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What happens when you get a DUI in Washington?

Here's what you need to know...
  • First-time DUI arrests typically come with a lighter sentence if convicted
  • Refusing a breath or blood test is your legal right, but you will be fined and punished to the highest extent of the law if found guilty following refusal
  • Washington law requires anyone with a BAC at or exceeding .15 percent to receive the most severe legal consequences
There is a lot of misinformation surrounding a DUI in terms of what it means and how it works. It’s commonly believed a DUI is issued when someone is caught driving while drunk, but there’s more to it than just drinking and driving.

DUI means “Driving Under the Influence,” and it does not only pertain to the influence of alcohol. You can be pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs as well as alcohol.

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The prescription drugs you’re taking when you’re pulled over could be your personal prescription or one you’re using that belongs to someone else.

If you’re taking medication prescribed to another person by their physician, that’s considered a crime in another capacity as well as a potential DUI.

If you’re arrested and charged with or convicted of a DUI, your driving record is affected, the cost of insurance is affected, and your ability to drive is affected.

DUI Legal Limits in Washington

AdobeStock_51711988-1600x1600Washington laws are strict pertaining to DUI convictions. The state has strict laws pertaining to the amount of drugs or alcohol in your system, and that’s how they base their punishments and fines when you are convicted of a DUI.

No one may have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of more than .08 percent while driving. If you’re caught driving with a THC concentration of five or more nanograms, you’ve reached or exceed the legal limit. THC is what’s found in drugs.

If you’re pulled over and found to meet or exceed the legal limit of either drugs or alcohol, there is an immediate arrest.

If you’re found guilty during your trial and convicted of a DUI, your BAC or THC concentration has the biggest impact on the punishment you receive. If your BAC is higher than .15 percent, you’re facing the most serious penalties.

Additionally, if you choose to exercise your right to forgo testing when you’re arrested, you face more serious consequences.

Administrative Penalties for DUI in Washington

There are two forms of penalties in Washington. Administrative penalties are those that include your license. If you’re caught driving under the influence, you automatically lose your license for 90-days.

If you don’t take the tests to test for a DUI at the scene of your accident or traffic stop, you face suspension of your license for 365-days. Both are immediate penalties issued when you are arrested.

If you are convicted of a DUI after your arrest, you’re also facing the additional administrative penalty of driving with an ignition interlock device. This is a device that requires you test your breath as you enter your vehicle.

If you blow into it and have any drugs or alcohol in your system, the vehicle will not start. The minimum timeframe for driving with this is one year, but it’s extended to one year and six months if you have a child younger than 16 in the vehicle with you when you are pulled over.

Criminal Penalties for DUI in Washington

It’s important you note that you’re going to face less serious penalties if this is your first DUI arrest and you have a clean criminal history, but only if your BAC is below .15 percent and you chose to take the tests when you were stopped.

  • 1st Offense – Misdemeanor penalties worth one to 364 days in jail, 15-day house arrest or 90-day sobriety program, and fines from $550 to $5,200
  • 2nd Offense – 30 to 364 days in jail, 60-day house arrest or 6-month sobriety program, and fines of $700 to $5,200
  • 3rd Offense – 90 to 364 days in jail, 120-day house arrest, fines from $2,064 to $5,200, and license suspension for three years

Little Known Facts Regarding a DUI

Washington police cannot pull you over for a suspected DUI. You can be pulled over for any other traffic infraction and then questioned about your impairment, but the officer who pulls you over must have a probable cause to pull you over other than suspecting you’re under the influence.

For example, a valid reason might be you ran a red light or stop sign, you’re speeding, or you are driving without headlights, taillights, or even a blinker.

An officer cannot watch you pull out of the parking lot of a bar and decide to pull you over to determine whether you’re drunk, but they can follow you and wait for you to break some other law and pull you over for that.

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If an officer pulls you over for any other reason and sees open containers, prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or even smells alcohol on your breath, he or she can ask you to take a field sobriety test.

These tests include walking straight, testing your eyes, and other various functions that might indicate whether you’re drunk.

If you have health issues that prevent you from passing a field sobriety test, you’re free to ask the officer to give you a breathalyzer or a blood test to confirm you are not under the influence. You may also refuse all forms of testing.

Finally, Washington lawmakers have decided to pass a law making it illegal to use cell phones while driving.

This law is called an “E-DUI” because it’s more dangerous to drive using your phone than it is to drive while impaired. This new law is subject to the same fines, penalties, and laws as a typical DUI,

Refusing a Breathalyzer Test

The law states you are being arrested for something, and you are then going to face this consequence. However, you do have the right to refuse this.

You must be adamant about your refusal, and you must understand that the breath test at the scene of the arrest is purely optional.

There is no law stating you must submit to any testing here, but there is a law that states the breath test at the police station is mandatory.

Your arresting officer must make this very clear to you or it can be used as a defense by your attorney.

Refusal is your right, but it does come with exceptional consequences. If you are found guilty and convicted, you surrender any chance of a light sentence.

You’re automatically getting the most severe consequences handed to you. Know this if you decide to refuse this test.

Long-Term Effects of A DUI Conviction

Whether your BAC was low or entirely too high, you’re a first-time offender or a subsequent offender, or you refused to take any tests, you’re facing conviction. You may hire an attorney.

It is your right to do this once you are arrested. Your attorney then works to prove you were not under the influence or that the arrest was not handled appropriately to get your charges dropped on a technicality.

If you are convicted, you lose your license. You also have a criminal record, and your driving record becomes less impressive.

This can have a major effect on your ability to apply for and work certain jobs, and it does affect your financial situation in terms of paying for car insurance.

Car insurance is mandatory in all states, and you’ll pay a premium for it after you’re convicted of a DUI.

You can shop for rates with various insurance companies and still look for one that’s better than the others, but you’re always paying tremendously more for your rates following a DUI.

It’s going to stick with you on your record, and it’s going to make your life a lot less affordable in many ways. Make sure to shop around with our free quote tool below! Just enter your zip code and start comparing rates for free now!

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