The Different Levels of DUI

There are many different levels associated with a driving under the influence charge. These levels range with each subsequent DUI conviction, the driver’s blood alcohol content at the time of the arrest and whether injury or an accident was involved. As one can expect, the penalties increase with each subsequent offense, with a higher blood alcohol content (BAC) result or if injury is involved.

In Washington State, driving under the influence for the first offense will most likely result in a misdemeanor charge. This will change depending upon the driver’s BAC, their criminal history, age, and whether minors were present at the time of the arrest.

According to the State of Washington Administrative Office of the Courts, a person with a BAC lower than.15% may face a minimum of 24 consecutive hours in jail, and a maximum of 365 days. Some cases will allow for Electronic Home Monitoring for 15 days where there are no prior offenses within seven years of the arrest date in lieu of jail time. This is only done in cases where the court believes that placing a person in jail for their sentence will cause physical or mental harm to the alleged offender. Additionally, a person with no prior DUI offenses may also face consequences such as a 90 day license suspension, installation of an Ignition Interlock Device and a fine up to $5,000.

The next level of DUI involves a drunk driving charge in which a person is arrested with a BAC under.15% yet has one prior offense within seven years of the arrest date. The consequences for this offense increase to a minimum of 30 days in jail (365 days maximum) in addition to 60 days of mandatory Electronic Home Monitoring, a fine up to $5,000 and a two year revocation of the driver’s license. A defendant, if convicted, will also have to install an Ignition Interlock Device in his or her vehicle and possibly enroll in alcohol or drug treatment. This will most likely be prosecuted as a misdemeanor offense as well. Any person with two or three prior convictions within seven years of the arrest will face similar, but heightened penalties, according to the Washington State laws.

For a person to be charged with felony DUI, they must have been charged with four priors within a ten year period. The fifth DUI charge will be considered a Class C Felony, and punishable under Chapter 9.94A RCW. Additionally, a DUI offense that is committed after a person has been convicted of one vehicular homicide or vehicular assault charge will be considered a Class C Felony.

An individual can be charged with felony DUI for their first DUI offense in several cases as well. Vehicular homicide, defined and penalized in RCW 46.61.520, is a Class A Felony. When a person dies within three years of an accident caused by a drunk driver and due to injuries caused in the accident, the driver is then charged with vehicular homicide.

Vehicular assault in the state of Washington, defined as causing bodily harm to another while driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, can also be classified as felony DUI. Punishable as a Class B felony, the penalties of this crime are listed under RCW 46.61.522.

While there are many different levels of DUI that a person can be charged with, it is important to retain legal services as soon as possible when facing criminal charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. All cases will be different and have diverse circumstances, and different areas of the law will apply to each case as a result. To learn more about misdemeanor and felony DUI charges in the state of Washington, contact a DUI defense attorney today.

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