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DUI DEFENSE IN WASHINGTON

Driving under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is generally a "gross misdemeanor" in the State of Washington. When other circumstances exist, the offense can also be considered a felony. Even when a DUI remains a misdemeanor, the penalties can be significant. They will greatly impact your finances, your freedom, and your life.

Experienced Washington DUI attorney James Curtis at The Curtis Firm can help with your DUI case. You do not have to face this process alone.

Misdemeanor DUI in Washington State

To be convicted of a Washington DUI charge, the prosecutor has to prove each of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. These elements include that you either:

  • operated a motor vehicle and your breath or blood test resulted in a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent or higher within 2 hours of driving (DUI per se); or
  • operated a motor vehicle while affected by drugs, alcohol, or any combination of the two.

The prosecutor must prove that you were either operating the vehicle (e.g., driving) or had physical control of the vehicle.

Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle

"Actual physical control" is not defined in the Washington statutes. However, case law has led to some examples of physical control that are commonly charged in Washington DUI cases:

  • a driver sitting in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition;
  • a driver in the driver's seat when the car is out of fuel;
  • a passenger who grabs the steering wheel of a car (even for a short time); and
  • a driver passed out or asleep in the driver's seat with the car parked on a road and the keys on the floor of a vehicle.

When a prosecutor attempts to charge you with "physical control" rather than driving a motor vehicle, you can raise the defense of "safely off the roadway." A person is safely off the roadway when the location of the vehicle is not on a Washington roadway, including the:

  • curb,
  • side of the road, or
  • median.

On the contrary, if a car is on the road, side of the road, or middle of the road, this is not "safely off the roadway." This defense must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence by the defendant.

Simple Misdemeanor vs. Gross Misdemeanor DUIs

Most cases of DUI in Washington are considered "gross misdemeanors" and are subject to the penalty ranges associated with them.

A DUI may be a simple misdemeanor for an under-21 DUI within the 0.02% to 0.08% range and in other limited circumstances.

Washington DUI law can be very complex. If you have questions about the nature of your specific case, an experienced Washington DUI attorney can help.

Felony DUI in Washington State

A Washington DUI may instead be a felony charge if any of the following are true:

  • this is your 4th DUI arrest within a 10-year period;
  • you have a prior conviction for a felony DUI; or
  • you were previously convicted of a DUI-related vehicular assault or vehicular homicide.

A felony DUI carries enhanced penalties. These penalties can be very severe depending on your case.

Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI in Washington

Penalties for a misdemeanor DUI in Washington depend on a number of factors, the most important of which is the number of times you have been charged with DUI within a 10-year period. The possible penalties are outlined below.

First Offense DUI

If a person is convicted of his or her first DUI offense, the following penalties as outlined in the below table may apply.

First Offense DUI

BAC less than .15% (or no test result)

BAC .15% or higher OR refused test

Minimum Jail Time or Electronic Home Monitoring (EMH)

24 consecutive hours OR 15 days EMH

48 consecutive hours OR 30 days EMH

Maximum Jail Time

364 days

364 days

Fines

$823 - $5,000

$1,015 - $5,000

Driver's License Suspension

90 days

1 - 2 years

Ignition Interlock Device

1 year following suspension

1 year following suspension

Alcohol/Drug Assessment

Required

Required

Probation

5 years

 5 years

Second Offense DUI

If a person is convicted of a second DUI offense within 7 years, the following penalties as outlined in the below table may apply.

Second Offense DUI

BAC less than .15% (or no test result)

BAC .15% or higher OR refused test

Minimum Jail Time

30 consecutive days

45 consecutive days

Maximum Jail Time

364 days

364 days

Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM)

60 days

90 days

Fines

$1,015 - $5,000

$1,405 - $5,000

Driver's License Suspension

2 years

900 days - 3 years

Ignition Interlock Device

5 years if previous use of device

5 years if previous use of device

Alcohol/Drug Assessment

Required

Required

Probation

5 years

5 years

Third or Subsequent Offense DUI

If a person is convicted of a third or more DUI offense within 7 years, the following penalties as outlined in the below table may apply.

Third Offense DUI

BAC less than .15% (or no test result)

BAC .15% or higher OR refused test

Minimum Jail Time

90 consecutive days

 120 consecutive days

Maximum Jail Time

364 days

364 days

Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM)

120 days

150 days

Fines

$1,805 - $5,000

$2,605 - $5,000

Driver's License Suspension

3 years

4 years

Ignition Interlock Device

10 years if previous 5-year restriction

10 years if previous 5-year restriction

Alcohol/Drug Assessment

Required

Required

Probation

5 years

5 years

Defending Your Misdemeanor DUI Charge

Just because you are charged with a crime, does not mean that you are guilty of a DUI. There are defenses that can be raised on your behalf to protect your rights, including but not limited to:

  • Challenging Blood and Breath Tests: Blood and breath tests are not always accurate and must be performed correctly. They can be challenged to present a strong defense.
  • Challenging Field Sobriety Tests: Field sobriety tests are notoriously inaccurate and can be challenged in court.
  • Unconstitutional Stops or Searches: When a traffic stop is made unconstitutionally or an unconstitutionally performed search results in evidence against you, that evidence can be suppressed, resulting in reduction or dismissal of the charges against you.
  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: The prosecutor is required to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If he or she fails to do so, you are innocent.

Consult a Washington DUI Attorney

If you or someone you care about has been arrested for misdemeanor DUI in Tacoma or the surrounding area, you need an experienced Washington DUI attorney to defend your case and protect your constitutional rights.

Experienced Washington DUI attorney James Curtis at The Curtis Firm can help with your criminal case. Contact us today for a consultation.

Areas Served

The Curtis Firm, LLC serves the Seattle - Tacoma Area, including Pierce, King, and Thurston Counties.

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