What Are the Changes in Washington State DUI Laws?

Washington has strict DUI laws and doesn’t treat people accused of the offense lightly. At the beginning of 2022, the state made significant changes to the sentencing of DUI charges, outlining new laws on the punishments to be enacted once an accused person is convicted.

Understanding these changes is crucial if you’re facing DUI charges. A Seattle criminal justice attorney can provide legal counsel to enlighten you on how to proceed with the case. They can also provide legal representation to help you fight the penalties, which depend on whether it’s a first or subsequent DUI.

Lower and Stricter DUI Limit

While not yet signed into law, there’s a renewed push in Washington State to lower the blood alcohol content (BAC) limit from 0.08% to 0.05%. If the bill passes, Washington will become one of the only two states (the other is Utah) with stricter BAC standards. The proposed legislation comes amid an epidemic of traffic safety challenges in the state.

Proponents of the bill believe that lowering the BAC limit would clearly tell drivers to avoid taking the wheel even after a single drink. Ultimately, it would be a positive move towards reducing DUI accidents and fatalities in the state.

If the bill becomes law, you will potentially have harsher punishments if you’re caught driving with a DUI of 0.05% or more. Consult a skilled Seattle DUI defense lawyer and let them defend you to beat the charges.

Harsher Penalties

Under the new DUI legislation in Washington, people convicted of DUI will face harsher penalties as follows:

First-Time DUI Conviction

Judges will sentence you according to the new law passed at the beginning of 2022, whether you’re facing a DUI for the first time or the first time within the past seven years. If your BAC was above 0.08 but below 0.15 or the arresting officers didn’t offer a breath test, the judge may sentence you to 24 consecutive hours in jail.

Alternatively, you could get 15 days of electronic home confinement. If your BAC was more than 0.15% or you refused a BAC test, you will have a mandatory penalty of 48 consecutive hours in custody or 30 days of electronic home confinement.

Before the new law took effect, judges would require a medical exception before issuing a home confinement penalty instead of the jail requirement. The medical finding is no longer necessary; judges can use their discretion to issue a jail sentence or house arrest penalty. A skilled DUI defense attorney in Seattle can fight for the most favorable outcome in your case.

How Does Home Confinement Work?

Electronic home confinement requires installing an ankle bracelet with a GPS monitor and anti-alcohol consumption tracking features. Home confinement is a better option for many people because it has several exceptions. For example, they can still go to work, school, or shopping, among other errands.

However, home confinement is not free and generally ranges between $10 and $15 depending on an individual’s financial status. Consult a skilled DUI defense lawyer in Seattle, WA, for legal advice on your risks and options associated with jail or home confinement penalties for a first-time DUI.

Second-Time DUI Conviction

If arrested for a second DUI within seven years, the penalties will be drastically stricter under the new DUI laws. A DUI conviction with a BAC below 0.15%, lack of a breath test, or DUI involving drugs or marijuana attracts a penalty of 30 days of jail time and 60 days of house arrest.

You will have 45 days of jail time and 90 days of electronic home confinement if you have a BAC of 0.15% or more or refuse a breath test. A judge can only waive the strict punishment if they establish that jail threatens your mental or physical well-being.

Your criminal justice attorney in Seattle may be able to negotiate a rehabilitative treatment program, also known as Deferred Prosecution, as alternative sentencing. Once you complete the program, the court can dismiss your case with no DUI on your record, saving you from a potentially lengthy jail sentence.

Third-Time DUI Conviction

If you’re facing a third DUI charge within seven years, the law makes some defendant-friendly changes in the sentencing law. Previously, for a DUI with a BAC below 0.15%, which involved a non-alcoholic intoxicating substance, or without a breath test, the judge would issue a sentence of a minimum of 90 days in jail and an additional 120 days of electronic home confinement.

If your BAC was more than 0.15% or you were convicted of a DUI having refused a breath test, the penalty is 120 days in jail and an additional 150 days of house arrest. The sentences are still the same under the new law, but the judge can waive the jail time if medical findings determine that jail would adversely affect your mental or physical health.

How Do I Vacate a DUI Conviction in Seattle, WA?

Under the new DUI statutes, you must wait ten years from the date of the arrest to vacate a prior offense, such as reckless or negligent driving. Even if a law enforcement officer knows you have pending DUI charges, you can still be booked. Possible alternatives under the new statutes for those with prior DUI offenses include:

  • The court may consider a 24/7 pretrial sobriety program as part of your sentence
  • A license revocation can be reduced to one year if you complete six months of a 24/7 sobriety program

Legal Guidance When Fighting DUI in Washington State

If you face charges for a DUI offense, it’s in your best interest to contact skilled Seattle DUI defense lawyers as quickly as possible. The outcome of your case largely depends on whether you have a knowledgeable lawyer to help you fight the charges. With the new DUI laws, you can’t afford to gamble with your rights and future.

The team at The Law Offices of Kevin Trombold is experienced and understands how to navigate the criminal justice system for the most favorable outcome. We can fight aggressively to defend your rights if you’re facing DUI charges. Call our criminal justice lawyer at (206) 382-9200 to schedule a FREE case evaluation.