Sentencing on a DUI charge

RCW 46.61.5055 lays out the mandatory minimum penalties for a DUI conviction. The mandatory minimum penalty is based on facts of the case, and the person’s DUI criminal history. The Washington Court’s DUI Sentencing Grid summarizes the law stated by RCW 46.61.5055, as well as other statutes (check it out to see how complex this stuff can get). “Mandatory minimum” means the judge must impose at least the mandatory sentence, no matter how sympathetic the person’s situation is. However, the judge is always free to impose more than the mandatory minimum penalty.

For a first offense DUI conviction, the absolute minimum penalty is one day in jail and a $350 base fine. The law requires one consecutive 24 hour period of jail. So if you are booked in jail but released short of 24 hours, you will probably have to reserve an entire 24 hours. In King County, the one day of jail can be served for free at the King County Jail. Some judges will allow the option to serve the jail at a nicer facility, such as the Issaquah or Kirkland jail, but it costs money (typically $100 to $150 a day). RCW 46.61.5055 allows 15 days of Electronic Home Monitoring to be served instead of the one day in jail. But Electronic Home Monitoring costs money, and generally requires approval from your employer. So most people opt to serve the one day in jail and get it over with.

If the person has prior DUI convictions, the sentence will likely be months, not days in jail. For sentences more than 5-10 days, the person may be eligible for a third off their sentence in good time. On my blog, I have written about of good time in jail. If eligible, one can avoid a lengthy jail sentence by completing the deferred prosecution program.

If it is a first offense, and the chemical dependency assessment and treatment is completed, most judges will not impose supervised probation. Instead, the court will impose a “record check” probation where the court periodically checks the person’s records to make sure they have not reoffended. If the chemical dependency assessment and treatment is not completed, the court may impose supervised probation, where you must meet periodically with a probation officer. Supervised probation costs money, in addition to being inconvenient. That is why ideally, the person will have completed all of the recommended treatment prior to the time of sentencing.

A DUI conviction will require a minimum of one year with an ignition interlock device (more if the person has prior DUI history). Essentially, it does not matter what the judge says or writes on the judgment and sentence. What matters is what is reported to the Department of Licensing, who then calculates the length of the ignition interlock requirement, per the relevant statutes. RCW 46.20.245 provides a 45 day buffer from the date of sentencing, to the date the ignition interlock requirement kicks in. But keep in mind, there may already be an ignition interlock requirement from the DOL hearing.

If the DUI offense is reduced to Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving First Degree, all of the above may still be imposed. However, unlike DUI, the judge is free to impose no jail, or jail alternatives (work crew or community service) for Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving First Degree. If it is a first offense that has been reduced, it is rare for the person to have to serve jail.

Regarding court fines, on a DUI or Physical Control conviction, the mandatory minimum fines and fees must be imposed unless the individual does not have a present or future ability to pay these fines. The fines can then be converted to community service or work crew.

Back to DUI defense overview.