Washington Laws & Penalties For Drunk Driving: How Much Alcohol Can You Drink and Drive?

Drink and drive DUI laws in Washington

The legal blood alcohol level (BAC) in Washington is 0.08% (80 mg alcohol per 100 mL of blood). If your driving abilities are compromised by alcohol or other substances, you can be arrested even if your BAC is less than 0.08%.

Commercial vehicle drivers cannot operate if their blood alcohol content is 0.04% or above. Drivers below 21 years old are not permitted to have a 0.02% BAC level in their system. Violations of this state law may result in a DUI or driving while intoxicated charge. 

Consuming one to two standard alcoholic beverages may result in a 0.08% or higher BAC. However, because BAC changes depending on factors, including weight and gender, this percentage should only be used as a guideline.

This article simply aims to raise awareness about drunk driving in Washington. We do not support or encourage drunk driving in any state or region.

From 2017 to 2021, 2,672 fatal collisions involving 4,114 motor vehicle drivers were recorded in Washington. In fatal crashes, 867 drivers, or one in every five, were found to have consumed alcohol before the crash.

Driving while intoxicated is risky and should be avoided. If you must travel after drinking, use Uber, a designated driver service, or a cab.

DUI laws are imposed in Washington to reduce the frequency of drunk driving incidents. In addition, the government is seeking to cut the legal limit from 0.08% to 0.05%.

It is critical to follow the state’s drunk driving laws. If you can’t avoid driving, you should have your blood alcohol level checked before getting behind the wheel. An alcohol breathalyzer can determine your BAC level.

For further information about DUI driving restrictions, we recommend visiting the official website of Washington’s Department of Licensing.

Legal Alcohol Limit When Driving in Washington

Alcohol impairs sound decision-making, causing people to do things they would not typically do if sober. It can result in slower reaction times, decreased reflexes, and altered perceptions of distance and speed.

These things can happen even if you do not look or feel intoxicated. Signs of alcohol intoxication may appear as soon as you take your first drink.

Within 30 minutes to 2 hours of intake, alcohol reaches the bloodstream. Your breathing rate may slow, making it harder to think clearly.

Although the state’s legal BAC limit is 0.08%, remember that everyone’s reaction to alcohol is unique.

Your blood alcohol concentration may be affected by the following factors:

  • weight,
  • gender,
  • levels of anxiety and exhaustion
  • hunger,
  • alcohol consumption level, and
  • medication intake.

Although some people appear normal after drinking alcohol, their driving ability may already be compromised. After a few drinks, some people may feel unsteady or even pass out. It is best to have your blood alcohol level evaluated before driving.

A BAC calculator and chart can assist you in determining the amount of alcohol you can consume before driving. However, because everyone reacts differently to alcohol, these tools may not be helpful for everyone. A certified alcohol breathalyzer is required to detect your BAC accurately.

Punishments for Drinking and Driving in Washington

Blood alcohol concentrations ranging from 0.010% to 0.029% are unlikely to produce substantial impairment. Individuals with this BAC appear to be sober. However, as BAC levels rise, alcohol-related impairment indicators become increasingly evident.

If a person’s blood alcohol content is 0.08% or higher, as established by a chemical test, they are driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor.

DUI rules change from one state to the next. To prevent fines and penalties, test your blood alcohol level before driving.

The DUI penalties in Washington are outlined below.

First DUI Offense in WA

First-time offenders of DUI in Washington may face the following penalties:

  • Jail Time: Up to one year in prison
  • Fines: $350 to $5,000
  • License Suspension: Up to 90 days of license revocation 

Second DUI Offense in WA

Second-time DUI offenders may face the following punishment:

  • Jail Time: Maximum of one-year imprisonment
  • Fines: $500 to $5,000
  • License Suspension: Maximum of two years license suspension

Third DUI Offense in WA

Third-time DUI offenders are bound to face the following consequences of DUI:

  • Jail Time: Up to one-year imprisonment
  • Fines: $1,000 to $5,000
  • License Suspension: Up to three years of license revocation

Ignition Interlock Device

During probation, all DUI offenders must install an ignition interlock device (IID). In other situations, however, using an IID allows the offender to have restricted driving privileges during suspension time.

