Washington State DUI Laws (All You Need to Know)

Washington State DUI Laws (All You Need to Know)

Whether it’s only one bottle or two, NEVER get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking.

From 2017 to 2019, there were over 1,500 fatal motor vehicle crashes in Washington. 500 (33%) involved drunk driving.

Between 2017 and 2021, 32% of fatal crashes had to do with drunk driving

As you can see, driving under the influence (DUI) is SUPER dangerous.

It also comes with extensive (and expensive) consequences. 

This is why you must know all the Washington State DUI laws. 

Because, even if you don’t get into an accident, you can still be charged with DUI. 

Today, we’re going to look at the laws, the penalties, and many more.

So let’s dive right into it!

DUI Laws in Washington

Washington State has several laws connected to driving under the influence. These include:

  • Illegal BAC Levels
  • Marijuana
  • Other Drugs
  • Implied Consent Law 
  • Open Container Law

Let’s go through them individually to ensure we cover all the essentials.

Illegal BAC Levels

Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) refers to the amount of blood in your system. The higher it is, the more impaired you become. 

For adult drivers, the legal threshold of your BAC level is 0.08%. That means you have eight drops of alcohol for every 100 drops of blood.

However, that doesn’t mean driving with a lower BAC level is safe. 

According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, even a 0.02% BAC level diminishes your driving ability.

That’s why underaged drivers (under 18 years old) cannot have a BAC level of 0.02% or higher.

And while we’re at it, the illegal BAC level for those holding a commercial license is at 0.04%. 


Washington State DUI Laws

Remember, DUI stands for ’Driving Under the Influence’.

Alcohol isn’t the only substance that may influence you.

The second most common is marijuana.

Whether you smoke or ingest it, marijuana poses a risk when you’re behind the wheel. 

And yes, this applies to eating marijuana-infused food too. 

This drug affects your driving ability — car handling, distance estimation, and reaction time, among others — for up to 5 hours.

In Washington, you will be charged with DUI if you have a:

  • THC/marijuana level of 5.00 nanograms per milliliter of blood or more (for drivers 21 and older)
  • Any THC/marijuana level (if you’re under 21)

Other Drugs

Since we’re talking about drugs, know that marijuana isn’t the only substance that can land you a DUI charge. 

Even over-the-counter medication may affect your ability to operate a vehicle.

For example, medicines for colds and headaches often make you drowsy. Uppers, like energy drinks and diet pills, may cause anxiety and lack of focus.

Some prescription drugs have the same effects as alcohol, so don’t hesitate to discuss the possible after-effects with your doctor or pharmacist if you drive regularly.

Overall, make sure that you don’t intake any drug that might affect your driving. 

If you do, then a DUI charge may be looming on the horizon. 

Implied Consent Law 

Okay, but how can law officers determine your BAC or marijuana/drug level? 

Well, if they suspect you of DUI, they will pull you over and have you take a chemical test. 

These tests require you to give a sample of your blood or urine or take a breathalyzer. The results determine your BAC and identify any substance in your system contributing to your driving impairment.

Now, under the Implied Consent Law, every driver in Washington State has to take the test when asked. 

You agreed, or gave consent, to this when you got your WA-issued driver’s license. 

What if you insist on refusing the test? 

You can — but it means losing your driving privileges for at least a year.

Open Container Law

Washington’s Open Container law is more of a DUI prevention.

This law prohibits the following:

  • Consuming marijuana or drinking alcohol in a vehicle while on the highway.
  • Having any vessel containing an alcoholic drink with an opened or broken seal or some of its contents consumed.
  • Misrepresenting the contents of a container by putting a label indicating that it’s a non-alcoholic or non-marijuana substance.
  • Having any open container of alcohol or marijuana in any accessible storage compartment of your vehicle.

Washington State DUI Penalties

When we covered Implied Consent, we already mentioned that refusing to take a test will result in losing your driving privileges. Specifically, that’s a 1-year license suspension.

But what if your BAC level reaches or exceeds the legal limit?

The table below details the penalties you can expect within seven years:

OffenseLicense SuspensionFineJail TimeOther PenaltiesAlternatives
First90 days$350 to $5,0001 to 364 days (for Jail Time)15 days of house arrest OR 90 days in a sobriety program.
Second90 days to 4 years$500 to $5,00030 to 364 days (for Jail Time)4 days in jail with 180 days of house arrest OR 120 days in a sobriety program
Third90 days to 4 years$1,00 to $5,00090 to 364 daysSix months in a sobriety program8 additional days in jail instead of sobriety monitoring

However, the penalties are more severe if your BAC level registers at .15% or higher.

