On March 29, 2012, Governor Gregoire signed into law Substitute House Bill 2443. Its provisions take affect on August 1, 2012. Defined as "an act relating to increasing accountability of persons who drive impaired," it deals with a number of different DUI related topics. The most practical changes from an everyday standpoint deal with amendments to the reckless driving statute, the penalty phase of a DUI conviction as it relates to home detention, and the creation of a "Driving While Huffing" statute.
The most important change grants an individual credit for any DUI related administrative suspension toward a suspension for reckless driving when the reckless driving conviction was the result of a reduction from the original DUI charge. It also allows for the driver to obtain an ignition interlock license in such cases. This part of the new DUI law is fully addressed in Reductions from DUI to Reckless Driving No Longer To Result in Additional License Suspensions.
Another major change gives people facing what was once mandatory home detention the option of serving that potion of the sentence as jail for a much lesser duration. For many people, one of the most significant consequences of the second or subsequent DUI conviction in Washington is the mandatory period of home detention or electronic home monitoring. For a second DUI offense within seven years a person would be looking at a mandatory 60-90 days of home detention to be served after the automatic jail sentence. On a third offense or more, that home detention would increase to 120-150 days. For many, having to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet and be tethered to their home for months is worse than a much shorter period of work release. To that end, for years, DUI lawyers have attempted to circumvent that requirement by asking the sentencing court to convert home monitoring. The sentencing requirements for first time offenders gave courts a guideline to do just that.
The Washington DUI Sentencing Grid allows a court, in its discretion to convert one or two days in jail for a first time offender to 15-30 days of home detention. A ratio of 15-1. Accordingly, many courts had agreed to convert the home detention for a second or subsequent offense back to jail by that same 15-1 ratio. The problem was that many court used a more restrictive conversion (10-1, 6-1, 5-1) and other simply refused to convert it at all, believing they didn’t have the authority to do so.
Under SHB 2443, courts now have the discretion to convert home detention back to jail time, or work release, at that 15-1 ratio. So instead of a mandatory 60 days of EHM, the court can order an additional 4 days of jail, or from 90 days of EHM to 6 days in jail, etc. With reductions for good time credits, those number could drop even further. It is likely that a person would have to request the conversion but the way the statute is drafted, it appears to give the court the option of doing so even absent such a request. Since the statute doesn’t take effect until August 1, 2012, practitioners with a client so situated may wish to prolong the process a few months though it is possible that courts will recognize their discretion in advance of the effective date.
Driving After "Huffing"
I’m not sure how often someone has been pulled over in the past who was under the suspicion of driving under the influence of inhalants and subsequently released because there was no specific statute on point dealing with that specific situation. Not often I would assume. Be that as it may, there now is a specific statute in Washington that criminalizes driving while huffing, or driving under the influence of chemical inhalants. So be forewarned. Don’t huff and drive.