Washington State DUI Penalties


Being arrested for DUI is an introduction to a world of complex law, demanding Judges, tough prosecuting attorneys, biased Department of Licensing hearing officers, and a multitude of conditions and expenses that seem to never end. Washington DUI Penalties and conditions may include jail, probation, fines, court dates, a department of licensing hearing, license suspension, ignition interlock device, SCRAM bracelet, SR 22 insurance, alcohol evaluation, alcohol awareness class or treatment, and a DUI victim’s panel, among many possible requirements. This is why most people feel overwhelmed after they face the sobering fact that they are in for a long and difficult journey. The truth is, most cases will ultimately improve from where they began. Prosecutors initially want penalties that are unreasonable, but this is why you need to educate yourself and hire the most qualified criminal defense attorney in the area.  Call us and find out how we can help you.


You Must Deal with Court and the DOL

If you have been arrested and have a BAC over 0.080, refused the breath or blood test, or had 5 nanograms of THC in your system you will have two separate and distance DUI procedures to be aware of.  The first is Court and the second is the Department of Licensing.  While it is true that the two cross pollinate, it is equally correct that you must deal with each separately.

Your first court date following a DUI arrest may occur within days of your release and at this first court appearance, conditions of your release will be imposed by the court. This is why it is imperative to contact an experienced DUI Defense attorney immediately. I receive many calls from individuals who believe appearing at their first court date unrepresented is a good idea. It isn't! There are too many reasons why this is a poor idea but a local DUI attorney who understands the local court system (and ways around problems), the local Judge and has a relationship with the prosecutors, can absolutely help you in court from the very beginning and limit your risk. Similarly, it is important you consult with a DUI lawyer as soon as you can after your arrest. There are very strict time restrictions that may affect your licensing and unless you are properly advised, you may lose your license before even knowing who to defend yourself. Please take advantage of our free consultations and give us a call.

Penalties and Conditions

  • You may be required to go to Jail, install an Ignition Interlock Device, or post Bail​​
  • You will be required to complete an alcohol evaluation, at least one alcohol drug class (ADIS) and a DUI Victim Panel
  • If convicted of any charge, you may be placed on lengthy and expensive probation


DUI Criminal Court Whatcom County

In most instances you will be required to appear in court the very next day after your arrest for driving under the influence or very soon thereafter. Do not take for granted the significance of your first court appearance. The Judge can impose very strict penalties at your arraignment, including having you taken into custody. Please speak to us before court. While the first court date is important, clearly, every court appearance has meaning.  You can expect on average three or four court dates in an average DUI case. 

Department of Licensing Washington State Whatcom County

Your license is in jeopardy. If you provided a breath test over 0.080 and this is your first DUI, your license will be suspended for 90 days.  If this is a refusal and a first DUI, you could lose your license for 2 years.  This is very serious! Importantly you only have 7 days to appeal the license suspension. The good news is that should you lose your license, you can still drive with an ignition interlock license. Finally, dealing with the Department of Licensing is a nightmare and you will need our help.

DUI Penalties Washington State Skagit County

Penalties for driving under the influence are extreme.  If convicted you will go to jail, you will pay high fines, you will be on probation (and in Whatcom County you will pay $3,300), you will need an ignition interlock device and you will lose your license.  Other penalties less spoken about include a mandatory evaluation and possible expensive alcohol treatment. Additionally, there are many non-quantifiable penalties such as the possible loss of employment and you will not be able to travel to Canada. Let us help you.

Ignition Interlock Device Washington State DUI Attorney

An ignition interlock device maybe ordered by the court (at the very first court date), ordered by the Department of Licensing after a criminal conviction or an option for the defendant, should he or she lose their license but wish to drive with an ignition interlock license. That being said, please heed my words: These devices are fraught with danger. You should seek counsel before you install one because any violations may result in more jail, more time with the ignition interlock device or additional license suspension.

DUI Probation Penalties Whatcom County

Defense attorneys love to hate probation. I say this because probation is extraordinarily expensive, time consuming and there is significant liability.  The issue is, probation in most courts will become a necessity.  In courts such as Whatcom County District Court, probation for a DUI will result in 5 years of total probation with the first 2 years supervised (meaning you meet with probation once a month). Probation is expensive ($3,300 in Whatcom County) and if necessary, should be avoided at all costs.

Deferred Prosecution Washington State

Deferred Prosecution for some, is a gift from the Gods.  The program will dismiss your entire DUI (and any other criminal charge that came with the DUI), result in zero Jail, no fines and no license suspension (if you did not refuse the breath of blood test).  Further, if you need and want alcohol or drug treatment, you get that too.  The hitch? You must successfully complete a very thorough and intensive 2-year alcohol treatment program. Before considering this program, please speak with us first.




