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Judge John E. Turner (Ret.)

New bill may make fourth DUI convictions felonies

A new bill that would make a fourth DUI a felony in Washington has passed the Senate. It will now be sent to the House. If it passes, people who are convicted of a fourth DUI offense within 10 years will face fines of up to $10,000, five years in jail or both fines and imprisonment.

Under current law in the state, the first four DUI convictions that people receive are treated as gross misdemeanors. The bill passed the Senate unanimously on Feb. 23 and will be sent to the House. Similar bills have previously stalled in the House, so it is unclear whether or not the current legislation will be passed.

The proposed legislation would allow people who are convicted of felony DUIs for the first time to be incarcerated for up to six months. They would then be allowed to serve out the remainder of their sentences while being placed under supervision. They might be required to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other programs that are focused on rehabilitation.

While misdemeanor DUI convictions may bring collateral consequences beyond the penalties that are associated with the convictions, felony convictions may bring consequences that extend long after the sentences are discharged. People who have felonies on their records may have difficulty with finding jobs, qualifying for credit, being approved for housing and other issues. People who are facing DUI charges and who have prior convictions may want to get help from criminal defense attorneys who are experienced with defending against drunk driving charges. Experienced DUI attorneys may spot problems with how the stops were conducted and how the evidence was gathered. They may then challenge the admission of the evidence against their clients, and if they are successful, they may win suppression of the evidence and a dismissal of the charges.

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