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Penalties for First DUI

Penalties for a First DUI in Seattle

As I have probably mentioned before, Washington State has some of the toughest driving under the influence ("DUI") laws in the nation- even for first time offenders. Additionally, the city of Seattle's Municipal Code provides for mandatory minimum sentences.

Definition of Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

Washington state law states that a person is guilty of driving while under the influence of liquor, marijuana, or any drug if the person is driving a vehicle and:

  • Has an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, as shown by breath or blood, within two hours after driving;
  • Has a THC concentration of 5 or higher, as shown by blood;
  • Is under the influence of or affected by liquor, marijuana, or any drug; or
  • Is under the combined influence of or affected by liquor, marijuana, and any drug. See RCW 46.61.502/SMC 11.56.020.

However, a driver may be charged with a DUI if they are a commercial driver with a .04 alcohol concentration, or a minor (under 21) with a .02 alcohol concentration.

You can be arrested on suspicion alone

And sometimes, you can still get a DUI, regardless of the concentration of alcohol, if an officer suspects that you are driving under the influence according to his or her judgment. It means you may be arrested based on a performance on a field sobriety test or from the officer's observations of your driving.

In fact, Seattle PD has its own “DUI Squad,” which allows police officers to detect impaired drivers by simply enforcing traffic laws. Each officer is on call 24/7 to respond to serious collisions to assist detectives in evaluating potentially drug impaired drivers. The officers in the DUI Squad are trained as "drug recognition experts."

Penalties for a 1st Offense

There are minimum DUI penalties in Seattle, Washington, which adds to the toughness of the state's DUI laws. A DUI in Washington starts off as a gross misdemeanor for the 1st offense, even if no one is injured.

For a 1st conviction in 7 years:

  • If your BAC was under 0.15%, you face a fine between $ $866-$5,000, and 1 to 364 days in jail. See SMC 11.56.025.
  • If your BAC was above 0.15%, you face fines between $1121 -$5,000, and jail time of 2 to 364 days.
  • If someone was killed or injured (even on your 1st offense), your offense will likely result in worse charges such as a DUI felony or vehicular assault. See RCW 46.61.520-522.

Moreover, subsequent offenses then become class C felonies, which are discussed in my next post.

Refusal to take a Blood Alcohol Concentration ("BAC") Test- One year Automatic Suspension

Washington is an implied consent state, meaning that if you have a driver's license, you have implicitly agreed to be subjected to a blood or breathalyzer test if police have probable cause to believe you are driving under the influence. See RCW 46.20.308.

If you are arrested, an officer must notify you that you may refuse to take the test, but if you do, you will lose your license for one year, and evidence of your refusal can be used against you in court. See Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 448-16.

This one year suspension is a separate administrative action controlled by the WA Department of Licensing (DOL), and is separate from any criminal proceedings if you are to be charged for a DUI. This means you can have your license suspended even without a conviction. If you do agree to take the test and blow above the legal limit, your license will still be automatically suspended for 90 days, amongst other fines and penalties. However, as a general rule, penalties are steeper if you refuse to take a test and are subsequently convicted vs. agreeing to take the test and failing.

What Else Comes with a 1st time DUI Conviction?

Aside from step fines and jail time, there are a slew of other procedures, penalties, and requirements that come with a DUI in Washington.

  • a.Mandatory Court Appearance

Anyone charged with a DUI is required to appear in front of a judicial officer within one (judicial) day after arrest if they are served with a citation or complaint at the time of arrest, and no later than 14 days after the next day in which court is in session if not served with a citation or complaint at the time.

b. License Suspension

If you are convicted of a DUI, your license will be suspended unless you request a hearing (with the assistance of an experienced attorney) to contest the suspension within 20 days of your arrest and the hearing examiner decides in your favor. If you do not request a hearing or the hearing examiner does not decide in your favor (even on a 1st offense), your license will be suspended for 90 days to two years, depending on prior offenses and the severity of the incident. This suspension period begins 60 days after your date of arrest.

In addition, it is entirely possible for the court to still convict you of a DUI even if the hearing examiner decides in your favor, resulting in your license still being suspended. And as mentioned above, your license can also be suspended if you refuse to take a breath or blood test (for a minimum of one year, depending on whether it is the first, second, or third offense). This makes the assistance of an experienced DUI attorney absolutely necessary.