The importance of the alcohol drug evaluation during the DUI process cannot be over emphasized. Completing an evaluation early may even help resolve your DUI more favorably.  Do not forget that the evaluation is mandatory and further, going to the right treatment center critical.




The Alcohol Drug Information School (ADIS) is the very minimum you will be required to complete following the evaluation. The ADIS class is 8-hours in length and usually done on a Saturday. In Whatcom County and Skagit County these classes are offered one time per month.




The DUI Victim Impact Panel is 2-hours in length and required by all courts as a condition of sentencing. Participants listen to presentations by those who have been impacted by driving under the influence. All Counties and private companies offer this program at least once a month and private companies



Our primary goal is getting the very best outcome for every one of our clients. We understand the stress of a driving while under the influence charge and the anxiety that comes with the potential outcome of a DUI case. We offer initial free consultations for everyone. We also offer competitive attorney fees, payment plans and low retainers. Most of all we promise that we will do everything necessary to fight hard for you at the DOL level and in Court. With more than 23 years of experience in Washington State, I understand how to defend DUI cases and take care of clients. Please give us a call to see how we can help you.

DUI Attorney David N. Jolly

DUI Attorney David N. Jolly


Criminal penalties for a Washington State DUI depends on a BAC reading (or refusal to provide a breath sample) and whether you have any prior DUI convictions within a seven year period.  The mandatory minimum penalties for DUIs are prescribed by the State Legislature and prohibit judges from going lower than the predetermined penalties.

Regardless of the mandatory minimum penalties you should not assume that the judge will necessarily sentence you to these minimum penalties.  A judge always has the discretion to impose up to the maximum penalty permitted by law.  You may be sentenced to more than the mandatory minimums if there are factors in your case that would warrant a judge to impose a greater penalty. These factors include, but are not limited to, having passengers in the car (it is worse if the passengers are minors), if you have prior DUIs but they occurred more than seven years ago, if there was an accident, if you were highly belligerent to the police officer, and so on. Importantly, if you were incarcerated after you were arrested for the DUI you may be given credit for time served, assuming you served more than 24 hours in jail. 


Electronic home monitoring (EHM) is "electronic jail" that is served in your home and is imposed at the discretion of the Judge if you are convicted of DUI.  If EHM is granted by the judge, you must still "qualify" for it by means of an application through the jail where it is ordered to be served. Generally, the jail administrators screen out persons they feel pose "problems" or "risks." The availability of EHM as an alternative to jail is dependent on jurisdiction, so it’s important that your attorney be familiar with the court and the prosecuting attorney and their practice when it comes to EHM.  If EHM is not permitted as an alternative to jail as an option for the court there may be another way to petition the court to grant EHM.  A judge may grant EHM as an alternative to jail if the defendant has a medical needs that make jail time impractical (for the defendant and jail staff) or medically harmful.  In Washington State EHM is mandatory in addition to jail time when the DUI is the second or third in a seven year period.


The Friendship Diversion Program (often simply referred to as FDS) is a wonderful program that offers defendants the opportunity to serve their jail at home rather than in jail.  Better yet, unlike other programs (for example, Home Detention) the courts will permit a 1:1 conversion - so one day of jail equals one day of FDS.  The rules are fair too, namely, the defendant can go to work and important appointments (for example, treatment or doctor). Unfortunately not every court offers this option.  In Snohomish, Island, Skagit and Whatcom Counties only the City of Bellingham and the City of Blaine offers the FDS program, with hopes that other cities and counties follow suit. Importantly, do not assume you will automatically receive FDS as an alternative to Jail. To assume it is that simple would be incorrect. You will need an attorney to negotiate this outcome for you. You must also be pre-screened to qualify.  There is also a cost for the program, and the present cost for FDS is about $15 per day (with a set up fee of $50).


Work release is an alternative to jail that permits you to work during the day and then return to jail in the evening.  You must get permission from the judge and then must be approved by the local corrections facility (or probation department) to participate in the work release program.  You will be charged by the day for this privilege.  The catch is that typically you must be sentenced to at least 10 days in jail (15 days in jail in some jurisdictions) before you become eligible to apply for work release.  This may not be an option in some courts so discuss this option with your attorney prior to sentencing.

Another important aspect of work release is that every jurisdiction deals with this program differently. In Skagit County you meet with their Corrections Department (usually the same day) to qualify. In Whatcom County you are referred to their Alternatives program at a different location in Bellingham for screening.  Snohomish County - whose Government has made too many poor decisions to mention during the past several years - discontinued the program several years ago.


