For several years now an inequity has existed within the landscape of DUI laws that wasn’t just unfair but completely counter intuitive. This inequity created a situation where there were situations when being convicted of a DUI created a more favorable outcome than having that charged reduced to the lesser offense of Reckless Driving. State Fails To Address Inequities in DUI Related Reckless Driving License Suspensions. Finally, as of August 1, 2012, that will change.
To explain the significance of this amendment requires a brief look at where the law currently stands. Whenever a person is arrested for a DUI and there is either a breath or blood test over the legal limit or an allegation of a refusal to give a breath or blood sample, there are two different legal proceeding that the accused must face. There is the criminal process relating to the charge of DUI as well as a civil or administrative action through the DOL. A negative outcome in either proceeding will result in a license suspense. For years, Washington State has given credit on a day for day basis toward any license suspension suffered both as a result of an administrative action and a DUI conviction. For an example, if a person had lost his or her license for 90 days administratively and also for 90 days based upon a DUI conviction, they would only suffer one of the two suspensions. Credit would be granted to them for the suspension that was suffered first in time.
But what of the 30 day license suspension in cases where the DUI was reduced to Reckless Driving? In those situations no credit was granted for the earlier administrative suspension and the entirety of the 30 day suspension would have been served. To further the inequity, the individual could not seek an ignition interlock license to allow them to drive while under the reckless driving suspension. As of August 1, 2012, that will change. On that date, RCW 46.61.500 will read as follows:
(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton
disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.
(2)(a) Subject to (b) of this subsection, the license or permit to drive or any nonresident privilege of any person convicted of reckless driving shall be suspended by the department for not less than thirty days.
(b) When a reckless driving conviction is a result of a charge that was originally filed as a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504, or an equivalent local ordinance, the department shall grant credit on a day-for-day basis for any portion of a suspension, revocation, or denial already served under an administrative action arising out of the same incident. During any period of suspension, revocation, or denial due to a conviction for reckless driving as the result of a charge originally filed as a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504, any person who has obtained an ignition interlock driver’s license under RCW 46.20.385 may continue to drive a motor vehicle pursuant to the provision of the ignition interlock driver’s license without obtaining a separate temporary restricted driver’s license under RCW 46.20.391.
For the driver, what is important to take away from this is that what is often considered a positive outcome to a DUI charge (a reduction to Reckless Driving) will not mean suffering an additional license suspension and, if already driving with an ignition interlock license, a new one will not need to be obtained. For the practitioner, it will probably be wise to delay any reckless driving convictions in these situations until after August 1, 2012, if possible. Although it is possible, it is highly unlikely that the DOL will begin to grant this credit toward previous suspensions until the new law becomes effective.