Washington takes drinking and driving seriously. In the short-term, a DUI conviction can lead to fines, jail time, and driver's license suspension. In the long-term, the conviction leaves a permanent mark on a person's criminal record and, for some, can even result in immigration consequences.
Despite the severity of the consequences that await Washingtonians convicted of DUI, the Washington Senate is considering a proposal that would up the consequences further. If the proposal becomes law, it will make it a felony for a person to drive under the influence if the driver has three prior DUI convictions within the past ten years. Under current law, a person needs four prior convictions within a ten-year span.
Whether the proposal will become law is unclear. Last year, a similar proposal failed to pass in the state Senate. Lawmakers declined to pass the previous proposal because it would have cost roughly $200 million. Why so much; because that is how much it would cost the state to build a new prison to house all of the Washingtonians that would go to jail under the proposal.
As the $200 million price tag suggests, incarceration is a very real threat for Washingtonians convicted of felony DUI. To combat that threat, Washingtonians should take full advantage of their rights, one of which is the right to an attorney.
An attorney can help in many ways. The most obvious is by probing the government's case for weaknesses. For example, the police may have failed to follow proper procedures. They may not have had probable cause to pull the car over. They may not have correctly administered field sobriety testing. Or they may not have properly conducted the breath test or blood draw. These and other mistakes can undermine or even overturn a DUI charge.
Source: The Columbian, "Washington Senate panel weighs DUI bill," Rachel La Corte, Jan. 20, 2014