Public safety is an essential task in the state of Washinton. To protect its citizens, driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or other intoxicants, including cannabis and prescription drugs, is a serious offense in Washington.
At least 32% of fatal car accidents in the state involve a driver under the influence of alcohol. In response, Washington has strengthened its DUI laws and has specially trained police officers to watch for impaired drivers.
While Washington imposes stiff penalties on DUIs, they also require that you undergo an assessment. If you need substance abuse treatment, the court can ensure you find the appropriate program.
Learn more about Washington's DUI laws below.
Disclaimer: State laws are subject to change through the passage of new legislation, ballot initiatives, rulings in the higher courts, including federal decisions, and by other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state laws you are researching.
Washington DUI Law
It is illegal in the state of Washington to drive or be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of:
- Intoxicating liquor with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or greater
- Cannabis or marijuana with a blood concentration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) of 5.00 ng/ml
- An intoxicating liquor, THC, or drug
- A combination of alcohol, THC, or drugs, regardless of the concentrations
A drug doesn't refer only to illegal narcotics. Medications prescribed or sold over the counter can also create an intoxicating effect. These can include depression medications, pain relievers, allergy medicine, or sleep aids.
Being in "actual physical control" of a motor vehicle doesn't mean it has to be in motion. It must only be capable of movement, such as having the keys in the ignition of a parked car.
Per Se DUI Offense
Washington has a legal limit for intoxication. This is set at 0.08% BAC or 5.00 ng/ml of THC, or 0.04% if you are operating a commercial vehicle. At or above these limits, you are legally intoxicated. This is commonly called a "per se DUI." A chemical test proving these results, coupled with driving or being in control of a vehicle, is all the evidence law enforcement needs to prosecute you for a DUI. Law enforcement doesn't need to show that you showed signs of intoxication, such as slurring your words or driving erratically.
Implied Consent Law and Chemical Tests
After a DUI arrest, law enforcement will ask you to submit to chemical tests, such as a Breathalyzer or breath test, or blood test. These tests verify your BAC and THC levels and look for other intoxicants.
Under Washington's implied consent law, you agreed to cooperate with chemical tests simply by driving within the state. Unlike the preliminary breath test or field sobriety tests an officer may have you perform before arrest, you incur penalties if you refuse chemical testing.
Your driver's license suspension is for one year for a first refusal. Refusing chemical tests won't prevent law enforcement from getting a warrant to compel your cooperation. Law enforcement can also use evidence of your refusal against you in court.
Criminal DUI Penalties
A first or second DUI charge within seven years is generally a gross misdemeanor if no aggravating factors exist. Aggravating factors will increase your penalties and may elevate your charge to a felony. These can include:
- BAC of 0.15% or greater
- Transporting a minor age 16 or younger
- Having multiple passengers in the vehicle
- Driving the wrong way on a multilane road
- Causing property damage
- Chemical test refusal
A first-time DUI conviction if you are 21 or older with no aggravating factors present. Your sentence may include the following:
- Mandatory minimum of 24 hours of jail time, with up to one year possible
- 15 days of electronic home monitoring or
- 90 days of 24-hour sobriety monitoring
- A fine of at least $350 to $5,000
If your BAC was 0.15% or more, your penalties increase to include:
- Mandatory minimum of 48 hours of jail time, with up to one year possible
- Minimum of 30 days of electronic home monitoring or
- 120 days of 24-hour sobriety monitoring
- A fine of at least $500 to $5,000
If charged with a second offense within seven years, your penalties will include:
- Mandatory minimum of 30 days jail time, with up to one year possible
- Minimum of 60 days of electronic home monitoring
- A fine of at least $500 to $5,000
A third or subsequent conviction within seven years is a felony charge. Upon conviction, you will serve at least 90 days in jail with one year possible, followed by six months of 24 sobriety monitoring and 120 days of electronic home monitoring. You will pay a $1,000 to $5,000 fine.
Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment Program
Anyone convicted of drugged or drunk driving will need to complete a substance abuse assessment before sentencing. Based on your report, the judge may order you to complete a substance abuse treatment program or an approved education course.
Administrative Penalties and Driving Privileges
When facing a DUI charge, you can lose your license in two ways. Your license is automatically suspended at the time of your arrest if you refuse chemical tests. If you fail chemical tests by having a BAC or THC level over the legal limit, you also face suspension. Your driver's license suspension period is for one year if you refuse chemical tests, while you face a 90-day suspension if you fail the tests. You must serve this suspension even if the court dismisses your DUI or you're acquitted.
You can challenge this suspension within 30 days by requesting a hearing with the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL).
You are subject to another license suspension if convicted of a DUI.
For a first offense with a BAC under 0.15%, you will lose your license for 90 days. If your BAC was 0.15% or more, this period is for one year.
A second offense within seven years, and your BAC is under 0.15%, your suspension period is for two years, or 900 days with a BAC of 0.15% or greater.
Ignition Interlock Driver's License
Washington offers DUI offenders a restricted driver's license. You may apply at any time. You must install an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle you drive and provide proof of installation to the Washington DOL. An IID requires you to submit a breath sample before you can drive. If the device detects any amount of alcohol, your car won't start.
To be eligible for the program in Washington, you must meet the following requirements:
- An arrest or conviction on charges of DUI, physical control involving drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, vehicular assault/homicide involving drugs or alcohol
- Washington state residence with a valid Washington driver's license
- Current suspension doesn't include minor in possession or habitual traffic offender charges
You must maintain the IID for one year for a first offense and five years for a second offense. Should you commit a third offense, you must keep the IID for 10 years.
Zero Tolerance for Underage DUI
It is illegal for anyone under 21 to have or drink alcohol. Under Washington's zero-tolerance law, a minor with a BAC of 0.02% or more or having a blood concentration of THC above zero faces a misdemeanor DUI charge.
You could face up to 90 days in jail for a first offense, two years of probation, and a $1,000 fine. Your license suspension is for 90 days.
If your BAC is 0.08% or more, you can face adult consequences.
Washington DUI Resources
Get Professional Legal Help With Your Washington DUI Case
A DUI conviction can affect your life for many years. Apart from criminal penalties and license suspension, a DUI on your record can prevent you from getting certain jobs and housing and impact your ability to go to school. A Washington DUI defense attorney will work on your behalf to ensure the best defense possible.