Work crew is an alternative sentencing program that is designed to reduce jail overcrowding by providing minimum risk offenders a work option to meet court obligations. If the jurisdiction in which you are charged permits work crew, you must first qualify and be referred to the work crew program from the court.  To qualify for the program you will be screened first to ensure that you qualify.  Once you qualify you will be assigned work and your work will be monitored to ensure that you complete all of the assigned tasks. 

It is important to know the jurisdiction where your DUI occurred as some offer work crew in lieu of jail while others do not.  Be advised though that work crew does not replace mandatory jail and can be used when the DUI is amended to a lesser offense where jail is not mandatory. The Jurisdiction that utilizes this program most is Whatcom County. In such instances the defendant is referred to the Alternatives Program and this facility organizations and schedules Work Crew for the individual.  


The “Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor system,” or more commonly known as SCRAM, is a water and tamper-resistant Bracelet that collects, stores and transmits measurements of an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC).  The SCRAM device is made by a company named AMS, was developed in 1991, first introduced in 2003, and now is used in more than forty states.

The device is considered a transdermal alcohol sensor and measures alcohol that is lost through the skin from sweat.  The device utilizes three technologies that work simultaneously, yet separately, namely the transdermal Alcohol Content (TAC) for alcohol detection, as mentioned, thermometer for determination of body temperature of the subject, and infrared signal system for detection of distance from the skin to the SCRAM unit. The gadget, worn as an ankle Bracelet, "sniffs" every 30 minutes and transfers data via a wireless connection to a probation officer or other law-enforcement official.  The device can also detect tampering. This device is used frequently in courts where Judges impose conditions of release after an arraignment or preliminary hearing or by probation departments after sentencing. 


Bail is a process through which you are permitted to pay money in exchange for your release from police custody, usually after booking or sometimes after the arraignment if the Judge demands that you are taken into custody.  As a condition of release, you must promise to appear in court for all scheduled court dates - including arraignment, pre-trial hearings, readiness hearings, motions, and the trial itself.

If you are not allowed to post bail at the police station immediately after booking, a judge may decide later, at a separate hearing or the arraignment, whether to allow release on bail. The bail amount may be predetermined, through a "bail schedule," or the judge may set a monetary figure based on:

  • Your DUI record and criminal history; 
  • Seriousness of the DUI offense, in terms of injury to others;
  • Your ties to family, community, and employment.

If bail is imposed you or your friends and family may “post” the full bail amount as set by the court, or a "bond" may be posted in lieu of the full amount. A bond is a written guarantee that the full bail amount will be paid if you fail to appear as promised. Bonds are usually obtained through a bail bond agency that charges a fee for posting of the bond (usually about 10 percent of the bail amount). Bail bond agencies may also demand additional collateral before posting the bond, since the agency will be responsible for paying the full bail amount if the suspect "jumps bail" and fails to appear as promised.

If you are arrested, booked, and granted release on your own "personal recognizance," no bail money needs to be paid to the court, and no bond is posted.  You are then released after promising, in writing, to appear in court for all upcoming proceedings.  Most state criminal courts impose certain conditions on personal recognizance release, which include not driving unless you are properly licensed and insured, not consuming alcohol or illegal drugs, and not refusing a breath test if lawfully requested.  Additionally, there may be additional conditions such as attendance at AA meetings or getting an alcohol/drug evaluation within a prescribed time limit.

If you are released on your own "personal recognizance" and subsequently fail to appear in criminal court as scheduled, you will be subject to immediate arrest. 


A consequence of a criminal conviction, for DUI or some other crime is probation. The purpose of probation is to monitor the individual to ensure compliance of the sentencing conditions, such as completion of an alcohol evaluation, alcohol treatment, payment of fines, and maintaining lawful conduct.

If you fail to comply with the conditions imposed at sentencing the court may summons you to appear to explain your failure to comply. There are some instances when the failure to comply is relatively minimal and can be corrected prior to your court appearance.  In other instances the failure to comply may be severe (i.e. new DUI arrest) and the punishment that results may be harsh (i.e. 30 days or more of jail).

Probation can be supervised or unsupervised, with the former demanding monthly meetings with a probation officer. The way to avoid lengthy supervised probation is to have the alcohol/drug evaluation and the alcohol drug information school or treatment completed prior to sentencing. This leaves probation very little to supervise.

Costs of "active (also known as supervised) probation" can be costly. The costs of active/supervised DUI probation in Skagit County is $1,200, Snohomish County $3,000 and Whatcom County, an eye watering and wallet emptying, $3,300.

Call our Washington State DUI office for immediate help.

Please explore the rest of our website for more details about the DUI process. Additionally, we encourage the download of our FREE DUI books. If you have been charged with DUI in Whatcom County, Skagit County, Snohomish County or Island County, please feel free to give our experienced DUI attorneys a call to further discuss your case.  We would love to represent you.