Washington legislature increases penalties for repeat DUI

Being convicted for driving under the influence of alcohol in the state of Washington can carry serious and life-altering penalties. For repeat offenders, these consequences are about to get even stricter, as a result of new legislation passed by the state Legislature this session.

The legislation was spurred by two high-profile fatal drunk driving accidents, both of which were caused by drivers with prior drunk driving histories. In the first, a man drove his truck into a group of pedestrians, killing two and seriously injuring two others. In the second, a driver went the wrong way down a highway and struck an SUV head-on, killing its driver.

Mandatory jail time, ignition interlocks

The legislation contains a number of reforms designed to increase the penalties for repeat drunk driving offenses and to increase supervision over repeat drunk drivers in an effort to prevent them from committing additional offenses.

Under the legislation, anyone charged with a second DUI offense would face mandatory booking in jail. Suspected drunk drivers will spend at least one or two days in jail upon being charged. Under current law, suspected drunk drivers are not required to be immediately arrested and taken to jail.

Upon being released from jail, these drivers will also have to submit to state supervision. Drivers will have to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles within five days of being released from jail. An ignition interlock device is a breath-testing machine that prevents a vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected.

In some counties, drivers would be able to avoid using an ignition interlock by participating in a new pilot program. The program requires repeat drunk drivers to participate in alcohol treatment and to consent to 24/7 monitoring.

Notably, all of these penalties will be imposed before conviction.

There were some proposals that did not make it into the reform package. An effort to have a fourth DUI conviction classified as a felony failed, largely over concerns regarding the cost of housing additional prisoners. An initiative to bar repeat drunk drivers from consuming alcohol for 10 years was also abandoned.

Working with a criminal defense attorney

The new penalties will be imposed on top of the already stiff consequences for repeat DUI offenses. In addition, it is important to recognize that criminal penalties are only part of the story when it comes to managing the fallout from a DUI charge. Conviction is likely to have personal and professional consequences as well.

Because of the serious penalties involved, it is very important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with driving under the influence in Washington. The attorney will be able to review and assess all of the factors present in your case to ensure that your defense is as strong as possible.