Several factors could lead to a DUI arrest, including an accident, traffic rules violations like speeding, failing to signal, or simply pulling over for one reason or another. If an officer stops you on suspicion of drunk driving, they’ll administer sobriety tests. They will make an arrest based on the “totality of evidence” if they suspect drunk driving.
Washington has strict DUI laws, including those for first-time offenders. However, with the help of a Seattle criminal defense attorney, you could potentially have the charges reduced to a lesser offense. While that is not automatic, the court is more likely to look at your situation more favorably than that of a repeat offender.
What Happens During a DUI Arrest?
The arresting officer must advise you of your constitutional rights after arresting you and before they conduct any additional interrogation. After the arrest, you’ll undergo a breath test at the police station. Suppose you got into an accident and the police deem you incapable of giving a breath test, the authorities may take you to a hospital for a blood test.
- You may be released or booked into a jail
- You may get a DUI citation and a date for mandatory court appearance if arrested by specific police agencies in Seattle
- You may be allowed to go home with the expectation to come back hours or days later for arraignment in court
What Is Washington’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limit?
The Revised Code of Washington, Section 46.61.502, stipulates that a person can be found guilty of DUI if driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, marijuana, or a combination of these. You’ll face charges if you have a:
- BAC of 0.08% or more
- BAC of 0.01% or more if you’re below 21 years
- BAC of 0.04% or higher if you’re a commercial vehicle driver
- Blood tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of 5.00 or more
Your BAC and THC levels at the time of the arrest aren’t the only results that matter. You can also be charged with a DUI if your alcohol and marijuana concentration levels exceed the legal limit within two hours of the traffic stop. However, these tests aren’t always accurate, and a Seattle DUI lawyer can assist you in creating a solid defense against these results to prove your innocence.
What Counts as a First-Time DUI?
The courts in Washington look back seven years to check if you have a previous DUI charge or conviction. If you don’t have a prior record within that time, your current DUI charge will be a first-time DUI offense.
If you have one or more convictions during that time, the current arrest will be charged as a second or successive DUI. Regardless of the timelines of the charges, the prosecutor will consider your previous criminal history when filing and negotiating your case.
What Are the Potential Penalties for DUI First Offense?
A first-time DUI offense is typically a gross misdemeanor that attracts the following potential penalties:
- A maximum of 364 days in jail, with a minimum of 24 hours
- A maximum fine of $5,000
- 15 days of electric home monitoring
- Suspension of driver’s license for 90 days
- Alcohol and drug counseling
- Installation of an ignition interlock device
However, the penalties can be more severe if your BAC was at least 0.15% or you refused to take a BAC test. Instead of a minimum of 24 hours in jail, you’d face a minimum of 48 hours. A skilled and experienced DUI lawyer in Seattle can provide legal representation to try and have the charges reduced or dropped.
Collateral Consequences of a DUI
The consequences of a DUI extend beyond the statutory punishments. They include:
- Limitations on your ability to travel abroad
- A permanent criminal record
- Difficulty obtaining a professional license or job
- Inability to get admission to a college or university
- Difficulty in having your visa, citizenship, or permanent residency renewed
- Changes to your child’s visitation schedule or custody in favor of the other parent
The consequences can be more devastating for truck drivers facing DUI charges. They could lose their commercial driver’s license, putting them out of work for some time.
Alternative Punishments for a DUI
One of the worst possible penalties for a DUI conviction is jail time. Being put behind bars puts your life on hold as you can’t continue going to school or work. Your children might also suffer if they have no one to take care of them. The jail term also puts you behind your peers and can damage your social and professional relationships.
Fortunately, you can fight to avoid a jail term or minimize its impacts. A criminal defense attorney in Seattle can aggressively fight for you to have an alternative punishment like:
- Community service
- Work release
What Are the Possible DUI Defenses in Washington?
When arrested for DUI, the first thing you want to know is how to defend yourself against the charges. Potential DUI defenses include questioning:
- The accuracy of the BAC test results
- The admittance of unlawfully obtained evidence
- The soundness of the arrest
- The legitimacy of the initial traffic stop
- If the breath test was administered by a qualified professional
- Whether the testing device was working correctly at the time of the test
- Whether the test sample was contaminated before or during the test
A Seattle DUI lawyer can guide you on the best possible defense to put forward to potentially have the charges reduced or dropped. We will investigate your case and determine the most appropriate argument for you.
An Experienced DUI Attorney Aggressively Defending Your Rights
Being accused of drunk driving is a serious charge with long-standing and harsh effects on your future. Going to trial on your own can be daunting and frustrating. Without a proper plan or strong defense, a DUI conviction can affect your future, including your ability to find employment or obtain housing. Don’t suffer alone in silence.
Your best bet for the most favorable outcome in fighting a first-time DUI charge is to hire a Seattle DUI lawyer to represent you. Our lawyers dedicate themselves to defending your rights in court by providing unique and innovative defense strategies for your specific case. Contact our office to schedule a FREE initial case assessment.