Washington State DUI Consequences

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The Power of Knowledge: What You Need to Know about the Consequences of a DUI in Washington State

Information not only gives one power, but in the context of a DUI charge, it also gives one a sense of relief. Knowing what to expect in all aspects of your case, from what will happen to your license to what you should wear to court, will give you the control you need to feel once again. We understand that you need knowledge to regain control of your life. At Callahan Law, we arm our clients with the power of knowledge.

Here are some of the most basic things you need to know:

As a general rule, there are two proceedings that typically follow a DUI arrest:

1. A civil “administrative” action by the Department of Licensing (DOL) to suspend or revoke your driver’s license; and
2. A criminal case which could result in confinement, fines and other consequences.

The Washington Department of Licensing Civil, Administrative Action

Following a DUI or Physical Control arrest, the officer must notify DOL of a test of .08 or higher (in the case of those 21 years of age or older), a test of .02 or higher (for those under twenty one), or a test of .04 or higher (for the driver of a commercial vehicle). The officer must also notify the DOL if the arrestee refused a breath or blood test.

Sixty days following the arrest (except in blood test cases) the DOL will automatically suspend or revoke the person’s driver’s license, unless the person requests a hearing to contest the suspension within 20 days of the date of arrest.

At the hearing, the driver can present evidence, cross examine the arresting officer and make legal and technical arguments to dismiss the licensing suspension. But it is critical that the hearing be requested in a timely manner or it is waived.

Currently, the DOL administrative sanctions are as follow:

REFUSED TEST: 1 yr (adult) 
1 yr (minor)
2 yrs (adult)
2 yrs or until 21 whichever longer (minor)
Adults (90 days) 2 yrs
Minor (90 days) 1 year or until 21 (whichever longer)
.02 or higher  

A person who holds a Commercial Driver’s license will have their CDL disqualified for one year if DOL suspends their license for a DUI or Physical Control arrest, even if the person was driving a non-commercial vehicle. Such person will be disqualified for a lifetime from driving a commercial vehicle if DOL suspends their license a second offense.

As you can see, DOL can take away your driving privileges prior to any conviction, and they can take it away ­even if you are eventually cleared of the DUI charge in court.

In most cases, you have only 20 days from your arrest date to request an administrative hearing with the Washington DOL. If you miss this deadline, even by an hour, your request will be immediately denied. You will then automatically lose your driving privileges on the 60th day following your arrest. Prompt attention to, and knowledge of deadlines, is extremely important to retaining your right to drive. Retaining our firm before early in the process will ensure you have all the information you need to meet these strict deadlines.

Washington State’s DUI Criminal Penalties

Depending on your specific offense and any prior DUI convictions you may have, Washington State’s DUI criminal penalties vary. For a gross misdemeanor DUI conviction, you will serve at least one day in jail, a maximum of 364 days. The minimum jail time increases where there are prior offenses, where the test result is .15 or higher, or where the test was refused. In addition to jail you will have to pay mandatory fines, obtain an alcohol evaluation and follow up with any recommended treatment, serve up to 5 years of probation, as well as suffer the embarrassment of having an ignition interlock device installed in any vehicle you drive for one year following conviction. A DUI conviction will also result in the suspension or revocation of your license, which in some cases can be longer than the administrative revocation.

A felony DUI sentence can be significantly longer, and will send you to prison. If your case involves vehicular manslaughter or vehicular homicide, sentencing will be much longer.

Washington State’s DUI laws require assessment and treatment for chemical dependencies upon conviction. If you are convicted of DUI you will have to be assessed for chemical dependency by a state certified agency and will have to receive mandatory alcohol/drug counseling if you are determined have a substance abuse problem. The amount of counseling that you are required to attend is determined by the agency that performs the assessment. Persons convicted of DUI must attend a Victim’s Impact Panel; a group meeting where you will come face-to-face with people who have been affected by drunk drivers.

Alternatives to a DUI Conviction

Some persons charged with a DUI or Physical Control opt to resolve their case by entering a deferred prosecution program. To qualify, the driver must be diagnosed as alcohol or drug dependent (or in need of mental treatment). In a deferred prosecution, the DUI charge is put “on hold” for five years. If the driver successfully completes the two-year treatment program, remains sober, and maintains law abiding behavior, the court will drop the DUI charge five years after entry into the program. Any violation of the terms of the deferred prosecution could result in the termination of the deferral, and an automatic finding of guilt to all charges. Moreover, even if the DUI is dismissed through the deferred prosecution, it will still count as a prior offense if the driver gets another DUI, and will be the basis for stricter punishment if the subsequent DUI is within seven years. This is why Ms. Callahan and other attorneys who are knowledgeable in DUI defense do not recommend deferred prosecutions for drivers accused of a first time DUI or Physical Control. A good resolution of a DUI case is a reduction of the charge from DUI to something with less serious consequences, such as Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving. No lawyer can promise any driver that he or she will get the charge dismissed or reduced—it would be unethical to do so.

At Callahan Law, we promise that we will do all that we can toward achieving a result which gives the client the least possible consequences. Don't hesitate to call us now to come in for a free case consultation.

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