In the Seattle area or anywhere else, an arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) can be terrifying. Will your driver’s license be suspended? Will you be charged with a felony? Will you go to jail? One thing is certain. You will need legal help from the right Seattle DUI attorney.
Driving under the influence remains one of law enforcement’s leading concerns in Washington. In 2017, for example, more than 8,000 alcohol-related traffic collisions were reported in this state. More than one hundred of those collisions involved fatalities.
Most driving under the influence charges in the State of Washington are misdemeanor charges that do not involve accidents or injuries. But even for a misdemeanor first-offense DUI conviction, you could be sent to jail for up to a year and fined up to $5,000.
However, if your DUI charge is a felony charge, you will face much harsher penalties, as explained below. Washington’s courts and prosecutors believe that drivers should “learn their lesson” after a first conviction, but for many DUI offenders, that isn’t what happens.
WHEN DUI IS A FELONY?
What raises a DUI misdemeanor charge to a felony charge? Driving under the influence may be prosecuted as a felony in Washington if you have too many prior DUI convictions or if you cause a traffic accident that results in someone else’s serious injury or death.
If a driver has three or more DUI convictions within a ten-year period, a fourth DUI offense will be charged as a felony. And anyone with a previous conviction for DUI vehicular assault or DUI vehicular homicide will be charged with driving under the influence as a Class C felony.
Class C felony convictions are punishable with up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
HOW ARE DUI VEHICULAR ASSAULT AND DUI VEHICULAR HOMICIDE CRIMES HANDLED?
DUI vehicular homicide is a Class A felony punishable upon conviction with up to life in prison and a $50,000 fine. A DUI vehicular homicide charge can be filed if a victim dies as a result of his or her injuries within three years of the date of the accident.
DUI vehicular assault occurs when someone is driving under the influence and causes another person substantial bodily harm, which is defined as an injury that leads to at least one of these three conditions:
1. a fracture
2. temporary but substantial disfigurement
3. temporary loss or temporary but substantial impairment of a body part or organ
Vehicular assault is considered a Class B felony. Class B felonies are punishable on conviction with up to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
WILL YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE BE SUSPENDED?
If you refuse to take a chemical test after a DUI arrest, your driver’s license may be suspended for up to a year. Additionally, the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles will revoke the license of anyone convicted of a felony DUI for one to three years, depending on the details of the case.
Every defendant who is convicted of driving under the influence in Washington is now also ordered to have an IID (ignition interlock device) installed in his or her personal vehicle.
It is important to remember that most DUI charges in Washington are misdemeanor charges, and one year is the maximum jail term for a misdemeanor conviction. In some cases, a felony DUI charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor charge or even dropped or dismissed.
Any driving under the influence charge – whether it’s a felony charge or a misdemeanor charge – may be dropped by the prosecutor or dismissed by the judge if police officers violated a suspect’s rights during a traffic stop, a search, an interrogation, an arrest, or a DUI test.
WHY IS AVOIDING A DUI FELONY CONVICTION SO IMPORTANT?
Avoiding a conviction for DUI – and especially a felony conviction – is imperative for a variety of reasons. If driving is your work or essential to your work, you may have to find other employment after a conviction for driving under the influence.
Your auto insurance costs will climb sharply after a felony DUI conviction, and if you hold a professional license in this state, a felony driving under the influence conviction will probably trigger the suspension or revocation of that license by your professional licensing board.
Immigrants in the State of Washington cannot afford any DUI conviction, even a plea deal that reduces a felony DUI charge to a misdemeanor charge. That’s because any conviction for driving under the influence can trigger a removal hearing and put an immigrant at risk for deportation.
WHAT WILL A DUI DEFENSE LAWYER DO ON YOUR BEHALF?
To convict you of driving under the influence as a felony, a prosecutor has to prove that you are guilty of the charge “beyond a reasonable doubt.” A good DUI defense lawyer knows how to cast doubt on the prosecution’s evidence against you.
If your rights were not violated by the police, your attorney may dispute the accuracy of blood or breath tests, the trustworthiness of the devices used for that testing, the handling of test results and samples, or the credentials and qualifications of the person who administered the test.
Your defense attorney will scrutinize every detail of a driving under the influence charge, gather and examine evidence, interrogate any witnesses, protect your rights, fight aggressively for justice on your behalf, and bring your DUI case to its best possible outcome.
MAKE YOUR LAST DUI CONVICTION…YOUR LAST
Of course, the best advice about drinking and driving is – Don’t! If you plan to drive, don’t drink. If you plan to drink, arrange for a taxicab, Uber or Lyft, or a designated driver. Rent a room or sleep on a friend’s sofa. Do whatever it takes to avoid drinking and driving.
Anyone can make a mistake. But if you receive a second or third DUI conviction in this state, make it your last. A fourth DUI conviction in ten years will be a felony conviction. You’ll almost certainly do time if you are convicted, and you’ll seriously damage your family and your future.
If you are charged with DUI for a second or third time – or for a fourth time, as a felony – don’t presume that you’ll be convicted and enter a guilty plea. Good DUI defense lawyers in the State of Washington have charges reduced or dismissed and win acquittals routinely in DUI cases.