Washington State Delegates

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DUI Laws



SUMMARY OF WASHINGTON STATE DUI LAW

I. The Crimes:

A. Driving Under the Influence.
A person is guilty of Driving Under the Influence when:
(1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state:
(a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
(c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.
(2) The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state shall not constitute a defense against a charge of violating this section.
(3) It is an affirmative defense to a violation of subsection (1)(a) of this section which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant consumed a sufficient quantity of alcohol after the time of driving and before the administration of an analysis of the person’s breath or blood to cause the defendant’s alcohol concentration to be 0.08 or more within two hours after driving. The court shall not admit evidence of this defense unless the defendant notifies the prosecution prior to the omnibus or pretrial hearing in the case of the defendant’s intent to assert the affirmative defense.
(4) Analyses of blood or breath samples obtained more than two hours after the alleged driving may be used as evidence that within two hours of the alleged driving, a person had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more in violation of subsection (1)(a) of this section, and in any case in which the analysis shows an alcohol concentration above 0.00 may be used as evidence that a person was under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug in violation of subsection (1)(b) or (c) of this section.
(5) A violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor.
B. Physical Control.
A person is guilty of Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence of Alcohol when:
(1) A person is guilty of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has actual physical control of a vehicle within this state:
(a) And the person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of the vehicle, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person’s breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or
(b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
(c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.
(2) The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state does not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section.No person may be convicted under this section if, prior to being pursued by a law enforcement officer, the person has moved the vehicle safely off the roadway.
(3) It is an affirmative defense to a violation of subsection (1)(a) of this section which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant consumed a sufficient quantity of alcohol after the time of being in actual physical control of the vehicle and before the administration of an analysis of the person’s breath or blood to cause the defendant’s alcohol concentration to be 0.08 or more within two hours after being in such control. The court shall not admit evidence of this defense unless the defendant notifies the prosecution prior to the omnibus or pretrial hearing in the case of the defendant’s intent to assert the affirmative defense.
(4) Analyses of blood or breath samples obtained more than two hours after the alleged being in actual physical control of a vehicle may be used as evidence that within two hours of the alleged being in such control, a person had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more in violation of subsection (1)(a) of this section, and in any case in which the analysis shows an alcohol concentration above 0.00 may be used as evidence that a person was under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug in violation of subsection (1)(b) or (c) of this section.
(5) A violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor.
C. Vehicular Assault.
(1) A person is guilty of vehicular assault if he or she operates or drives any vehicle:
(a) In a reckless manner and causes substantial bodily harm to another; or
(b) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502, and causes substantial bodily harm to another; or
(c) With disregard for the safety of others and causes substantial bodily harm to another.
(2) Vehicular assault is a class B felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.
(3) As used in this section, “substantial bodily harm” has the same meaning as in RCW 9A.04.110.
D. Vehicular Homicide.
(1) When the death of any person ensues within three years as a proximate result of injury proximately caused by the driving of any vehicle by any person, the driver is guilty of vehicular homicide if the driver was operating a motor vehicle:
(a) While under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, as defined by RCW 46.61.502; or
(b) In a reckless manner; or
(c) With disregard for the safety of others.
(2) Vehicular homicide is a class A felony punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW, except that, for a conviction under subsection (1)(a) of this section, an additional two years shall be added to the sentence for each prior offense as defined in RCW 46.61.5055.
II. The Penalties
In Washington, certain mandatory minimum penalties are prescribed based upon certain findings. Specifically, the number of �priors� in the last 7 years as well as the breath and/or blood test results, can significantly affect the mandatory minimum penalties that an accused driver must face.
For purposes of calculating �prior� offenses, any conviction for DUI, Physical Control, Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Homicide will count as a prior offense. Additionally, any conviction for Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree, Reckless Driving or Reckless Endangerment, when the original charge was one of DUI, will also count as a prior. Therefore, while many cases in Washington resolve via plea bargains, that plea is likely to increase mandatory penalties should that driver be charged in the next 7 years with a similar offense.
 A. The Administrative Penalties 

Much like the criminal penalties in Washington, the length of an administrative suspension will depend on how many times this has occurred in the past seven (7) years and whether or not the driver submitted to or refused to take a lawfully requested breath/blood test. The following is a summary of the administrative suspensions.

 

No Offense within 7 Years

1 or More Offenses within 7 Years

Driver Over Age 21 and BAC of .08 or Greater

90 Days (May apply for an Ignition Interlock Driver’s License)*

2 Years May apply for an Ignition Interlock Driver’s License (May apply for an Ignition Interlock Driver’s License)*

Driver Under Age 21 and BAC of .02 or Greater

90 Days (May apply for an Ignition Interlock Driver’s License)*

1 Year of Until Driver is Age 21 � Whichever is Longer

Any Age and Refused a Breath/Blood Test

1 Year (May apply for an Ignition Interlock Driver’s License)*

2 Years or Until Age 21 � Whichever is Longer (May apply for an Ignition Interlock Driver’s License)*

* Ignition Interlock Driver’s License, RCW 46.20.380, 46.20.385

Eligible to Apply:

