Tougher DUI statutes and penalties are on the horizon in Washington State, if proponents of pending bills have their way.
Legislature in Washington passed a bill last week that would raise penalties for DUI convictions at the felony-level, per King 5 News report. The news report explains that in Washington State, a person’s first four DUIs are gross misdemeanors. The fifth DUI conviction within 10 years is considered a Class C felony. A DUI is also a felony if someone has previously committed vehicular assault while intoxicated or vehicular homicide. A Class C felony, under current law, carries penalties of up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine.
House Bill 2280 would double current penalties by making a felony DUI conviction a Class B felony, carrying penalties of up to 10 years in prison and/or a $20,000 fine. This Bill passed the Senate with a unanimous vote and is now with Governor Inslee.
Stricter penalties aren’t the only shift in DUI law being proposed in Washington State. Proponents and sponsors of pending DUI bills assert that Washington State DUI laws are not tough enough. The Seattle Times describes the bills, being heard in a legislative session this week. Senate Bill 5105 takes on the existing Washington State law that repeat DUI convictions don’t become a felony until the fifth conviction in 10 years. This is more lax than other nearby states, and under this proposed bill, one could face prison time for their fourth conviction. According to The Seattle Times, this bill has struggled to get through the House previously, even after passing in the Senate, due to prosecution costs and concerns of already over-crowded prisons.