Whatcom County DUI Questions Answers


Following an arrest for DUI in Washington State you probably have many questions. Will you go to Jail? Will you lose your driver's license? Will you need an ignition interlock device? Will you need SR 22 insurance? Will you need an alcohol evaluation? Will you need a lawyer? How much do DUI attorneys charge? All of the questions are valid and they are all answered on this page. This DUI question and answer page will continually evolve as new laws are enacted or as we see Judges, Prosecutors and Probation departments change their practices. As always, a detailed discussion with a local criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.


Criminal Court DUI Questions

You must immediately confirm your court date and time. Missing court will result in a bench warrant for your arrest. Arrive to court early and well dressed. Enter a plea of Not Guilty. In Whatcom County, Island County and Skagit County, you will likely appear in court within days of your arrest - same is true in Cities such as Bellingham, Everett and Lynnwood. You must be completely prepared for court.

DOL Driver License DUI Questions

Your driver's license is at risk immediately following an arrest for DUI. However, the DOL will not suspend a license for 30 days - longer if a hearing has been requested. But, you only have 7 days to submit the DOL Driver's Hearing Request form. If you do not have the document please check out our license page or give us a call and we will send one to you.

DUI Penalties Washington State Questions

The reality is, DUI penalties are harsh. If you have a prior DUI and are convicted of a second, you will receive weeks of jail, not days. Further, your license is in jeopardy and could be suspended for years. Finally, if you have had an ignition interlock device in a prior DUI, you will now need one for at least 5 years. Penalties are serious, so get serious about defending yourself. Please give us a call.

Ignition Interlock Whatcom County Questions

If you have a prior arrest for DUI (regardless of the outcome), the Court will order the installation of an ignition interlock device. Further, you must install the device within 5 days of your court appearance - so please be prepared.  In lieu of the IID you have an option of having an ankle bracelet placed on your ankle (TAD bracelet). This not a good option as it is about $500 per month.

Skagit County Probation Questions

If you have a prior arrest for DUI or if your case is particularly egregious you may be placed on "pretrial" probation. If this is the case you will need to report to probation immediately following your court date and every month until your case has concluded. Also plan on random UAs and an added cost of $150. Pretrial probation is probable, if you have a prior arrest for DUI in Whatcom County and Skagit County.

Whatcom County Bail Bond Questions

Bail is a device the court has to ensure defendant's reappear for future court dates. Bail is common in Whatcom County DUI cases after the defendant has been placed in County Jail and in Snohomish County if the defendant has a prior DUI arrest. If Bail was not ordered after the arrest, it is not uncommon for a prosecutor to request Bail at the first court appearance.


Q.  Will I go to Jail?

A.  It is impossible to tell at the beginning of the case whether an individual will go to Jail or not, following a DUI charge. The objective of the attorney is to have the client avoid Jail. If Jail cannot be avoided, another option maybe to request the court convert the Jail to electronic home monitoring. In Whatcom County the prosecutors and Judges are open to giving credit for one-day jail if you served more than 12 hours of jail after being booked for DUI.  In the City of Bellingham and Blaine, they have a service called "Friendship Diversion Services," which permits jail to be served 1:1 with an ankle bracelet (home detention).  In Skagit County, jail (if two days or less) can be served on the one-day offender program (a dormitory, not a jail).

Q.  Will I lose my driver's license?

A.  Some questions are difficult to answer at the beginning of a case; this is one of those questions. If the BAC is more than 0.08, or the driver allegedly refused the BAC, then the individual must win the DOL hearing and, not be convicted of DUI or Reckless Driving to completely avoid any license suspension. Possible, yes? Difficult, yes? However, if the driver did not refuse the BAC then the driver can save his/her license from suspension if he/she enters into the Deferred Prosecution and successfully completes it.

Q.  How can I drive if I lose my license?

A.  Most of us need a driver's license to get to work or taxi the family around. Should you lose your license you do an option, an ignition interlock license. This will allow you to drive anywhere, anytime.


Q.  I did not give a breath test sample and I really believe I am innocent. What should I do?

A.  This may not be the answer you are looking for but, if you truly believe you are innocent and you are not willing to enter into a compromised offer from the prosecutor, then trial remains your final option. Be sure and talk this through with your attorney because while trial may be an option, it is not always a great option.

Q: If your Deferred Prosecution is revoked, is it possible to get Electronic Home Monitoring (EHM) or work release instead of incarceration?
A:  Work Release is always a possibility in lieu of Jail - assuming you are employed, your jurisdiction permits it, and you have no prior violent criminal convictions. It is important to speak with your attorney who will undoubtedly understand the local rules regarding qualifying for work release.

Q: Why does a prior DUI from more than 7 years ago affect a current DUI?
A:  Technically a prior DUI more than 7 years ago should not affect a new charge - however - it does. Prosecutors believe there is a pattern (which is a real stretch) and Judges think you didn't learn from the prior experience. The Legislature now believes you should be punished at your first court date and makes it mandatory to install an ignition interlock. As with every case, should you be confronted with a new DUI arrest and have a prior DUI arrest, you need to consult with an attorney immediately as the punishment may begin at your first court appearance while you still are presumed “innocent.”

