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Washington State DUI Laws and Charges

There are three statutes in Washington State that apply to most DUI cases filed each year. They are listed below. The first two apply to adult offenders, while a third statute applies separately to people under the age of 21. A child (even those under the age of 18) may (and usually, will) be charged under the adult statutes in certain circumstances.

If you have been charged with a DUI in Washington, it will most likely be classified as a “gross misdemeanor” which means the maximum punishment is 364 days in jail and a $5000.00 fine. However, should the DUI cause serious bodily injury or death to another (vehicular assault or vehicular homicide), or if you, the accused, has previously been convicted of vehicular assault or homicide, or if you have four priors within the past 10 years, it will be charged as a Class C Felony DUI.

The three relevant statutes are:

1. Driving Under the Influence


In Washington, under RCW 46.61.502, a person is guilty of DUI if they drove a vehicle:
  1. with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher within two hours after driving; or
  2. with a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per millileter within two hours after driving; or
  3. while under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or drugs; or
  4. while under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.

NOTE: It is a defense, under all three statutes, if you can prove that alcohol or marijuana was consumed after driving but before a chemical test was administered.

It's important to know that “drugs” doesn't refer only to illegal narcotics. Medications prescribed or sold over-the-counter (depression medications, pain killers or sleep agents) can also create an intoxicating effect. Legally possessing the medication is no defense.

2. Physical Control of Vehicle Under the Influence


Under Washington DUI statute RCW 46.61.504, a person is guilty of DUI if they have actual physical control of a vehicle:
  1. and a BAC of .08 or higher within two hours after being in actual physical control; or
  2. a THC concentration of 5.00ng/ml or higher; or
  3. while the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
  4. while the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.

Actual physical control refers to situations where the car is not in motion, but capable of movement – such as when the keys are in the ignition and the car is parked.

NOTE: If the car has been moved safely off the roadway prior to being pursued by a law enforcement officer, a person will have an affirmative defense to the crime of physical control.

All violations of this statute are classified as gross misdemeanors unless: the person is a juvenile; has four or more prior offenses within ten years; or if the person has been previously convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence, vehicular assault while under the influence, or a comparable out-of-state offense. In such circumstances, the DUI may be charged as a Class C felony.

DUI and Physical Control, as gross misdemeanors, carry a maximum sentence of up to 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.


3. Driver Under Twenty-One Consuming Alcohol
Under RCW 46.61.503, a person is guilty of driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle after consuming alcohol if the person operates or is in actual physical control and:
  1. is under the age of twenty-one;
  2. has a BAC between .02 and .08; or
  3. has a THC concentration above 0.00 but below 5 nanograms per millileter

Driver Under Twenty-One Consuming Alcohol is considered a misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

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4. Driving Under the Influence with a CDL

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Under RCW 46.25.090, a person is disqualified from driving a commercial motor vehicle for a period of not less than one year if a report has been received by the department pursuant to RCW  46.20.308 or  46.25.120, or if the person has been convicted of a first violation, within this or any other jurisdiction, of:  

  1. Driving a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or any drug;
  2. Driving a commercial motor vehicle while the alcohol concentration in the person's system is 0.04 or more or any measurable amount of THC concentration, or driving a.                       noncommercial motor vehicle while the alcohol concentration in the person's system is 0.08 or more, or is 0.02 or more if the person is under age twenty-one, or with a THC concentration of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of whole blood or more, or a THC concentration above 0.00 if the person is under the age of twenty-one, as determined by any testing methods approved by law in this state or any other state or jurisdiction;
  3. Leaving the scene of an accident involving a motor vehicle driven by the person;
  4. Using a motor vehicle in the commission of a felony;
  5. Refusing to submit to a test or tests to determine the driver's alcohol concentration or the presence of any drug while driving a motor vehicle;
  6. Driving a commercial motor vehicle when, as a result of prior violations committed while operating a commercial motor vehicle, the driver's commercial driver's license is revoked, suspended, or canceled, or the driver is disqualified from operating a commercial motor vehicle;
  7. Causing a fatality through the negligent operation of a commercial motor vehicle, including but not limited to the crimes of vehicular homicide and negligent homicide.

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