Implied Consent Law in WA

According to Washington’s “implied consent” rules, all motorists must take a breath test if they are appropriately apprehended for DUI.

A motorist who rejects testing will have their license revoked for the following period:

  • First Offense: Two years
  • Second Offense: Three years
  • Third Offense: Four years 

Transporting Minors

If a minor passenger (under the age of 16) is present in the vehicle at the time of the DUI offense, it can increase the penalty for a DUI conviction. Depending on the number of past convictions, the offender could face an additional ten days in jail and $5,000 in fines.

When Can You Drink and Drive in Washington?

A variety of circumstances influence a person’s blood alcohol concentration. Gender has a considerable impact on BAC levels, according to studies. The BAC thresholds for men and women are different. 

Alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) levels in men are significantly greater than in women. The ADH enzymes regulate alcohol metabolism. As a result, men absorb alcohol faster than women.

The information presented below can help you determine the amount of alcohol you can consume before driving in Washington.

Although studies support the following information, keep in mind that everyone reacts differently to alcohol. Thus, it may not apply to everyone.

How Many Bottles of Beers Can You Drink and Drive in Washington?

How much beer can you drink and drive in Washington

A lighter person has a greater BAC, according to BAC charts.

A 160-pound male (72 kilos) with a blood alcohol level of 0.02% can consume a 12-ounce (350 ml) beer.

A female of the same weight and alcohol consumption may have a BAC of 0.03%.

This illustration shows how a person’s gender influences how they metabolize alcohol.

Given the above example, limiting your beer consumption to one to two bottles is best if you need to drive later.

How Many Glasses of Wine Can You Consume and Drive in Washington?

A regular 5-ounce (142-milliliter) glass of wine has an ABV of 12%.

A 160-pound male can have a BAC of 0.02% after consuming one glass of wine, as demonstrated in the sample above.

A female of the same height and weight with the same drinking habits could get a BAC of 0.03%.

When factors like stress, an empty stomach, and medication use are considered, these BAC values can increase.

If you intend to drive after drinking, one to two glasses of wine should suffice.

How Much Whiskey or Vodka Can You Drink and Drive in Washington?

The ABV of distilled alcohols, such as vodka and whiskey, is 40%.

After taking a single shot of vodka or whiskey, a 160-pound male can have a BAC of 0.02%. 

A female of the same weight and ingestion amount may have a BAC of 0.03%.

As previously noted, BAC levels can rise due to other factors.

If you must drive after drinking, stick to one to two shots of whiskey or vodka.

Sticking to DUI Laws in Washington

Every driver should be informed about the dangers of impaired driving and take every measure to avoid it. You may lose control of yourself and your vehicle if you are intoxicated. 

Driving while high or intoxicated is risky. Hence, the best and safest option is to refrain from drinking before driving.

Even if you only drank a few bottles or glasses of alcohol, don’t take your BAC or driving ability lightly. Instead of driving, consider other ways of transportation.

If you must drive after drinking, ensure your driving skill is not hindered. We recommend using a certified alcohol breathalyzer to test your blood alcohol level.

It is a best practice to visit the state’s official website to stay updated with Washington DUI laws.

About the author

Ashley Cresswell

Ashley Cresswell is a former phlebotomist with a passion for road safety. During her time as a phlebotomist, Ashley administered over 1000 blood alcohol tests to impaired drivers and was shocked to discover that many of them were simply uninformed about the legal limits for driving under the influence. As a result, Ashley conducted extensive research on scientific studies and local laws to bring drivers a comprehensive resource on drink and drive limits from around the world.