Over the course of our country's history, each state has developed its own unique set of laws. While there may be some similarities between the statutes in different states, by and large, no two states have the exact same legal code. Because of these different laws, what is legal in one state may be illegal in another. Likewise, what is a misdemeanor in one state may be a felony in another.
In many states, after a person has gotten a certain number of DUI convictions the offense becomes a felony. A significant number of states, twenty-two, make it a felony to get a third DUI. Others, like California, don't make a DUI a felony unless it is a person's fourth offense. In New York, the rules are a bit more stringent as a second DUI can be a felony if it is within ten years of the first. Like New York, other states also have a time requirement, usually five or ten years. If a person gets the requisite number of DUI's within that window, then the offense is a felony. For example, if a person gets four DUIs in Arkansas within five years, the fourth is considered a felony.
Here in Washington, however, a fourth DUI is still currently a misdemeanor offense. Our laws do not make a DUI a felony until an individual has been arrested a fifth time within 10 years. Washington is currently the only state that does not make a DUI a felony until the fifth offense. But this could all be changing.
In late February of 2017, the Washington Senate passed Senate Bill 5037 which would make a fourth DUI offense within a ten year period a Class C Felony. The bill was referred to the Senate Committee on Law & Justice, then was voted on by the full Senate and passed with a unanimous 41-0 vote. The bill was sponsored by 14 senators, from both sides of the aisle.
This is not the first time that a bill like this has been introduced. Back in 2015, Senator Mike Padden authored a similar bill. The premise of the bill was the same as the one that just passed, making a fourth DUI in ten years a felony offense. That bill passed the Senate, but not the House.
It remains to be seen whether this new bill will pass the House either, but the bill did have its first reading on February 24th in the House's Public Safety Committee. If it does pass and is signed into law then Washington will join the 19 other states that currently make a fourth DUI a felony.
If you or someone you know has been arrested for driving under the influence, please do not hesitate to contact Wolff Defense today.