Most DUI charges in Washington State are not felonies, but rather gross misdemeanors. There are three general classifications of criminal charges under Washington State law: Simple Misdemeanor, Gross Misdemeanor and Felony. Gross misdemeanors, which covers most DUI’s, have a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Although there are different levels of felonies, a Felony DUI is a Class B crime under Washington law. This means if you’re convicted of a Felony DUI the maximum penalty is up to 10 years in prison and a $20,000 fine. These jail and financial penalties are in addition to license suspensions, probation, ignition interlock requirements and alcohol/drug treatment.
There are two ways a DUI arrest can be elevated from a misdemeanor to a felony. The first way a new DUI could be charged as a felony is if you have three or more prior offenses as defined by RCW 46.61.5055 within the prior ten years. A prior offense is a conviction for DUI or Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle under the Influence or a conviction for Reckless Driving, Reckless Endangerment or Negligent Driving First Degree that was amended down from a DUI or Physical Control charge. Essentially, your fourth DUI related arrest within 10 years could become a felony depending on the outcomes for the three earlier arrests.
The other way a current DUI arrest can lead to a Felony DUI charge is if you have ever in your lifetime had a prior conviction for an alcohol or drug related Vehicular Assault or Vehicular Homicide. There are a couple different types of Vehicular Assault and Vehicular Homicide charges, so having a conviction for one of these two charges will not necessarily lead to a new DUI being elevated to a felony. Prosecutors often assume an old vehicular assault or vehicular homicide conviction is a qualifying prior for elevating a new DUI to a felony. This is why is so important to consult with an experienced DUI attorney immediately.
If you or someone you care about is facing a DUI, then contact the attorneys at Cooney Law Offices today. Let their experience guide you to the best possible outcome. Cooney Law Offices. We can help!