4 Important Changes to Washington DUI Laws

Police officer giving a roadside sobriety test.

With House Bill 2700 going into effect on June 9, 2016, it is important to keep DUI clients informed on sentencing and licensing changes. Here are four updates to DUI laws that your clients may need to know.

A new sentencing alternative
A person convicted of DUI in Washington faces mandatory sentencing conditions. Up until the passage of the bill, a first-time DUI offender with a breath test under .15 faced a mandatory minimum of one day in jail. The offender could ask the sentencing judge to convert the jail time to electronic home monitoring at a ratio of 15 to 1. Under House Bill 2700, the Legislature has added an additional alternative to jail in the form of the 24/7 alcohol monitoring program. For example, on a first-time DUI with a breath test under .15, the individual can now be sentenced to one day in jail or 15 days of electronic home monitoring or 90 days on the 24/7 alcohol monitoring program. This legislative change allows more flexibility for persons who may be unable to complete the jail sentence or house arrest due to work or family obligations.

Ignition Interlock Employer Waiver
Prior to June 9, 2016, when an individual was required to have an ignition interlock device on his or her vehicle, he or she could get an exception for work vehicles, but only after a mandatory waiting period that ranged from 30 days to one year. Under the bill, the waiting period is eliminated. This change will be beneficial to individuals who are required to drive as a condition of employment.

License Suspension
The bill includes a way for someone to avoid a license suspension as a result of a first-time DUI arrest or conviction. The Department will hold off on suspending a license if the individual enrolls in a 24/7 sobriety program for a certain amount of time (depending on the breath test results) and completes the program. This option is not available for breath test refusal DUIs.

DOL Hearing Request
Currently, a person arrested for DUI has 20 days to request an administrative hearing with the Department of Licensing, and the Department must hold the hearing within 60 days. Under the bill, the deadline for requesting a hearing is shortened to seven days and the Department must hold an administrative hearing within 30 days. It should be noted that this portion of the bill does not take effect until Jan. 1, 2019. These changes could have serious consequences for individuals who do not hire an attorney immediately after arrest, as many will potentially miss the short deadline.

DUIs laws in particular are subject to frequent legislative changes and it is crucial to keep clients informed during the constantly evolving process. The total influence of the recent changes may not be felt until 2019, when the strict DOL deadlines go into effect.

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