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DUI and DWI Laws in WA State You’ll Want to Know About

a few police cars with their lights on possibly enforcing dui and dwi laws in wa state

Driving after drinking or taking drugs is reckless and puts the lives of everyone in the area in danger. Getting behind the wheel can lead to falling asleep on the road, losing control, and a lack of attention which can all cause serious accidents. If you are caught driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Washington state, you will face serious consequences.

Drunk or high driving may signify that you or a loved one needs help. Addiction can lead to poor choices that have severe negative consequences. At Northpoint Seattle, our team of recovery experts and medical professionals specialize in teaching the skills to succeed in sobriety. The evidence-based therapies we use are entirely personalized to meet the needs of your alcohol addiction treatment plan. Get started today by calling 888.483.6031.

The Difference Between DWI vs. DUI in Washington State




Washington does not distinguish between driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI). While both of these terms carry different meanings, the penalties and charges in Washington are classified as DUI charges.

To be charged with a DUI, Washington state law requires proof that:

  • The driver was operating a vehicle; and
  • The driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or
  • The driver had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher; or
  • The driver had a blood THC (a marijuana compound) of 5.00 or higher.

Washington State BAC Limits




In Washington, there are different levels of BAC that police evaluate for different classes of vehicles and ages.  The following table represents the BAC thresholds  for each:

  • Non-commercial vehicle drivers – 0.08% or lower
  • Commercial drivers – 0.04% or lower
  • Anyone under 21  – 0.02% or lower

DUI penalties remain largely the same, regardless of the class of vehicle someone is driving on the road. There may be other penalties for operating airplanes or boats as well. It’s important to note that police officers can also measure the levels of marijuana compounds. 

Driving High in Washington




With the legalization of marijuana in Washington, it’s important to know that driving under the influence of marijuana is still illegal. According to a Washington State Patrol study, there was an increase in the number of drivers involved in fatal accidents who tested positive for THC.

The number of arrests for people driving under the influence of marijuana also went up in 2017. You may be subject to a DUI arrest if you drive while high.

Sobriety Checkpoints in Washington




In Washington, sobriety checkpoints are no longer used. Instead, police officers often add extra support to patrols in areas prone to people driving under the influence. During these patrols, officers look for signs of intoxication. These signs may include:

  • Weaving in and out of lanes
  • Driving at night without headlights
  • Making wide turns
  • Speeding
  • Nearly hitting another car or object

In addition to visual cues, police officers also look for the smell of alcohol or drugs coming from the car. If they believe you are impaired, they will pull you over and ask you to take a field sobriety test.

Washington DUI and DWI Penalties




Penalties for a Washington DUI vary depending on offenses and people harmed. The following are just some of the penalties that may stem from a DUI in Washington, in addition to fines:

License Suspension

The length of the license suspension will depend on the number of offenses. A first offense will result in a 90-day license suspension. A second offense will result in a two-year license suspension, and a third offense will result in a three-year license suspension.

Ignition Device

An ignition interlock device is a machine that tests your BAC before allowing your car to start. The device is installed in your vehicle at your own expense, and you will be required to use it for a minimum of one year.

Mandatory Addiction Treatment

You may be required to complete an alcohol or drug abuse evaluation and, if recommended, a treatment program.

Jail Time

Depending on the severity of your offense, you may spend anywhere from two days to one year in jail.

Court-Ordered Addiction Treatment in Washington State




Even if you are not required to complete an addiction treatment program by the court, it may be in your best interest to do so. Addiction treatment can help you address any underlying issues that may have contributed to your DUI offense.

At Northpoint Seattle, we offer a variety of addiction treatment programs designed to meet your unique needs. We understand that addiction is a complex disease, and we will work with you to create a treatment plan that meets your individual needs.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, we can help. Contact us today by calling 888.483.6031 to learn more about our addiction treatment programs.

Full Infographic:

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