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The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield

Tacoma DUI Attorney

(253) 375-8055

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.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is taking a DUI offense too lightly. Even if you felt ok to drive, or you don’t have a lengthy criminal history, a DUI can still have a significant and lasting impact on your life. You need someone to advocate for you. Find a DUI lawyer that you trust that can get you the results you’re looking for. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we know this is a confusing and frightening experience, and we are ready to answer your questions. With the high level of pressure on the court and prosecutors to seek harsh punishments, the consequences for a DUI can be serious. By working with a skilled DUI attorney, you can ensure your case is properly handled and your DUI charge reaches the best possible conclusion.

Understanding Washington DUI Laws

Under RCW 46.61.502, Washington DUI Law addresses “driving under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug.” The language of the statute is fairly broad; and allows for two main ways to prove a DUI:

  • The most common way is by showing that you had a .08 or higher breath or blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or THC concentration of 5.00 nanograms or higher, within two hours of driving a motor vehicle. This is typically established through breath or other chemical testing.
  • In cases where your breath or blood concentration is below the guidelines, but there is other evidence of impairment, a driver can still be convicted if it can be shown that you were “affected by” drugs or alcohol. This will largely depend on the officer’s observations, your behavior, and your performance during any field sobriety tests. This method of proving a DUI is also used by the prosecution in cases involving a refusal of the BAC.

While less common, physical control cases are also classified under DUI. If you are deemed to be in “physical control” of a car and intoxicated or affected by drugs or alcohol, you can still face DUI charges. Physical control refers to instances where a car is not moving, but is capable of movement. For example, if you fall asleep in the front seat and the keys are in the ignition, the same rules apply as if you were on the road.

DUI Penalties & Consequences

When someone is charged with a DUI in Washington, they will not only need to deal with the criminal penalties, but also the Department of Licensing. The DOL will proceed independently of the criminal court in pursuit of an administrative license suspension. It is possible to contest the DOL license suspension, but the timing of the request for a DOL hearing is important. So, it is essential that you consult with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who will move quickly to address these matters.

Criminal DUI Penalties

Almost all DUIs are treated as misdemeanors in Washington with penalties varying depending on the BAC, the facts of the case and criminal history. Also, there are certain mandatory minimum penalties associated with DUIs. However, it’s important to understand what these minimums actually mean. People often get discouraged when they hear the phrase “mandatory minimum,” because they think there is no way around jail time. But in fact, a skilled attorney is commonly able to secure reductions to lesser charges with no jail time, or outright dismissals.

When is a DUI a Felony?

Starting in 2007, a DUI or Physical Control is a felony when the defendant has four or more prior DUI conviction within ten years. Reductions to lesser charges like reckless driving and negligent driving will be included if the charge was originally a DUI. A DUI is also a felony if the defendant has been previously convicted of vehicular homicide or vehicular assault while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Learn more about your charges

What you can expect:

  • Up to 364 days with a minimum of one day in jail
  • fines between $940.50 and $5,000
  • up to 60 months of probation
  • installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
  • a 90-day license suspension.

What you can expect:

  • Up to 364 days in jail with mandatory minimum penalties increasing to two days in jail
  • 15 days of electronic monitoring for every one day of jail time
  • fines between $1,195.50 and $5,000
  • either a one or two-year license suspension depending on the test refusal
  • a one-year ignition interlock requirement
  • up to 60 months of probation
  • any required dependency evaluation and treatment.

What you can expect:

  • A minimum of 30 days and a maximum of 364 days in jail
  • electronic monitoring for 60 days in addition to the jail sentence
  • a minimum fine of $1,195.50 and a maximum of $5,000
  • a two-year license revocation
  • ignition interlock device for a year if no device was previously installed
  • if it is a second instillation it will be required for five-years
  • 60 months of probation
  • participation in any necessary dependency evaluations, DUI victim impact panels or treatment programs.

What you can expect:

  • Minimum of 45 and a maximum of 364 days in jail
  • 90 days of electronic monitoring in addition to jail
  • between a $1,620.50 and $5,000 in fines
  • a 900-day license revocation if the person took the test and a three-year license revocation for a refusal
  • a five-year requirement for an ignition interlock device for a second installation
  • up to 60 months of probation
  • participation in any necessary dependency evaluations, DUI victim impact panels or treatment programs.

