St. Patricks' Day in Seattle was a wonderful day of parades, celebrating and enjoying local pubs, it serves as yet another reminder that drinking and driving is simply not worth it. March 17 has become a notorious day for first responders and law enforcement officials alike, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration predicts that over 40% of fatal car crashes involve drunk drivers during St. Patrick's Day weekend. Throughout Kent and the rest of King County, Seattle PD dispatched extra DUI Patrols ready to arrest and charge anyone suspected of drunk driving. St. Patrick's Day aside, more arrests are made during the holiday season(s) as well. While there is no evidence that courts are actually stricter during the holidays because of mandatory sentencing guidelines and already-strict DUI laws, police are most certainly more diligent in making arrests. However, one should note that DUI's are serious and hold grave consequences, and should not avoid driving drunk only on certain days of the year. Rather, the knowledge of what a DUI entails should always be at the forefront of your mind.
A Basic Breakdown of Washington's DUI Laws
First and foremost, driving under the influence (DUI) refers to operating a vehicle while affected by alcohol, drugs, or both. This means that DUI's apply not only to alcohol, but also to marijuana and other substances as well. For alcohol, a DUI occurs when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.08 or higher, if you are at least 21 years of age. The BAC level for commercial drivers is 0.04, and 0.02 for minors (those under 21).
A DUI in Washington starts off as a misdemeanor for the 1st offense, if no one is injured. If your BAC was under 0.15, you face a fine between $350-$5,000, and 1 to 364 days in jail. If your BAC was above 0.15, you face fines between $500-$5,000, and jail time of 2 to 364 days.
If you have had a prior conviction for DUI within the past 7 years, your 2nd or 3rd DUI will likely be prosecuted as a felony. In addition, the penalties will obviously be steeper. If you had one prior offense within the past 7 years, you face a minimum of 30 days in jail to 365 days, along with a 2 year revocation of your license if your BAC was under 0.15. If you had two prior offenses within the past 7 years, you face a minimum of 90 days in jail and a 4 year revocation of your license if your BAC was under 0.15. See Revised Code of Washington 46.61.5055. If your BAC was higher than 0.15 and you hold prior convictions, you face a minimum of 45-120 days in jail. These penalties do not even include the likely possibility of revocation of a license, alcohol treatment programs, and the installation of an ignition interlock device on your car.
Refusal to take a BAC test
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 Revised Code of Washington 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. 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 to Do When You Are Pulled Over
- Do be polite and give the officer all your documents (ie. license, registration)
- Do not consent to any additional searches
- Ask for your lawyer if you are placed under arrest
As a former prosecutor, attorney Steve Karimi knows how to break DUI cases down to determine exactly what happened and locate the weak points in the prosecution's case. For example, he can obtain a reduction in the charge by plea bargaining for a lesser offense (for example, negotiating for negligent driving rather than DUI, which eliminates the mandatory DUI penalty of jail, and request for the reinstatement of your license. If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi today to schedule a free initial consultation.