The criminal justice systems in Washington and the other forty-nine states deal harshly with alleged offenses involving driving while under the influence of alcohol. Washington has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country, with possible penalties including license suspension, fines, and incarceration. The burden of proof is on the State to show that a defendant had a blood alcohol content above the legal limit within the time period established by statute. Challenging this evidence is a key component of defending against a DUI charge. An experienced Washington DUI attorney can assist you in the defense of your case by closely reviewing the prosecution’s evidence and challenging their allegations wherever possible.
What is DUI?
Washington defines the offense of “driving under the influence,” or “DUI,” as driving while under the influence of an “intoxicating liquor or any drug,” or a combination thereof; or having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more within two hours of driving. Police may test for intoxication with a blood or breath test, and the circumstances under which police may collect this evidence without a warrant is the subject of ongoing review in the courts.
Even if a driver’s BAC tests below 0.08 percent, a driver may still face a DUI charge if the state produces other evidence to show that the driver was impaired. Breath or blood samples collected more than two hours after the driver was behind the wheel may also be used as evidence in a DUI prosecution to show that BAC was at or above 0.08 percent during the two-hour period.
A driver may not claim a legal right to use a drug, such as a prescription, as a defense. State law does allow a driver, however, to claim that their BAC was below the legal limit while driving, but that they consumed more alcohol after driving and before administration of the breath or blood test.
Levels of Offense for DUIs
Most DUI offenses are a gross misdemeanor under state law. A DUI is treated as a class C felony, however, if the driver has at least four prior DUI convictions, one or more convictions for vehicular homicide, or one or more convictions for vehicular assault.
Penalties and Sentencing for DUIs
The state can suspend the license of a DUI defendant while a case is pending, and the suspension may continue even if the case ends without a conviction. This is classified by the state as an administrative proceeding separate from the criminal system, but it certainly seems like punishment to most defendants.
The penalty for a DUI conviction depends on the circumstances of the alleged offense. For DUI cases charged as gross misdemeanors, the maximum term of incarceration and fine varies depending on the defendant’s BAC and the number of prior DUI offenses. After a conviction for DUI, a driver must obtain an ignition interlock device for their vehicle, which prevents them from driving if their BAC is 0.025 percent or higher.
The assistance of an attorney with knowledge of Washington’s legal system is critical to the defense of a DUI case. The Washington DUI lawyers at Vindicate Criminal Law Group have over twenty years’ experience representing defendants charged with alleged DUI offenses in Sealltl, Bellevue, and elsewhere in Washington state. Contact us today online or at 888-212-4824 to schedule a confidential case evaluation.