“We are seeing a 14% rise in fatal collisions from 2014-2015 when it comes to drug-impaired drivers… One of the new changes we are seeing is that people aren’t realizing that taking these medications, or taking drugs and getting behind the wheel of a car, is as equal if not more dangerous than drinking and driving.”
~ Kyle Moore, Washington State Patrol
Being arrested for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in Washington State which may result in significant civil and criminal charges that have the potential to negatively impact every aspect of your life.
A DUI can affect your finances, your freedom, and even your future.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission has reported that it is working on ways to “improve prosecution” and “increase impaired driving arrests” of those people who drive after using any substance – legal or not – that could damage their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle.
The Washington Impaired Driving Work Group has recommended strategies such as:
- Reducing the number of DUI convictions before it becomes a felony
- Increasing the minimum DUI penalties
- Requiring ignition interlock devices
- Random sobriety checkpoints
- Stiffer penalties for breath/blood test refusal
More than anything, WIDWG works at “encouraging prosecutors to aggressively enforce impaired driving laws.” More than 90% of Washingtonians support this stance.
How Big Is the Problem of DUIs in Washington State?
Impaired driving in Washington state is an ongoing problem. Last year, there were almost 35,000 DUI arrests in the state, and it is estimated that nearly half of all traffic deaths in Washington are because of impaired driving.
It may even be getting worse, even though a huge campaign to boost public awareness was launched. Over the 2016 July 4th holiday weekend, State Troopers arrested 211 people for Driving Under the Influence, 30 more than the year before.
Washington State Trooper Chris Thorson weighed in, saying, “Depending on how many we catch, it doesn’t necessarily mean – not 100 other people out drinking or doing drugs and driving.”
DUIs in Washington State—Three Considerations
Let’s be clear on one point—Washington State is determined to get impaired drivers off the road.
- You can get a DUI if you are driving after using ANY substance that compromises your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle –even prescription medications.
- You can face serious penalties, even before a conviction. In the State of Washington, your driver’s license can be suspended for up to TWO YEARS just for being charged for Driving Under the Influence.
According to The Washington State Department of Licensing, any disqualification, revocation, or suspension of your license won’t be reduced or changed, even if a court reduces the criminal charge from a DUI to something else, such as negligent driving or reckless driving.
- The best way to protect yourself and others is to NEVER get behind the wheel if you have been drinking or using any drug that may interfere with your ability to drive.
How much does a DUI in Washington State REALLY Cost?
A DUI in Washington State is extremely expensive – probably much more so than you realize:
- The MINIMUM fine for a first DUI is $940.50, but the MAXIMUM is $5000.
- The AVERAGE fine is $3711.
- The AVERAGE increase in insurance premiums is $466.80 per year.
- In some areas of the state, insurance rates can skyrocket by more than 60% after a DUI.
- Because the insurance increase will last for FIVE YEARS, you will end up paying $2334 more in extra insurance.
- Estimated lawyers’ fees – a MINIMUM of $2000.
- If you lose your license due to a DUI but need to continue driving, you MUST install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. Even if you are a first-time offender, you will have to keep the device for a MINIMUM of one year. Installation and monthly charges total around $1300 annually.
- Requesting a DUI hearing – $375.
- You may be required to attend drug or alcohol treatment.
- License reinstatement – $150.
- The Top 5 most expensive cities in Washington State for DUIs are:
- Puyallup $11,159
- Federal Way $11,270
- Lakewood $11,423
- University Place $11,457
- Tacoma $11,458
How is a DUI Determined in Washington State and What are the Penalties?
According to the Washington State Legislature, you are guilty of Driving Under the Influence if:
- Your blood alcohol content is .08 or higher within two hours after driving, as determined by a breath or blood test.
- You are a commercial vehicle driver and have a blood alcohol content of .04 or higher.
- You are not of legal drinking age and have a blood alcohol content of .02 or higher
- You have a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher within two hours after driving.
- You operate a motor vehicle while under the influence/affected by marijuana, alcohol, or any drug– or any combination of drugs and/or alcohol.
- A “drug” includes any chemical that is ingested or inhaled for its hallucinatory or intoxicating effects.
Other important points to keep in mind are:
- The “legal entitlement” to use a substance – i.e., alcohol or marijuana – is NOT an admissible defense.
- If you attempt to claim that the substance was used after you drove, that may be hard to prove. State Law requires that you as the defendant must provide a “preponderance of the evidence” backing your claim AND that you must notify the prosecution before the pretrial hearing.
- If your blood and/or breath samples are obtained more than two hours after driving, ANY concentration above 0.00 can be submitted as evidence that you were under the influence/affected by marijuana or alcohol.
If this is your first DUI (or your first within the past seven years), you will be facing a misdemeanor charge, which carries the following penalties:
- For a BAC below 0.15 –
- 90-day suspension of your driving privileges
- Up to 364 days of jail time
- Fine: $940 – $5000
- For a BAC above 0.15 OR if you refuse to take a chemical test –
- One-year suspension of your driving privileges (BAC), Two years for refusing
- Up to 364 days of jail time
- Fine: $1195 – $5000
If you have prior DUI offenses, you could see more time in jail, larger fines, and driving privilege suspensions that are greater in length. For example, if you had two prior DUIs:
- Your MINIMUM fine would be $2820
- You would receive a MINIMUM of 120 days in jail
- Revocation of your license for four years
Additional fines of up to $3000 will be imposed if, at the time of the offense, you had a passenger who was under the age of 16 in your vehicle.
You could receive a FELONY DUI conviction that would result in a prison sentence, if:
- You have been convicted of four or more prior DUI offenses within the past 10 years.
- You have a prior conviction of Vehicular Homicide OR Vehicular Assault while under the influence of intoxicants.
The penalty for a felony DUI conviction in Washington State is:
- Fine: up to $10,000
- Up to five years in prison.
When you drive while you are impaired by alcohol, prescription medications, inhalants, or illicit drugs – especially when you do so on multiple occasions – that is usually an indication that you may have a substance abuse problem.
If you or someone you love is in need of alcohol detox or rehab, we are here for you 24/7 with our addiction experts.