Drivers in Seattle may soon be encountering a development in the efforts to curb drunk driving that residents in other parts of the country are already familiar with. A law went into effect in September that toughened up DUI penalties in Washington, but lawmakers now want to go further by implementing roadside sobriety checkpoints.

Washington is one of the few states that do not use checkpoints to identify intoxicated drivers, but states that do say that these efforts can reduce drunk driving fatalities by up to 30 percent. Previous attempts to use this tactic have met with opposition by advocacy groups like the ACLU, but a spate of fatal accidents involving impaired drivers has changed the political environment. Other proposals being considered include changing the rules regarding felony DUI. The present law considers the fifth offense within 10 years to be the benchmark for driving under the influence to become a felony. However, lawmakers are considering reducing this to four offenses over 10 years, or five over a lifetime.

It was an accident in Seattle that served as the impetus for the new law. An elderly couple was killed, and a mother and her infant son were critically injured, by a drunk driver in March. Senate Bill 5912 requires an ignition interlock device to be fitted to an offenders vehicle within five days of their arrest, and it mandates that motorists arrested for DUI remain in jail until they go before a judge.

The attitude towards impaired drivers is becoming less tolerant, and those facing a DUI charge can not expect to be treated leniently by law enforcement. An attorney experienced in this area may be able to help their clients by challenging the actions of police officers or disputing the existence of probable cause for a traffic stop. They could also question the results of Breathalyzer and field sobriety tests.

Source:, “Safety checkpoint considered as way to cut DUI fatalities“, Dana Rebik, October 15, 2013