Washington may see steeper penalties for those who are convicted of multiple DUIs. Currently, in order to be convicted of a felony DUI, a driver must have been convicted four or more times prior within a certain set period of time. Only then does a DUI become a class C felony, punishable by up to 5 years in state prison and up to $10,000 in fines. While the current laws present an opportunity for multiple offenses before a defendant is confronted with felony charges, a bill proposed in the Senate seeks to limit the number of convictions a driver can have on their record before facing felony charges.
New DUI Legislation
The bill in the Senate proposes making that fourth DUI conviction a felony conviction, meaning that repeat DUI offenders have 3 misdemeanors before facing felony charges. Although this bill has been unanimously approved by the Senate several times, it has been shot down due to budget restrictions. A possible reason is that overcrowded prisons cannot afford to have more inmates coming in due to higher penalties, and the cost of moving inmates around could potentially cost Washington taxpayers up to $9 million over the course of 5 years. The proposed law is having a tough time breaking through the state budget.
Another bill is making its way through the House, that approaches the DUI issue a bit differently. Instead of reducing the number of chances an offender has before facing a felony, the bill seeks to strengthen the felony punishment for DUI, upping its status to a class B felony. Class B felonies are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and up to $20,000 in fines. This bill from the House would only cost about $160,000 to the tax payers over 5 years. The House has another bill in the works that proposes a reduction in the time period before a person's license is suspended from 60 days to 30 days, while simultaneously putting into works a 24/7 Sobriety Program for repeat offenders. Sobriety programs will allow the opportunity for rehabilitation instead of incarceration. This would cost taxpayers roughly $390,000 up front.
Oddly enough, the House's second bill is currently awaiting approval from the Senate. Across the state, many families that have been impacted by DUI incidents are advocating for the passing of any of these bills. Whatever bill goes through will have a serious impact on people charged with DUI. These bills are meant to deter any potential DUI offenders through harsher penalties.
Convictions, especially DUI convictions, can leave a permanent poor mark on a person's life. The easiest way to avoid a DUI conviction is to call a cab or alternate transportation, but if circumstances don't allow for this, and you end up facing DUI charges, you will need an attorney who knows how to fight off DUI charges.
If you or a loved one is facing criminal DUI charges, contact criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi today.