Third-Offense DUI in Washington

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

In Washington, a DUI (driving under the influence) is generally considered a “third offense” when the motorist has two prior DUI convictions that occurred within the past seven years. This article discusses some of the consequences of a third-offense DUI in Washington. (Also, read about the penalties for a first and second DUI in Washington.)

Washington defines DUI as driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle 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).

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.

(Also, learn about how legalization of marijuana affected Washington DUI law.)

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 third DUI, the administrative penalties include:

  • Per se marijuana and per se alcohol. Third offenders who are caught driving with a BAC of .08% or more or a THC concentration of at least five nanograms per milliliter of blood typically face a two-year license suspension.
  • Chemical-test refusals. Third offenders who refuse chemical testing generally face an administrative license suspension of two years or until the driver reaches the age of 21, whichever is longer.

The Department of Licensing also requires all motorists convicted of a third-offense DUI—regardless of when the prior offenses occurred—to have ignition interlock devices (IIDs) on their vehicles for at least ten years. And DUI second 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 ten-and-a-half years.  

(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 third 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 third-offense DUI are typically guilty of a “gross misdemeanor.” Convicted drivers generally face 90 to 364 days in jail, 120 days of electronic home monitoring (EHM), and sixth months in a “24/7 Sobriety Program” (if available). In lieu of EHM, the judge can impose at least another eight days in jail. The criminal penalties also include $1,200 to $5,200 in fines and fees and a three-year license suspension.
  • Chemical-test refusals and BACs of .15% or greater. Motorists who are convicted of a third-offense DUI involving a chemical-test refusal or BAC of .15% or greater are typically guilty of a gross misdemeanor. Convicted drivers generally face 120 to 364 days in jail, 150 days of EHM, and six months in a 24/7 program (if available). The criminal penalties also include $1,700 to $5,200 in fines and fees and a four-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 third offender who had a passenger under the age of 16 at the time of the offense, the judge must impose an additional ten days in jail and increase the fines and fees to $3,200 to $10,200. Vehicle seizure is also a possibility when a motorist is convicted of a third DUI in Washington.

(Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 46.61.5052, 46.61.5054, 46.61.5055, 46.61.5056, 46.61.5058 (2016).)


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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