The Washington State DUI Guide
Driving under the Influence
Actual Physical Control (APC)
Deferred Prosecution Information
DC DWI Laws
I just got arrested for a Washington DUI offense. What happens next?
ISSUE ONE: The Washington State Implied Consent Proceeding: Under Washington state law, any person who operates a motor vehicle within the State of Washington is deemed to have given consent to a test or tests of his or her breath or blood for the purpose of determining the alcohol concentration or presence of any drug in his or her breath or blood if arrested for any offense where, at the time of the arrest, the arresting officer has reasonable grounds to believe the person had been driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug. See RCW 46.20.308.
Pursuant to this implied consent law, Washington state imposes penalties in the form of a license suspension or revocation for failing or refusing a chemical (breath / blood) test.
Your Washington driver license (or your right to drive in Washington if you're not a Washington licensed driver) was most likely suspended or revoked for either 90 days, one year, or two years for failing (.08 percent BAC or higher (.02 percent BAC or higher for minors)) or refusing a breath test. Read your paperwork carefully. You generally have 20 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing to challenge the implied consent suspension / revocation. The request may be in writing via mail or done online. There is a $200 fee for requesting this hearing; however the fee may be waived under some circumstances. If you represent yourself, you may be able to request your hearing online or via mail.
If you had a valid Washington State drivers license at the time of your arrest, the officer should have issued you a temporary license which is valid for the 30 days following your arrest.
Keep in mind, you face a separate license suspension or revocation if you are convicted of a Washington DUI charge. Also, it is important to understand that the refusal of a person to submit to a test of the alcohol or drug concentration in the person's blood or breath is admissible into evidence at a subsequent criminal trial.
Note: It may be in your interest to choose to waive your right to challenge the implied consent suspension / revocation and apply for a Washington State Ignition Interlock Driver License (IIL). More information on the Ignition Interlock License is set forth below. Talk to your Washington DUI lawyer for more about this option and the law which allows you to obtain an immediate IIL if you waive any challenge to the administrative suspension / revocation.
ISSUE TWO: The Washington DUI Criminal Offense: Separate from the implied consent suspension is the criminal charge of driving under the influence (DUI) or physical control of vehicle under the influence. You were probably arrested / cited for one form of DUI / physical control. Under Washington State law, you commit the crime of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if you drive or are in actual physical control of a vehicle within the State of Washington:
If you're under 21 years of age, you may have been charged with a violation of RCW 46.61.503 (Driver under 21 consuming alcohol). This offense is charged when a person age 20 or younger provides a BAC of 0.02 percent or more but less than 0.08 percent.
Read your paperwork carefully, and do not miss any court appearances or a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
Important: These two issues (the implied consent proceeding and the criminal charge) are separate from one another. For example, if you do not challenge your implied consent suspension or if you lose your appeal, your suspension / revocation will remain in effect even if you DUI charge is reduced to another charge.
Will my Washington driver license be revoked / suspended?
RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE: Your Washington driver license (or your right to drive in Washington if you do not have a valid Washington license) may be suspended for failing―BAC .08% or greater (.02% or higher for minors (persons under 21 years of age))―a breath or blood test or for refusing a breath, or blood test. Refer to the table below.
RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE: If you are convicted of the Washington State DUI charge you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Washington if you don't have a valid Washington license). This suspension typically last from 90 days to four years depending on your DUI history. Refer to the Washington State DUI Grid Penalty Chart below.
Also keep in mind that your Washington drivers license can be suspended for a variety of other reasons.
I have a commercial driver license (CDL). How long will my CDL be suspended if I'm convicted of a DUI?
For a first DUI conviction, your CDL will be suspended for one year. If your DUI occurred while you were transporting hazardous materials, you face a three year suspension. For a second DUI conviction, your CDL will be revoked for your lifetime. This applies regardless of whether your DUI occurred in a commercial motor vehicle or not.
You face similar CDL suspension lengths if you refuse a breath test.
What happens if I get caught driving while my driving privilege (license) is suspended / revoked?
Driving while your license is suspended or revoked for a Washington DUI is a new criminal offense. If convicted of this charge, you face at least 10 days in jail and a fine of at least $300. If you have a prior driving while privilege suspended / revoked (involving a DUI related suspension / revocation) in the last five years, you face at least 30 days in jail and at least a $500 fine.
