Have you been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington State? If so, you should know the laws are complex and the penalties can be serious, including what we in the criminal defense world call collateral consequences. A conviction leads to a criminal record, and that could mean trouble with many things, like finding a job or good housing.
If you have been charged with a DUI, it's important to retain a smart, resourceful DUI defense attorney. Vinny Randhawa represents clients in King County, Pierce County, and Snohomish County. Contact his office today to learn how he can help you.
Different States Have Different DUI Laws
Most people know at least one friend or family member who has been charged with driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI). Consequently, when someone finds him or herself facing DUI charges, it is natural to reach out and learn about a friend or family member's experience. Uncertainty is one of the scariest parts of facing criminal charges, so naturally, learning about what a friend or family member faced can provide some offer of comfort. However, every person's DUI experience is different. This is particularly true across state lines.
If you have been charged with DUI in a federal park, and you have a friend or family member who also was charged with DUI in a federal park, and further, if both you and your friend or family member have identical prior DUI histories, you may find a large number of similarities in your cases. However, most DUIs don't occur in federal parks.
Every state creates its own DUI laws and the consequences of breaking those laws. In many states, a first-time DUI is a misdemeanor offense. In Washington state, misdemeanor crimes come with a maximum jail sentence of 90 days as well as a maximum fine of $1,000.
Washington State is Different
Unlike many states, Washington state does not have a misdemeanor DUI charge. Instead, DUIs in Washington state are charged as gross misdemeanor offenses. This means that the possible consequences for even a first-time DUI offense include up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.00. Additionally, there are civil consequences. This means you will lose your license for a specific period of time, depending on factors such as:
- whether you have had a prior offense; and
- the blood alcohol content (BAC) reading.
Because each DUI includes more severe consequences than the one before, challenging every DUI charge is critical.
Understanding DUI Charges in Washington State
The laws governing DUI charges can be overwhelming to someone who doesn't have a law degree and experience practicing criminal law. Consequently, the following breakdown is provided. First, you must understand there are multiple ways someone could be charged with DUI. These include:
- having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours of driving a vehicle;
- having a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher (based on blood analysis) within two hours of driving a vehicle; or
- driving a vehicle while affected by or under the influence of liquor, drugs, or marijuana.
Challenging Washington State DUI Charges
The first two ways to get a DUI charge, as described above, involve a simple mathematical calculation – how much alcohol or marijuana was present in the driver's system within two hours of the offense? However, these can be challenged on a number of different levels. A good criminal defense attorney will ask the following questions as a minimum starting point:
- Were the instruments measuring the sample properly calibrated?
- Were all protocols followed?
- What is the level of measurement certainty?
- Is the chain of custody unbroken?
- Were samples stored properly?
- Could there have been a contaminating event?
- Were the proper instruments used?
- Have any elements of the collection kit expired?
Any or all of these questions may reveal a flaw in the test results due to a flaw in a step earlier in the collection process. Garbage in, garbage out, as they say.
Affirmative Defenses in DUI Cases in Washington
When someone is charged with having more than 0.08 blood alcohol concentration or more than 5.00 THC blood concentration, there are defenses available.
If a person drank after driving the car or smoked marijuana after driving the car, and this consumption is what caused the reading to be above the legal limit, one can use this as a defense to a DUI charge. This usually happens when there has been an accident, and the person returns home (or to some other location) and drinks or smokes in an attempt to soothe their nerves.
Drug Intoxication is Not a Defense in Washington State
Many people believe if they are taking a medication as prescribed, they are legally able to drive. They often also believe that if they are taking over the counter medication, they are legally able to drive. This may or may not be the case. The question is not, “Were you taking the drugs legally?” The question is, “Did the drugs you took legally impact your ability to drive?”
If you are impaired because of the drugs you took, you are not legally able to drive. Note the language above. The law also prohibits driving if you are affected by the drugs you took. Drivers are cautioned to be extremely careful about taking a new drug just before driving. You may not know how the drug may affect you until it is too late.
Are You Facing DUI Charges in Seattle, King County, Pierce County, or Snohomish County?
No one should face DUI charges alone. A DUI conviction can have long-term consequences, including jail time, fines, and the loss of your driving privileges for a period of time. You will also be on probation and expected to comply with your probation officer's instructions. You need an attorney experienced in DUI cases to review the facts and circumstances of your case. This protects you from facing charges unfairly.
Contact the Law Office of Vinny Randhawa at (425) 228-2202. Vinny practices in King, Pierce, and Snohomish County district courts in Washington state. He offers night and weekend appointments for your convenience. Call today to discuss your case, the consequences you may be facing, and ways to minimize your potential exposure.