July 2017 WA State DUI Law ImplementationsJonathan Rands
July 2017 saw the implementation of changes to Washington State DUI laws, the most significant being a 4th charge in 10 years is now considered a felony.
The most significant of these is that a fourth DUI Arrest in a ten-year period, where all prior arrest dates are within the ten years of the arrest date for the current DUI, is now a FELONY.
Previously, the prerequisite priors were four, making the fifth DUI in ten years the felony. This means a person faces a potential prison term rather than local jail time upon conviction. This new law also applies to the crime of Physical Control and the priors are likewise, DUI or Physical Control, or reduction from either.
The more practical changes are that the mandatory sentencing now allows for jail alternatives rather than the lengthy jail terms associated with Misdemeanor DUIs and Physical Control, but these apply to people convicted of second or third offense DUI with priors within seven years.
The more practical changes are that the Mandatory Sentencing now allows for jail alternatives rather than the lengthy jail terms associated with Misdemeanor DUIs and Physical Control, but these apply to people convicted of second or third offense DUI with priors within seven years.
A person convicted of a second DUI with one prior in seven years and in the current case provided a breath or blood sample of alcohol concentration above .08 but below .15 BAC; they were previously required to serve 30 days of jail and then 60 days of EHM, but under the new law if granted by the sentencing Judge, serve 4 days jail and either 180 days EHM or 120 days in the WA State 24/7 sobriety program in lieu of the mandatory 30 days jail and 60 days EHM.
For a person with a prior and in the current case, provides a blood alcohol test of breath or blood with a .15 or higher OR they refused such a test, rather than the 45 days jail followed by 90 days EHM, they may now seek a sentence of 6 days of jail and either 6 months of EHM or 120 days 24/7 sobriety program in lieu of mandatory jail sentence
Furthermore, a person ordered on a pre-trial basis to participate in a pre-trial 24/7 sobriety program may be deemed to have fulfilled "a portion" of the sentence set forth above, upon application to the court.
Furthermore, when a person is sentenced the Department of Licensing (DoL) will impose a licensing restriction of at least one year and up to four years. A recent amendment now allows a time reduction to no less than one year, if they complete six months of 24/7 and obtain an alcohol evaluation and complete any recommended treatment.
Another change makes a refusal to provide blood when it is requested under the Implied Consent, inadmissible, but the refusal to provide breath under the same statue remains admissible. While this is just a "catching up" in the law to the change brought about by the landmark case of Missouri v. McNeely 133 S.Ct. 1552, the practical effect is that previously, the Implied Consent Statute required a "blood test" when a person was arrested for a DUI under circumstances were that they were under arrest for a Washington State DUI but, could not be placed in front of a breath test machine. Under those circumstances, no warrant was required, and if a person refused that would be used against them. Now, when a person is likewise, asked to what is best described to "volunteer" to give blood, it is not admissible. The case of McNeely changed the law, such that a warrant is required before a needle could be stuck in a person’s arm. So the request for what is truly a "voluntary" test is no longer in our statutory scheme as a refusal when done on this basis. So a request for blood that a person refuses cannot be used as evidence of guilt.
However, what the legislature giveth it also taketh away. When this law was amended to remove the refusal, it was added to that "if a refusal is to a warrant, or an exception to warrant requirement, then the refusal to cooperate with the warrant is admissible."
By a refusal being "admissible" it is means that the refusal can be used as "evidence of a guilty conscience." Meaning the refusal was a product of a person withholding evidence that will show their guilt, a result over the limit for Alcohol or THC.
Finally, DUI fee increases to $250 from $200. This is a fee added to every DUI case regardless of whether a breath or blood. It has steadily increased over the years, despite a drop in DUI arrests over the same years.
As one can see the changes are substantial and have special procedures and requirements, such that a strong working knowledge and understanding of DUI is a must for anyone facing a DUI charge, but even more important if a prior offense exists.