions​ (Department of Licensing)​.

Top of page

Implied Consent Law

In Washington State, the implied consent law dictates that by operating a vehicle, drivers are presumed to have consented to a breath test if lawfully arrested for DUI. Refusal to submit to this test can result in a minimum two-year driver’s license suspension, with longer suspensions for subsequent refusals or DUI convictions. Additionally, refusal can lead to increased criminal penalties and can be used against the driver in a DUI trial​ (dui.drivinglaws.org)​.

Top of page

Driver License Hearings

For DUI offenders in Washington State, driver license hearings are crucial for contesting driving suspensions related to DUI charges. To request a hearing, individuals must complete a Request for DUI Hearing form and pay a $375 fee, which may be waived for those meeting indigency criteria. During the hearing, various factors such as arrest circumstances, BAC levels, and implied consent warnings will be evaluated. The outcome can significantly affect one’s driving privileges and ability to drive with an ignition interlock device. For more detailed information on the process and preparation for your hearing, visit the Washington State Department of Licensing’s official page​ (Department of Licensing)​.

DUI Lawyers

If you’re looking for a DUI lawyer in Washington State, Justia’s directory of Washington DUI Lawyers is a great place to start. It offers a comprehensive list of attorneys with experience in DUI, criminal defense, domestic violence, and personal injury law. Many of these lawyers offer free consultations and video conferencing, making it easier for you to find someone who can meet your specific needs and provide personalized attention and individualized case strategies​ (Justia)​.

Top of page

Additional Washington DUI Resources