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What is a DUI and a DWI in Washington?

Washington sets a legal limit above which the state deems a driver incapable of operating a vehicle. Drivers who willfully proceed to drive drunk or drugged are guilty of a DUI and subject to penalties. Authorized personnel of the Washington State Patrol identify and indict DUI suspects. Washington State Courts prosecute and impose criminal and civil penalties on guilty offenders while the Department of Licensing imposes administrative sanctions. Both of these agencies work with law enforcement to keep drunk/drugged drivers off the road. Likewise, official records of the offense are available to the public through these agencies.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Washington?

Both terms refer to the same offense in Washington and are interchangeable. Nevertheless, DUI (Driving Under Influence) is the official term per RCW 46.61.502. There are two elements of a DUI in Washington. First, the driver must have consumed alcohol or a drug and have a blood alcohol content at or above the legal BAC threshold of 0.08%. The driver must be in control of a vehicle at the time of arrest—or within two hours—with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.08%.

What happens when you get a DUI for the First Time in Washington?

After arrest, the officer shall issue a moving ticket, notify the Department of Licensing (DOL), and indict the offender with DUI charges. Upon indictment, the person must request an administrative hearing within seven (7) days. The Department of Licensing provides additional information regarding the driver’s defenses and rights during and after the hearing. Note that this information does not substitute competent professional advice.

Likewise, the indicted offender must face the DUI charges in court, where the outcome and penalties are independent of those of the administrative hearing. If convicted in court, the offender faces penalties such as license suspension, probation, community service, and jail time. If adjudged guilty at the administrative hearing, the offender also faces sanctions.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Washington?

Very likely. Jail time for a DUI in Washington is mandatory (RCW 46.61.5055).. First-time offenders face jail time from 24 hours to 1 year, depending on aggravating factors. Besides the minimum sentence, the driver incurs an extra 24 hours of incarceration there was a minor in the vehicle and 48 hours if he/she refused a breath test. Furthermore, Washington imposes a mandatory minimum fine of $940.50, which goes up to $5,000 with aggravating factors. The judge has the discretion to impose additional sanctions such as 2 to 5 years of probation, one year of license suspension, and one year of ignition interlock, among other typical penalties.

What are the Typical Penalties for a DUI Conviction in Washington?

The Washington legislature enacted a penalty schedule for persons convicted of DUI within its jurisdiction. These include:

  • Tickets: A general penalty for DWI violations in Washington. While Washington does not use a point system, accruing many tickets may attract stiffer sanctions, even if the later offenses are unrelated to DUI.
  • License Suspension: Immediately after a DUI, the offender shall be liable to a license suspension. The imposition and length depend on the results of the administrative hearing and court hearing. If guilty, the license suspension begins thirty days after the offense and lasts for ninety days to two years. After the suspension period, the offender must begin the license reinstatement protocol.
  • Community Service: The imposition of this penalty is at the court’s discretion. Offenders who arrive at a plea bargain may receive hours of community service in addition to other penalties like probation.
  • Probation: This penalty is also discretionary. The probation period is two to five years for first-time offenders and a minimum of five years for habitual offenders.
  • Fines: The minimum mandatory pecuniary penalty for DUI in Washington is $940.50. The amount increases with aggravating factors and offender status.
  • Fees: The offender must pay court costs, professional fees, tickets, and surcharges.
  • Monitoring: Washington laws orders monitoring for DUI offenders. This program takes different forms, and the offender bears the cost of running the monitoring system. The systems include an ignition interlock device, alcohol detection breathalyzer, and transdermal sensor. The court may also impose electronic monitoring or alcohol abstinence monitoring with technology designed to detect alcohol in a driver’s system (RCW 46.61.50571).
  • Alcohol Treatment and Rehabilitation Program. An offender must report to an approved sobriety program upon the order of the court. He/she bears the associated costs. Failure to report to the program may incur stiffer sanctions.
  • Insurance: The court often requires DUI offenders to show financial responsibility as a requirement for reinstatement of driving privileges.
  • Vehicle seizure and forfeiture: DUI offenders with multiple convictions in seven years are subject to this penalty under RCW 46.61.5058
  • Jail: This penalty is also universal for all DUI offenders. The length of the sentence varies with the gravity of the offense.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Washington?

DUI convictions remain on the driving record and criminal record for life. Washington only makes provisions for expunction under statutory circumstances (RCW 10.97.060).. Generally, the DUI indictment must not result in a conviction, and the offender must have a clean record for at least two years before filing for expunction. Interested persons may obtain DUI-related information from the driving record, criminal history, and court recordseach from the designated custodian.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching for records simpler, as geographic locations do not limit their activities. Thus, the search engines on third-party sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or presumed location of the record or persons involved in the case. These include information such as the city, county, or state of residence or accusation.

Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not government-sponsored. Consequently, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Washington?

As of December 2020, Washington State forbids law enforcement from setting up DUI checkpoints. The state considers the checkpoints unconstitutional and an unlawful breach of fourth amendment rights. Furthermore, police officers cannot perform a random stop and search. The officer must have a reason, e.g., haphazard driving, speeding, and violating traffic rules.

Which is Worse; a DUI or DWI?

Both terms refer to the same offense. However, a DUI is often a misdemeanor until it becomes aggravated.

What is an Aggravated DWI in Washington?

An aggravated DUI is a felonious offense in Washington. Generally, this involves DUI and committing a felony with a vehicle, hit and run, vehicular homicide, and vehicular manslaughter. Other aggravating factors include DUI in a school zone and attempting to elude a police officer.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Washington?

A DUI offender is subject to the penalties mentioned earlier, such as license suspension, fines, and jail. Defenses to DUI must disprove the two elements of a DUI in Washington, i.e., inebriation (RCW 46.61.502(3a)) and physical control of a vehicle (RCW 46.61.504).. The DOL webpage outlines other defenses and rights of the defendant.

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