April 10th, 2010
One of the relatively unknown aspects of Washington State DUI law is that the penalties for violations of certain mandatory requirements of probation will result in mandatory sentences that the judge must impose. Take the case of an individual for whom this is the first DUI conviction. Either one or two days of jail time would likely be imposed, along with other penalties, and the judge would “suspend” all of the remaining jail time (nearly a year of jail time) on condition of compliance with the terms of probation. If there is a violation of probation, the judge has the power to impose some or all of the remaining jail time. In certain circumstances, however, the judge is required to impose 30 days of confinement. The applicable statute, RCW 46.61.5055, is set forth below.
(11)(a) In addition to any nonsuspendable and nondeferrable jail sentence required by this section, whenever the court imposes less than one year in jail, the court shall also suspend but shall not defer a period of confinement for a period not exceeding five years. The court shall impose conditions of probation that include: (i) Not driving a motor vehicle within this state without a valid license to drive and proof of financial responsibility for the future; (ii) not driving a motor vehicle within this state while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours after driving; and (iii) not refusing to submit to a test of his or her breath or blood to determine alcohol concentration upon request of a law enforcement officer who has reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The court may impose conditions of probation that include nonrepetition, installation of an ignition interlock device on the probationer's motor vehicle, alcohol or drug treatment, supervised probation, or other conditions that may be appropriate. The sentence may be imposed in whole or in part upon violation of a condition of probation during the suspension period.
(b) For each violation of mandatory conditions of probation under (a)(i), (ii), or (iii) of this subsection, the court shall order the convicted person to be confined for thirty days, which shall not be suspended or deferred.
As you can see, section (b) states that upon a violation of the mandatory conditions of probation the court “shall order the convicted person to be confined for 30 days.” Therefore, an individual who is on DUI probation and who is stopped by police officer and asked to take a breath test, and who refuses to take that breath test, would be in violation of a mandatory condition of probation and therefore, the judge must order the person to be confined for 30 days. What does “confined for 30 days” mean? Although this term would appear to mean jail time, in fact, principles of statutory interpretation have been argued with some success that the use of the word “jail” in connection with other sections of the DUI penalty law implies that “confinement” as used in this section may or may not include jail. Therefore, some judges have been persuaded that an individual who has been found to be in violation of the mandatory condition of DUI probation could be sentenced to 30 days of “confinement” in the form of 30 days electronic home detention and in some cases, in the form of enrollment and participation in a 30 day inpatient alcohol treatment program. Other judges read the law quite literally to require jail (and only jail) as the sanction to be imposed upon a violation of any of the mandatory probation conditions.
In any event, an aggressive and a reasoned DUI defense may well avoid probation altogether. If probation is imposed and a violation of probation is alleged, the probationer would be well advised to retain the best lawyer he or she can find because, as we have seen, the penalty imposed for violating probation in many cases is jail time well in excess of that which was required to be served upon the conviction itself.