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Washington State Felony DUI: Possible Changes in the Law

Washington State Felony DUI: Possible Changes in the Law

Posted by Robert J. Ault on Feb 22, 2015 | 0 Comments

The following article comes from the Seattle Times just recently:

http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2025514694_drunkendrivingxml.html. Such discusses how a number of ill-advised local lawmakers are pushing to amend the current law regarding what qualifies as a Felony DUI in Washington State. At the present time, the number of misdemeanor/gross misdemeanor "prior offenses" within ten years that will lead to a subsequent DUI conviction being a felony is four. In other words, if a defendant has either been convicted of DUI, Reckless Driving/Negligent Driving (when amended from DUI), entered a Deferred Prosecution, or any combination thereof four times within the past 10 years (computation is done from the date of arrest, not conviction), a 5th DUI charge is treated as a Felony. There are other types of prior criminal offenses that can elevate a subsequent DUI to a felony. However, what is detailed in the above-mentioned article is most common. It should be noted that the same lawmakers considered the exact bill last year before it was strongly rejected.

Let's be clear: someone who has been convicted of 5 crimes (amended from DUI within 10 years) should most likely be in jail. We all make mistakes (my wife reminds me of this daily), but getting arrested and charged with DUI and having such result in a conviction 5 times in a 10-year span qualifies as far more than "a mistake." However, the problem with this proposed legislation is that it fails to accomplish anything, but a several million dollar tab to be paid by Washington State taxpayers.

Keep in mind that anyone convicted of DUI or an offense amended from DUI will subsequently be placed on probation for between 24 to 60  months. Further, one of the conditions of said probation is always "No Further Criminal Law Violations." Thus, the person convicted must keep their nose clean usually for a minimum of 24 months or else they will be brought back to court and found to have violated the conditions of their sentence. This results in the court being able to revoke any/all suspended jail time for the person. Thus, if one is convicted of a first offense DUI (below .15) and sentenced to 1 day in jail (which, by the way, is never the goal), a new criminal law violation within 60 months will result in the subject being brought back into the initial court, where a judge can sentence up to almost a year in jail. This is relevant to the current bill because these uninformed lawmakers fail to realize that, under the current law, a person convicted of a fourth DUI (with what would be considered 3 "prior offenses" within 10 years) is very likely already looking at more jail time than what they would be looking at if the present law was changed to make a fourth offense within 10 years a felony. In fact, I would contend that making a fourth offense a Felony would, in fact, result in many subjects serving less actual time incarcerated than they presently serve. And, oh, by the way, changing the law to a fourth DUI within 10 years as a Felony would cost the State several millions of dollars, as our counties and cities currently house fourth offense DUI offenders. In sum, passing the proposed law would result in DUI offenders spending less actual time in jail and cost the State several millions of dollars. The lack of logic being employed here by a few lawmakers would be comical, but for the fact that some seem to take them seriously. Fortunately, I am confident this asinine proposal will again not pass, and the law will remain the same.

The attorneys at Veitch Ault & Associates focus in the defense of those accused of serious traffic offenses, including DUI. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI in Washington State, contact Veitch Ault & Associates immediately (425-452-1600) to make sure one is given the best chance to defend themselves.

About the Author

Robert J. Ault

Rob's status as one of the premier DUI defense lawyers in the state includes being repeatedly recognized as a Super Lawyer Rising Star.

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