How DUI Is Determined In Washington State

In Washington, as in other states, it is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A driver can be charged with Driving Under the Influence under Washington state law in any of the following circumstances:

  • A driver age 21 or older has a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above
  • A driver under the age of 21 has a BAC of 0.02 percent or above
  • A commercial driver has a BAC of 0.04 percent or above

In addition, regardless of age or BAC level, a driver can be charged with DUI if he or she operates a vehicle while his or her ability is affected by alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. This applies both to illegal drugs and to legal prescription or over-the-counter drugs. As of August 2012, Washington State DUI law expanded the definition of "drugs" to include any chemical that is inhaled or ingested to cause intoxication or hallucination.

DUI License Suspension in Washington

In addition to fines and jail time, DUI in Washington can lead to the loss of driving privileges in two different ways.

People who are arrested for suspected DUI are subject to an initial driver's license suspension prior to trial unless they timely request (and successfully contest the suspension at) a hearing within 20 days of the arrest. If a driver does not contest the initial suspension, or if the hearing officer does not grant the request, the driver's license will be suspended beginning 60 days after the arrest. The initial suspension lasts for a period of 90 days to two years, depending on the severity of the incident and the existence of any prior DUI offenses.

Whether or not the initial license suspension applies after a DUI arrest, a driver will face an additional suspension of driving privileges if he or she is convicted of DUI in court. When a driver is convicted of DUI in Washington State, the court will order that his or her license be suspended for a period of 90 days to as much as four years, depending on the circumstances. The second suspension period begins 45 days after conviction, and the driver will automatically be credited for any time already served on the initial license suspension.

Because DUI conviction can have serious legal, financial and personal consequences, it is important to seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney when facing DUI charges in Washington State.