Two new laws went into effect Thursday that make getting caught drinking and driving in Washington state a much more expensive and legally onerous experience. While proponents hail the new laws as revolutionary and say the driving-under-the-influence legislation puts the state on par with countries such as Sweden and Australia, defense attorneys say the laws treat first-time and borderline offenders as drunks, erode judicial discretion and unfairly favor the prosecution at trial.
The first law extends temporary licenses to more people – not just those who need to drive to work – but mandates that anyone who wants to drive after a DUI arrest, a DUI conviction or after opting for deferred prosecution must have an ignition-interlock device installed in his or her vehicle. The devices, which require a breath test before a car’s engine can be turned on, as well as subsequent tests while driving, were once reserved for chronic drunks, repeat DUI offenders and drivers who refused to give breath samples. The second law is aimed at curtailing the frequency with which breath-test results are tossed out of court. Juries – instead of judges – will now decide what weight to place upon a test result and are to view that evidence “in a light most favorable to the prosecution,” the law says.