First-Offense DUI in Washington

Read about the consequences of a first-offense DUI in Washington.

In Washington, it’s illegal to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You can be convicted of a DUI (driving under the influence) for getting behind the wheel while:

  • impaired by drugs or alcohol to an extent that your “ability to drive a motor vehicle is lessened in any appreciable degree” (an “impairment” DUI)
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or greater (a “per se” DUI), or
  • having a concentration of five nanograms or more of THC (the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) per milliliter of blood (a “per se marijuana” DUI).

(Read about how legalization of marijuana affected Washington DUI law.)

DUI offenses based on impairment (drugs or alcohol), THC concentration, and BACs under .15% typically carry the lowest penalties. DUI offenders who refused chemical testing (blood or breath) in violation of Washington’s implied consent laws or had a BAC of .15% or greater generally face more severe consequences.

Below are some of the administrative and criminal penalties for a first-offense DUI. Generally, a DUI is considered a first offense in Washington if the motorist has no prior DUI convictions within the past seven years.

(Also, learn about the penalties for a second and third DUI in Washington.)

Administrative Penalties

“Administrative penalties” are those imposed by the Washington State Department of Licensing. Some administrative consequences are triggered by the arrest and apply even if the defendant is never actually convicted of a DUI in criminal court. For a first DUI, the administrative penalties include:

  • Per se marijuana and per se alcohol. Motorists who are caught driving with a BAC of .08% or more or with a THC concentration of at least five nanograms per milliliter of blood typically face a 90-day administrative license suspension.
  • Chemical-test refusals. Motorists who refuse chemical testing generally face a one-year administrative license suspension.

The Department of Licensing also requires all motorists convicted of a first-offense DUI to have ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on their vehicles for at least one year. And DUI first offenders who had a passenger under the age of 16 in their vehicle at the time of their offense are required to have IIDs for at least 18 months.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 46.20.720, 46.20.3101 (2016).)

Criminal Penalties

“Criminal penalties” are those imposed by a criminal court following a DUI conviction. For a first DUI, the criminal penalties include:

  • Per se marijuana, per se alcohol with BAC under .15%, and impairment DUIs. Motorists who are convicted of a per se marijuana, per se alcohol with a BAC under .15%, or an impairment first-offense DUI are typically guilty of a “gross misdemeanor.” Convicted drivers generally face one to 364 days in jail, at least 15 days of electronic home monitoring (EHM), or 90 days in a “24/7 Sobriety Program.” The criminal penalties also include $550 to $5,200 in fines and fees and a 90-day license suspension.
  • Chemical-test refusals and BACs of .15% or greater. Motorists who are convicted of a first-offense DUI involving a chemical-test refusal or BAC of .15% or greater are typically guilty of a gross misdemeanor. Convicted drivers generally face two to 364 days in jail, at least 30 days of EHM, or 120 days in a 24/7 program. The criminal penalties also include $700 to $5,200 in fines and fees and a one-year license suspension.

Depending on the circumstances, a judge might also order a DUI offender to participate in an educational or substance abuse treatment program. And for any first offender who had a passenger under the age of 16 at the time of the offense, the judge must impose an additional one day in jail and increase the fines and fees to $1,200 to $5,200. (Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 46.61.5052, 46.61.5054, 46.61.5055, 46.61.5056 (2016).)

(To get an idea of how much a first offense DUI will cost you, see our article on the cost of a DUI.)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Getting Legal Help

Washington DUI law is complex, and facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced DUI attorney in your area. A qualified DUI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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