Understanding DUI Penalties In Washington

A DUI is no small matter, and if you have been accused of driving under the influence, then you need to understand the laws of your state. Here are some of the laws and rules in Washington that will affect your case going forward:

Multiple Offense Penalties

The first thing that you need to understand is that the penalties will increase substantially if you were convicted of a DUI in the past. Your second offense will be punished much more harshly than your first offense and your third offense will be punished even more harshly than your second offense.

However, there is also a limit on how far back the state will look when it comes to considering other offenses. In Washington, that limit is seven years.

In other words, if you received a DUI 10 years ago and are accused of a DUI today, then this will only be judged as a first offense as far as penalties are concerned. However, if you were to get another DUI in 2 years, then that would be considered your second offense.

Jail Time

Jail time is often one of the biggest concerns when it comes to DUIs, and for pretty good reason. In Washington, you can go to jail for up to a year, regardless of whether it's your first or third offense.

The main difference between offenses is the minimum sentencing time. If it's your first offense, then the judge has the ability to send you to jail for as little as a single day. However, if it's your third offense, then the judge has to send you to jail for a minimum of 90 days. Even if you present a very compelling argument and win the sympathy of the court, you will be spending 3 months in prison if you are convicted of your third DUI.


Washington has some very specific ranges when it comes to fines, with clearly-defined minimums and maximums for each offenses. For your first offense, you will be fined between $862.50 and $5000; for your second offense, between $1120.50 and $5000; and for your third offense, between $1970.50 and $5000.

This creates an interesting situation where you can get the absolute maximum financial penalty, even if its only your first offense. That being said, these maximums are somewhat lower than other states, so even a maximum penalty in Washington is less damaging than a maximum penalty in other states.

Similar Maximums

As you might have noticed, first, second, and third offenses all have pretty similar maximums when it comes to fines and jail time. This may seem like a situation where each of the offenses are punished equally, but that isn't really how it works out in reality.

What actually happens is that the judge has a great deal of discretion in each case to determine just how much punishment you should receive. If they feel that you might drink and drive again in the future, then they can punish you harshly, even if its your first offense.

At the other end of the spectrum, the judge can punish you relatively lightly even if its your third offense, perhaps in a situation where you present yourself as very sympathetic and repentant in court. Contact a criminal defense lawyer for more information.