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DUI Refusal Laws in Washington State

Portable Breath Test MachineIn Washington State, DUI penalties are enhanced for drivers who refuse to take a breath test at the police station. Under the Implied Consent Law, a person who drives within WA State is considered to have consented to a blood or breathalyzer test if he or she is arrested for DUI.

The intent of the law is that the breath or blood test will be administered, unless the person explicitly refuses. The purpose of the law is to discourage individuals from driving under the influence and to remove the driving privileges of those who do.

It is not uncommon for drivers to take the optional portable breath test on the roadside and then refuse to take the required breath test at the police station. If the police officer does not clearly communicate what is optional and what is required, this can be an important defense.

Penalties for Refusing the Breath Test

In Washington State, DUI is a criminal traffic offense. This means that a conviction will go on your criminal record as well as your driving record. The charge is a gross misdemeanor that can result in the following consequences:

  • License Suspension
  • $5000 fine
  • Alcohol/Drug treatment requirements
  • Jail time of up to 364 days
  • Ignition interlock requirement
  • Probation
  • High Risk Insurance

The following is an example of how penalties differ for those who take the breathalyzer test and for those who refuse to take the breath test:

First offense:

 Breath/Blood Test  Under .15  Over .15  Refusal
 License Suspension  90 days  1 year  2 years
 Mandatory Jail Time  1 day  2 days  2 days

 

Second Offense:

 Breath/Blood Test  Under .15  Over .15  Refusal
 License Suspension  2 years  900 days  3 years
 Mandatory Jail Time  30 days  45 days  45 days

 

Third Offense:

 Breath/Blood Test  Under .15  Over .15  Refusal
 License Suspension  3 years  4 years  4 years
 Mandatory Jail Time  90 days  120 days  120 days

Criminal & DOL Case

If you are arrested for DUI, there will be two cases against you: One with the court and one with the WA State Department of Licensing. Both cases are independent of each other, which means that even if your case is dismissed in court, you could still lose your driver’s license, and vice versa.

You must request a DOL hearing within 20 days; otherwise your license suspension will go into effect automatically. An experienced attorney can handle both the DOL hearing and the criminal court case.

How do I Know if I Have a Prior Offense?

An offense is considered to be a “prior offense” for sentencing purposes if it occurred within the last 7 years. The prior offense could be any of the below:

  1. DUI
  2. Physical Control
  3. Vehicular Homicide
  4. Vehicular Assault
  5. Negligent Driving (if originally charged as DUI)
  6. Reckless Driving (if originally charged as DUI)
  7. Reckless Endangerment (if originally charged as DUI)
  8. A deferred prosecution that was successfully or not successfully completed

Defending DUI Refusals

In order to prove a DUI refusal charge, the prosecutor will need to prove that your driving was affected by your level of impairment, since there is not a breath test entered into evidence. Your lawyer can raise arguments in regards to why you may have refused (such as confusion or a medical issue) or your lawyer may be able to argue that there is insufficient evidence to prove impairment.

The facts of your case, your criminal history, your driving record, and the court where your charges are filed will have an impact on your result. At Beckwith DUI Law, we have a proven track record for successfully defending clients accused of DUI refusal in King County, Pierce County, and Thurston County, Washington. We have office locations in Seattle and Tacoma and we are also available by telephone for a free consultation.