How Is A DUI Defined Under Washington State Law?
The driving under the influence (DUI) statute in Washington State says that a driver is guilty of DUI if, within two hours of driving, they had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher or a THC concentration of 5 nanograms or higher. In either of these cases, the driver is automatically presumed to have been driving under the influence. A driver also can be charged with a DUI if the prosecutor can prove their driving was affected to a significant degree because they had consumed alcohol, marijuana or any other drug.
What happens after someone is pulled over on suspicion of DUI?
A cop must observe a traffic infraction to pull over a motorist. If they think a driver has been drinking, the officer then will go on a bit of a fishing expedition, asking questions about whether the driver had been drinking, or how much they’ve had to drink. If they think the driver is impaired at all, they’ll ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and perform some voluntary field sobriety tests. (I do not recommend that drivers do these tests, because they are voluntary and are set up for a failure.)
Officers typically administer three tests:
- The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test. The theory is that an impaired person will have difficulty tracking a moving object with their eyes. The officer will hold a pen or flashlight in front of the driver’s face, then ask them to follow it with their eyes as it’s moved back and forth.
- The walk-and-turn The individual is directed to take nine steps, touching heel to toe, along a straight line. They then have nine seconds to return in the same manner, walking back along the line in the opposite direction. Cops look for clues like whether the person steps off the line, or doesn’t touch their heels to their toes.
- The one-leg-stand test. The driver is asked to stand on one foot, hovering the other foot about six inches off the ground, and count. Officers typically try to reach about 30 seconds, watching whether the person can maintain balance.
Whether the driver performs these tests or refuses, the officer usually will ask whether they want to submit to a portable breath test. Once again, this is voluntary. Drivers don’t have to submit to it, and I recommend against it. The portable breath test is given on the scene to establish probable cause. If the driver refuses, and the officer thinks they’ve been drinking, more than likely they’re still going to be arrested.
At the police station, the DUI investigation will proceed in standard form.
The driver first will be taken into a room where they sit down with a blood alcohol content (BAC) machine. The officer will go over the implied consent warning, informing the driver that they’re being asked for a breath or blood sample and that they have the right to refuse that request. But a refusal to take the test brings consequences, most notably a suspension of their driver’s license. If a breath test is taken, the officer will be looking at whether the result is over 0.08.
Next, the officer will go over a DUI questionnaire. Unless the person invokes their right to remain silent, the officer will ask a series of questions. All of these are voluntary.
It’s very important to ask to talk to an attorney at this point. The driver has a right to speak to an attorney on the phone, and usually will be given a few minutes to call one.
Once the results of the breath or blood test are in, the officer will decide whether to release the driver or book them into jail.
If booked into jail, bail will be set. The driver will have to sit in jail until they can either post bail or go in front of a judge.
If the driver is released, the officer is supposed to give them four documents. One is the request for a DUI hearing, to allow them to fight a license suspension. As of January 2019, that request must be made within seven days. Other documents include a ticket showing the breath-test results; the citation with a mandatory court date; and tow paperwork for the vehicle.
For more information on DUI Offenses in the State of Washington, a free case evaluation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (253) 201-2001 today.
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