Q: If I am charged with Driving Under the Influence of Ambien (drugs) how can that be defended?
A:  In the DUI context Ambien is a horrible drug. Many studies have confirmed that those who have taken Ambien has little or no recollection of events that occurred after the ingestion of the drug.  In court, as always it comes down to evidence, whether the blood draw was done properly, the amount of Ambien in your system, performance of SFSTs, and whether there was a DRE. Consult with a DUI lawyer who understands how to defend drug DUIs.  Learn more from the Drug DUI Handbook.

Q:Can I leave the State or Travel for extended periods if I have two DUI convictions?
A:  The Interstate Compact governs this law and ultimately, the Probation Department approves whether you can leave or not - which would probably demand you transfer probation to another State. If the probation department requires you to establish probation in another state, you may need to retain an attorney in the State you plan on moving to and get their permission to be placed on probation there.

Q: Can my Court decide which treatment agency I must obtain an alcohol evaluation and where I must attend treatment?
A: Simple answer is no - the Courts cannot chose which specific agency. However, they will demand that the agency be certified in the State of Washington. Importantly though, if the Court does not agree with the agency's findings, they can demand another evaluation (but they cannot tell you which agency to use). 

Q: Do I still have a chance of delaying my license suspension, if I did not submit the DOL driver’s hearing request form within the 7 days following my arrest?
A:  The DOL is tough to deal with at the best of times. Absent a reasonable defense (i.e. you were never provided with the appeal form from the officer or DOL), if you do not request a hearing within 7 days and the DOL received paperwork from the reporting officer, you have almost no chance at keeping your license. UNLESS, you have decided on proceeding with deferred prosecution (and did not refuse the breath or blood test).  In such cases your lawyer will submit an “Intent to Seek Deferred Prosecution” to the DOL – which will postpone your license suspension until the deferred prosecution is entered into the court.  This is one way of saving your driver’s license.

Q: I am employed as a CDL driver and I was arrested for DUI.  If I am convicted can I still drive a commercial motor vehicle?
A:  You will lose your CDL for one year (or a lifetime if you have a prior CDL suspension) if you lose the DOL hearing or are convicted of the DUI. Even a deferred prosecution will not save your CDL.  The DOL is very tough on CDLs.

Q: I got a DUI in Washington but am moving to Hawaii. Can I take my alcohol evaluation and classes there?
A:  Unfortunately, you must obtain an alcohol evaluation from a Certified treatment center in Washington State (the ADIS class must also be done in Washington).  You may have some flexibility with some courts and probation departments but the DOL demands you obtain both the evaluation and alcohol class in Washington to reinstate your driving privilege.

Q:  What do police officers look for when trying to find DUI drivers?
A:  NHTSA provides the following list of clues that indicate what law enforcement officers are looking for when trying to establish whether the driver being observed is impaired – and likewise, if there is enough evidence to stop and contact the driver. The higher the clue is on the list, the higher the probability of impairment, according to the National Highway Traffic Administration:

  • Turning with a wide radius
  • Straddling center of lane marker
  • "Appearing to be drunk"
  • Almost striking object or vehicle
  • Weaving
  • Driving on other than designated highway
  • Swerving
  • Speed more than 10 mph below limit
  • Stopping without reason in traffic lane
  • Following too closely
  • Drifting
  • Tires on center or lane marker
  • Braking erratically
  • Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
  • Signaling inconsistent with driving actions
  • Slow response to traffic signals
  • Stopping inappropriately
  • Turning abruptly or illegally
  • Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
  • Driving with headlights off

Surprisingly, speeding is not a clue of insobriety. This is because studies show that a person who speeds often exhibits signs of heightened awareness in the form of quicker judgment and reflexes.

Q: If I’m stopped by a law enforcement officer, should I answer any questions regarding drinking?
A:  Drivers – and citizens in general - are not required to answer questions that are designed to be incriminating. In an encounter with a police officer at roadside, a simple request to speak to your attorney before answering questions, would be an acceptable response. However, it is very important to say little, ask for an attorney but be very polite!

Q:  What signs of impairment do police officers look for after stopping a driver?
A:  According to our friends at the National Highway Traffic Administration (NTSA), the most common symptoms of impairment taught at police training classes are:

  • Flushed face
  • Red, watery, glassy or bloodshot eyes
  • Odor of alcohol on breath
  • Slurred Speech
  • Fumbling with wallet while trying to get license
  • Failure to comprehend officer’s questions
  • Unsteady of feet while exiting vehicle
  • Swaying while standing
  • Leaning on car for support
  • Being combative, argumentative or jovial while talking with officer
  • Disheveled clothing
  • Lack of awareness in regards to time and place
  • Unable to follow police instructions.

Q: Should I do the field sobriety tests if the officer asks me?
A:  In a word, no!  Actually, let me emphasize that, NO!  Field sobriety tests are voluntary and only designed to develop a criminal case against the driver.  Be polite but "respectfully decline" all tests on the roadside.

For more information to possible questions, please search our blog that has hundreds of blog posts and answers many common and not-so-common Washington State DUI questions.  Of course, if you have a question that you cannot find an answer to, please call our office today for a free consultation.