On Friday, April 3rd, the Washington State Senate unanimously passed a bill that would have changed existing laws governing drunk driving laws throughout the state. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, a Republican from Spokane Valley, is not expected to pass the House but was aimed at Washington drivers with long histories of convictions for driving under the influence (DUI). Under current law, a DUI was a gross misdemeanor for the first, second, third, and fourth conviction, and a felony for the fifth conviction and any additional DUI offenses made within ten years. The new law would have made a DUI a gross misdemeanor for only the first, second, and third convictions. The fourth conviction, and any subsequent conviction for DUI within ten years, would be a class C felony, which comes with substantially higher penalties.
This is the same bill that was proposed last year, but was eventually cut due to the high cost of building a new prison to confine those who would be convicted under the new law.
While people who have no criminal history or prior DUI convictions won't be affected by the new law, the changes could have been drastic for those with multiple DUI convictions already. Before the proposed new law, a fourth conviction for DUI included a $1,000 - $5,000 fine, and between 90 and 364 days in jail. Under the new law, the penalties for a fourth DUI conviction jump to a $10,000 fine, and up to 5 years in prison.
In addition to the steeper fine and extra jail time that this new bill would introduce for those convicted of a fourth DUI charge, there are also many other problems that face those who have been convicted of a felony. A Washington citizen temporarily loses his or her right to vote, and own or possess firearms. Many jobs, particularly those that require driving or the possession of a firearm, will be impossible to get, or to keep, for those who have been convicted of a felony DUI. It is also legal, in Washington, for landlords of private property to deny housing based on criminal history, so convicted felons may have a more difficult time renting apartments or other property than those who have not been convicted of a felony. Travel to Canada may be denied to those who have a felony on their record.
By far the most severe consequence of a felony conviction, however, is for non-citizens. Non-U.S. citizens may face deportation if they are convicted of a felony, which can permanently affect their livelihood, as well as their family and anyone depending on them for subsistence.
A felony conviction for DUI can greatly impact your life. Contact attorney Kevin Trombold at 206-971-0067 if you, or someone you know, is facing such a conviction.