DUI Sentencing in Washington State

When someone is charged with a DUI, one of the most common questions a person has is “what kind of sentence am I looking at?” A person may be familiar that a gross misdemeanor DUI carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. However, DUI’s are unique from most gross misdemeanor crimes in Washington because there are laws that set mandatory minimum sentences.  A mandatory minimum sets the floor (the minimum)  that a judge by law cannot go lower on–that’s what makes it mandatory. The mandatory minimums are guided by several major factors: breath (or blood) result, whether a person has a prior DUI offense within the last 7 years, and whether there is a presence of aggravators that “enhance,” or increase the sentencing.

What is a “DUI Prior?”

Before discussing what sentencing looks like on these cases, it’s important to note that a DUI prior can include a lot of different types of previous convictions–a DUI conviction, a DUI that was pleaded to reckless driving, a DUI that was pleaded to negligent driving first degree, and a DUI that was on a deferred prosecution are all considered DUI priors for sentencing purposes, no matter if those cases involved the same substance or not.

First Offense – No Priors

For someone with no prior DUI’s within the last seven years, a person is facing one or two days in jail. If a person is convicted of a drug-induced DUI, marijuana-related DUI, or an alcohol-related DUI with a breath or blood result below .15, then the person is looking at 1 day of jail minimum.

If a person blew at or over .15 (nearly double the legal limit) or if the person refused the breath test, then the mandatory sentencing doubles to 2 days in jail.

There is an ability to convert the jail to electronic home monitoring, or house arrest. During house arrest, a person can continue work, can go to doctor’s appointments, and can go to treatment, but other than that, they have to stay at home. The person is given an ankle monitor that includes GPS geolocation.

One prior within 7 years

Sentencing increases substantially when we’re talking about a person with a DUI prior. If a person has a drug DUI, marijuana DUI, or a DUI under .15, then mandatory minimums are 30 days of jail followed by 60 days Electronic Home Monitoring.

If a person gets a DUI at or above .15 or refuses the breath test, then mandatory minimums are 45 days of jail, followed by 90 days electronic home monitoring.

2 priors within 7 years

Sentencing nearly triples from there: if   a drug DUI, marijuana DUI, or a DUI under .15, then mandatory minimums are then 90 days in jail followed by 120 days electronic home monitoring.

If a person has a DUI at or above .15 or refuses the breath test, then mandatory minimums are 120 days in jail, followed by 150 days electronic home monitoring.

3 priors within 10 years

A person with 3 priors within 10 years are facing a felony conviction.  As a Felony DUI, a person is subject to felony sentencing ranges that depend on history of both criminal traffic convictions as well as any felony convictions. A person with a Felony DUI could be facing at minimum 3-9 months in jail, all the way to 63-84 months.


There are certain facts that will increase a person’s minimum sentence. If a person drove with a passenger under 16 years old, that will increase a person’s mandatory sentence. For a person with no priors, 24 hours are added to the mandatory minimums. For a person with 1 prior, 5 days are added to the mandatory minimums. For 2 priors, 10 days of jail are added to the mandatory minimums.

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Physical control charge dismissed

Adam was charged with marijuana-DUI, after client was found “passed out” in his car, with the vehicle in drive, and upon contact, was groggy, disoriented, and slow responding to officer commands, all of which the police thought showed impairment. The police also smelled burnt marijuana and claimed they saw Adam had a green tongue.

The police went and got a warrant for Adam’s blood. We were convinced there would be no marijuana in his system, and that he was just sleeping in the car.

We waited patiently for the blood test results to come back, and when they did, they showed Adam had nothing illegal in his system. We persuaded the prosecutors they didn’t have a case, and they dismissed the charges.

My attorney took on my case on short notice. I was facing plenty of jail time for a DUI probation violation caused by a second DUI. He was able to get me off with serving no time in custody. Not only did he get my case resolved with something that I was happy with, but he also cares about my situation. He’s a great attorney, I would highly recommend him.”

Patrick (DUI Client)