Drug DUI in Washington State
Under Washington law, you can be found guilty of a drug DUI if your impairment is caused by the use of any individual drug, or through the combined influence of alcohol and drugs. Drugs include legal prescription drugs and Marijuana, as well as illegal drugs.
Legally prescribed medications such as anti-anxiety drugs, sleep aids, and pain killers are commonly prescribed drugs that can meet the definition of “mood altering.” Unfortunately, having a valid prescription to use a medication is not a valid defense.
The criminal penalties for a drug DUI in WA State are the same as those for an alcohol DUI. The maximum penalty is 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. There are also mandatory minimum jail sentences, depending on your criminal history. In addition, other consequences can include:
If you are pulled over and suspected to be under the influence of drugs, law enforcement will treat the situation differently than if you were suspected to be under the influence of alcohol. For example, you may be asked to submit to tests administered by a Drug Recognition Expert police officer, and you may be asked to take a blood test rather than a breath test. Before submitting to any tests, you should ask to speak with an attorney who can advise you of your rights and of the consequences of taking or refusing these tests.
Just because you had a drug in your system or a Drug Recognition Expert thought you were impaired, it does not mean you will be convicted. Drug Recognition Experts receive little drug training (they take a 2 week course) so their findings can be challenged by a good lawyer.
Prescription Drugs & Illegal Drugs
With the exception of a Marijuana DUI, the Washington State legislature has not yet determined how much of a drug (illegal or prescription) needs to be in a person’s system to cause impairment. This means that in order to be convicted, the prosecutor will have to show that your driving was “affected by” the drug. This may be difficult for the prosecutor to prove, especially if you were stopped for something other than poor driving and if you did not exhibit signs of impairment.
The effects of a drug vary with dose, route of administration, and experience of the user. This makes it difficult to establish a relationship between the blood concentration level of a drug and impairment. Drugs can remain in the system for hours, days, and even weeks. It can be argued that high concentration levels may not indicate recent drug use or impairment. A good attorney can thoroughly investigate these issues and use them to your advantage when negotiating or arguing your case.
Driver’s License Consequences
If you are arrested for a drug DUI, your license can be suspended from either the arrest or from a conviction in court. To prevent your license from automatically getting suspended, you or your attorney must request a driver’s license hearing and successfully argue your case.
Defending your Charges
The fact that there is no set level of impairment for drugs (excluding marijuana) should be an advantage in your case. We see many cases involving drugs where the testing methods are not backed by science and the results are therefore unreliable and removed from evidence.
At Beckwith DUI Law, we will do everything in our power to pick apart the evidence that is being used against you and find evidence that can help your defense. We have office locations in Seattle and Tacoma, and we are available for a free consultation.