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DUI Frequently Asked Questions

Spokane DUI Lawyers

When facing a DUI, you probably have many questions. We have created this section of the site to help give you the answers you're looking for and to help set your mind at ease. Check back often as we will be updating this section of the site regularly!

Call (509) 252-9167 if you need legal assistance with a question that is not covered here.

  • Is it a defense to a drug DUI charge that the medication was lawfully prescribed?
    It is not a defense to a drug DUI that the medication was lawfully prescribed. This is true for prescribed narcotics such as hydrocodone, OxyContin, morphine, Xanax, and Valium, but also true with respect to prescribed marijuana. It is important for a patient to know his or her limits. Twenty years ago drug DUI charges were rare, and a driver impaired by narcotics would most likely just face a minor charge of negligent driving. However drug DUI charges are becoming more and more common. A driver suspected of being impaired by prescribed drugs usually faces a blood test which is usually administered at a hospital. It can take several months for the blood test results to be completed.
  • What is a felony DUI in Washington State?
    A felony DUI can be charged in Washington State if the defendant has 3 or more DUI convictions in the last 10 years, or has been previously convicted of an alcohol-related Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Homicide. The legal definition of "prior offenses" includes DUI charges that were pled down to Negligent Driving First Degree, Reckless Driving, and Reckless Endangerment. The definition of "prior offenses" also includes deferred prosecutions, and out-of-state convictions. The sentencing range for this offense is up to five years in prison, and a ten thousand dollar fine.
  • What is a marijuana DUI in Washington State?
    A "marijuana DUI" is operating a motor vehicle while your ability to drive is impaired, or when the driver has a blood THC level of over 5 nanagrams per milliliter. The legal limit of 5 nanograms went into effect in Washington State as part of the marijuana decriminalization initiative 502. The law is controversial because the science is unclear if THC in that amounts would truly impair a person's ability to drive if they were a regular user of marijuana. Detecting impairment due to marijuana can be very hard. The probable cause to test a person's blood is often based on specious reasons like a supposed "green tongue." Often times the police will target younger people, or racial minorities with questions about marijuana use. If the officer suspect marijuana impairment, a blood test is usually required. For drivers under 21 it is illegal to have any amount of THC in one's blood while driving. The 5 nanogram limit applies both to recreational users of marijuana as well as cannabis patients. The penalties for a marijuana DUI are the same as an alcohol related DUI.
  • Why are you asked to take two different breath tests for a DUI in Washington State?
    Many people arrested for DUI in Washington State are confused by the fact that the police officer asked them to take a road-side breath test and also a different breath test once at the police station. The first test is referred to as a portable breath test or "PBT." Taking the PBT test is completely voluntary, and the results of the test are not admissible at a trial. Although the jury will never hear about PBT test results, the test results can be considered by the judge in determining whether there was probable cause to arrest you for DUI. Once you are at the police station, you will be asked by the arresting officer to blow into the BAC instrument. This instrument looks much like a computer with a hose and mouthpiece attached. The results of this breath instrument are usually admitted into court. Additionally, under Washington law, a driver "consents" to taking this test as a condition of driving, and if you refuse this test the department of licensing will suspend your license for 1 year.
  • What are the legal limits for a DUI if a person is under the age of 21?
    To be convicted of a DUI in Washington State, the prosecutor must show that an individual was over .08 or that his or her ability to drive was affected by the alcohol consumption. This is true regardless of the age of the driver. However, if a minor drives a motor vehicle with a breath alcohol content over .02, he or she can be convicted of the different, less serious crime of Minor Operating Motor Vehicle Over .02. This offense is simply a misdemeanor whereas DUI is a gross misdemeanor. This lesser offense does not carry minimum jail time or fines. If a minor drives with a BAC of over .02, DOL will usually impose a license suspension of 90 days, or longer if the driver was under 18.
  • How long will I lose my driver's license for a DUI in Washington State?
    The length of a license suspension in Washington state varies depending on how high the breath test was, how many prior offenses there are, and whether the suspension is based on a court action or a Department of Licensing administrative action. The calculation of the duration of the suspension can be complex. A first time offender with a breath test under .15 can expect a license suspension of 90 days. If a person's breath alcohol level is over .15, the license suspension is for 1 year. For a second offense DUI under .15, the license suspension is 2 years. For a second offense DUI with a breath test over .15, the period of suspension is 900 days. The Department of Licensing usually allows drivers to obtain an Ignition Interlock License or an Occupational Restricted License.
  • How Much Jail Time Will I Serve for a DUI Charge in Washington state?
    The length of a jail sentence in Washington state depends on the number of alcohol related prior offenses, and the seriousness of the pending offense. A first time offender with a breath test under .15 will face a mandatory minimum of 1 day in jail. That same first time offender will face a 2 mandatory minimum sentence if his or her breath reading was over .15. Second time offenders will face either a 30 day or 45 day minimum jail sentence depending on whether his or her breath reading was under or over .15. If the case involves a plea reduction to a lesser offense, than the mandatory minimum sentences do not apply.
  • Can I get a DUI if I am below the legal limit?

