Interlock Requirements vs. License Suspension: What You Need to Know After a Washington DUI Arrest or Conviction

Washington Man in Car Blowing into Interlock Device - Campbell Law Firm

The State of Washington has some unique and complex requirements for those people arrested or convicted of a DUI. This is especially true as it relates to driving privileges. There is some persistent confusion surrounding Washington laws concerning interlock requirements vs. license suspension — that is, the required use of ignition interlock devices and the driver’s license suspension period that comes with a DUI conviction. Knowing when you are able to drive and under what conditions you are able to drive following a DUI is important.

Hypothetical: What are the Driving Penalties for a DUI in San Juan County?

Let's say you're pulled over by a San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputy for suspected drunk driving. The San Juan County Prosecutor charges you with Driving Under the Influence under RCW 46.61.502. Ideally, you get a great DUI defense attorney and the charges are dismissed or reduced. But you need to know what you could be facing. A license suspension may still be imposed by DOL via an administrative suspension even if your criminal case is dismissed.

When You Are Arrested for Drunk Driving

When you are arrested for a DUI you face potential penalties from both criminal court and administrative penalties form the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL). After being notified of your DUI arrest, DOL will suspend your license for 90 days to 2 years starting 60 days after the date of your arrest. You have 20 days to request a hearing to review your pending suspension and the hearing may clear your DUI, preventing your license from being suspended at that time by the DOL. You may still face license suspension if you are convicted in court.

If You Are Convicted of DUI

In San Juan County, and throughout Washington, you will face additional driving penalties once you are convicted of a DUI. This includes license suspension and installation of an ignition interlock device. The length of time for the suspension and interlock device use will largely depend on your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at the time of your arrest and whether you have been previously convicted of a DUI or a "prior offense" under RCW 46.61.5055. The DOL will give you credit for any suspended time you have via an administrative suspension. For example, if DOL suspends your license for 90 days on the administrative side and you are facing a 90 day suspension for a DUI conviction, your total suspension is 90 days, not 180.

For a first time DUI conviction, your license will be suspended from 90 days up to 2 years. You will also be ordered to use an ignition interlock device for 1 year. For a second DUI conviction, your license will be suspended from 2 to 3 years. You will also be ordered to use an ignition interlock device for 5 years. You will not be cleared to have your ignition interlock device removed until the interlock company notifies the court and/or DOL that you have complied with all the requirements of the interlock program. A third or more DUI conviction involves even greater penalties.

When installed in a vehicle, an ignition interlock device prevents a driver from operating the vehicle if their BAC is over a specified limit. The driver is required to blow into the device to check their BAC before they are able to turn the ignition key. If the driver blows above a certain BAC, the car will not start. The device will also require additional samples from the driver in order to prevent the driver from drinking inside or outside the vehicle while it is still running. If the driver is on the road when the device requires an additional sample to check the driver’s BAC level, it will give the driver sufficient time to pull off of the road to take the BAC breath test.

If you have been ordered to use an ignition interlock device, you must have one installed in every vehicle you drive, including those used for work. The DOL provides an exception to this rule for employer-owned vehicles used by an employee for employment purposes. A short conversation with an experienced DUI attorney can answer many questions about the employer vehicle exception to the interlock requirement, including what to do if you are self-employed.

When Will I Be Able to Drive After a DUI Conviction?

When you see the penalties that come with a DUI arrest or conviction, you probably start getting confused. If your license is suspended, why would you need an ignition interlock device since you are not allowed to drive anyway? Does the use of the ignition interlock device happen after your license suspension period is over? When will you be legally allowed to drive again and under what conditions? These are all valid questions. It helps to know the history surrounding interlock devices and driver’s license suspension in Washington.

Previously under Washington law, a license suspension after a DUI conviction meant that you could not drive. Eventually, the state legislature realized that not only was this presenting an undue burden on many people, but many people would continue to drive even when their license had been suspended. That is why, as of January 2009, the DOL allowed for drivers with DUI-related suspensions to obtain an ignition interlock license. While interlock devices are one of the penalties of a DUI conviction, the interlock license allows individuals to regain driving privileges even during the license suspension period. Think of the interlock device as a tool to drive while your license is suspended by DOL either due to an administrative sanction or a criminal conviction.

The interlock requirement is imposed by DOL for either 1, 5, or 10 years, due to a DUI or physical control conviction. The number of years is determined by how many prior interlock requirements an individual has on their record. The DOL will look at your entire driving history to determine this, not just 7 years. Also, the DOL will impose a 6-month interlock requirement for Reckless Driving and Negligent Driving - 1st Degree convictions that were amended down from a DUI or physical control when an individual has a conviction for a prior offense within the last 7 years.

How to Qualify for an Ignition Interlock License When Your License is Suspended

During your license suspension, you are able to drive by getting an ignition interlock device license (IIL). In order to qualify for an IIL you must:

  • Have an ignition interlock installed in your vehicle;
  • Obtain SR 22 insurance for your suspension period and for three years after the suspension period; and
  • Submit the Restricted Driver License Application to DOL ($100 application fee).

Use of the ignition interlock device will continue during the license suspension period and for a certain amount of time after the suspension has been lifted. Also be mindful of the fact that your driver’s license will not automatically reinstate after the suspension is over. You will need to apply for reinstatement with DOL and pay a reinstatement fee. The DOL website has a wealth of information on it regarding ignition interlock licenses. I recommend that everyone considering getting an ignition interlock license read over the DOL's information and contact an experienced DUI attorney to answer any questions about the interlock license.

Additionally, it is important to note that a suspension only suspends driving privileges in the State of Washington. However, if you are not a Washington resident and get a DUI while visiting the state, the offense may still be reported to your home state and effect your driving privileges there.

Protecting the Legal Rights of those Facing DUI Charges in Northwest Washington

As if facing a DUI charge was not stressful enough, you have a tangle of Washington DUI laws to wade through in order to try and understand your legal rights and what you are up against. At the Campbell Law Firm, you will get the dedicated legal counsel you need to get through this difficult time. Attorney Justin Campbell will never leave you wondering what may come next and will rigorously defend you against all DUI charges.

Categories: DUI / Drunk Driving