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State gets tougher on DUI and domestic violence in new laws taking effect today

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, shakes hands after he signed a new two-year state operating budget Friday, June 30, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. A bevy of new laws take effect in the state Sunday, July 22. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, center, shakes hands after he signed a new two-year state operating budget Friday, June 30, 2017, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. A bevy of new laws take effect in the state Sunday, July 22. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

OLYMPIA – As of Sunday, a Washington resident’s fourth DUI can be charged as a felony and result in up to 17 months in prison.

Gun dealers will report when a potential buyer fails a background check, and the Washington State Patrol will gather that information in a database for use by all law enforcement agencies. Victims of domestic violence will be notified if their abuser illegally tries to buy a gun.

A second domestic violence charge in 10 years can be charged as a felony, and a person convicted of that crime will have DNA put on file.

Mead is a defined alcoholic beverage, and can be sold in growlers. Wild beavers trapped in Western Washington for causing problems can be released anywhere in the state, but Eastern Washington beavers will have to stay on the dry side of the Cascades.

These and scores of other bills passed during the regular session of the 2017 Legislature become law today, 90 days after the regular session ended.

The most attention in the last week has been directed at a major change in traffic laws that makes use of an electronic device while driving a traffic violation with a $136 ticket the first time a driver is cited. But the Washington State Patrol will issue warnings for a few months, Chief John Batiste said last Monday, to give motorists a chance for some education.

A driver with three previous convictions for driving under the influence may not get that kind of break, however, for failing a blood-alcohol test. Legislators led by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, pushed for years to change state law that didn’t allow a felony charge until the fifth DUI arrest; this year the bill to drop that to the fourth DUI was pushed through and signed by Gov. Jay Inslee.

Laws on domestic violence and abuse also get tougher today. Rather than a gross misdemeanor, a second charge of domestic violence in 10 years can be charged as a felony. An adult who has prior convictions for assault of a child or criminal mistreatment involving domestic violence can get a tougher sentence on a felony domestic violence conviction. Those convicted of felony domestic violence will have to submit DNA samples to be entered in law enforcement databases.

While much of the Legislature’s time was spent debating spending and education policy, lawmakers did pass bills on a wide range of topics large and small – although legislators have a saying that every bill is a big deal to someone.

Along with requiring more scrutiny of buyers who fail gun background checks, they made some changes to Initiative 594, which requires background checks for most private sales. They included in-laws in the list of relatives who wouldn’t have to go through a background check when transferring a firearm, exempted collectors from some transfers involving relics and allowed temporary transfers from people to help prevent suicide.

Another law will require the state to send renewal notices to concealed pistol license holders before their licenses expire.

County elections officials will have to increase the number of ballot drop boxes in some communities. In the past, the number of drop boxes was left up to county election officials. The new law requires a minimum of one box for every 15,000 registered voters.

The Legislature also approved a law that makes stealing or tampering with a ballot drop box a felony.

Liquor sales options were expanded for some stores. Mead, an alcoholic beverage made from honey, was officially defined in state law and added to products that can be sold in containers filled in a bar, tasting room or store, and taken elsewhere to drink.

Retail marijuana stores, which have restrictions on what they can sell other than state-regulated marijuana, can now sell or give their customers lockable boxes to keep the drug out of the hands of children.

In a separate law, hemp, which comes from the same plant as marijuana but is used for industrial purposes, goes off the state’s controlled substance list today.

Animal cruelty laws were amended to require dogs on tethers be left in humane circumstances, with adequate food, water and shelter.

The state’s beaver relocation law was also amended to cover the West Side of the state. Several years ago, the Legislature approved a law that allowed the state Fish and Wildlife Department to relocate wild beavers that are creating a nuisance by damaging or destroying property to an area where landowners hoped they’d build a dam and trap water that would recharge the local aquifer. But the law was written so that beavers could only be relocated to Eastern Washington, regardless of where they were captured. West Side legislators wanted no part of the program.

This year, however, the program will be expanded, although when it comes to relocation, Western Washington beavers can still go east, but Eastern Washington beavers can’t come west.