Washington State DUI Laws, DWI Laws, Drunk Driving Laws

Washington State DUI Laws - New DUI Laws lower legal limit for DWI In Washington
By Nicholas George, Washington DUI Attorney

Toughest Laws Around: Washington State's new drunk driving laws are some of the toughest enforced anywhere in the United States. The new laws will lower the legal blood alcohol limit, increase penalties for driving drunk, and change the way the state treats drunk drivers.

Alcohol Limit: .08: A new Washington law lowers the legal blood alcohol level from .lO to .08. Beginning January 1, 1999, drivers with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) at .08 or above can be arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. A BAC measures the ration of alcohol to blood and is measured by a test of a driver's breath or blood.

BAC levels are determined by the number of drinks consumed in an hour, a person's body weight, and gender. Females will reach a higher BAC faster than males because females are generally smaller and have higher ratios of body fat to body fluids which makes them about 10 percent more susceptible to the effects of alcohol than males.

In general, a 140 pound woman will reach a .08 BAC after three drinks in an hour and a 170 pound man will reach a .08 BAC after four drinks in an hour. During a two-hour time period a 140 pound woman will exceed a .08 BAC after four drinks and a 170 pound man will reach a .08 BAC after five drinks.

There is no safe way to drive after drinking. Research shows that driving skills are affected even at low BAC levels and are impaired for anyone with a .08 BAC. A driver's attention, comprehension, and reaction time are substantially diminished at .08. Specific skills such as lane changing, braking, and acceleration are also significantly affected.

New Police Powers: New Washington laws give police more power when arresting people charged with DUI. They can suspend driver's licenses, impound vehicles, and pursue drivers across state lines.

Suspend Driver Licenses: Authorities have the right to immediately suspend the driver's license of any person, even a first-time DUI offender, who fails the BAC breath test. Suspensions range from 90 days for a first-time offender to 3 years for certain repeat offenders. A special license that allows a person with a suspended license to drive to and from work, called an occupational license, will not be granted for the first 30 days of the suspension The fee for reinstating a revoked or suspended driver's license has been increased from $50 to $150.

Impound Vehicles: A police officer may now impound the vehicle of a driver who is charged with a DUI, or who is driving with a suspended or revoked river's license. In some instances, the vehicle may be impounded for 30 to 90 days. The person must pay all of the towing and storage fees before getting the vehicle back. on the basis of economic or personal hardship, the vehicle may be released to the spouse of the driver or another owner of the vehicle.

Pursue Drivers: Law enforcement officers may now pursue drivers apparently impaired by alcohol across Washington's boundaries.

Tougher Sentences: Many of the new laws were designed to make sentences tougher on DUI offenders - especially repeat DUI offenders.

More Jail Time: Judges will add two years of jail time to the sentence of a person convicted of vehicular homicide for each previous DUI conviction on that person's record.

Judges will also consider the presence of passengers when sentencing DUI offenders and will increase penalties for DUI drivers who had passengers of any age in their car when they were arrested.

Permanent Record: A driver's permanent record of his or her DUI convictions will be kept by district courts. The Department of Licensing will keep DUI convictions on record now for 15 years, rather than 10 years, meaning the offender's insurance rates will be adversely affected for an additional five years.

Zero Tolerance: Violation of the minor in possession of alcohol or drugs law has been increased to a gross misdemeanor. This means that anyone under age 21 who obtains, possesses, or consumes alcohol will now be charged with a gross misdemeanor. An existing law already revokes the driver's license of anyone under age 21 who drinks and drives.

Only One Chance: Washington State' has changed its law regarding deferred prosecution. If a driver who has been charged with a DUI believes that his or her actions were a result of an addiction to alcohol or drugs, that driver may choose to enter a treatment program for alcohol or drug addiction. While that person is in treatment, the DUI charges are put "on hold. " This is called a deferred prosecution. if that person completes the two-year treatment program and then remains sober for an additional three years, the court will drop the DUI charge. The deferred prosecution, however, will remain on the person's driving record permanently. If the person fails to complete treatment or is charged with an additional DUI, the driver is automatically found guilty of the original DUI while the additional DUI charges are pursued.

With the new law, a person is now only allowed one deferred prosecution in his or her lifetime, rather than one every five years. Before the new law, the court would dismiss a DUI charge after completion of the two-year treatment program. The new law requires three additional years of being sober before charges are dropped.

Beyond Jail Time: Washington's new DUI laws now prescribe ignition interlock and electronic home monitoring as additional sanctions for DUI drivers.

Ignition Interlock: An ignition interlock device attaches a breath-alcohol analyzer to a vehicle's ignition system. All DUI offenders (except first-time offenders with a BAC below .15) are required to have an ignition interlock device on the cars they drive. When the ignition interlock device is installed on a vehicle the driver is required to blow into the device which reads the person's BAC level. If alcohol is detected. then the engine will not start. After starting the car the driver is required to take the breath test every ten minutes while operating the vehicle. The device also keeps a record of every breath test result and generates a report that is sent to the courts.

The amount to time a DUI offender is required to have ignition interlock on his or her car varies according to previous offenses. The first-time offender with a BAC above .15 will be required to have ignition interlock for one year. the second-time offender will be required to have ignition interlock for five years; and the third-time offender will be required to have ignition interlock for no less than ten years. The offender will be required to pay the cost of the ignition interlock rental which is about $2 a day. A court may waive the requirement for ignition interlock if the device is not reasonably available in the local area.

Electronic Home Monitoring: In most cases, the court will require from 60 to 150 days of electronic home monitoring be added to the minimum sentence of repeat DUI offenders. The number of days required will be determined by the offender's BAC level upon arrest and the offender's previous DUI conviction record. The court may substitute 15 days of electronic home monitoring for the minimum one day in jail. Offenders pay for electronic home monitoring, which costs between $8 and $12 a day. Restriction? An alcohol consumption and requirements to take breath tests may be included in the requirement of home monitoring.