In Washington, along with the rest of the United States, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Driving under the influence is very dangerous, putting the lives of the driver, pedestrians, and other drivers on the road at risk. As a result, the state of Washington imposes some serious administrative and criminal penalties if a police officer catches you driving under the influence.
What Counts as a DUI in Washington?
When most people think about DUIs, they usually think of drinking and driving. While alcohol plays a major role in many DUI cases each year, you can also receive a DUI charge after using other substances such as illegal and prescription drugs. Washington law enforcement can charge you with a DUI if you are driving under any of the following conditions:
- You are 21 years or older and have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher.
- You have THC in your blood, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Having a concentration of five nanograms or higher of THC per milliliter of blood in your system is grounds for DUI.
- You have used drugs or alcohol to an extent that they impair your ability to drive.
- You are under the age of 21 and have a BAC of .02% or higher.
- You are operating a commercial vehicle and have a BAC of .04% or higher.
DUI charges range in severity based on a few factors. The higher your BAC or THC concentration, the more severe your charge will be. In addition, if you get into an accident while impaired by alcohol and drugs and cause significant injury, property damage, or death, you will receive a higher charge. First offenders usually receive lower penalties than individuals facing their second, third, or subsequent DUI charge.
DUI Penalties in Washington State
When you receive a DUI charge in Washington, you can receive any mix of administrative penalties, fines, and jail time.
- If you are convicted of a first offense DUI in Washington, you can face jail time from 24 hours to one year. The state may take away your license from 90 days to one year, and you will have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. You may also have to pay a fine between $865.50 to $5,000.
- Second-offense DUI charges carry potential jail time sentences between 30 days up to one year. The state will require an ignition interlock device and take your license away for two years up to 900 days. You may have to pay a fine between $1,120.50 to $5,000.
- Third-offense DUI charges involve jail time between 90 days to one year. You could lose your license for three to four years and have to install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. You could pay a fine between $1,970.50 to $5,000.
When a police officer pulls you over for suspicion of driving under the influence, he or she will ask you to take a chemical test. Under Washington’s implied consent law, you could face penalties if you refuse to take this test. You can receive a license suspension between one and three years and additional fines.
What to Do If You Are Arrested for DUI in Washington
If a police officer pulls you over on suspicion of DUI, comply with him or her. Take the chemical and field sobriety tests as required – if you refuse, you could face additional penalties. As soon as possible, contact a Tacoma DUI attorney to assist you with the court and administrative processes.
Navigating the aftermath of a DUI offense can be overwhelming, but an attorney who specializes in DUI defense can help explain your options. Your attorney can advise you on what steps to take following the arrest and help you prepare for your Department of Motor Vehicles hearing and court arraignment.