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DUI Frequently Asked Questions in Washington

Can a DUI be expunged in Washington?

In the State of Washington a driving under the influence charge cannot be expunged. According to RCW 9.96.060(2)(c) “An applicant may not have the record of conviction for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense vacated if any one of the following is present: (c) The offense was a violation of RCW 46.61.502 (driving while under the influence), 46.61.504 (actual physical control while under the influence), or 9.91.020 (operating a railroad, etc. while intoxicated)”. According to the law of Washington State it is expressly forbidden to have a driving under the influence charge expunged.

Do underage drivers face the same penalties for DUI?

Underage driving under the influence is treated differently in the state of Washington. The blood alcohol content to be considered intoxicated is much lower at .02% for an underage person. If a person under the age of 21 has a blood alcohol content at .02% or higher, they are not required to show that the alcohol impaired their driving, since the person illegally consumed alcohol. This is a “per se” offense, and automatically shows that the person was illegally intoxicated. Since the guidelines for underage drinking require much lower blood alcohol content, they are much stricter, since the law does not recognize the underage person’s right to purchase alcohol at all.

What are the DUI laws regarding commercial vehicles?

Driving a commercial vehicle in Washington has stricter penalties than driving a standard motor vehicle. If you are driving a commercial vehicle and have a blood alcohol content higher than .04% you are guilty of a driving under the influence charge. If you are found guilty, your license to drive a commercial vehicle will be suspended for a year. If you are driving hazardous materials that suspension is for three years. If you are convicted of committing the offense twice, you will lose your license to drive a commercial vehicle permanently. Aside from these stricter penalties, the driver of a commercial vehicle is still liable for any penalties they would occur under the general driving under the influence laws of Washington.

What is an ignition interlock device?

Ignition interlock devices are a device that can be installed to the ignition of a car that requires a valid breathalyzer test before the engine will start. The device will also require a valid breathalyzer test at random intervals while driving, and if it does not receive the valid test the device is programmed to honk the horn and flash the lights until it receives a valid test for blood alcohol content. The random intervals are to prevent having a third party verify the test to start the engine and then an intoxicated individual getting behind the wheel to drive.

In the State of Washington the ignition interlock devices are set to a blood alcohol content of .025%. The devices are required in the vehicles of all individuals who are convicted or have pled guilty to driving under the influence. This is meant to prevent repeat offenders from being able to drive under the influence again.

Can I receive a DUI for being on prescription drugs?

The Washington Driving under the Influence law covers “driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.” RCW 46.61.502.  Although alcohol is likely to be the most common, other drugs can have the same effect on a person’s driving, and can be dangerous on the roadways. The law does not make any exceptions for the drug that influences the person’s driving whether it is a prescription drug or an over the counter drug like alcohol.

Washington employs drug recognition experts and technology to determine the drug that the person is taking and the influence that it has over their physical and mental responses in effect to driving. Driving under the influence is not limited to alcohol but also includes all drugs that may affect a person’s ability to drive safely on the roadways.

Can I be stopped and arrested for DUI even if the vehicle was not moving?

Under RCW 46.61.504 driving under the influence is defined as “being in control of a motor vehicle.” If a defendant is in control of a motor vehicle, then they are considered the operator of that motor vehicle, and can be found guilty for driving under the influence. The law presupposes that a person who is in control of a motor vehicle, and is intoxicated, is likely to drive that vehicle, and gives the police the right to arrest that person on the possibility of the person driving under the influence.

Do I have the right to talk to an attorney before I give a sample?

In the state of Washington you have the right to an attorney before you agree to take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test. The police are required to inform you of this right, since the law considers a breathalyzer or blood test as evidence against yourself. Although you have the right to the attorney, many people who are visibly intoxicated who are informed of this right may not fully understand it given their current physical and mental conditions.

Do I have to give a blood or urine sample?

In the State of Washington you have a right to refuse a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test, but that refusal can be used against you in court if the Driving under the influence case goes to trial. Also if you do refuse, and the police are able to obtain enough other evidence for a warrant, you can be forced to give the test anyway. Since the refusal is evidentiary, and the ability to gain a warrant is possible by police, determining if it is in the best interest of the defendant to refuse the test is a difficult decision to make.

Do I have to submit to a field sobriety test in Washington?

The refusal of a field sobriety test is the same as the refusal for a breathalyzer or blood sample. The person may refuse to take the field sobriety test, but the evidence of that refusal may be used against them if the driving under the influence case goes to trial. The field sobriety test is not necessary for a conviction on driving under the influence, and evidence of intoxication can be shown by the blood or breathalyzer test. Although the defendant may not want to take the test, the evidence of not taking the test may reflect poorly on them later on.


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