Being convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) can result in troubling, severe, and even life-altering criminal penalties. Depending on the nature of the charge and an individual's criminal history, these penalties can also be intensified. In Yakima, local law enforcement agencies and a city attorney are finding new ways to make these penalties even harsher.
The new program, which mirrors drug forfeitures, was born from a little known legal provision that was originally signed into Washington state law in 1994. Since that time, there has been little evidence to indicate that prosecutors used it when charging DUI offenders. Many believe it has never been implemented. Generally, though, the premise is simple; certain multiple DUI offenders may lose their vehicles under this not-so-new law.
As publicized by city officials attempting to spread the word about the new program, DUI vehicle forfeitures will only apply in certain cases. The law only applies to drivers who are convicted of two or more DUI charges in a seven-year lookback period. Additionally, forfeitures will only apply to the vehicles they were driving, and only if they own the vehicle.
After a city attorney stumbled upon the little-known statute and legal professionals and law enforcement agencies throughout the state scratched their collective heads as to why it had not been used since 1994, city officials found sufficient reason to test the project. Their goals are as equally simple as the program's concept itself; reduce the prevalence of DUIs, especially those committed by multiple and habitual offenders. In 2012, 444 DUI cases passed through Yakima's municipal court. Only Seattle, Spokane, and Tacoma had more DUIs.
What is not so straightforward, however, is how this law will work, how efficient and effective it will be, and how the public will respond. Ultimately, laws and penalties are designed not only to punish those who break the law, but to also to set a standard. Criminal penalties are exemplary – meaning that they set an example that deters a convicted offender from committing the same offense in the future and others in the general public from committing the same type of illegal act.
With the new DUI forfeiture program comes new questions. Enforcing the statute profitably may be difficult, as many DUI offenders are arrested in vehicles they do not own. Additionally, families who depend on a forfeiture-eligible vehicle that their family member may have been driving at the time of their arrest can face significant strains for crimes they did not commit. While both sides of the coin have valid arguments in this case – one challenging its harshness and the other supporting tougher penalties – the fact remains that only time will tell how effective the new program will be.
Harsh Penalties for Multiple DUI Offenders
Regardless of how Yakima's new DUI forfeiture program pans out, it does help to illustrate just how harshly law enforcement agencies and prosecutors throughout the nation are punishing multiple DUI offenders. Adding new forms of punishment to an already lengthy list of consequences is something local governments will hope reduces DUIs. For those who find themselves in these predicaments, additional penalties can be devastating.
If you or your loved one has recently been charged for driving under the influence with a previous DUI conviction on your record, it is essential that you understand the elevated stakes in your case. Allow a Lynnwood DUI attorney from Dichter Law Office, PLLC to confidentially review your case, inform you about the charges and potential penalties you face, and explain precisely how the firm can help. Take the steps needed to protect yourself and your future. Contact Dichter Law Office, PLLC today.