A charge of driving under the influence, or “DUI,” can have a significant impact on your life. Courts have the authority to suspend your driver’s license, even if you are not ultimately convicted. Washington law designates a DUI as a gross misdemeanor, which is a relatively minor offense, but which can still lead to up to one year in jail and other penalties. Subsequent DUI offenses can bring greater penalties, eventually qualifying as a felony. If you have been charged with alleged DUI, you should consult with a skilled and experienced Washington criminal defense attorney right away in order to prepare a response to the state’s allegations and protect your rights.

Driving Under the Influence

Washington defines DUI as the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A blood alcohol percentage (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater within two hours of driving is automatically considered DUI. A driver has the right to refuse to submit to a blood or breath test or a field sobriety test, although police may arrest the driver, and the driver may still face license suspension. The state can charge a driver with DUI, regardless of BAC, if the driver shows signs of impairment caused by drugs or alcohol. This even includes prescription drugs the driver is legally allowed to possess. If the state does not have evidence from a blood or breath test, it can still present other evidence of the driver’s impairment, such as the testimony of the arresting officer or dashboard camera footage.

First Offense DUI

A first-time DUI offense is a gross misdemeanor under Washington’s criminal laws. This type of offense generally has a maximum penalty of 364 days in county jail, a fine of $5,000, or some combination of the two. A court could also order a DUI defendant to take an alcohol education or intervention course, or to seek substance abuse treatment. These could also be part of a plea agreement with the state.

Penalties for a First DUI Offense

Washington’s criminal code establishes minimum penalties for a first-time DUI based on the circumstances of the alleged offense, which are subject to the statutory maximum penalties for a gross misdemeanor. If the defendant’s BAC tested at less than 0.15 percent, or if BAC test results are unavailable for any reason other than the defendant’s refusal to submit to a test, the minimum term of incarceration is one day in county jail, up to the maximum of one year. The minimum fine is $350. Instead of jail time, a court may order a minimum of fifteen days of electronic home monitoring, with the costs borne by the defendant. If BAC was 0.15 or higher, or if the defendant refused to submit to the test, the minimum penalties are two days in jail or thirty days of electronic home monitoring, and a $500 fine.

If you have been charged with an alleged DUI offense, you need the assistance of an attorney with experience in Washington’s criminal justice system. For more than twenty years, Washington criminal defense lawyer Vindicate Criminal Law Group has represented defendants charged with alleged DUI in Bellevue, Renton, and elsewhere in Washington state. Contact us today for your confidential case evaluation, online or at 888-212-4824