The suspension begins 45 days after the Washington State Department of Licensing receives notice of your conviction from the court. A DUI attorney can also assist you with getting your license back after suspension, which depends on various factors, including prior offenses. Even if a prior DUI conviction was reduced to a lesser charge, this could still be held against you if you are charged with a subsequent DUI.

While your license is suspended, you may still qualify for a temporary license if you agree to an ignition interlock device (IID) and apply for an ignition interlock license (IIL), allows you to drive a vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock device during your suspension. The IILs will be limited to driving yourself to work, school, medical care, and court ordered substance abuse treatment or community service. This device is effectively a breath test attached to the ignition that must be used prior to the vehicle being turned on.

c. Ignition Interlock Devices (IID)

Under Washington State law, municipal and district courts may impose additional sanction for those convicted of a DUI, such as an IID. While an IID may be an alternative to getting your license suspended in some circumstances, they may still be a mandatory sanction depending on your circumstances. If you were convicted with a passenger under 16 years old, the court will automatically extend the IID requirement and additional 60 days.

To avoid the installation of an ignition interlock device or to obtain an ignition interlock license, you should seek the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney

d. Electronic Home Detention (EHD)

"Electronic jail" is basically 'house arrest'- jail served in your home, which is imposed at the discretion of the judge if you are convicted of a DUI. This process involves a computerized box which is attached to your telephone and an ankle bracelet to monitor your movement. EHD may still be imposed in lieu of jail time during a 1st time conviction, but it is required upon a 2nd or 3rd DUI. The costs associated with EHD will be paid by you-- illustrating even more, how expensive and costly DUIs are.

e. Counseling or drug treatment program

Sometimes a court will mandate treatment for offenders convicted of alcohol or drug related crimes in lieu of jail time. You must complete the court mandated program or else you will face the legal consequences.

f. Probation

Generally, probation is granted to low-risk first time offenders in lieu of jail time. Typically, one must be gainfully employed and have a minimum criminal history, etc. If you are granted monitored probation, it means probation officer will be assigned to your case and you will need to maintain regular contact with your probation officer for the length of your probation. You will also be responsible for the probation fees, which range from $50-75/ month.

There is Hope- Deferred Prosecution

Even though you have been charged with a DUI, you may be eligible to petition (ask) the Court to be placed on a Deferred Prosecution. The Deferred Prosecution program is an alternative to conviction and punishment for those defendants who have an alcohol (or drug or mental health) problem and who will benefit from a treatment program. If accepted, it means you will not be convicted of your charged offenses, serve jail time, or pay fines. Further, your DUI charge would be dismissed 3 years after you complete the 2 year treatment program so long as you do not violate the Court order granting your Deferred Prosecution.

In order to qualify for Deferred Prosecution, you must fulfill certain requirements:

  • Firstly, mandatory minimum sentences may not be suspended or deferred unless court finds that the imposition of this mandatory minimum sentence would impose a substantial risk to the defendant's physical or mental well-being. Fines, costs, and assessments may be reduced for indigent defendants.
  • Next, you may only be granted Deferred Prosecution once. See RCW 10.05.010
  • You must be diagnosed as alcohol dependent, drug dependent, or with mental health issues. See RCW 10.05.020.
  • You must enroll in the recommended drug, alcohol, or mental health treatment program and successfully comply with all treatment recommendations. See RCW 10.05.020.

Dedicated DUI Defense Attorney Serving Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Everett, Snohomish, and the Puget Sound area in King County, Snohomish County, Skagit County, Whatcom County, and Kittitas County

Every driving under the influence (DUI) charge is a serious crime. While a first-time DUI carries significant penalties, those associated with multiple DUIs are much more severe. In fact, impaired driving cases are the most litigated misdemeanor crime in the state (indicating how serious the state takes this issue). Criminal Defense attorney Steve Karimi has extensive experience in criminal defense and will fight all your DUI charges. He has handled over 164 DUI cases and has demonstrated many successes for his clients. Your initial consultation is free and our rates are reasonable. Contact us at 206-621-8777 or online.

Contact Us

If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-621-8777 during regular business hours or 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.