OffenseLicense SuspensionFineJail TimeOther PenaltiesAlternatives
First90 days$500 to $5,0002 to 364 days (for Jail Time)6 days in jail with 30 days of house arrest or 90 days in a sobriety program
Second90 days to 4 years$750 to $5,00045 to 364 daysSeizing and selling of your vehicle if the court orders it(for Jail Time)6 days in jail with six months of house arrest or 120 days in a sobriety program
Third90 days to 4 years$1,500 to $10,000120 to 364 days(for Jail Time)150 days of house arrest AND six months in a sobriety program

The penalties get even more harsh if your DUI causes any damage, injuries, or death — or if you have a underage child with you. 

In these cases, the court will decide your penalty. 

Restricted Driver License in Washington

After losing your driving privileges, there’s only one way for you to get back behind the wheel (before the suspension period ends). 

You can apply for a Restricted Driver’s License.

However, expect a specialist to evaluate your driving record. Based on that, you might get either of these:

  • An Ignition Interlock License (IIL). It allows you to drive vehicles that have ignition interlock devices installed.
  • An Occupational/Restricted Driver’s License (ORL). You can use it to go to and from the following:
    • Work
    • School
    • Court-ordered services
    • Continuing healthcare
    • Continuing support for a dependent
    • Employment program

Restricted licenses don’t just limit your privileges to specific vehicles or destinations. It may also include times of day or days of the week. 

You can read more about restricted license eligibility requirements on the WA Department of Licensing’s website.

Deferred Prosecution in Washington 

What is a deferred prosecution? 

It is for those who suffer from substance or alcohol addiction or have mental health challenges. 

If so, the DUI conviction takes a back seat. 

Instead, the priority becomes completing an approved treatment program.

The Department of Licensing dismisses your charges once you’ve fulfilled all court-ordered requirements and finished your treatment program.

However, you only have one chance to use the deferred prosecution option in your lifetime.

FAQs About Washington State DUI Laws

Here are the questions most drivers ask about DUI laws in Washington State.

Why is Drinking and Driving so Dangerous?

Alcohol is a downer. It slows down your central nervous system.

That translates to the impairment of the following:

  • Judgment
  • Vision
  • Concentration
  • Understanding
  • Reaction Time
  • Senses

All of these are crucial to ensuring you remain safe on the road.

How Do You Prevent DUI?

Here are some strategies you can use to avoid a DUI:

  • Have a meal and keep hydrated
  • If you’re with friends, assign a designated driver (who shouldn’t drink)
  • Use an Uber or a Lyft instead of driving yourself

What is the Minimum Jail Time for DUI in Washington State?

At the very least, you’ll need to spend one day behind bars after a DUI conviction. However, if it’s your first in seven years, you can avoid it by agreeing to 15 days of house arrest OR 90 days in a sobriety program. 

How Long Does a DUI Last in Washington?

Unlike other states where DUIs only stay on your record for 7 to 10 years, it remains in your Washington driving history permanently (well, 99 years).

Can a DUI Be Dismissed in Washington?

Despite the state’s strict DUI laws, dismissal is possible in certain cases.

For example, even if your BAC exceeds the legal limit, your defense attorney can request the suppression of the chemical test results. With this, you must prove that the arresting officer did not have probable cause to pull you over.

What to Do After a DUI in Washington?

The first thing you should do after a DUI arrest is get a lawyer. 

You can use your own representation (if you have one). But if you don’t, law enforcement may have an on-call attorney.

Next, ask for a hearing. You only have seven days to do this. If you don’t, the DOL automatically suspends your license for 90 days to 2 years (they’ll factor in your driving history for this).

Keep in mind that getting a hearing doesn’t mean you’ll get off scot-free. It might not go your way, and you’ll still lose your driving privileges anyway. 

How Long is Probation for DUI in Washington State?

In Washington, probation means the court has suspended a portion or the entirety of your sentence. For this, you must comply with some conditions in return.

Anyone with a DUI conviction in Washington goes through a 5-year probation period.

The Wrap Up

That was a lot!

Washington takes DUIs seriously, which is why it has so many regulations connected to it.

And this is why, as a responsible driver, you should obey all the Washington State DUI laws. 

I mean, you don’t want to face the harsh penalties…

Or worse, get into an accident and cause an injury or even death. 

All things out of the way, there’s only one thing you must do — NEVER DRINK OR TAKE DRUGS AND DRIVE!

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