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If I get stopped by police while driving, what should I do?
Every situation is different, but drivers are legally required to stop for police and provide them with proof of license, registration, and insurance. Unfortunately, many law enforcement officers stop people for minor traffic infractions and then turn it into a DUI accusation. Officers need to have sufficient legal justification to arrest a person for DUI. To justify a DUI arrest, police must try to obtain evidence. You have a legal right to refuse to help law enforcement officers obtain some of the evidence they can use to convict you.
If stopped for a traffic matter, you should have your license, registration, and insurance documentation within easy reach and ready when the officer arrives at the car. One technique officers use to look for evidence of driving under the influence is to immediately ask drivers whether they have had anything to drink. You have no obligation to answer an officer’s questions about alcohol consumption. Lying to an officer can be charged as a crime, but if asked, you may politely respond with a question such as, “Am I free to go now, officer?” If the officer continues to question you about alcohol or about where you have been or where you are going, you may respond politely with statements such as, “I would like to just be on my way, officer. Please just give me my ticket now so I can be on my way.”
If the officer continues to press for information , you can tell him or her, in no uncertain terms, “I won’t answer any questions without a lawyer.” Call a lawyer if you need to do so and if you are able. Although the officer may be unhappy with this response, it lets the officer know that he or she needs to stop questioning you. A traffic ticket issued by an angry officer is normally a better result than a DUI arrest. If you are arrested anyway, it is usually easier for a lawyer to defend a case where the accused has not made any incriminating statements or voluntarily given any evidence that could prove guilt.
You are not legally required to participate in any field sobriety tests. The officer
might make it sound like a command, not a request, but Washington law does not require
drivers to submit to sobriety tests on scene. You have the right to refuse field
sobriety tests. Be polite and refuse to do the walk and turn, the one leg stand,
the gaze test, the portable breath test, or any other tests the officer asks you
to perform at the roadside. If you are arrested and brought to a police station,
however, it may be a good idea to provide the breath sample there. Washington law
imposes serious consequences for refusing to blow at the station and enhanced penalties
for convictions with refusals to provide a sample on the court-
Can I be charged with DUI if I have not had any alcohol?
Yes. Police can arrest people for driving under the influence of illegal drugs and even for driving under the influence of prescription medications. But, just like the previous question and answer illustrate, you don’t have to help the police get evidence against you. You are not required to offer any information about any consumption of controlled substances or do any field sobriety tests. If you are charged with DUI based on the officer’s suspicion of drug use, getting a skilled lawyer is a must. (Click here for more info on drug DUI charges).
Don’t you have to drink a whole lot of alcohol to be over the legal limit?
No. First of all, you could be prosecuted for DUI even if you test under the .08 legal limit. In addition to allowing conviction of persons who blow a .08 or more in a valid test, Washington law also allows DUI convictions based on evidence that a person was driving and affected by alcohol. Although the Washington State Liquor Control Board publishes a Blood Alcohol Concentration Guide, the guide is not a good predictor of an individual’s BAC as it cannot account for individual metabolic variation, health issues, or other factors that may give rise to big differences between individuals’ consumption of alcohol and blood alcohol level. For some people, even one glass of wine could put them over the legal limit or serve as a basis for prosecution due to the effects of alcohol on the driver.
Also, criminal convictions of misdemeanor Negligent Driving in the First Degree can be obtained based on evidence that the driver has driven negligently, in a manner that could endanger persons or property, and shows the effects of having consumed liquor, an illegal drug, or a prescription drug not in accordance with prescribed warnings and directions. Unfortunately, in Washington State, the “.08 legal limit” is not really the legal limit.
Experienced and compassionate, Ms. Dalton has had many years of success in defending against DV criminal charges.
Nicole T. Dalton
Experienced & Aggressive DUI Lawyer
The fierce defender
The compassionate advocate you deserve.
Serving the Southwest Washington area including Clark, Skamania, Pacific, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum counties and the areas of Vancouver, Battleground, Washougal, Camas, Ridgefiled, Kelso, Longview, Stevenson, Long Beach, Grays River, South Bend, and others. Immigration services available throughout Washington and Oregon, including the greater Portland area. 2904 Main Street, Vancouver, WA 98663.
Being charged with DUI can be an overwhelming and scary process. We are here not only to fight for your rights and future, but to keep you informed every step of the way ... for your peace of mind.
The following information is intended to serve as a general guideline and does not
constitute legal advice for individuals faced with a possible DUI accusation in Washington
State. For legal advice, or if you are stopped, ask to speak to your lawyer and
call an experienced DUI defense attorney like Nicole Dalton, at 360-
To speak with Ms. Dalton by phone or schedule an appointment, call 360-
For emergency situations, after regular business hours, call or text: 360-
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