Washington lawmakers are pushing harder to combat driving under the influence. House Bill 2280 (2015-16), drafted by Rep. Brad Klippert, aims to make “felony driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug a class B felony.” The Bill would upgrade a fifth DUI conviction within ten years from a Class C felony to a class B felony. Conversion to a class B felony essentially doubles the maximum penalties available from 10 years and/or a $10,000 fine to 20 years and/or a $20,000 fine.
The Bill has passed muster in the House of Representatives and is now set to be reviewed by the Senate. It can then be accepted as presented or modified by the Senate, causing it to go through a reconciliation procedure in both Houses.
Critics of Harsher DUI Penalties Point to a Need for Handling Repeat Offenses Differently
While seeking to change the behavior of repeat DUI offenders is something that everybody generally agrees about, some believe imposing harsher penalties may not be addressing the core of an offender's issue with alcohol. Jason Rantz, of the Jason Rantz Show on KIRO Radio claims that the root cause of repeat DUI offenses is grounded in addiction. He also believes HB 2280 has the right idea in mind by imposing stronger penalties for drivers who have repeatedly put the public and themselves in danger. Nonetheless, Rantz feels that underlying chronic offenders is a deeper and more complex problem that must be addressed in the form of chemical-dependency treatment -- a place where penalties and jail time seem to fall short.
Washington's Current Chemical-Dependence Treatment Options for DUI Offenses
Upon conviction of DUI, the court typically requires an alcohol or drug evaluation, among fines, jail time, and other penalties. The level of treatment a court may require can vary anywhere from a minimum of one eight-hour class on up to two years of treatment. Notably, there are alternatives to prosecution in Washington law; however these circumstances are limited. For those who are charged with DUI or physical control of a vehicle while under the influence in Washington, and who are diagnosed with dependency on alcohol or drugs, or have mental health issues, there is the possibility for deferred prosecution. Eligibility for the deferred prosecution program requires:
- You have never been granted a deferred prosecution before in your life;
- You must receive a diagnosis of alcohol or drug dependency, or mental health issues; and
- You must engage in the prescribed drug, alcohol, or mental health program and adhere to the treatment requirements.
This option has many conditions that must be adhered to, plus a five year probationary period that must be successfully completed. For those who seek a chemical dependence-based deferred prosecution, a two-year state treatment plan is required. The plan consists of attending support group meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous), abstinence from alcohol and drugs, and a three-phase treatment program. If all the terms are complied with, the charges against you will be dismissed.
Consult With a Seattle DUI Attorney Today
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution for a DUI case, there is certainly an argument to be made that stiffer penalties won't always lead to more positive change in a person's life who is experiencing problems with substance abuse. The law in Washington seeks to address issues of dependency, and in some instances, offers mechanisms such as deferred prosecution for those who truly need help. Consulting with an experienced Seattle DUI Attorney can help you make an informed and intelligent plan regarding your DUI charges.