Buzz is in the air about Washington State DUI laws being ineffective in reducing the number of repeat DUI offenders. This recent DUI law concern stems from the tragic DUI homicide that occurred last week in North Seattle, when Mark W. Mullan, who was driving drunk with a blood alcohol level 3 times the legal limit, hit and killed 2 grandparents and critically injured the daughter-in-law and her new baby. Mullan, a five time DUI repeat offender, revealed weaknesses within DUI multiple offender laws by ignoring court ordered installation of an ignition interlock device in his pickup truck and continued driving despite his license revocation. Lawmakers and citizens are demanding stricter repeat DUI offender laws and tighter monitoring of DUI penalty compliance, to continue to reduce the number of DUI related homicides and DUI related accidents.
Solutions that are currently being tossed around include; making a DUI a felony count on the third conviction rather than the fifth conviction, increasing the length of jail time for repeat DUI offenders, use of police sobriety check points for all drivers to be assessed for DUI, requiring a boot on a car until an ignition interlock device has been properly installed, and possible development in technology to equip vehicles to sense driver intoxication and disengage driving capabilities.
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It’s unfair but true you can be charged with a DUI in Seattle, in fact, everywhere in Washington State while having a DUI breath test result under the legal limit of .08. RCW 46.61.502 defines a driver as being guilty of DUI if the person drives a vehicle within this state “while under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor..” Affected by intoxicating liquor?! What does this mean?
It means the prosecutor can still charge you with a DUI. Every person reacts differently to alcohol and less amounts may “affect” a person’s ability to drive even while having a test result under the DUI limits. A person charged with a DUI with a breath test under the legal limit will be facing the same penalties of a person with a breath test ranging from .08 to .15 with all other factors being similar. As a result this type of case should be taken as seriously as a DUI case with a breath test above the legal limit.
Unless something extraordinary happened I don’t believe any driver should be charged with a DUI if that person blew under the legal limit. Especially when the state puts on TV ads about DUI/drunk driving and posts signs all over the road showing the legal limit of .08. It’s misleading.
I have represented several people charged with a DUI while blowing under the legal limit. Fortunately for those clients we were able to resolve all those cases very well.