From ignition interlock installation for all convicted drunk drivers to felony DUIs, the state of Washington has some of the strictest drunk driving laws, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Washington began passing harsher DUI laws in 1998 when the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit was reduced and ignition interlocks were required for some first-time offenders and all repeat offenders.
The state has seen a significant decline in DUI offenses thanks to its strict laws, but repeat offenses remain high – one in five defendants in DUI cases between 1998 and 2012 were repeat offenders. After a repeat DUI offender killed two people while driving under the influence last month, state legislators are hoping to crack down on repeat offenders with a variety of new proposals, including a decrease in the number of convictions before a DUI becomes a felony.
DUI Laws (RCW 46.61.502, RCW 46.61.5055)
Drivers are charged with a DUI if they drive with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. The legal limit for drivers under the age of 21 is 0.02. All DUI offenders are sentenced to jail time and are required to pay a fine and participate in an alcohol treatment program.
A first-time DUI offense is punishable by 1 or 2 to 364 days in jail and a fine of $350 or $500 to $5,000, depending on whether the offender’s BAC was below or at least 0.15. Second- and third-time offenses are punishable by a maximum jail time of 364 days, a maximum fine of $5,000, and 60 to 150 days of electronic home monitoring. The minimum jail time and fine depend on the number of previous offenses and the offender’s BAC:
- 2nd offense with BAC below 0.15: 30 days in jail and a $500 fine
- 2nd offense with BAC of at least 0.15: 45 days in jail and a $750 fine
- 3rd offense with BAC below 0.15: 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine
- 3rd offense with BAC of at least 0.15: 120 days in jail and a $1,500 fine
If the offender has four or more prior offenses within ten years, a DUI becomes a class C felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
If the convicted drunk driver had a passenger under the age of 16 in the vehicle, the fine increases to $1,000 to $10,000.
Under RCW 9.94A, vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol is a Class A felony punishable by at least 31 to 177 months in jail, with a maximum of life imprisonment, and a maximum fine of $50,000.
License Suspension (RCW 46.20.3101, RCW 46.61.5055)
The driver’s license of convicted drunk drivers will be suspended for 90 days to four years, depending on the offender’s BAC level and number of previous offenses.
Ignition Interlock Laws (RCW 46.20.720)
All convicted drunk drivers are required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicle for at least 1, 5, or 10 years, depending on the number of previous offenses. Those who had a passenger under the age of 16 in the car are required to use the IID for an additional six months. Drivers with an IID in their car must obtain an ignition interlock driver license (IIL) while their driver’s license is suspended.