Even the most law-abiding citizens in Washington may have to deal with a first offense DUI one day. Having one too many before getting behind the wheel is a simple mistake for anyone. People who have otherwise never had any interaction with the criminal justice system often are hit hard with a first time DUI. With careers, futures, and families to protect, the mandatory sentences and other potential penalties attached to a DUI conviction can be a heavy burden
Don’t let a mistake jeopardize what you’ve worked hard to build. At The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, we know that a first offense DUI is upsetting and are ready to offer honest advice and real solutions, so you can move on.
If you’re facing your first DUI in the Tacoma area, call (253) 518-3643 today and schedule a free and confidential consultation with a dedicated DUI attorney.
Mandatory Minimums for First-Time DUI Charges
DUIs are typically pursued as gross misdemeanors. Even for a first offense, there are certain mandatory sentences associated with a conviction. Penalties depend on several factors. These include your BAC, the circumstances surrounding your arrest, as well as prior convictions on your record, particularly previous DUIs. Many people make the mistake of thinking their case is a lost cause. Just the phrase “mandatory minimum,” makes people think they will almost certainly go to jail. The truth is, particularly with first time DUIs, a good attorney will often be able to find a way to reduce the charge to an offense that does not carry a mandatory minimum, or other times just beat the case outright.
What are the Penalties for a First Offense DUI?
With some of the toughest DUI laws in the county, Washington imposes its criminal DUI penalties for first offenses based on the following guidelines:
- BAC below .15 – A maximum of 364 days in custody 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, a 90-day license suspension, and a drug and alcohol evaluation with follow up treatment.
- BAC above .15 or you refuse a refuse a chemical test – A maximum of 364 days in jail with mandatory minimum penalties increasing to two days in jail, 15 days of electronic monitoring for every single 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, and a drug and alcohol evaluation with follow up treatment.
Will I Lose My License?
Losing the ability to drive will affect most people’s lives in several negative ways. When everyday tasks like getting to work, taking children to school, or shopping, become difficult, it can be a big strain on you and those around you. It’s important to take steps to preserve your license by seeking effective representation early on.
A DUI arrest in Washington initiates two separate and completely independent processes. One is the criminal procedure outlined above and the other is an automatic license suspension for 90-days, coordinated through the Department of Licensing (DOL). You can contest the suspension within 20 days, but if you do not make this request within 20-days, the option is waived.
For a first DUI offense within seven years that included a breath test, the DOL will pursue a 90-day suspension. If there’s an allegation that you refused the BAC, the DOL will pursue a one year suspension.
It is important to remember that this is a civil hearing and an attorney can represent you without your appearance. At the DOL Hearing, your attorney will present an argument for why your license should not be suspended. An official with the DOL will ultimately issue a decision, but it will only relate to the status of your license and does not affect your criminal case.
Other Consequences of Your First DUI
Apart from the legal penalties and considerable inconvenience of losing your license, there are other effects that will usually accompany your first DUI offense in Washington. People are normally just happy to be done with the process, but don’t realize that by not seeking the best possible outcome, they may be subjecting themselves to harsher than necessary repercussions, some of which can impact your life for years to come.
- Future/Current Employment – Sometimes it can be difficult to find employment with a DUI on your record and some employers have disciplinary policies for current employees that have been convicted of driving under the influence.
- Professional Licensure – If you must maintain professional licensure for your career, you may be at risk of losing it if you get a DUI.
- Loans, Scholarship, & Housing – Getting certain financial assistance or financial approval may be challenging if a DUI conviction appears anytime someone checks your record.
- Travel/Immigration – Because of Washington’s proximity to the Canadian border, those convicted here face some significant travel restrictions because Canada will typically deny entry to those with DUI convictions. Additionally, a DUI can have serious consequences for non-citizens, from denying or delaying the naturalization process to outright deportation.
Washington’s Look Back Period?
A look-back period in DUI cases is used to identify repeat offenders and increase the consequence to deter others. Washington considers someone to have committed a second DUI if they are charged with another offense within seven years. It is important to remember that if you receive certain reductions in your original charges or complete a deferred prosecution option for a first offense, that event may still be considered a prior DUI in the look-back period for subsequent DUIs. If you are subsequently charged with a DUI, your original arrest date will be used to determine sentencing.
DUI Defenses and Sentencing Alternatives
Prosecutors are not generally sympathetic to people accused of driving under the influence, even first time offenders. However, they can’t reasonably pursue every DUI case to the fullest extent of the law. This gives you options, other than just accepting a DUI conviction. In any DUI case, your best option will be to work with a capable DUI lawyer, who will investigate every detail and fight to obtain the best possible result.
After getting to know you and what’s important to you, attorney Morgan Fletcher Benfield will begin advocating for you. He’ll begin by examining your arrest to determine if the police even had probable cause or made any errors in charging you. If their search or arrest violated your rights, your charges can be reduced or dismissed. Next, attorney Benfield will attack the state’s evidence. DUI’s are highly complex. What the prosecution must prove is often not as straight-forward as it might first seem. Issues related to proof of driving, biological interference with the BAC, or issues with observation of the defendant during testing are just a few of the many points that can give the prosecutor problems. If the prosecutor can’t definitively show you were above the limit, or can’t establish some other element of the case, you will likely see your DUI reduced or withdrawn. Furthermore, you can be sure that attorney Benfield will evaluate and aggressively pursue any available option that will lessen the impact of a DUI. Whatever the case or your situation entails, attorney Benfield believes in open communication with every client he serves and is committed to finding an option that works for you.
Call A Tacoma First Offense DUI Lawyer Right Away
We know that being charged with a DUI in Washington, especially if it’s your first offense can be incredibly stressful. We want you to know that it’s not the end of the word and the first step towards putting the whole mess behind you is consulting a knowledgeable legal professional.
A DUI doesn’t need to hold you back. If you or a loved is charged with a first offense DUI in Tacoma, Washington or any surrounding counties, call The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC at (253) 518-3643 to schedule a free and confidential consultation.