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RCW 46.61.502 - Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Intoxicated

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Under RCW 46.61.502, you can face drunk driving charges under various circumstances. You will be considered guilty of a DUI if you drive while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, or you have an alcohol concentration of .08 or more according to test analysis. You could also face charges if you drive under the influence of marijuana, or within two hours of driving, you have a THC concentration of 5.00 or greater according to a test analysis of your blood. You may also face a DUI charge if you are under the influence or affected by intoxicating liquor, any drug, or marijuana, or some combination of these.

2. Examples

If you were at a bar and drank three cocktails and were pulled over for a DUI, and a chemical test showed that your blood alcohol level was .09, you would likely face gross misdemeanor charges. However, the DUI could be charged as a class B felony if you have three or more prior convictions within 10 years, or you have ever been previously convicted of vehicular assault while under the influence, vehicular homicide while under the influence, or a comparable crime.

3. Related Offenses

The circumstances will determine whether any other charges beyond DUI charges are brought. For instance, you could face child endangerment charges if you were transporting a minor under age 16 at the time of the DUI. If drugs were found during the DUI stop or after the arrest, you could face drug charges. You could also face administrative action in connection with your license if you refused to take a chemical test or receive a test result over the legal limit.

4. Defenses

There may be constitutional or procedural defenses that an experienced attorney can raise. For instance, if you were stopped even though the officer did not have a reasonable suspicion that you were driving drunk or that another legal violation was underway, we may have a basis to get the evidence obtained during the stop suppressed on the basis that the stop violated your Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures.

We may be able to raise an affirmative defense that you consumed enough alcohol after you drove and before undergoing test analysis to cause your alcohol concentration to be .08 or greater within two hours of driving. Similarly, you could raise an affirmative defense that you consumed enough marijuana to cause your THC concentration to be within the range within two hours after you drove your car. You cannot, however, defend yourself against a drug DUI charge by claiming that you were entitled to use the drug.

In some cases, it may be appropriate to challenge test results. Your blood alcohol concentration can have an impact on the sentence, so even if we cannot get a dismissal outright, we may be able to get a lighter sentence, whether through plea negotiations or after trial.

5. Penalties

The penalties for drunk driving are set forth under RCW 46.61.5055. Generally, if your blood alcohol concentration was less than 0.15, or there is not a test result, not due to your refusing a test, that shows what your blood alcohol concentration was, you can face 1-364 days in jail. You cannot have the first 24 hours suspended, unless you are able to prove that this presents a major risk to your well-being. Alternatively, you may be able to go through 90 days in a 24/7 sobriety program or electronic home monitoring for 15 days. You will face fines as well. The penalties are harsher if your blood alcohol concentration was 0.15 or greater or if you have prior convictions. Most courts require that you also reimburse law enforcement for their time.

6. Criminal Defense for DUI Cases

At Smith & White, PLLC, our Tacoma DUI lawyers build strong defenses to charges brought under RCW 46.61.502. Our phone is answered around the clock, and we provide free legal advice. Legal representation with financing is available. Call us at (253) 203-1645 or complete our online form.

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