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DUI/DWI Information for Washington

Driving under influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated/impaired (DWI) is an offense committed when a driver operates a vehicle after the consumption of alcohol or drugs or other intoxicants. This includes illicit drugs as well as over-the counter and prescription medications which impair your ability to drive. Increased alcohol levels in the driver's blood lead to diminished mental and motor reactions which, in turn, reduce the driver's ability to control the vehicle. This significantly increases the risk of the driver committing errors of judgment and often results in accidents causing severe injuries and even death.

In Washington, as in the rest of the US, drunk driving is the single largest cause of motor vehicle related fatalities and accounts for an alarmingly high 40% to 50% of the total number of motor vehicle related deaths every year.

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REGULATIONS FOR DUI/DWI IN WASHINGTON

In Washington, the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) limit is set at 0.08% for drivers over 21 years of age and it is set at 0.02% for those under 21. If you are in your teens, any detectable trace of alcohol in your body can be sufficient grounds for arrest. For commercial drivers, the limit is set at 0.04%.

Having a Washington license automatically provides your consent to be tested if stopped by a law enforcement officer, while driving. This is the law of "implied consent" and can be used by the officer to test you if you are stopped on the suspicion of drunk driving, either through a breathalyser test or by an actual blood test to check the BAC. It is applicable even when you are in the driver's seat of a stationary vehicle. Refusing to take the chemical test will result in your license being revoked immediately for 90 days. You can also be fined $500-$5000.

Your license will be suspended or revoked, if you convicted of DUI/DWI. If you do not have a Washington state license, a new record will be created and the DMV of the state which issued your license will also be informed.

ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS OVER 21:

If you are over 21 years old, and are caught with BAC higher than the set limit of 0.08%, you may be subjected to criminal actions in addition to administrative actions. If the DUI/DWI incident you are involved in is subjected to criminal action, it is recommended that you get in touch with a DUI/DWI lawyer as they are experts at handling such incidents and can offer you the best advice.

  1. The first offense may result in imprisonment of one day to one year (or 15 days electronic home monitoring and the court may also order the offender to undergo an alcoholism assessment and treatment if considers it necessary at the offender's expense) and/or a $350-$5000 fine. Also, if convicted for a first offense BAC or DWI (BAC over 0.08%) or for driving under the influence of drugs (DUID):
    • Your license will be suspended for 90 days.
    • You may be eligible to drive using the Occupational/Restricted Driver License (ORL) for 60 days, after the 30 days of suspension, and then become eligible to reinstate your license after 90 days, if you meet the reinstatement requirements.
  2. The second offense or two offenses in seven years is treated as a Gross Misdemeanor and may result in imprisonment of 30 days to one year and/or up to a $500-$5000 fine. Also, if convicted for the second offense of DWI, DUID or BAC:
    • Sixty days of electronic home monitoring after release
    • Your license will be revoked for two years.
  3. The third offense in seven years attracts 120 days to one year in prison, a fine of $2773 to $5000, up to five years of monitored probation and home monitoring for up to 150 days.
  4. It also entails a four year revocation of driving privileges after which you will have to go through the entire testing process to get a five year probationary license and up to 10 years of compulsory electronic ignition interlock.
  5. Assessment and treatment programs may also be ordered by the court.

ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR DRIVERS UNDER 18

  1. The license may be suspended or revoked for 90 days after the first conviction or till the defendant turns 16, whichever is later.
  2. In case of the second conviction for one year or the individual's seventeenth birthday after the second or subsequent conviction, whichever is later.
  3. Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to minors if they are convicted of DUI/DWI.

ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLE DRIVERS

If you drive a commercial vehicle and hold a commercial driver license (CDL):
  1. You will be disqualified from driving a commercial vehicle for a year), if you are convicted for your BAC being higher than 0.04%. You will also be issued an "out-of-service" order valid for 24 hours by the arresting officer.
  2. You will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for at least three years, if you are convicted for your BAC being higher than 0.04% while transporting hazardous materials.
  3. You will be barred from driving a commercial vehicle for life if you are convicted for any of these offenses for the second time.
  4. Apart from these actions, penalties mentioned above for drivers over 21, may also apply to commercial drivers for their first and second offenses of DUI/DWI. The other penalties do not apply since they are barred after the second offense.

ADMINISTRATIVE ACTIONS AGAINST DUI/DWI:

Washington laws have administrative implications in addition to the criminal laws against DUI/DWI. An officer may arrest a driver if:
  • He/she is aged 21 and above and is driving with BAC 0.08% or more.
  • He/she is aged below 21 and is driving with BAC 0.02% or more.
If you are arrested for DUI/DWI, the arresting officer will confiscate your Washington driver license and issue a temporary 15-day driving permit, complete a notice of license suspension/revocation based on the nature of the offense along with a warrant, if applicable; and send the entire set to the Department of Licensing. The driver can schedule an administrative hearing within 30 days of the notice of suspension/revocation. It is a good idea to consult a DUI/DWI lawyer beforehand. If the hearing goes against the driver, his license will be suspended or revoked based on his previous five-year driving record. If he has any alcohol related convictions or suspensions for this five-year period, his license will be revoked for one year, and if not, then it will be suspended for 30 days. You may be eligible to drive using the Occupational/Restricted Driver License (ORL) for 60 days, after the 30 days of suspension. The suspension or revocation begins 15 days after the final order of the hearing officer is mailed from the Department of Licensing. You can appeal for an administrative review or formal hearing on paying a $200 fee and filling out a form. Additional charges levied are $125 towards the chemical testing and $ 500 toward an accident victim compensation fund. An additional 60% of the fine imposed toward public safety and education programs

LICENSE REINSTATEMENT AFTER DUI/DWI SUSPENSION/REVOCATION:

If you are convicted of DUI/DWI, it will result in your license being suspended or revoked. This means that your driving privileges will be taken away and you will need to apply for a reinstatement of your license with the Department of Licensing, once the period of suspension or revocation is over. Reinstating a license after a suspension of a year, or revocation will also mean taking the driving tests all over again. These will include the vision test, knowledge test and the road test. If you do not complete the reinstatement requirements, the license will remain suspended or revoked.
  1. To complete the reinstatement requirements, you must prove that you have successfully completed the Washington DUI School, an 8-hour program or a comparable program (the agency will send the proof to the DOL once you have completed the program), pay the reissue fee of $75 if it is a first-time suspension and $150 for subsequent infractions, and maintain proof of financial responsibility by filing SR-22.
  2. If a person below 16 is convicted of DUI, it is mandatory for the court to order an ignition interlock device to be placed for breathalyser tests on any vehicle they drive for a period of 60 days after reinstatement.
  3. You can complete the reinstatement formalities as per the instructions on the suspension letter. For more information, contact the DOL at (360) 902-3900 or email them at drivers@dol.wa.gov.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

  • DUI/DWI has been a major cause of death and injury in our nation and it is our duty to prevent such needless pain and suffering. Simply: If you drink, DON'T DRIVE! If we all follow this rule to the letter - thousands of lives will be saved each year.
  • If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI get help from a DUI/DWI Lawyer.
  • See also Suspended License, Point System and Traffic Ticket Lawyers.
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