No one wants to be pulled over for a driving under the influence (DUI) offense. But when it happens, it can be stressful and intimidating, especially if this is the person’s first offense. It helps to know what to expect when facing a first time DUI offense in the State of Washington.
What Is a DUI?
As stated before, a DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In Washington, it is against the law to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while either under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Someone can be convicted of a DUI for driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while one or more of the following applies:
- If the person is impaired by alcohol or drugs to the point where his or her “ability to drive a motorized vehicle is affected to an applicable degree,” which is known as DUI “affected by” or an “impairment” DUI;
- If the person has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher, which is known as a “per se” DUI; or
- If the person has a concentration of five nanograms or more of THC per milliliter in his or her blood, which is known as a “per se” marijuana DUI. THC is the primary psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.
If the individual refuses chemical testing, whether blood or breath, he or she will be found to be violating Washington State’s implied consent laws, and he or she may face a greater penalty. This is known as a DUI Refusal.
A DUI offense where the person has a BAC of .15 or higher also faces harsher consequences. Both of these factors are said to aggravate the circumstances of the DUI.
First-Time DUI Administrative Penalties
An individual facing a DUI offense will deal with penalties from the criminal justice system, as well as administrative penalties. These administrative penalties are those issued by the Washington State Department of Licensing. Some of these penalties are automatically triggered by the arrest itself. This means they happen regardless of whether the person is ever convicted of a DUI criminally. For a first-time DUI offense, the administrative penalties include:
- Per Se Marijuana and Per Se Alcohol: Drivers who qualify for per se marijuana or alcohol offenses, meaning they have a BAC of higher than 0.08 or a THC concentration of at least five nanograms per milliliter of blood, will normally have a 90-day license suspension period.
- Refusal to Take Chemical Test: If the driver refuses to take a chemical test, he or she will normally face a one-year administrative license suspension or revocation period.
If the driver is actually convicted of a DUI, the driver will likely be required to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on his or her car for a period of at least one year.
If the driver who is facing a first-time DUI had a passenger under the age of 16 years old in the car at the time of the offense, he or she will be required to have the IID installed for at least 18 months.
First-Time Criminal DUI Penalties
In addition to the administrative penalties, the defendant may also be facing criminal charges for the DUI. If convicted of a DUI, the penalties include:
- When a driver is convicted of a per se marijuana offense, a per se alcohol offense with a BAC under 0.15 or a DUI impairment first-offense, the individual is said to be guilty of a “gross misdemeanor.” This means the person will face a penalty of one to 364 days in jail, or a period of at least 15 days of electronic home monitoring, or 90 days participation in a sobriety program. Criminal fines also can range from $550 to $5,000 in fines and fees, on top of the administrative driver’s license suspension.
- If the driver refused to take the chemical test or tested at a BAC of 0.15 or higher, and that person is convicted of a first-time DUI, the person is also said to be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. The penalties can include two to 364 days in jail, or a period of 30 days of electronic home monitoring, 120 days in a 24/7 sobriety program, and fines and fees ranging from $700 to $5,000, on top of a driver’s license suspension of one year.
Depending on the facts of the case, it is possible the judge may order the offender to also participate and complete an educational or substance abuse treatment program.
If a minor under the age of 16 was also present at the time of the offense, the judge may impose additional jail time or increase the fines and fees imposed.
Will Jail Time Actually Happen?
Any time jail time is mentioned, stress will likely ensue. However, if jail time is a part of the sentence, how much will actually be served, if any at all?
Many times, the statute may say that a minimum sentence will be served, but some factors, such as credits for good behavior and jail-alternative programs may off-set that time that is actually served.
The defense attorney can work with the defendant to see how jail time can be reduced or even avoided, if at all possible.