Can you get a DUI in WA if you only have 1 drink?

Drunk-drink-alcohol-keys-handcuffs-300x200One of the biggest misconceptions out there when it comes to DUI laws in Washington State is you need to be over the legal limit of 0.08 in order to get arrested for a DUI.  Not many people are aware of this.  But there are actually two ways a person can get convicted for a DUI.  One way is obviously if you’re over the legal limit.  The other way is if your ability to drive is affected by the alcohol consumed.  This is a very subjective standard and can applied with very little evidence of impairment.  This also applies to simply getting arrested for a DUI.

In fact I’m going to say something that may surprise many people.  If you ever consumed a single drink and decided to drive then you faced the possibility of getting arrested for a DUI.  Obviously a single drink will put you nowhere near the legal limit of 0.08.  However the fact that there was alcohol in your system could be used against you to subjectively prove your ability to drive was affected by alcohol.

Here are some examples of how this can happen.  Let’s say you go out for dinner in Seattle.  You have a single drink and then decide to drive home.  You get stopped by a police officer for speeding or failing to use your signal lawfully or some other minor traffic infraction.  Let’s say maybe you were nervous when the Officer contacted you and you fumbled for your license.  Well I can tell you if that happens and the Officer smells an odor of alcohol you will get arrested for DUI.  No slurred speech, no coordination issues, nothing else is needed.

Now regardless of what a police officer wants you to believe.  I have literally seen dozens and dozens of cases that have these exact same facts.  Heck I have represented someone on a DUI with a 0.03.  They were arrested, spent the night in jail, and faced the possibility of a DUI on their record all because they thought they were okay to drive after a single drink.

So what does this mean?  Well even though Im a DUI Attorney in Seattle this may surprise you.  If you’re going to go out to dinner or go to a bar or whatever it may be.  If you’re going to have a single drink my advice would be not to drive.  Especially nowadays.  It is open season on DUIs.  Since early 2013 this has become a hot button issue with the general public.

With everyone from State legislators, to Prosecutors, to even the Governor hopping on board in their overzealous treatment of DUIs.  Everybody wants a piece.  And even if you get arrested for a DUI and its a first offense in a lot of Courts you will be treated the same as a repeat offender when it comes to plea deals, jail, fines, and ignition interlock requirements.  It’s very unfortunate but that is the way things are now and the only way to be 100% safe from this reaction is to simply not put yourself in that position.  At least that is my advice as a DUI Lawyer.  You can do with that what you will.

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in the Seattle Bellevue area of Western Washington.  He has been repeatedly named a Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all lawyers receive in their particular area of practice.  He is also rated a perfect 10 out of 10 by, a lawyer rating service.