This month, Governor Jay Inslee will be signing 3 new bills designed to improve the safety of Washington state roads. These laws directly address the mounting crashes and deaths caused by distracted driving and drunk driving each year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people died in 2015 because of a distracted driver, and an additional 10,265 died as a result of drunk driving. In an attempt to cut down on these high death rates, Washington state lawmakers are taking action.
The previous distracted driving law in Washington, which has been in place for the past decade, forbade texting and driving, or holding a cell phone to your ear while driving. The new law strictly forbids any electronic use while driving or stopped at a light or stop sign. It includes holding a phone, and using a finger to use the device, even if it is not in the driver's hand.
Drunk driving charges will also take on more weight with the change to the multiple DUI law. The current law specifies that a DUI in Washington may be charged as a felony only if it is the driver's fifth DUI conviction in the past 10 years. The new law will make felony convictions a bit easier, stating that a driver may be convicted with a felony for their fourth drunk driving conviction within a decade.
Lastly, the third law will empower officers to more easily test drivers suspected of DUI. If a person is suspected of driving while intoxicated, they must be taken to the police station, and then to the hospital for a blood draw by a medical professional. The revised law will permit law enforcement agencies to train officers of other agency members as “forensic phlebotomists,” giving them authority to draw blood for a DUI test.
These tests may only be administered after the suspected driver has been treated for any medical needs, and they must take place in a clean and safe area. The blood could, for example, be drawn in an ambulance or police station office. The Department of Health would not oversee the certification process, however, which has caused some issue with the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who oppose the bill.
Following any arrest for DUI, you should always contact your attorney to defend your rights and help you find the best course of action to protect your future. Contact Stein, Lotzkar & Starr, P.S. for a free consultation regarding your case.