by Lewis & Laws
Last August, the Seattle Times reported on an elderly Seattle resident who was facing his 17th DUI case. Benson was charged in King County Superior Court with driving on a suspended or revoked license, reckless driving, felony DUI, and driving without a court-ordered ignition-interlock device. Convicted of a felony DUI in 2011, all Benson’s other DUI convictions were charged as gross misdemeanors. According to court documents, Benson crossed the centerline in his Corvette, hitting an oncoming Toyota Camry.
The accident happened just after midnight. While there was considerable damage to both vehicles, neither driver was seriously injured. Law enforcement who responded to the accident stated Benson refused a field sobriety test, admitted to drinking alcohol, and appeared intoxicated. In fact, according to the police report, when asked by police officers how much he had to drink, Benson said, “Not enough.” Prosecutors in the case asked for $1 million bail for Benson, stating he was “incredibly dangerous to the community,” and that he habitually drives while intoxicated, as well as without insurance and without the court-mandated ignition interlock device.
Prior to 2007, a drunk driver could not be charged with a felony in the state of Washington for driving while intoxicated unless the driver caused serious injury or death. That law has since been changed, allowing prosecutors to charge an intoxicated driver with a Class C felony in cases where the driver had five DUI convictions within ten years. Washington state is currently considering a bill that would extend the “look back” window to fifteen years.
Seattle DUI Laws
In the state of Washington, anyone aged 21 or over can be charged with DUI when their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher. For those with a commercial driver’s license, the limit is 0.04 percent, and for a driver under the age of 21, the BAC limit is 0.02 percent. The penalties for a DUI charge will depend on how high your BAC level is at the time of the arrest. It is important to know that you can be charged with DUI even when your BAC level is not above the legal limit if the arresting officer believes your ability to drive was significantly affected by the alcohol or the use of drugs.
There are a variety of factors that will determine the penalties in the event of a DUI conviction. As an example, if your BAC was under 0.15 percent, you could have your driver’s license suspended for 90 days, you could spend from one to 364 days in jail, and your fines could range from $940 to $5,000. If your BAC was 0.15 percent or higher, OR you refused a blood alcohol test, and you are convicted, the penalties could include a driver’s license suspension for one year for BAC, or two years for refusal of a blood alcohol test. You could spend from two to 364 days in jail and be assessed fines from $1,195 to $5,000. If you have more than one DUI conviction within the prior seven years, you could face increased penalties.
If your driver's license is suspended, but you want to continue to drive, you may apply for an ignition interlock driver's license. However, you will be required to submit a Restricted Driver License Application, have an ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle by a certified installer, provide proof of SR22 financial responsibility, and pay a $100 application fee. The driver must pay all costs related to installation, maintenance, and leasing fees. Once the period for your license suspension is up and all court requirements have been completed, you can then apply for a reinstatement of your license. Reinstatement requirements may include successful completion of drug and alcohol treatment, drug and alcohol education, and submission of application and fees.
Getting Help from a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney
It is extremely important that you seek the assistance of a highly experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with a Seattle DUI. The penalties you face for a DUI conviction can potentially derail your present life as well as your future, so do not try to face DUI charges on your own.