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What Makes Washington DUI Laws Unique?

When we say Washington has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation, we really mean it. According to wallethub.com, the Evergreen State ranks #14 for toughest DUI laws in the U.S. In addition to some severe penalties, our legislation carries a few unique qualities. In this post we’ll discover four key things that make DUI legislation in Washington stand out.

Mandatory Minimums

The legal limit across all 50 states is 0.08%. If you are at or above this amount you are considered under the influence or impaired. DUI is typically a misdemeanor crime, particularly if it is your first offense. In Washington, if you are convicted of a DUI, you face mandatory minimum jail sentences. For driving at 0.08% or higher, but under the elevated level of 0.15%, you are obligated to spend 24 hours in jail. If you are found guilty with a BAC, or blood alcohol concentration of 0.15% or higher, you face a minimum sentence of 48 hours in jail. The maximum incarceration period for any misdemeanor crime is one year in jail.

Tiered Sentencing

Tiered sentencing refers to the state imposing higher mandatory minimums for higher blood alcohol concentrations. This type of sentencing is unique to Washington State.

THC Minimum

Washington is not the only state where you can be charged with DUI for driving while high, but it is one of only a handful of states (Colorado, Montana) that describe a specific limit of THC that can be found in a driver’s blood in order to place him under arrest. The 5 nanogram per milliliter of blood limit has often found to be too low amongst regular marijuana users, and scientifically, there is no correlation between this exact ratio and impairment.

Someone who is driving after smoking for the very first time may drive erratically at this limit, but someone who uses medical cannabis daily has a much higher tolerance, and would be found guilty of DUI having shown zero signs of impairment behind the wheel. For this reason, states like Oregon do not have a THC minimum; rather, law enforcement personnel rely on their observations of a driver’s behavior behind the wheel and through a series of field tests to determine a marijuana DUI.

Ignition Interlock Device

Not all states allow someone who has been convicted of a DUI to continue driving so long as the person has installed an IIC in his car. Your license will be suspended in Washington for DUI, but you can still drive if the IIC determines you are safe to do so.

DUI in Washington is not the offense you want to face alone. Contact Murphy’s Law Offices for strong, competent criminal defense throughout Washington state. Call (253) 312-6122 for a free case evaluation.

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Federal Way, WA 98063



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Tacoma, WA 98402



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  • Criminal Defense
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Murphy’s Law Offices
506 S. 11th St.
Tacoma, WA 98402
Phone: (253) 312-6122

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