• Conviction of violation of RCW 46.61.502, 46.61.504, or an equivalent local or

out-of-state statute or ordinance, 46.61.520(1)(a), or 46.61.522(1)(b) involving alcohol

• License suspended, revoked, or denied under RCW 46.20.3101

• Proof of installed functioning ignition interlock device

 Requirements:

• Proof of financial responsibility (SR 22)

Financial  Obligations:

• $100 mandatory fee to DOL

• Costs to install, remove, and lease the ignition interlock device, and $20 fee per month, unless waived

Duration :

• Extends through the remaining portion of any concurrent or consecutive suspension or revocation imposed as the result of administrative action and criminal conviction arising from the same incident

 Operation with Other Requirements:  

The time period during which the person is licensed under RCW 46.20.385, shall apply on a day-for-day basis toward satisfying the period of time the ignition interlock device restriction is required under RCW 46.20.720 and 46.61.5055

B.  Ignition Interlock License

Washington law permits any driver who has been administratively suspended to continue to drive with an Ignition Interlock License (IIL). These temporary permits allow an individual who had an otherwise valid license, to continue to drive as long as: (1) they provide proof of installed functioning ignition interlock device (2) demonstrate proof of financial responsibility (SR 22), and (3) pay a mandatory fee of $100 to DOL  and (4) pay costs to install, remove, and lease the ignition interlock device, and $20 fee per month, unless waived.

III. The Plea Bargains
Many cases in Washington resolve prior to trial. Effective counsel, often times, will be able to negotiate a plea to a lesser charge. While the plea bargain is extremely advantageous to anyone accused of DUI or Physical Control, one must remember that if the original charge was DUI, a conviction to any of the following lesser crimes will still count as a prior for calculating the mandatory minimums should that driver re-offend within the 7 year time frame.
A. Negligent Driving in the First Degree
(1)(a) A person is guilty of negligent driving in the first degree if he or she operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to negligent driving in the first degree by means of exhibiting the effects of having consumed an illegal drug that must be proved by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence, that the driver has a valid prescription for the drug consumed, and has been consuming it according to the prescription directions and warnings.
(c) Negligent driving in the first degree is a misdemeanor.
(2) For the purposes of this section:
(a) “Negligent” means the failure to exercise ordinary care, and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.
(b) “Exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor” means that a person has the odor of liquor on his or her breath, or that by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise exhibits that he or she has consumed liquor, and either:
(i) Is in possession of or in close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor in it; or
(ii) Is shown by other evidence to have recently consumed liquor.
(c) “Exhibiting the effects of having consumed an illegal drug” means that a person by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise exhibits that he or she has consumed an illegal drug and either:
(i) Is in possession of an illegal drug; or
(ii) Is shown by other evidence to have recently consumed an illegal drug.
(d) “Illegal drug” means a controlled substance under chapter 69.50 RCW for which the driver does not have a valid prescription or that is not being consumed in accordance with the prescription directions and warnings, or a legend drug under chapter 69.41 RCW for which the driver does not have a valid prescription or that is not being consumed in accordance with the prescription directions and warnings.
(3) Any act prohibited by this section that also constitutes a crime under any other law of this state may be the basis of prosecution under such other law notwithstanding that it may also be the basis for prosecution under this section.
Defense counsel often times attempt to negotiate a DUI charge to a Negligent Driving 1st Degree because there is no mandatory penalties. As such, the judge is not required to impose jail time and there is no statutory authority for a license suspension. Most who plead to Negligent First receive a fine, and two years of probation. This does not mean that a judge cannot or will not impose jail as they have the authority to impose up to 3 months in jail.
B. Reckless Driving
(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.
(2) The license or permit to drive or any nonresident privilege of any person convicted of reckless driving shall be suspended by the department for not less than thirty days.
While a reckless driving is certainly more favorable than a DUI conviction the DOL will suspend a person�s driving privilege for 30 days upon a conviction for this offense. The individual will be eligible for a work permit for that entire period of time, so long as they have obtained a high risk (SR-22) insurance policy prior to that application.
C. Reckless Endangerment
(1) A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he or she recklessly engages in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.
(2) Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor.
While Reckless Endangerment is a gross misdemeanor, and therefore a greater degree of crime than Negligent Driving 1st Degree, a plea to this charge is more beneficial than a plea to Reckless Driving. A person convicted for Reckless Driving will lose their license for one month and will pay three years of high risk insurance. A person convicted of Reckless Endangerment will not lose their license or be required by obtain high risk insurance by court order�it may still be required if DOL suspended their license.

IV. Chemical Testing

Washington is a breath test state. The only approved instruments for measuring breath alcohol are the DataMaster, the DataMaster CDM, and the Drager Alcotest 9510. This means that absent certain circumstances, a breath test is the preferred method to obtain evidence of specific levels of intoxication.

 

DOL.WA.GOV – has been improving information including how to get a DL back if suspended or revoked - https://fortress.wa.gov/dol/dolprod/dsdreinstatements/

 

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