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Is Jail Time Mandatory if Convicted of a BUI?

Posted by William Kirk, Partner | Aug 06, 2017 | 0 Comments

            We are often asked if there is mandatory jail time associated with a BUI conviction.  The belief that there is comes from the fact that jail time is mandatory if convicted of a DUI.  Fortunately, at least for the time being, that is not the case with BUIs. 

            Unlike their driving equivalent, BUIs do not carry any mandatory penalties. Even the current legislative amendments did not include mandatory minimums. Consequently, where even a first-time DUI conviction will assure an individual of jail time, a license suspension, an order of ignition interlock, and high-risk insurance,50 BUIs do not carry such “mandatory” punishment. A BUI is now a gross misdemeanor similar to a DUI and punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.51 However, where a DUI conviction will place five years of probation upon an individual,52 a BUI conviction will require a maximum of two years' probation.53


            Additionally, while a DUI conviction will require a minimum one-year ignition interlock requirement, a BUI conviction, theoretically, should not.54 The ignition interlock statute reads as follows:

(1) The court may order that after a period of suspension, revocation, or denial of driving privileges, and for up to as long as the court has jurisdiction, any person convicted of any offense involving the use, consumption, or possession of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle may drive only a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock. The court shall establish a specific calibration setting at which the interlock will prevent the vehicle from being started. The court shall also establish the period of time for which interlock use will be required.

(2) The department shall require that, after any applicable period of suspension, revocation, or denial of driving privileges, a person may drive only a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device if the person is convicted of an alcohol-related violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 or an equivalent local ordinance.55


            Using a plain language interpretation of this statute, it appears that under section (1) a court gains jurisdiction to impose this requirement after a “period of suspension.” But as discussed previously, a person accused of BUI will never have their drivers' license placed in jeopardy, either by the Coast Guard or by the Court.56 Furthermore, a court may not impose the IID requirement under section (2) of the statute as that clearly requires a conviction for DUI or Physical Control.57 Finally, the misdemeanor sentencing statute does not provide the court with authority to require an ignition interlock.58


            2014 amendments, to Washington's DUI laws include convictions for BUI as prior offenses in the event a person is subsequently convicted of a DUI.59 Consequently, a client previously convicted of a BUI within the last seven years, who is then convicted of a DUI, would face at least a month in jail and ignition interlock restrictions for up to five years.60 The same could be said for an individual who was charged with BUI but was convicted of Reckless Boating.  That too would constitute a statutory prior. 

            So, the bottom line is that if you are convicted of a BUI, there is no mandatory jail time unlike the DUI counterpart.  However, this does not mean that you cannot still receive a jail sentence.  BUI is a gross misdemeanor in Washington, which means that you face up to 364 days in jail if convicted.  And just because there is no “mandatory” jail time, this does not mean that a judge cannot impose a jail sentence within their discretion.  If you need help if your BUI charge, please contact the law firm that has handled more BUI cases than any firm in this State.  Call us today at 425.822.1220. 

50RCW 46.61.5055(1)(a)(i).

51RCW 9.92.030.

52RCW 46.61.5055(9)(a).

53RCW 9.92.020.

54RCW 46.20.720.

55RCW 46.20.720(1)–(2).

5646 U.S.C. §§ 2302(a)–(c).

57RCW 46.20.720(2).

58RCW 9.92.030.

59RCW 46.61.5055(14)(a)(iv)-(v).

60RCW 46.61.5055(2)(a)–(b).

About the Author

William Kirk, Partner

Bill Kirk has been named a Super Lawyer by Washington Law and Politics Magazine every year since 2003. He currently serves on the Board of Regents to the National College for DUI Defense and is the President of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice. Bill is one of only two attorneys in this state to pass the National College's Board Certification Exam.

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Cowan Kirk Kattenhorn is known throughout Washington and the nation for representing all of its clients with commitment, creativity and compassion. We recognize how devastating a DUI charge can be, particularly when our clients learn how incredibly tough Washington's DUI laws have become, even for a first-time offender.

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