It is also a crime to drive when your privileges have been suspended or revoked for failing or refusing a chemical (breath) test. Jail time is possible (though not required) for a first offense. A fine of at least $300 is also required. If you have a prior driving while suspended / revoked (involving a DUI related suspension / revocation) in the past five years, you face at least 10 days jail as well as a fine.
I really need to drive. Will I be able to get a occupational / restricted / hardship / ignition interlock license?
You may be eligible for an Ignition Interlock License (IIL). This license is generally only available to persons living in Washington State who either had an otherwise valid Washington drivers license or are on active military duty in the State of Washington.
As the name implies, an IIL requires an ignition interlock device to be installed in your car (and all vehicles you drive). In some circumstances, an Ignition Interlock License can allow you to drive for virtually the entire length of your suspension. Along with an ignition interlock device, you will also have to maintain SR-22 insurance and pay a $100 fee to the DOL along with a $20 monthly fee. See RCW 46.20.380; 46.20.385.
An IIL may also be available if you are suspended for an out of state DUI conviction. Example, you're a driver licensed in Washington State and you get convicted of a DUI in Oregon. Oregon suspends your right to drive in Oregon and notifies Washington of the conviction. The DOL will then notify you that your Washington driver license is suspended but you will likely be eligible for an IIL.
Speak to your Washington DUI lawyer about whether you qualify and how to apply for this ignition interlock license. These licenses are NOT available to drive commercially / commercial vehicles.
What is the difference between a DUI, DWI, DUII, OWI, OVI, OUI, DWAI, etc.?
These terms are all acronyms that refer to the crime commonly known as "drunk driving." Different states have different names for the charge. For example, in Oregon the charge is DUII (driving under the influence of an intoxicant); in New York and Texas the charge is DWI (driving while intoxicated). Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin use the term OWI (operating while intoxicated).
Washington law uses the terms "driving under the influence" or DUI as does Idaho, California and most states.
Some states have a lesser type DUI offense, called a DWAI (driving while ability impaired). Washington does not. Like some states, Washington has greater penalties for a high BAC (above .15%) or a breath test refusal. However, Washington does not have a different name for this offense. [Arizona, for example, uses the term Extreme DUI and Super Extreme DUI for high BAC offenses.]
Is a Washington DUI a criminal offense?
Yes. A driving under the influence charge is either a misdemeanor or a felony crime. See below for more information.
Is a DUI in Washington a misdemeanor or felony charge?
In Washington, a DUI offense is usually a misdemeanor crime. However, a Washington DUI charge becomes a felony if (1) you have four or more DUI related offenses in the past 10 years; or (2) you have a prior DUI related vehicular assault or vehicular homicide. Felony DUI offenses in Washington are quite serious and come with the possibility of prison time.
DUI related offenses refers to any of the following: (1) a conviction for DUI; (2) a conviction for physical control; (3) a conviction for vehicular homicide involving a DUI; (4) a conviction for a vehicular assault involving a DUI; (5) a conviction for a DUI that was amended to a negligent driving first degree, reckless driving, or reckless endangerment; (6) any out of state convictions for (1) – (5); (7) a deferred prosecution for DUI or physical control; and (8) a deferred prosecution for negligent driving first degree.
What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of a Washington DUI charge?
A first time DUI in Washington is usually a misdemeanor crime. Upon conviction, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol screening / treatment / education. A range of typical penalties for Washington DUI convictions is set forth below.
Note: Two aggravating factors are important in sentencing. First, if your BAC equals or exceeds 0.15 percent, you can expect more severe penalties. Second, if you have a prior DUI (or related) conviction within the past seven years (in Washington State or any other state), penalties are substantially enhanced.
For enhancement purposes, "priors" include the following offenses: (1) DUI (or an equivalent local ordinance); (2) Physical Control of a Vehicle under the Influence (or an equivalent local ordinance); (3) Vehicular Homicide or Vehicular Assault if either committed while under the influence; (4) Equivalent out-of-state crimes for any of the above offenses including a DUII, DWI, OWI, OVI or OUI; (5) Negligent Driving – First Degree (if the person was originally charged with (1) – (4) above and the charge was amended); (6) Reckless Driving (if the person was originally charged with (1) – (4) above and the charge was amended); (7) Reckless Endangerment (if the person was originally charged with (1) – (4) above and the charge was amended); (8) Equivalent out-of-state versions of (5), (6), or (7) (if the person was originally charged with (1) – (4) above and the charge was amended); (9) a deferred prosecution granted for either a DUI; Physical Control of a Vehicle under the Influence; or negligent driving (if originally charged w/ (1) – (4) above).
Will my lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Washington DUI charge down to a lesser type offense?
Possibly. Plea bargaining and reduction of the DUI charge to reckless driving or negligent driving or reckless endangerment are two areas that any experienced Washington DUI lawyer would discuss with the prosecutor on the client's behalf.
I'm facing other charges with my DUI. What do I need to know about those charges?
There are a number of other offenses that can accompany a Washington DUI charge. These include minor violations such as speeding as well as other criminal offenses. Some additional charges that are sometimes seen with a DUI include:
Reckless Driving under RCW 46.61.500. Under Washington law, any person who drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of the crime of reckless driving. Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor. A conviction comes with at least a 30 day license suspension.
Negligent Driving under RCW 46.61.5249. Under Washington law, a person commits the crime of negligent driving the person operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and the person exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug. Negligent driving is a misdemeanor crime.
Negligent Driving in the Second Degree under RCW 46.61.525. A person commits the offense of negligent driving in the second degree if, under circumstances not constituting negligent driving in the first degree, the person operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property. Negligent driving in the second degree is a traffic infraction and not a crime.
Reckless Endangerment under RCW 9A.36.050. In Washington, a person commits the crime of reckless endangerment when the person recklessly engages in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. Reckless Endangerment is a misdemeanor.
Vehicular Assault under RCW 46.61.522. A person commits the crime of vehicular assault if the person operates or drives any vehicle: (a) In a reckless manner and causes substantial bodily harm to another; or (b) while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug and causes substantial bodily harm to another; or (c) with disregard for the safety of others and causes substantial bodily harm to another. Vehicular assault is a class B felony.
Hit and Run under RCW 46.52.010 and 46.52.020. Under Washington State law, a person that collides with any vehicle must immediately stop and shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle of the name and address of the operator and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle or shall leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice with the name and address of the operator and of the owner of the vehicle striking such other vehicle. The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property fixed or placed upon or adjacent to any public highway shall take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of the name and address of the driver and owner of the vehicle striking such property, or shall leave in a conspicuous place upon the property struck a written notice providing the name and address of the driver and of the owner of the vehicle so striking the property. Hit and run with only property damage is a misdemeanor crime.
Washington law imposes similar obligation when a driver is involved in a collision that kills or injures another person. Hit and run when someone is killed or injured is a felony crime.
Driving while License Invalidated (DWLS) RCW 46.20.342. Driving while your license is suspended or revoked is another traffic offense. There are varying degrees of seriousness of the charge. DWLS in the First Degree is the most serious. DWLS in the Second Degree in the next most serious. DWLS in the Third Degree is the least serious. The degree depends on the underlying reason for your suspension.
Will I be placed on probation for a Washington DUI conviction?
If you’re convicted of a DUI charge, the court will place you on probation for a period of time (typically up to five years). The court will then impose conditions for your probation such as fines, fees, alcohol evaluation and treatment; and attendance at a victims’ panel class.
The court will also order you to: (1) Not drive a motor vehicle within Washington state without a valid license and proof of financial responsibility (liability insurance); (2) not drive a motor vehicle within Washington state while having BAC of 0.08 percent or more within two hours after driving; and (3) not refuse to submit to a test of your breath or blood to determine BAC upon request of a law enforcement officer who has reasonable grounds to believe that you’re driving or are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within Washington state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. If you’re found in violation of these three conditions, you face at least a 30 day jail sanction.
Will a Washington DUI conviction go on "my record?"
Yes. A Washington DUI conviction will go on your Washington driving record. Suspensions and revocations go on your record as well. A Washington DUI will stay on your driving record for at least 15 years. Insurance companies, however, can typically retrieve only a three year abstract of your driving record. This document contains information on convictions, violations and collisions in the past three years. [Commercial insurance abstracts also include suspension and revocation information during the previous three years.] Note that courts and law enforcement can get your entire driving record, and are not limited to a three year abstract.
Just how much jail time / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI in Washington State?
The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:
• your prior driving record especially your prior DUI history in the past seven years (in Washington State and elsewhere);
• your level of impairment (a BAC of 0.15 percent or greater can result in greater penalties so will a test refusal);
• whether there was an accident / crash involved;
• whether there was an injury to another person in any collision;
• which Washington State superior court, district court, or municipal court your case is in;
• what judge you are sentenced by;
• whether there was a passenger (especially a child passenger) in your car;
• whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.
