DUI Penalties and Fees

A Seattle DUI arrest is an extremely serious matter. A DUI arrest usually results in severe penalties and high fees. Penalties for a DUI often include loss of license, jail time, and ignition interlock device requirements. Being clear about what penalties you may face after a DUI arrest is important in helping you make the right choices and take the correct steps to fight your case.

A Seattle DUI attorney can be a valuable asset in working through your DUI case. An experienced attorney can help with the DOL license suspension process as well as provide assistance and advice for all court proceedings.


The penalties for driving under the influence in Seattle can vary depending on the charge, such as whether this is a first or second offense, breath test results, and more. Below is a breakdown of each of the potential penalties for Seattle DUI.

Mandatory Court Appearances

Once arrested for a DUI in Seattle, you will be required to attend a mandatory court appearance or arraignment. During this court appearance, the judge will consider whether or not to impose conditions such as bail, electronic home monitoring pending trial, SCRAM alcohol monitoring devices, or whether to require the installation of an ignition interlock device.

At this court appearance, the judge will also ask you to enter a “guilty” or “not guilty” plea to the DUI charge. The first court appearance is vital to the outcome of your arrest even before any determination has been made on the issue of guilt or innocence.

Having an experienced DUI attorney at your side during your court appearance can make all the difference in the conditions and penalties imposed by the court.

License Suspension

If you test above the Washington State Blood Alcohol (BAC) legal limit of .08 on a breath test or refuse to take a breath test and are arrested for a DUI, the Department of Licensing (DOL) will suspend your license. Even if you are proven not guilty in court, the DOL will still take “administrative action” and suspend or revoke your license.

The length of the DOL license suspension is dependent on your breath test results. For BAC results of .08 or higher, the DOL will suspend your license for at least 90 days. If the breath test was refused at the time of arrest, the DOL will revoke your license for at least a year.

Even after the suspension or revocation period is over, you may be required to prove financial responsibility for up to three years. You can do this by getting high-risk SR-22 insurance. These requirements may be imposed even if you are not convicted of a DUI charge from the court.

Depending on the conditions of the arrest, including prior DUI arrests the suspension or revocation period may be longer.

Fighting Suspension or Revocation from the DOL

There are a few options to fight the DOL license suspension or revocation. The first step to take in fighting the suspension is to fill out the “Driver’s Hearing Request” form. The arresting officer should have given you this form at the time of arrest if you tested .08 or higher on the BAC, or if the breath test was refused. If a blood test was taken, the DOL should mail the form to you.

There are a few important things to keep in mind about the “Driver’s Hearing Request” form. You can only fight the suspension by mailing the form to the DOL within 20 days of the date of notice along with a check for $375.00 (waivable if indigent).

Action by the DOL to suspend or revoke your license will be taken if you miss the form deadline. This is true even if you have a valid legal defense and/or you are found innocent of the DUI charge in court.

Under a 2009 law, anyone penalized with a DOL license suspension has the option to apply for an ignition interlock device (IID) license. A Seattle DUI lawyer that is skilled in DOL laws and procedures can be a huge advantage in saving your license.

Increased License Suspensions After a DUI Conviction

If convicted of a DUI in Seattle, the court may impose a license suspension in addition to the DOL administrative suspension. The length of this additional license suspension will be determined based on your BAC level at the time of arrest. The minimum additional license suspension will be 90 days if the BAC reading is under .15 for first-time offenders. If the BAC was over .15, your license will be revoked for a minimum of one year. If on a first-time offense arrest the breath test is refused, there is a minimum two-year suspension. For those convicted of multiple DUI arrests, the license suspensions can increase dramatically.

Mandatory Jail Time and Permanent Record Report

These penalties will depend on the circumstances of the arrest. For first time offenders, the judge can impose a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine. A minimum sentence is imposed in most Seattle DUI cases, even if you have no criminal history. The judge is required by law to impose a minimum sentence; however, the judge is also free to impose a harsher sentence if they feel the circumstances warrant it.

The minimum sentence required by Washington state law for first-time offenders without a criminal history and a BAC reading under .15 is one day in jail, a fine, probation, and an additional license suspension.

For DUI cases with a BAC reading of .15 or higher, or in cases where the test was refused, the minimum sentence required by Washington law is two days in jail, an increased fine, and longer license suspension. If passengers were in the car, the judge has the right to impose a harsher sentence. If the passengers were under 16 years old, there might be an increase in the IID requirement, fine, and possibly jail time.

Regardless of the penalties imposed, the court is required to keep a permanent record of the conviction.

Electronic Home Detention

For some DUI convictions, home detention may be an option. In some cases a 15-day home detention can be exchanged for a one-day jail sentence. For two-day jail sentences, the requirement is 30-plus days of home detention.

Repeat offenders may see much higher penalties. For those with a prior DUI conviction within seven years of the arrest.

If you do opt for a home detention sentence rather than jail time, there is a large fee that the offender is required to pay. This fee is approximately $20 to $50 per day depending on the jurisdiction.

Ignition Interlock Device License

The IID is a breath testing machine that is installed in your car and prevents the car from starting if the driver has alcohol on their breath. An IID license may be required for at least a year after your license has been reinstated and is also required if the driver wishes to drive during the administrative license suspension.

For drivers required to use an IID, the length of time will vary from one to 10 years. First-time offenders require one year IID use; second offenses required the use of an IID for five years, and third offense or more DUIs require a 10 year IID license.

Anyone that will feel a hardship from a license suspension can apply for an ignition interlock license. This license allows a person to drive as long as the vehicle being driven is equipped with an IID.

Probation Violations

In Washington state, DUI probation violations are dealt with harshly. Five-year probation conditions include not driving a motor vehicle without a valid license or insurance, not driving a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of .08 or more within two hours of driving, and not refusing to submit a breath or blood test upon lawful request.

If DUI probation violations do occur, the law states, “The court shall order the convicted person to be confined for thirty days, which shall not be suspended or deferred.”

Hiring a Seattle DUI attorney is one of the most important steps to take after a DUI arrest. An experienced DUI defense attorney can help ensure your rights are protected throughout the process. A DUI attorney can be very helpful throughout the court and DOL processes, putting less stress on you.

Matthew Leyba is an experienced DUI attorney in the Seattle and Bellevue areas. Our main goal is to answer all of your questions and put your mind at ease. Call us today to schedule a free 60-minute consultation.

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“I finally feel like I can move on in my life, and thanks to you, I don't have a DUI conviction to worry about. Thanks again from the bottom of my heart.”

- former client found
not guilty of DUI