Think once before drinking and driving. Think twice before drinking and driving if you plan on crossing any state lines. If you have consumed sufficient alcohol and are driving between Washington and another state, you are risking the possibility of multiple DUI convictions on your record.
In State v. Rivera-Santos (2009), 166 Wash.2d 722, 214 P.3d 130, the Supreme Court of Washington held that double jeopardy did not bar prosecution within the state against one who was already convicted of DUI in another state for the same DUI incident. In the case in question, Santiago Rivera-Santos was pursued by the Washington State Patrol which observed him drive erratically on I-5 and cross the bridge over into Portland, Oregon. The Washington State Patrol then contacted the Portland Police Bureau which then managed to stop his vehicle. Subsequently, Santiago Rivera-Santos was prosecuted for and convicted under Oregon’s DUI statute.
In Rivera-Santos, the Supreme Court of Washington found that the conduct of driving under the influence of alcohol between Washington and Oregon were two separate acts even though they refer to it as “the same trip behind the wheel”. Since the single continuous act of driving actually constituted two separate acts, according to the Court, simply because a line which separates Washington and Oregon was crossed, double jeopardy did not bar the subsequent prosecution for DUI in Washington even though Santiago Rivera-Santos had already been convicted for DUI in Oregon.
Based on the Court’s decision in Rivera-Santos, an intoxicated driver who is travelling between states may receive separate DUI convictions in both of those states. So let us go ahead and imagine a situation where an intoxicated driver is crossing three state lines in a place such as Asotin County in Washington where there is a point at which Washington, Oregon and Idaho all converge. Under Rivera-Santos, the driver is eligible for three DUI convictions for the single and continuous act of driving while intoxicated. I do not know if I am crossing the line from legal fiction into science fiction because I am not familiar with the geography of the three state border areas covering Washington, Oregon and Idaho to know whether one could realistically drive a vehicle in that terrain. However, because it is theoretically possible, we cannot preclude the possibility of a single incident leading to three separate convictions in three different states. We can get even more exotic by bringing in a foreign country if we include the possibility of driving in adjoining areas where Washington borders British Columbia and Idaho in which case the intoxicated driver could have one DUI in Canada and two in the United States for the “same trip behind the wheel”.
Now that I am looking at the map, there is a very thin portion of Idaho which separates Washington from Montana which all border British Columbia. This is just what I was searching for so that I can now entertain the possibility of four separate DUI convictions in four different jurisdictions involving two countries. Am I sounding a little tipsy or under the influence of something? No, I am simply explaining the implications of a decision by our state’s “highest” court!