Thursday, July 25, 2013

Boating under the influence laws changing this week in Washington State

Today July 25, 2013 marks the first day the boating under the influence laws in Washington State take effect.  As part of a sweeping reform overhauling DUI Laws in Washington State, Governor Inslee also had a few changes for BUI laws.  Here are a few of the highlights

The biggest change is the increase in the penalties once faces if charged with DUI.  Previously a BUI charge was a simple misdemeanor.  Meaning it carried a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.  Now if you get arrested and charged for a BUI you will face a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine.  BUIs are not gross misdemeanors.

Additionally there is now an implied consent law.  Meaning a police officer or coast guard officer can ask a suspect they believe to be under the influence to take a breath test.  If they decline the breath test then they can face an increased civil penalty of $1000 which could rise to $2000 if certain statutory penalties are imposed.  Also  that refusal can be used against in a criminal trial.  

Lastly the other major change was addition a provision to comply with the recent legalization of marijuana in Washington State.  So the same THC limit of 5 nanograms in DUI cases is also the same in BUI cases.

Overall the biggest change obviously was the increase in maximum penalties faced.  Im not sure why this was done since in my experience BUI cases are not prosecuted as zealously as DUI cases.  In fact in the cases I have the plea offer is some sort of agreement where the charge would get dismissed after a period of time elapses.  But now there is probably going to be less of those types of deals and a focus on more convictions from the Prosecutors office.

The one change I was interested in that never made it was some sort of license suspension for a breath test refusal.  Previously there was some chatter among the legislators that a boaters would be required to have a license and that would get suspended much the same way it does in a DUI case.  However that never gained any traction.  It should be interesting to see if this changes in the future.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Seattle.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.   

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