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Quickest Way to Blow the Holiday Budget? Get a DUI

PHOTO: Washington's laws against drunk driving are more stringent this year, making a designated driver an even smarter strategy for holiday parties. Photo credit: Feverpitch/FeaturePics.com
PHOTO: Washington's laws against drunk driving are more stringent this year, making a designated driver an even smarter strategy for holiday parties. Photo credit: Feverpitch/FeaturePics.com
November 26, 2014

EVERETT, Wash. - A designated driver should be part of this season's planning process for festivities that include alcohol, and one Washington attorney's advice is to arrange for that driver well before they're needed.

In a new survey by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 72 percent of people who've used a designated driver said they did it to avoid getting a DUI, and Omar Nur says that's good thinking. The Everett defense attorney says the price tag for getting through the court process for a DUI can easily top several thousand dollars.

"That's the number one thing about a DUI is, it's not cheap, and it's a huge hassle. It's just not worth it," says Nur. "You're gambling with your own safety, you're gambling with the safety of others and you're risking your personal freedom, too."

In addition to attorneys' fees, Nur says there are several types of court fees, the cost of a mandatory ignition-interlock device, higher insurance rates and more.

The Washington Legislature passed new, stricter drunk-driving penalties that went into effect this fall. Nur says there's more jail time involved if it isn't a first offense, or if a person's Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is high.

"If it's a second-time DUI, the mandatory minimum sentence is 30 days," says Nur. "If the breath test is over .15 BAC, there's additional jail time. There's mandatory minimums now for refusing the breath test. It's definitely become much more severe."

It is also illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, and Nur says the limit of five nanograms in a person's system doesn't take much to reach.

He adds, most people who come to his office with a DUI charge are shocked by the financial and long-term legal consequences, but also for being pulled over in the first place.

"Many of my clients come in and say, 'I only had three drinks; it was four or five hours, I thought I was just fine.' And then they get pulled over, and they blow above a .08, and they get arrested," says Nur. "You just really never know when you're too drunk to drive."

The Washington State Patrol says DUI arrests number about 40,000 a year statewide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports 1,091 people lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, in 2012.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA