There are significant differences between Oregon’s DUII law and Washington’s DUI. These differences extend both to the way driving under the influence is defined and the manner in which violations of the laws are punished.
In Oregon, a person commits a DUII when they operate a vehicle (which includes a bicycle) at a time when the person is visibly impaired by drugs or alcohol or has a blood alcohol concentration over .08 at the time of driving. Washington law is different in two significant ways. First, Washington also extends DUI to people who are in “actual physical control” of a vehicle, which applies the law to people who have just started their car or who have taken actions which indicate their intent to drive while under the influence. The point is that one need not actually drive in order to be convicted of DUI in Washington. Second, Washington provides that a person is guilty of DUI if their blood alcohol concentration is .08 or higher within two hours of driving. In other words, the state is not required to establish that a person was .08 or higher at the time of driving, as is required in Oregon.
Another important difference between Oregon and Washington driving under the influence cases is in the deferred sentencing programs that are available to those charge with DUII. In Oregon, first offenders (or persons with no DUIIs in the last 15 years) are eligible for the Diversion Program. This program, which lasts a year, requires participants to pay certain fees, attend recommended treatment and remain abstinent from alcohol for one year. If a person complies with program requirements the case is dismissed after a year. Washington offers a Deferred Prosecution Program. This program is available to anyone, regardless of how many prior DUI convictions a person has. The Program requires that a person be evaluated and determined to be dependent on alcohol or controlled substances. The treatment program for such people is extremely intensive and lasts two years or longer. Upon successful completion the DUI charge is dismissed.
Lastly, there are differences in how cases can be resolved by plea negotiation. In Oregon, a DUII charge cannot be reduced to a lesser offense. Oregon did away with the practice of allowing a plea to Reckless Driving (then called a “wet reckless”) in 1985. In order to dismiss a DUII charge in Oregon a prosecutor must make an affirmative representation to the Court that the case cannot be proven. Washington commonly allows first offenders to enter pleas to other charges, usually Negligent Driving or Reckless Driving. The criteria for negotiating this resolution varies from county to county, but it is usually reserved for first offenders with a low breath test result, among other factors.
As a Portland DUII Attorney and a Vancouver, Washington DUI Attorney I understand the various options for resolving driving under the influence cases in both states.