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Understanding the DUI Sentencing Grid

The Washington State Courts' DUI Sentencing Grid details the mandatory minimum penalties for misdemeanor DUI convictions. The sentencing grid attempts to simplify the penalties found in RCW 46.61.5055. The grid is split into columns by number of prior offenses and in rows by breath or blood test results. The Washington State Courts update the grid every year or two as amendments to DUI laws are passed by the legislature. Recent versions of the grid can be found here.

The first step to determining the penalties for a misdemeanor DUI conviction is to find the correct column on the grid. The three columns are: "No prior DUI offenses," "One prior offense within 7 years" and "Two or More prior offenses within 7 years." There are specific convictions that count as a "prior DUI offense," but generally, this term refers to a prior DUI conviction or a conviction for Reckless Driving, Reckless Endangerment or Negligent Driving First Degree that originally began as a DUI charge.

Once the correct column or offense level is found the next step is to determine the correct row on the grid. The top row is for those who had a breath or blood test result below .149 for alcohol, when there was an impairing substance other than alcohol or when there is no test result at all. The bottom row is for those accused of refusing a breath test or whose breath or blood alcohol level is .150 or higher. There are heightened penalties for those convicted of DUI with the refusal or higher alcohol level.

While this sentencing grid explains the potential penalties one will face if convicted of a DUI, it is also important to be aware that the grid outlines mandatory minimum penalties. This means the judge may choose to impose penalties higher than those outlined on the grid. For more information about mandatory minimum penalties feel free to check our prior blog post.

If you or a loved one is facing a charge of DUI, it is important to seek advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you with the specifics of your case. An attorney can help explain and guide you through this difficult time and will work to obtain the best possible results for you or your loved one.

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