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DUI Sentencing

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Washington DUI Stats

Preventing motorists from driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs remains a daunting challenge for state law enforcement. DUI fatalities in Washington State reached a six-year high in 2015, with 258.

This is despite Washington ranking among the toughest states on driving under the influence (DUI), according to a 2017 study by WalletHub. By using criteria measuring criminal penalties and prevention, WalletHub ranked Washington 15th among the 50 states plus District of Columbia.

DUI sentencing in Washington state

Sentencing guidelines for DUI are split into two tiers, based on the severity of the infraction. Drivers who have a blood alcohol (BAC) level of at least .15 face longer mandatory jail stays, higher fines and longer license suspension than those between .08 and .14. Drivers who refuse to take a breath test are treated the same as those with a .15 BAC.

The mandatory minimum punishments for .08-.14 BAC, first offense, include:

  • Jail time: 24 hours
  • Fine: $990.50
  • License suspension: 90 days

The mandatory minimum punishments for .15 and above BAC, first offense, include:

  • Jail time: 48 hours
  • Fine: $1,245.50
  • License suspension: 1 year

Sentences become continually harsher for second and then third offenses within a seven-year period. All drivers will spend at least 30 days in jail for a second offense and 90 days for a third. Three convictions in a 10-year period is a Class B felony.

In addition, all these penalties are further strengthened if the driver had a passenger 16 or younger at the time of arrest. For example, a person convicted of a first offense with a BAC between .08-14 can get an additional 24 hours in jail and six more months of license suspension, as well as a heftier fine, if there was a minor in the car.

Washington requires all drivers convicted of DUI to have an ignition interlock device placed on their car for at least one year after their license suspension ends — and pay $20 per month for the privilege. An ignition interlock device (IID) does not allow the car to start until the driver blows into the device to confirm they have not been drinking. Having a minor in the car increases the IID period for an additional six months.

Washington is one of 25 states that requires the IID for every conviction. The requirement and the length of its application are harsher than most, and are two reasons Washington landed 15th in the WalletHub rankings.

Vehicular assault and homicide

Driving under the influence also factors into conviction and sentencing for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. A person is guilty of either if they operate a vehicle recklessly or under the influence. Vehicular homicide is a Class A felony in Washington State; vehicular assault is a Class B felony.

Deferred prosecution

Deferred prosecution for DUI is offered if alcoholism is considered the reason for committing the crime. In these cases, charges can be dismissed after two years if a person completes a stringent program that includes total abstinence from alcohol and “non-prescribed mind altering drugs,” a rehab program, ongoing self-help recovery and more. Pursuing deferred prosecution is not an option for everyone and should be examined on a case-by-case basis.

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