Motivated by the tragic events involving DUI fatalities earlier this year, the Legislature is considering major changes to the State's DUI laws. These changes will likely go into effect later this year.
The most pronounced changes to the law will likely relate to increased jail terms for “repeat offenders” and increased use of ignition interlock devices. Presently, mandatory minimum jail terms for repeat offenders escalate from 30 to 120 days based on the number of prior convictions within a seven year period. A fifth DUI in 10 years is a felony offense with a standard range of 22-29 months. Under proposed changes, the mandatory minimum jail terms for repeat offenders will begin at 130 days and can go as high as 280 days based on the number of prior convictions within a seven year period. A fourth DUI in 10 years would be a felony offense with a standard range of 22-29 months. (Substitute House Bill #2030) The legislature intends to create a “24/7” program to allow persons to serve a portion of these jail sentences out of custody; but it remains to be seen what this program will look like, who will run it, and most importantly – how much it will cost.
It is also anticipated that the ignition interlock laws will change as well. For repeat offenders, the legislature wants to require immediate impoundment of the person's vehicle upon arrest, and require that the vehicle may not be released from impoundment until it is installed with an ignition interlock device. The legislature may also eliminate the employer vehicle exemption from the ignition interlock law; meaning persons who drive a vehicle owned by their employer may have to install the ignition interlock device in the employer's vehicle.
Right now, the legislature is considering several proposed law changes covering a wide range of issues. No one knows what the final legislation will look like. Our office is keeping apprised of this legislative undertaking, and we will post appropriate updates on our website as it becomes more clear how the new law changes will impact Washington drivers.