Anti-DUI work group proposes 11 changes to existing Washington State DUI laws

A 33-member group, created by the Washington State Legislature this year, called the Washington Impaired Driving Work Group recently proposed 11 specific ideas to reduce Washington State DUIs. This group made up of lawmakers, lawyers, police officers, state-agency officials, advocates, victims’ families, treatment providers, ignition-interlock manufacturers and experts delivered the 152-page report in early December and it was provided to the Seattle Times.

As a practicing DUI lawyer in Seattle I have been following this group quite closely since its inception. Not surprisingly the changes they proposed are pretty radically different than the current laws. And like the major changes that were proposed at the beginning of the 2013 Washington State legislative session, I just don’t see anyway a majority of these changes are made into law. But for the sake of this DUI blog here are the proposed changes. They are ordered in terms of ranking of importance. I have also included the percentage of the group members who strongly support the changes.

1. Increasing penalties for refusing to take a breath or blood test for the purpose of determining the alcohol concentration or presence of any drugs. 78.8% approval.

2. Increasing mandatory minimum penalties and fines for repeat offenders. 71.9% approval.

3. Lowering the minimum number of previous impaired driving convictions that must be counted before constituting and being punishable as a felony offense. 84.8% approval.

4. Creating sobriety checkpoints. 81.8% approval.

5. Increasing treatment and rehabilitation for repeat offenders. 84.8% approval.

6. Increasing the number of DUI courts and court related services. 78.8% approval.

7. Requiring mandatory arrests for a first offense for an impaired driving offense. 75.8% approval.

8. Improving prosecution and encouraging prosecutors to aggressively enforce impaired driving laws. 90.9% approval.

9. Creating state and local impaired driving enforcement task forces to increase visibility of enforcement. 93.9% approval.

10. Promoting and monitoring the use of mandatory ignition interlocks. 96.9% approval.

11. Prohibiting the sale of alcohol to offenders convicted of repeat impaired driving offenses. 18.2% approval.

In my opinion these proposed changes are nothing new. In fact most were originally proposed at the beginning of the 2013 legislative session. However I am a bit concerned by some of the proposals. Not only as a DUI lawyer but as a citizen of Washington State.

Probably the two most concerning proposals are the sobriety checkpoint idea and the notion that Prosecutors are to zealously prosecute all DUI cases.

First of all Washington State has already ruled on the particular idea of DUI sobriety checkpoints. Our State Constitution provides greater protections to individual privacy rights than the federal constitution. It’s quite surprising that over 80% of these group members are willing to trample over our privacy rights. Heck these people are supposed to consist of State legislators, police officers, and lawyers.

Secondly the next concern I have involves the notion that DUI Prosecutors are to zealously prosecute Washington State DUI cases. The concern I have here is the idea that Prosecutors need to treat DUI offenders differently than other people charged with other crimes. I’m not going to get into it, but let me just say this. 99% of my clients are first time offenders. They have never been in trouble before, they have good jobs, they have families, a DUI will basically ruin their life. Most will never drink and drive again, and their DUI arrest is truly an isolated incident. To ruin these peoples lives just to satisfy some kind of agenda is really flawed thinking. My personal opinion about these group members is they have an agenda to radically change DUI laws. They latch onto a public policy issue that gets a lot of attention and for the State legislators they know hot button issues win elections. This is clear by their willingness to trample our privacy rights and how they lump individuals who made a single mistake together with the repeat alcoholic DUI offenders. But I guess that is why they are a part of such a radical group in the first place.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in the Seattle Bellevue area of Washington State. He has been named a Rising Star among Seattle DUI lawyers by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. He has also been rated as a 10/10 by and named a Superb DUI lawyer in Seattle.