Recently WalletHub released the findings of their study that looked at the DUI penalties in each state. The study compared the laws of all 50 states as well as Washington, D.C. to see which state had the nation's strictest laws.
The results of the study showed that Washington's laws were more strict than most. Washington state ranked near the top ten, at number 15. However, they were not the strictest laws in the country. The award for the country's strictest laws goes to Arizona. The other states that make up the top ten include: Georgia, Alaska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Connecticut, Utah, Delaware, and West Virginia. The study found that the state with the most lenient DUI laws was South Dakota. Other states with lenient laws included Idaho, North Dakota, and Ohio, as well as Washington, D.C.
According to WalletHub, “all but six states can automatically suspend the license of someone arrested for DUI, before any court involvement.” In addition, “88% of states require offenders to equip their vehicles with ignition interlock devices after a DUI.” A majority of states, 37 to be exact, also required that those convicted of a DUI go through mandatory alcohol abuse assessment or treatment. WalletHub also found that “DUI offenses stay on [offenders] criminal record[s] for at least six years in 84% of states, but they remain for life in 5 states.”
About half the states had no mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time conviction and of the states that did have a minimum, 2 days behind bars was the most common length of time in jail required. However, in three states –Arizona, Georgia, and Oklahoma –the minimum jail time for a first conviction is 10 days.
Even though Washington doesn't have the most severe laws, being charged with a DUI in the state is still nothing to take lightly. To learn more about the penalties that Washington imposes for DUI offenses, check out the DUI Sentencing Guidelines page.
New Felony DUI Law
Washington's ranking in the WalletHub study may change next year as the state recently strengthened its DUI laws for repeat offenders. According to US News, the state legislature passed a law in April of 2017 that allows a fourth DUI offense in ten years to be charged as a felony. In addition, “[u]nder the new law, offenders would be sent to prison for 13 to 17 months, rather than serve shorter sentences in county jails.” The fiscal notes for the bill stated that “nearly 192 cases would change from gross misdemeanors to felony DUI cases per year if the measure is signed into law.” Whether this is true remains to be seen, but Governor Inslee officially signed the bill at the end of July.