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Study: Washington DUI Laws Are 15th-Toughest in the Nation

Posted by Steve Karimi | Jun 15, 2018 | 0 Comments

While driving under the influence of alcohol is a crime in all fifty states, every jurisdiction treats the crime differently. Some states have harsher sentences while others have steeper fines. Other states may have lower maximum penalties but higher minimums. An independent study compared the DUI laws from all fifty states and Washington D.C. to determine which states are toughest on drinking and driving. According to the results, Washington State has the 15th-toughest DUI laws in the nation.

The study, conducted by, reviewed the state laws of every state using 15 metrics to highlight the toughest and most lenient states. Each metric is split into two categories: criminal penalty and DUI prevention. Points are assigned to each metric, with a higher score indicating tougher DUI penalties. The 15 metrics the study uses are:

  • Minimum Jail Time
  • Number of DUI convictions for an automatic felony charge
  • The “look back” period for previous DUI convictions
  • Additional penalties for higher BAC
  • Minimum fine
  • Child endangerment protections
  • Mandatory interlock devices
  • Length of interlock requirement
  • Automatic “administrative” license suspension post-arrest
  • Mandatory alcohol treatment
  • Vehicle impound upon arrest
  • Average insurance rate increase after DUI
  • “No-refusal” initiative for rapid search warrants
  • Sobriety checkpoints
  • Other penalties

Out of all the states, Arizona came in number one with a score of 84.09%. In a somewhat distant second was Georgia with 70.45%. Alaska rounds out the top three. On the other end of the chart is South Dakota, who received the lowest score of 20.45%. South Dakota's low score is primarily due to its lack of mandatory jail time for DUI convictions. The District of Columbia and Ohio round out the bottom three with scores of 22.27% and 28.64% respectively.

Washington State comes in at 15th on the list with a score of 50.45%. According to the study, this score was on the strength of Washington's prevention methods as opposed to its sentencing guidelines. Washington ranked 20th for toughest criminal penalties, but 6th for its DUI prevention methods.

The study shows that many states share similar DUI laws. All but six states automatically issue an “administrative” suspension of driving privileges after an arrest but before a conviction. Additionally, 88% of states require an ignition interlock device for drivers after a DUI conviction. In 37 jurisdictions, a drunk driver will have to have an alcohol-abuse assessment or enter mandatory treatment upon conviction. And while 84% of jurisdictions keep a DUI on your criminal record for at least six years, only five states mandate those convictions follow you for life.

The penalties for a DUI conviction in Washington State are tough. If convicted, you could face potential incarceration, jail time, and the loss of your driving privileges. What's more, you may face additional hassle including mandatory alcohol screenings or a mandatory ignition interlock device. If you have been charged with a DUI in the Seattle area, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi may be able to help. Steve Karimi is a former prosecutor who has dedicated his private practice to defending the accused. Contact the Law Offices of Steve Karimi for your free consultation.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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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 206-660-6200 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.