By: South Sound Law Group

The Basics of a First DUI


Someone charged with their first DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol) might think they can represent themselves in court and be fine. But DUI offenses are complex charges that need to be taken seriously, and hiring trusted legal counsel for alcohol-related offenses to understand the DUI case can make a massive difference in outcomes. Here are some things to understand about a first DUI. 

What Is a DUI?

A DUI is a legal level of an intoxicant that, if met or exceeded, makes it illegal for someone to drive. In Washington State, that’s an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher within two hours after driving as determined by a breath or blood test; a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher in the same time frame as determined by a blood test; and whether the driver is under the influence of marijuana or any other drug. 

What Are the “Prongs” That Are Used By Prosecutors?

Prosecutors in Washington State have two sets of “prongs” used to convict people accused of DUIs.

  • Per Se Prongs. This prong sets out to create a legal fact by using the blood or breath tests that allegedly confirmed the DUI status. The argument is that the test is proof of guilt. A defense attorney specializing in DUIs will try to prevent the test from being entered into testimony or attack the tests’ accuracy through research focused on finding ways to discredit the testing mechanisms.
  • Affected By Prongs. When a prosecutor can’t use test results (because the person charged refused to submit to the test, the police officer didn’t use the test, or the test was not allowed into court for various reasons), they will turn to other evidence. At this point, the prosecutor may turn to the arresting officers’ observations or a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), and they may use video or audio evidence, such as dash cams and 911 calls. The DUI defense attorney must look at ways to discredit those types of evidence and testimony when possible.

What Happens if I Am Convicted of a First DUI?

The state legislature has set minimum and maximum penalties for a first DUI. The maximum is 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. While no attorney can guarantee an outcome, getting the maximum penalty on a first offense is not all that common, especially when trusted counsel for driving under the influence in Tacoma is involved in the case.

What is more likely is 1-2 days in custody or 15-30 days of electronic home monitoring/detention (EHM/EHD), depending on the severity of the offense. Fines can be assessed anywhere from $990.50-$1,245.50. That doesn’t include additional fees and assessments, such as probation costs, administration fees, emergency response restitution, or other costs a specific court may order the defendant to pay. These types of fees can run from a few hundred dollars to thousands.

Will I Lose My License if I Am Convicted of a First DUI?

There are three scenarios for losing a license due to a first DUI:

  • If the alcohol test was less than .15 or no test was obtained, the license is suspended for 90 days.
  • If the alcohol test was above .15, the license is revoked for one year.
  • If the driver refused the test, the license is revoked for two years.

In addition, the Department of Licensing requires those convicted of DUI to have an ignition interlock device (IID) in their car. For a first-time conviction, the IID is required for a minimum of one year. This is not negotiable, and the driver’s license cannot be reinstated if this requirement isn’t met.

Will I Have to Take a Class if I Am Convicted of a First DUI?

The state requires those convicted of a DUI to seek an alcohol evaluation from a state-certified agency. If the evaluation diagnoses a problem, the person must complete any recommended treatment. This is another reason to bring in an experienced DUI attorney, as finding the right agency that will be agreeable to the court is critically important.

For a first-time DUI conviction, at minimum, there will be a requirement to attend an 8-hour Alcohol and Drug Information School class.

Finally, the conviction brings a requirement to attend a victim impact panel where victims of drunk or drugged driving accidents talk about the dire consequences that have happened to them because of DUIs.

Please note that the laws can change faster than we can update this website, so please get in touch with us at the number below for the most current versions. 

Let Us Advise You

If you or someone you know has been charged with a first DUI, call our professional attorneys for Tacoma DUI defense cases at 253-383-3328 to discover how our attorneys can help you through the process.