Washington State First-Time DUI Penalties
This guide is intended to provide a brief overview for persons facing a first-time DUI charge in Washington State.
Court-Imposed Penalties and Department of Licensing Penalties, ComparedThere are two authorities which can impose penalties as a result of a citation for DUI: the courts and Washington State's Department of Licensing. The courts can order you to serve jail time and pay fines, and can also order DOL to revoke your driver's license. DOL also has the independent authority to suspend or revoke your license. Separate hearings are held before the Department of Licensing and the courts to determine these penalties. Even if your criminal charge is dismissed or reduced to a charge that does not carry a license suspension, your license may still be suspended through the DOL hearing.
Court-Imposed PenaltiesDUI is a gross misdemeanor in Washington State, punishable by up to one year in jail and $5,000 in fines. In addition, you face revocation of your driver's license, mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on all cars you drive, court-ordered alcohol evaluation and treatment, and doubled or tripled insurance rates. The severe criminal penalties and collateral consequences make DUI in many ways more serious than a felony prosecution. If you are convicted of DUI, there are mandatory minimum penalties that the court must impose based on your breath/blood alcohol level, and whether you have a "prior offense" within 7 years. For a first-time DUI conviction, with a breath/blood alcohol level above .08 but less than .15, the mandatory minimum penalties are one day in jail, approximately $950 in fines, and a 90-day license suspension. If your breath/blood alcohol level is .15 or higher, or if you refused the breath test, the mandatory minimum penalties jump to two days in jail, approximately $1,060 in fines, and a license suspension for one year. In addition to those penalties, the Court may impose up to 5 years of probation, with probation conditions that include abstaining from alcohol, obtaining an alcohol evaluation and complying with recommended treatment, attending a DUI victim impact panel, and other requirements. While the license suspension is burdensome, one can usually drive during the period of license suspension if one obtains an ignition interlock license through the Washington Department of Licensing.
DOL-Imposed PenaltiesAny person arrested for DUI or Physical Control who submits a breath test with an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher or refuses the breath test, will be served with a notice of intent to suspend or revoke his license. The length of suspension or revocation depends on the driver's record. You can request a hearing to challenge your license suspension. The fee to request a hearing and challenge the DOL-imposed suspension is currently $375. The Department of Licensing can suspend or revoke your license regardless of whether you are convicted of DUI. The license suspension initiated by DOL commences 60 days after arrest. If you request a hearing with DOL to contest your license suspension, the suspension will not go into effect until the hearing officer makes a ruling. You must request a hearing with DOL within 20 days of arrest or you waive your right to have the hearing. For a first-time DUI in seven years, if your breath test is above .08, then DOL will impose a 90-day suspension. Unlike the criminal penalties, the length of suspension does not increase if you submitted a breath test above .15. If you refused the breath test, then DOL, will impose a one-year suspension. If your license is also suspended through the criminal process, the suspensions will run concurrently, i.e. they will run at the same time and not be added to one another.