    Unfortunately, yes you can. In Washington state, there are two approaches to any prosecution for driving under the influence when there is an alcohol/marijuana sample collected. First, obviously, if there is evidence that an individual is over the legal limit (0.08 for alcohol or 5 nanograms for marijuana) an individual can be convicted of DUI. However, there are instances where the legal limit has not been met, but the State can still pursue prosecution. Specifically, if there is any evidence that an individual has consumed an intoxicating substance the State can obtain a conviction if it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual's ability to drive was affected in any appreciable degree by the consumption of such substances. So, for instance, if an individual submits a breath sample that reads 0.04 BAC and they failed to use their signal when changing lanes, there is still a possibility that individual may be convicted of DUI if the jury believes beyond a reasonable doubt that the failure to use that turn signal was a consequence of consuming an intoxicating substance, regardless of whether or not that individual is below the legal limit.

  • Can I get a DUI if I am not driving on a public roadway?

    In Washington state, anyone is susceptible to being charged with DUI if they are found behind the wheel of a moving vehicle after having consumed an intoxicating substance, ie. alcohol, marijuana, any prescription medicine, or any illicit intoxicating substance. Specifically, RCW 46.46.502(1) provides that "a person is guilty of DUI... if the person drives a vehicle within this state." So, whether an individual is driving on a public highway, private property, or even a parking lot, if there are alcohol or drugs involved, you are at risk of being charged DUI.

  • Can I be charged with DUI if I am just sitting in the drivers seat but not driving?

    The answer to this question really depends on an individual's specific scenario. Washington law provides that an individual can be charged and convicted of DUI if they are over the legal limit within two hours of driving. So what this means is, even if law enforcement does not see an individual driving, if there is any evidence that provides a timeframe from when the person stopped driving and that timeframe is within two hours from when the alcohol/drug sample was taken, that individual can still be convicted of DUI. Although, in other instances, if there is no evidence or a timeframe regarding when the suspect was last driving, that individual may not be charged with DUI. But, if they are found behind the wheel of a stationary vehicle they can still be charged with Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence.

  • What is Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence?

    Physical Control, for short, is the alternative charge the State can pursue if there is no evidence of an individual driving but is found to be in control of a motor vehicle after having consumed alcohol or any intoxicating substance. While Physical Control is not a DUI, it carries with it all of the same penalties. Unfortunately, the law does not do the best job in defining what actual physical control means. So, the take away is, if you are anywhere near your vehicle and have consumed any intoxicating substances and you are contacted by law enforcement, there is a possibility that you could be charged with Physical Control. Given the fact that these cases are very fact specific, you will want to contact an attorney to evaluate whether or not you were in Physical Control of Motor Vehicle.

  • If DOL does not suspend my license after my initial arrest for DUI or Physical Control, is my license safe?

    No, the licensing process of any DUI conviction is likely one of the more confusing aspects of these types of charges. Obviously, DOL will likely try to suspend an individual's license merely for being charged with DUI or Physical Control. However, in some instances that is not the case. Regardless of what happens after the arrest, DOL is still out there waiting to see how the overall case resolves. If an individual is later convicted of DUI or Physical Control with a BAC over 0.08 but below 0.15, DOL will suspend that individual's license for at least 90 days. Additionally, DOL will require that individual to install and maintain an Ignition Interlock Device for a full year. Furthermore, if the individual is convicted of DUI above a 0.15 or for refusing to participate in the breath test DOL will revoke that individual's license for at least a full year along with a one-year requirement that the individual install and maintain an ignition interlock device.