What is meant by a "deferred prosecution" of a Washington DUI charge?
Deferred prosecution is an agreement with the court that can allow a defendant to avoid a Washington DUI conviction upon completing the program’s strict and lengthy requirements. Among other things, someone opting for deferred prosecution must agree to be on probation for five years; to complete an intensive and expensive substance abuse treatment program of at least two years; to have no criminal law violations for the length of the program; to attend a victim’s panel; and to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle(s) driven. Participants are expected to refrain from the use of any intoxicants for the duration of the five year program. Deferred prosecution is available only once in a person’s life.
Although the successful completion of a deferred prosecution will allow a defendant to avoid a conviction (and the accompanying jail time and license suspension), the decision to enter the program should not be undertaken lightly. It is an expensive, and time consuming, and lengthy program. Spend considerable time discussing the pros and cons of the program with your Washington DUI lawyer before you consider seeking a deferred prosecution.
Note One: Entering into a deferred prosecution program is considered the equivalent to a DUI conviction for commercial driver license (CDL) suspension purposes. In other words, successfully completing a deferred prosecution on a DUI will not allow you to avoid a CDL suspension.
Note Two: Washington’s deferred prosecution program is completely different from Oregon’s DUII diversion program. They are not comparable programs.
I am licensed to drive in a state other than Washington (such as Oregon or Idaho), and I was cited for a DUI in Washington State. Will my driver license be suspended?
The State of Washington only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the Washington State. However, Washington and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact." Washington will report an Washington DUI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact). Your own state will then generally take action to suspend your license.
This also works in reverse. If you are a Washington licensed driver and you are convicted of a DUI offense or similar charge (DWI, DUII, OWI, DUI, OVI, OUI) in another state, Washington will likely suspend or revoke your license when it learns of the out of state conviction.
Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?
An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a motor vehicle ignition. In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration. If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start. Rolling re-tests are also required throughout your trip. The re-tests are designed to prevent a driver from using another person to start the vehicle. Beginning in 2013, an IID with a camera will be required to further prevent cheating.
Installation of an ignition interlock device is required of most people following a Washington DUI conviction. Installation is also required if you wish to obtain an Ignition Interlock License (IIL) following an administrative / implied consent suspension. If you've been convicted of a DUI charge, you generally must maintain and ignition interlock device for one to ten years. Refer to the table below.
Talk to your Washington DUI lawyer for more information.
What will an Washington DUI charge do to my ability to obtain / keep car insurance?
If your insurance company finds out about a Washington DUI one of two things typically happen. Either your insurance company will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed. Your insurance company will learn of your WA DUI if you have to file an SR-22. See below.
What is an SR-22 / Certificate of Insurance?
An SR-22 is a certificate of insurance from a Washington licensed insurance company certifying that you have purchased liability insurance that meets minimum required coverage limits. The certificate of insurance provides proof to the Washington State Department of Licensing that you are insured. If you cancel your insurance or the insurance company cancels your policy before your suspension period is over, the company must notify the Department of Licensing that the certificate is canceled. If you are required to have a SR-22 on file, a copy of your insurance binder or your insurance card is not considered acceptable proof.
An SR-22 is required if you want to obtain an ignition interlock license and it is also required to reinstate your license following a WA DUI conviction. The SR-22 must be kept on file for three years from the date you're eligible for reinstatement and for the entire length of your ignition interlock license.
What will I need to do to get my license reinstated once my suspension or revocation is over?
In order to get your license reinstated following a DUI conviction you must: (1) file and maintain financial responsibility (an SR-22) with the Department of Licensing; (2) present verification of the installation of an ignition interlock device; and (3) pay a $150 fee. If your license is revoked (as opposed to a suspension) you will also have to complete a driver's ability test.
I'm not a United States citizen. Will a Washington State DUI conviction result in my removal from this country?
Probably not. Typical, run of the mill Washington DUI offenses (no priors; no injuries) are not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal. However, if you're not a U.S. Citizen, it is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Washington criminal defense lawyer about your pending WA DUI charge.
Keep two points in mind. First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms. Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any Washington DUI conviction. Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked driver license.
What will a Washington DUI conviction do to my ability to enter Canada?
