Hard-hitting penalties for violating Washington state DUI probation.
June 27th, 2009
The word is out that the punishment for Washington state DUI laws is among the toughest in the nation. However, what is not well known is that the mandatory minimum confinement penalty for a single violation of DUI probation is harsher than the mandatory minimum penalty for the underlying DUI. For instance, for an individual who has no prior DUI convictions and a breath test just over the legal limit, the mandatory minimum jail time would be one day. In contrast, for even a first violation of "mandatory conditions of probation, the law requires the judge to order "confinement for 30 days" and the DUI law prevents the judge from suspending or deferring this confinement. What are the mandatory conditions of probation? These are set out in Washington state DUI sentencing statute: RCW 46.61.5055. There are three basic "mandatory conditions of probation" which the judge is required to impose upon every person convicted of DUI. The conditions include (1) Don't drive without a valid license and insurance, (2) Don't drive with a breath alcohol level of .08 or higher within two hours of driving, and (3) Don't refuse to submit to a breath or blood test upon lawful request of a police officer. These conditions will remain in effect for the entire period of probation, which can be up to five years even in the case of a first offense DUI. In addition to thirty days mandatory confinement, a violation of mandatory probation requirements also results in the imposition of thirty days of license suspension in addition to any license suspension already imposed. Judges have wide discretion to impose jail, up to the amount of jail "suspended" (usually 364 days in the case described above) upon a probation violation; the law simply sets forth the minimum penalty that must be imposed. Does this mean thirty days of actual jail must be served on a probation violation? Not necessarily. The statute does not require "jail" to be imposed - it states "thirty days of confinement." Therefore, it can be argued that a judge has discretion to impose alternatives to jail, such as electronic home monitoring, but this option is entirely within the judge's discretion. A Seattle DUI judge might take a different view of this statute than a Bellevue DUI judge or a Bellingham DUI judge. An individual charged with DUI needs the best representation available, but that is also true where one faces the tough consequences that may be imposed in a Washington State DUI probation violation hearing.