Punishment-300x225A DUI in Washington State is classified as a gross misdemeanor, with maximum penalties of up to a year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine, in addition to license suspensions. There are mandatory minimum sentences imposed for convictions, ranging from one or two days in jail, a fine of around $1,000.00, and a license suspension of up to a year for a first offense to 90 to 120 days in jail plus 120 to 150 days of electronic home monitoring, a fine of at least $1,500.00 and a license suspension of two years for a second or higher offense within seven years. Additionally, the fifth DUI in a ten-year period, or a DUI after a previous conviction of vehicular assault or vehicular homicide constitutes a Class C felony, punishable by imprisonment for no less than 9 months and up to seven years, depending on your criminal history.

Any jail time not imposed by the court during an additional sentence may be “suspended,” giving the court the option of imposing some or all of the additional time in the event of noncompliance with the terms of your sentence, which may include not drinking, not driving without a valid license and insurance, and not being charged with additional criminal offenses. One may also be required to obtain an ignition interlock device for your car. This is a device that will prevent a person from drinking and driving by requiring you to “pass” a breath test prior to allowing the car to start. A history of the breath tests is recorded in the device, and can be accessed through a computer printout. A probation officer can, and probably will, review this printout to ensure that the person is complying with the requirements of the device and with other terms of probation.

A person charged with DUI should be aware that penalties imposed for a second or third offense even if the person does not have a prior DUI conviction. If you were charged with DUI any time within the last seven years (calculated from the date of arrest), the charge alone will probably count as a “prior” even if you ultimately were sentenced to a lesser charge, such as Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving in the First Degree. Even a successfully completed deferred prosecution (more on this option below) will count as a prior if there is a new offense within seven years.

As well, if convicted of DUI, courts will require that the person obtain an alcohol evaluation by a licensed treatment agency, and require a follow up on all recommendations of the treatment agency. Be aware that not all treatment agencies are created equal. Some are all too aware of the financial gains to be had by evaluating a first-time offender with no indications of alcoholism as a hardened alcoholic and locking that person into years of treatment. Contact us before your evaluation for a list of reputable and ethical treatment providers. When you do report for your evaluation, do not sign a release allowing release of the information gathered by the treatment provider to anyone except your attorney.

However, penalties do not stop in the courts; a person accused of DUI will almost certainly have their driver’s license threatened. In fact, under the laws that took effect in January 2009, you have just twenty days from the date of your arrest to file a request for a hearing with the Department of Licensing. If you miss this deadline, your license will be suspended. The Department of Licensing can suspend or revoke your license for a DUI arrest even if you are acquitted of this charge in court. Suspensions range from 90 days to two years. The good news is that, under the new laws, most drivers charged with DUI as a result of alcohol consumption are eligible for an ignition interlock license, that is, a probationary license secured by the presence of an ignition interlock device in your car. One final, possible consequence is whether the person will need to obtain SR-22, or high risk insurance.

If you have a commercial driver’s license, your CDL is in jeopardy from the moment you are pulled over for DUI. If you refuse the breath test or submit a sample of over .08 while driving a personal vehicle, you could lose your personal driver’s license, without which you cannot operate a commercial vehicle with your CDL endorsement. If you are driving a commercial vehicle at the time you are pulled over, you will lose your CDL for at least 90 days and up to a year if you refuse the breath test or submit a breath sample of just .04 or more. If you have a CDL and are charged with DUI, it is crucial that you obtain legal representation to assist you in exploring the options for retaining your commercial license.

Our Seattle DUI Lawyer can guide you through entire process, including the criminal prosecution in the court and the administrative process before the Department of Licensing. We will represent you at all court and Department of Licensing hearings. If necessary, assist you in finding and complying with the evaluations and classes required by the courts and, guide you through the process of obtaining an ignition interlock license and finding the best rates on SR-22 insurance.