What you can expect:

  • A minimum of 90 days and a maximum of 364 days in jail
  • electronic monitoring for 120 days in addition to the jail sentence
  • a minimum fine of $2,045.50 and a maximum of $5,000
  • a three-year license revocation
  • a mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
  • 60 months of probation
  • participation in any necessary dependency evaluations, DUI victim impact panels or treatment programs.

What you can expect:

  • Minimum of 120 and a maximum of 364 days in jail
  • 150 days of electronic monitoring in addition to time in jail
  • between a $2,895.50 and $5,000 in fines
  • a four-year license revocation
  • mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device
  • up to 60 months of probation
  • participation in any necessary dependency evaluations, DUI victim impact panels or treatment programs.

What About My Driver’s License?

After a DUI arrest, the officer involved will notify the Department of Licensing (DOL), which will trigger a 90-day license suspension. You can contest the suspension within 20 days. However, if you do not make this request promptly, the option will be waived.

For a first offense within seven years that included a breath test, you can expect the DOL to push for a license suspension of 90 days. If there’s an allegation that you refused the BAC the DOL will push for a one-year suspension. On any second or following offense within a seven-year period, the potential suspension will be two years.

CDL holders face additional consequences. There is a one-year minimum suspension upon conviction for DUI or physical control, even if the incident did not involve a commercial vehicle. The same suspension will be applied for a loss of the DOL administrative hearing pursuant to either RCW 46.20.308, or 46.25.120. A conviction for driving a commercial vehicle with an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more will also trigger this suspension. Subsequent violations will trigger a lifetime disqualification.

Keep in mind that the criminal and administrative penalties for DUI offenses are conducted separately and do not affect one other. For example, if you overturn your administrative suspension, this will have no bearing on the criminal DUI process.

Other Collateral Consequences

Aside from time behind bars, thousands of dollars in fines, and losing the ability to legally drive, the ramifications of a DUI conviction can potentially reach into other aspects of your life from:

  • Difficulty finding or keeping a job with a DUI conviction on your record
  • Time off school or work,
  • An impact to custody and visitation agreements,
  • immigration status, or
  • Issues traveling to other countries.

DUI Court Process

What happens after a DUI arrest? The arresting Officer will decide either to keep you in jail, or to release you. This decision is typically based on whether or not you have prior DUIs. However, the severity of the incident, warrant status, and level of intoxication can also make a difference. From that point on, the court will be making, rather than the arresting Officer. The DUI court process is as follows:

Arraignment
Pre-Trial Hearing
Motions Hearing
Readiness Hearing
Trial

Arraignment is a hearing to determine conditions of release for your case. At this hearing the prosecutor can ask for bail, pre-trial EHM, Pre-trial Ignition Interlock, or that you be required to report to probation as an ongoing condition of release. Having such pre-trial conditions can be expensive and embarrassing. In order to keep your conditions of release as limited as possible, it is important to have a skilled DUI attorney in place from the start. The Judge has very specific guidelines that limit the severity of conditions of release, but you need an effective advocate to argue why you should be released or allowed to remain out of custody, and to argue why additional conditions are excessive.

Pre-Trial Hearings follow the arraignment. These hearings are opportunities for your attorney to continue negotiations with the prosecutor, and for potential resolutions such as reductions to lesser charges, dismissals, or diversion agreements. If your case is not resolved at the pre-trial stage, it can be set for a jury trial with motion hearings in advance. Dismissals can be forced at motion hearings in advance of a trial. In other instances, the motion hearing will only limit certain aspects of the jury trial to follow. The Jury Trial itself will be decided by six jurors, or in some instances by the judge.

At the Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we take pride in advocacy, and can provide the strength you need at trial. This also helps to secure better negotiated agreements at earlier stages. So, a skilled trial lawyer makes a big difference, even if you decide that a Jury Trial is not the right path for your case.

Find a Tacoma DUI Attorney That Works for You

In DUI cases, people can quickly become frustrated and feel like there are no options available. However, most DUIs can be defended against or negotiated for a more desirable result.

At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we know what you are up against, but more importantly we know how to obtain the results you need. The reliability of sobriety tests can be called into question, lab results can be challenged in court, and medical conditions can be used to argue against impairment.

DUI attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield will review every detail of your case, explain the complexities and any potential hurdles you may face, find any weakness in the state’s case, and will work towards achieving a swift and favorable outcome.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss your Washington DUI charge by calling (253) 375-8055.