A conviction for aggravated DUI can lead to the loss of driving privileges, serious fines and even jail time. Along with these severe penalties, an aggravated DUI offense can potentially damage your reputation and harm your career.
In Washington, aggravating factors are taken into account by the courts when assessing punishment. Here are a few related questions and answers:
What Makes Drunk Driving "Aggravated"?
In general terms, an aggravated DUI is defined by harmful circumstances that are in addition to the basic charge of driving under the influence. In other words, if you are found to have exceeded the legal alcohol limit or are otherwise under the influence, and there are serious, connected issues associated with the DUI, the penalties may be more severe.
These aggravating factors can mean the difference between a misdemeanor charge and a felony, and the penalties will be much more harsh than for a basic DUI.
Examples Of Aggravating Factors
According to the Washington State Legislature, there are many factors which can turn a basic DUI into an aggravated DUI. These include:
- Vehicular homicide or manslaughter. If you are driving under the influence and cause an accident resulting in death, the criminal charges can be severe. This is even true if someone is injured, rather than killed, in association with your DUI.
- Minor in car. If you had one or more children in the car (aged 16 or younger) at the time of your arrest, this will be considered an aggravating factor in your DUI charge.
- Driving with a suspended license. If your driver's license was revoked or suspended, the fact that you drove when you weren't allowed to will likely be considered an aggravating factor.
- Driving in a school zone. Operating your own vehicle near a school while under the influence, as well as driving a school bus while intoxicated, puts minors in danger. The penalties can be harsh for this aggravating factor.
- Prior DUIs. With each prior conviction for driving under the influence that you have on your record, the more serious the penalties can be. In Washington, the "sliding scale" of fines and/or jail time takes into account whether the prior charges were within a certain number of years, how many DUIs happened during that timeframe, and what your alcohol concentration level was at the time of the most recent arrest.
What To Do If You've Been Charged
Washington laws on aggravated DUI penalties are complex. It's not always easy to understand the charges -- let alone contest them -- by yourself. To development the strongest possible DUI defense strategy, contact a lawyer skilled in this area of the law.