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DUIs & Breathalyzers: What Washington State Law Says

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Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense. Being pulled over for suspicion of DUI is just the first step in a long, difficult process that can eventually result in fines, a suspension of your license, and even jail time. Aside from this, you have the long-term effect of dealing with these marks on your criminal and driving records.

In the last few years, with the legalization of marijuana, Washington state has had to update DUI laws. If you’re not sure how the laws apply to you, and how the recent legalization of marijuana affects those laws, read on to learn more.

Know The Legal Limit

Every state sets it own limit for how much of a substance you can take in before you are considered legally impaired. In Washington, the blood alcohol level is .08% for a driver over 21 years of age, .04% if you are arrested while driving a commercial vehicle, and .02% if you are under 21. The state of Washington also recognizes a blood alcohol level of .15% as being a threshold for separating normal DUIs from more serious DUIs, which carries a harsher sentence. This can be measured through either a blood test, or a breathalyzer. For arrests concerning marijuana, a blood test is administered. A THC blood level of 5 nanograms per ml is considered legally under the influence.

Refusing a Breathalyzer or Blood Test

In the state of Washington, refusing to take a breath or blood test within two hours of being arrested can cause extra penalties with the court and at least a one year suspension of your driver’s license. Since Washington has what is known as an Implied Consent Law, anyone driving in Washington is assumed to have consented to breathalyzers or blood tests. This means that refusing to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test can (and often does) result in a harsher sentence for the offender.

Possible Consequences

A first-time offender with a blood alcohol level of .15% or lower can expect a 90 day suspension of the driver’s license, and 1 day of mandatory jail time. Having a blood alcohol level of over .15% is more serious, and for a first time offender a driver can expect a year’s license suspension and 2 days of jail time.

Two Separate Cases

It’s also important to note that in the state of Washington, a DUI conviction involves two separate cases against you — one in court, and one with the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL).  These cases are legally separate from each other, and a conviction or dismissal in one area does not affect a result in the other. This means that a DUI arrest can possibly end with permanent marks on both your driving record, as well as your criminal record.


A DUI conviction is a serious matter in the state of Washington, whether it’s alcohol in your system, or THC. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI and are seeking legal representation, please don’t hesitate to contact Elsner Law Firm, today –  we’re a law firm located in Mountlake Terrace, in Snohomish County, and we’re ready to help you with your case

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