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Ignition interlock devices: Will they become standard issue?

Although every state in the U.S. has some sort of ignition interlock device program in place for individuals convicted of drunk driving, Washington is often lauded as a leader in the use of IIDS. But such a reputation does not come cheap, and DUI defendants are often surprised at how expensive interlock ignition devices are once they pay for installation and maintenance.

Save for the costs, many DUI defendants find IIDs to be a reasonable condition of regaining driving privileges. They allow convicted offenders to maintain access to transportation while ensuring that they do not reoffend. Because these devices are so effective and combating drunk driving, some safety advocates have proposed an initially controversial idea that seems to be gaining support.

Washington felony DUI bill seems to have continued support

Within the past couple of months, we have written about a proposed drunk-driving bill under consideration by Washington state legislators. Sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, the bill would lower the threshold for felony DUI. Currently, drivers are charged with a felony if they have four previous convictions in the past 10 years. Padden's bill would make a fourth DUI a felony rather than a fifth.

Although many proposed pieces of legislation are defeated or abandoned in the early stages, this bill seems to be gaining strength. The fact that news outlets continue report on it likely means it has a significant amount of support.

Do tougher penalties reduce DUI recidivism rates? Part II

Earlier this week, we began a discussion about how the penalties for drunk driving might influence rates of recidivism (repeat offenses). A recently published study based on Washington state DUI data revealed that the penalties associated with per se DUI conviction (at or above 0.08 percent blood-alcohol concentration) and aggravated DUI conviction (at or above 0.15 percent BAC) were associated with decreases in recidivism.

But the decreases were 17 percent and 26 percent, respectively. Although these differences are relatively small, the study's author somehow concludes that even harsher penalties and a lower threshold for aggravated DUI would be even more effective.

Do tougher penalties reduce DUI recidivism rates? Part I

One of the most difficult questions related to drunk-driving laws is: Does punishment work? Lawmakers, police officers and prosecutors continue to push for harsher penalties, yet driving under the influence remains a pervasive problem.

According to a recent study based on Washington state DUI data, the penalties imposed at certain blood-alcohol concentrations do reduce rates of recidivism (repeat offenses). But the link may not be strong enough or clear enough to conclude that DUI penalties and sentencing guidelines should be changed.

Aggravating factors: High BAC and minor passenger in the vehicle

Last week, we discussed "aggravating factors" that can increase the consequences of a DUI conviction. While they can share similarities, it is worth noting that aggravated DUI is not the same thing as felony DUI.

In today's post, we'll discuss two aggravating factors and how they may influence sentencing here in Washington state. They include drunk driving with a minor in the vehicle and drunk driving with a high blood-alcohol concentration, which is defined as a BAC at or above 0.15 percent.

DUI charges are possible even if no one saw you driving

In January, we wrote about the concept of "actual physical control" as it relates to charges of driving under the influence. Washington and many other states have physical control laws allowing police to arrest someone for a DUI-related offense even if the officer never saw the suspect driving.

Under Washington's law, a person can be charged with physical control of a vehicle under the influence if they were intoxicated/impaired and discovered in the vehicle in a way that could indicate driving (before police arrived) or intentions to drive. The classic example is the individual who decided to "sleep it off" in his vehicle, but needed to have the car on in order to run the heat or the air conditioner.

What is 'aggravated DUI' and what are its consequences?

We have previously written about the guidelines for felony DUI charges in Washington state. Typically, you can be charged with felony DUI if you have four or more prior convictions for drunk driving within the past 10 years. You may also be charged with and convicted of felony DUI if your offense occurred after a previous conviction for vehicular homicide or vehicular assault.

In addition to previous convictions, there are also other circumstances under which drivers can face harsher sentences than normal. These circumstances are typically referred to as "aggravating factors."

Take the breathalyzer test or refuse it: Which should you choose?

One of the most common questions that criminal defense lawyers get asked is whether a DUI suspect should submit to a breathalyzer test. Even without knowing much about the law, most people understand that there will be consequences either way. But are the consequences of breath-test refusal milder than the consequences of a DUI conviction based on breath-test evidence?

As with most legal questions, the accurate answer is: It depends. Here in Washington state, prosecutors often work to secure a drunk driving conviction based on a multitude of evidence. In the end, only you can decide whether refusing the breathalyzer is advantageous, and that decision will likely be influenced by the totality of the circumstances.

DUI charges: You may have more legal options than you realize

We often discuss the nuances and many gray areas that can impact how drunk driving charges are filed and whether or not they can be successfully defended. In a DUI case, the details matter. Law enforcement officers are bound by strict protocols, including those designed to ensure that suspects are not subjected to unreasonable search and seizure.

That being said, there are some DUI cases of the "open-and-shut" variety, usually because the suspect made a foolish error or happened upon unfortunate circumstances. Although it didn't happen here in Washington state, a recent incident illustrates this point.

Marijuana blood tests and the use of electronic warrant systems

With recreational marijuana now legal in Washington state, it likely comes as no surprise that law enforcement agencies are reporting an increase in "drugged driving" cases. That is, incidents of driving under the influence allegedly involving marijuana.

It's unclear whether marijuana-impaired driving is actually on the rise or if it's just being more accurately tracked. One thing is clear, however: There is not yet a viable piece of technology to quickly and non-invasively measure the amount of THC in a driver's system. There is essentially no equivalent to the alcohol breathalyzer that law enforcement officers use "in the field."

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