Having a DUI conviction generally makes you criminally inadmissible to Canada for ten years. [Canada views DUI / DWI offenses to be serious offenses.] On rare occasions, a person may be deemed rehabilitated when less than 10 years has elapsed since the time of conviction. Consult Canada's Citizen and Immigration website to learn more about entering Canada following a DUI conviction.
Keep in mind that if you successfully complete the Washington DUI deferred sentencing program you will not be convicted of a DUI offense. However, you should avoid attempting to enter Canada while you are in the deferred sentencing program as it will appear on your record as a pending DUI and also make you inadmissible.
What happens if I was on probation for another offense when I was arrested for my Washington DUI offense?
Committing a new offense while you're on probation for a previous crime creates two problems. First, you face the new Washington DUI charge. Second, you face a probation violation (PV) hearing for failing to obey all laws. The most serious scenario is when you receive a new Washington DUI offense when you're already on probation for a previous DUI conviction. When this happens, its in your best interest to speak to an Washington DUI attorney as soon as possible.
Are there special concerns for licensed professionals who receive a Washington DUI charge?
Under Washington law, certain professional license holders must self-report "[a]ny conviction, determination, or finding that he or she has committed unprofessional conduct . . ." WAC 246-16-230 The term "'conviction' means a court has decided a person is guilty of any gross misdemeanor or felony. It includes any guilty or no contest plea and all decisions with a deferred or suspended sentence." WAC 246-16-210(2).
Check with your licensing board about whether you're required to self-report a Washington State DUI conviction or participation in a deferred sentencing program if you're in one of the following licensed occupations: Dispensing optician; Naturopath; Midwife, Ocularist; Massage operator; Dental hygienist; Acupuncturist; Radiologic technologist; X-ray technician; Respiratory care practitioner; Counselor; Hypnotherapist; Mental health counselor; Marriage and family therapist; Social workers; Nursing pool operator; Nursing assistant; Health care assistant; Dietitian and nutritionist; Chemical dependency professional; Sex offender treatment provider; Denturist; Orthotists and prosthetist; Surgical technologists; Recreational therapists; Animal massage practitioners; Athletic trainers; Home care aide; Speech-language pathology assistant; Nursing home operator; Podiatrist; Chiropractor; Dentist; Osteopath; Pharmacist; Physical Therapist; Occupational Therapist; Medical doctor; Nurse; Veterinarian; Optometrist; and Psychologists.
Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get a Washington DUI?
Yes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has special mandatory reporting requirements for Washington State DUI convictions and administrative (implied consent) driver license suspensions and revocations. Learn more here. Once the FAA receives your report the agency often requests additional information.
Are there any concerns for mariners licensed by the United States Coast Guard who get a Washington DUI?
Yes. An applicant for a Coast Guard credential must disclose all criminal convictions on their application form. In addition, the Regional Exam Center performs a National Driver Register check on all applicants. Once a DUI conviction is identified, the Center will evaluate the applicant's conviction and the associated facts.
I had some drugs with me at the time of my DUI arrest. How will this affect my case?
If you were unlawfully in possession of a controlled substance (drugs), you were probably also arrested for an additional charge under the VUCSA (Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act). Many VUCSA offenses are felony crimes so these charges require special attention from your lawyer.
I missed my court appearance. What do I do now?
Failing to appear (FTA) for a Washington court appearance should be avoided. When you miss a court appearance, bad things happen. At a minimum, the court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (commonly known as a bench warrant). You may also face an additional criminal charge such as bail jumping. Talk to a defense lawyer as soon as possible. Sometimes, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant. A new court date will then be scheduled.
Can I represent myself in court on my Washington DUI charge and / or other criminal charge(s)?
Yes. You have an absolute right to represent yourself on any Washington State criminal charge no matter how serious the offense including a Washington DUI charge. Keep in mind that the law related to administrative license suspensions and DUI defense are complex areas as shown by the information above. If you cannot afford to hire your own Washington DUI lawyer, you definitely should apply for a court appointed attorney to represent you. You have no right to a court appointed lawyer at the administrative license suspension appeal.
Websites, including this one, provide general Washington State DUI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship. General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation. Consult qualified Washington Drunk Driving - DUI - DWI lawyers / attorneys for advice about any specific problem or Washington DUI charge that you have. Washington State lawyers are governed by the Washington Rules of Professional Conduct. This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules. Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way. No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way. This site is not a solicitation for attorney services; rather, it is purely informational. WA DUI FAQ's. 2013.
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