Seattle DUI Attorney

(253) 518-3643

For a lot of people, a DUI is the first time they encounter Washington’s criminal justice system. And it’s not easy to know what to do.

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Many individuals facing a DUI charge in Washington find themselves in unfamiliar territory within the criminal justice system. It’s easy to make the mistake of underestimating the severity of the situation, regardless of whether you believe you were okay to drive or don’t have a criminal history. A DUI can have long-lasting consequences that can significantly impact your life. You need a trusted DUI attorney who can advocate for you and help you obtain the desired results. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we understand the confusion and fear associated with a DUI charge, and we are prepared to address your concerns. With prosecutors and the court system under intense pressure to impose harsh penalties, the repercussions of a DUI can be severe. By working with an experienced DUI attorney, you can ensure your case is handled correctly, and you reach the best possible outcome.

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Understanding Washington DUI Laws

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Washington state has laws that prohibit a person from operating or being in physical control of a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08% or more, a THC concentration of 5 nanograms or more per milliliter of blood, or while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or marijuana. The penalties for a DUI conviction depend on the case, but for most purposes, a DUI stays on the record for seven years. The penalties for a first, second, or third DUI offense are severe and include fines, jail time, and license-related sanctions. The court may also order substance abuse treatment and attendance at a victim’s impact panel. Furthermore, drivers transporting a child under 16 years old at the time of the DUI offense face additional penalties. Washington state also has an implied consent law that requires drivers to submit to a breath or blood test if lawfully requested by law enforcement.

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DUI Penalties & Consequences

The penalties for a first-time DUI offense in Washington state are as follows:

  • A fine ranging from $350 to $5,000 must be paid by the offender.
  • The offender may be sentenced to one to 364 days in jail, unless they choose to serve 15 days on house arrest or 90 days in the 24/7 sobriety program.
  • If the offender’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was at least .15% or they refused to take a breathalyzer test in violation of implied consent laws, they may face a fine between $500 and $5,000 and a jail sentence of two to 364 days. Alternatively, they may serve 30 days on house arrest or 120 days in the 24/7 sobriety program instead of jail time.

The penalties for a second DUI offense in Washington state are as follows:

  • A fine of $500 to $5,000
  • A jail term of 30 to 364 days
  • Alternatively, the court may impose four days of jail time and either 180 days of house arrest or 120 days in the 24/7 sobriety program.

If the second DUI offender had a BAC of .15% or more or refused chemical testing, the penalties are as follows:

  • A fine of $750 to $5,000
  • A jail term of 45 to 364 days
  • Alternatively, the court may impose six days of jail time and either six months of house arrest or 120 days in the 24/7 sobriety program.

It’s worth noting that if an individual is charged with a second or subsequent DUI offense, their vehicle may be seized and sold by the court.

An individual who has committed three DUI offenses within seven years will face the following penalties in Washington:

  • A jail sentence ranging from 90 to 364 days
  • Six months in the 24/7 sobriety program
  • Fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000
  • Instead of monitoring, the court may impose an additional eight days of jail time.

If the offender refused to submit to chemical testing or had a BAC of .15% or higher, the court will mandate:

  • Fines ranging from $1,500 to $10,000
  • A jail sentence ranging from 120 to 364 days
  • Six months in the 24/7 sobriety program
  • 150 days of house arrest.

As evident, the consequences for a third DUI conviction are very harsh.

When is a DUI a Felony?

Driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington can result in a misdemeanor charge if a person operates a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or with a certain amount of marijuana in their system. However, certain circumstances can lead to felony DUI charges in Washington.

For instance, a fourth or subsequent DUI conviction is considered a felony when the prior convictions occurred within the past ten years. A class B or class C felony is imposed depending on the case, with a maximum fine of $20,000 and $10,000, respectively.

DUIs that cause injuries or deaths to others can also result in felony charges. Vehicular assault is a class B felony, carrying a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Vehicular homicide, on the other hand, is considered a class A felony and can lead to a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and a $50,000 fine

What About My Driver’s License?

Getting a DUI conviction in Washington usually results in penalties related to your license. Even if you’re not convicted of a DUI in criminal court, you may still face administrative license suspension after a DUI arrest.

If you’re convicted of a DUI, the court will report it to the Washington Department of Licensing, which will then suspend your license for a specific period of time depending on the offense:

  • First offense: 90-day suspension (two days if enrolled in 90 days of the 24/7 sobriety program). If your BAC is .15% or higher, the suspension will be for one year (four days if enrolled in 120 days of the 24/7 sobriety program).
  • Second offense: Two-year suspension (one year if enrolled in six months of the 24/7 sobriety program). If your BAC is .15% or higher, the suspension will be for 900 days.
  • Third offense: License will be revoked for three years (four years if your BAC is .15% or higher).

It’s important to note that license suspension can occur even without a DUI conviction due to Washington’s implied consent law. Drivers who refuse to take a breath or blood test unlawfully will have their license revoked for two years for a first offense, three years for a second offense, and four years for a third offense.

Other Collateral Consequences

In addition to incarceration, hefty fines, and driver’s license revocation, a DUI conviction may have far-reaching consequences that extend to other areas of your life, such as:

  • Difficulty obtaining or retaining employment due to having a DUI conviction on your record
  • Disruptions to school or work schedules
  • Affecting child custody and visitation arrangements
  • Impacts on immigration status
  • Difficulties with international travel.

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DUI Court Process

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What occurs after being arrested for a DUI? The arresting officer will determine whether to keep you in jail or release you, typically based on your prior DUI record, the severity of the incident, warrant status, and level of intoxication. After this point, the court will be in charge of making decisions. The DUI court process includes an arraignment hearing, where conditions of release for your case are determined. At this hearing, the prosecutor can request bail, pre-trial electronic home monitoring, pre-trial ignition interlock, or that you report to probation as an ongoing condition of release. To limit the severity of these conditions of release, it’s crucial to have a skilled DUI attorney to argue why you should be released or allowed to stay out of custody, and to argue against excessive additional conditions.

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Following the arraignment, pre-trial hearings take place, where your attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor for potential resolutions, such as reductions to lesser charges, dismissals, or diversion agreements. If your case isn’t resolved during the pre-trial stage, it can proceed to a jury trial with motion hearings beforehand. Dismissals may be forced at motion hearings before a trial, while in other instances, the motion hearing only restricts certain aspects of the upcoming jury trial. The jury trial itself will be decided by six jurors, or by the judge in certain cases.[two_col_50_50_col2]

At the Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we pride ourselves on advocacy and can provide the strength needed during the trial, which can also result in better negotiated agreements at earlier stages. Therefore, having a skilled trial lawyer can make a significant difference, even if you decide against a jury trial for your case.

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Find a Seattle DUI Attorney That Works for You

When it comes to DUI cases, it is common for individuals to feel disheartened and as if they have no options available. However, in reality, many DUI charges can be defended against or negotiated for a more favorable outcome. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we understand the challenges that you may be facing, and more importantly, we have the experience and knowledge necessary to help you achieve the results you need.

We can challenge the reliability of sobriety tests, contest lab results in court, and leverage medical conditions to argue against impairment. Morgan Fletcher Benfield, an experienced DUI attorney, will carefully review every detail of your case, explain any complexities or potential obstacles you may face, identify weaknesses in the state’s case, and work diligently toward securing a swift and positive outcome for you.

If you are facing a DUI charge in Washington, we invite you to schedule a free consultation by calling (253) 518-3643 to discuss your case.

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