You Just Blew $5,000: Washington State’s DUI Implied Consent Law

1effd2d3-5e9e-4fda-83ec-6de7344d1809Under Washington’s Implied Consent Law, you already agreed to the breath test if you have a license in this state. When you applied to get your WA driver’s license, you were asked to sign several papers. The small print stated that you agree to take a breath test when under arrest for drunk driving and if you refuse your license will be taken away.

If you blow a 0.08% or higher, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is considered above the legal limit and you will receive a DUI in Washington. Under these guidelines, a person under 21 can face arrest for driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle (such as a bus or tow truck, for example) is deemed impaired once his or her BAC reaches 0.04%.

The penalties for refusing to take the breath test are more serious than if you took the breath test and failed. Generally, a person with no prior DUI arrests who refuses to take the test will almost certainly suffer harsher licensing consequences.  If you refuse the test, your driver’s license will be revoked for two years for a first-time refusal, three years for a second refusal within seven years, and four years for a third refusal within seven years. In addition to your driver’s license being revoked, you may face a longer mandatory jail sentence.

The most important thing to remember is that you should immediately exercise your right and contact an experienced DUI attorney for advice prior to making any decision regarding the breath test. If you refuse the test, it is still possible to prevail at your administrative hearing. This is another important reason to contact a DUI lawyer for help in defending your case.

Since the decision to take or refuse the breath test has serious consequences, the law provides that you must be officially “reminded” of the consequences of your decision by making the officer read the Implied Consent Warning form prior to you making your decision. If you’re hearing it for the first time, the form can be difficult to understand. In most cases, at the time the officer is reading the Implied Consent Warning, you have been arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail. You may not be in the correct state of mind to fully comprehend the information being read to you.

The Implied Consent Warning form does not tell you several important facts:

  1. If you refuse the test, you will probably be prosecuted anyway.
  2. Your refusal to take the test will likely be the cornerstone of the prosecutor’s case.
  3. If you refuse the test, your license will be suspended/revoked and you will have to file proof of financial responsibility (otherwise known as “high risk” insurance) with the DOL, the same as if you had been convicted of DUI.

Whether you took the breath test and failed or refused to take it, you have a very limited time frame in which to request a hearing from the Department of Licensing (DOL). If you do not request a hearing within this time, your license will be suspended or revoked on the 60th day after your arrest. This license suspension is separate from any suspension that may be ordered in criminal court.

Another factor to consider is with implied consent you can face a type of “double jeopardy.” A DUI arrest can prompt an administrative license suspension with the DOL; however, all DUI arrests also trigger a case in criminal court where you could also face driver’s license suspensions. Even though both cases arise from the same even – the DUI arrest – they are two separate proceedings before two separate agencies. One is through the DOL (civil) and the other is through WA State’s criminal courts.

If you are convicted of a DUI, the penalties for your offense will be based upon your prior record of DUI. As a first-time offender, this sentence may include up to $5,000 in fines, a 90-day license suspension and a maximum of one year in jail. For a second or subsequent conviction, these penalties increase exponentially and the court may also impose additional punishments if you had an extremely high BAC at the time of your arrest (0.15% or higher).

In light of the penalties you face if you are convicted of driving under the influence, it is more important than ever for you to seek legal counsel if you are arrested for DUI in Washington. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped in court.