What court and other proceedings can I expect if I’m arrested for DUI?
In Washington, two separate proceedings typically begin if you blow over the legal limit or refuse to provide a breath or blood sample. First, you will likely be cited into court to answer to your charge. At the first appearance, the judge makes a determination about whether to set bail or other conditions of release and additional court appearances will likely be scheduled. From there, your attorney will decide with you whether to file motions and whether to take the case to trial or whether to resolve the case with a plea bargain or other resolution.
Additionally, if you had a BAC above .08 or refused the test, the Department of Licensing (DOL) will likely begin a separate process of suspending or revoking your right to drive for a defined period of time. You have a right to have a hearing and will need to pay careful attention to the very short time limits for requesting that hearing. If you don’t request the hearing in time, you can lose your right to fight the suspension or revocation. In most cases, our flat fee includes representation for both the criminal case and the civil DOL hearing.
If I get stopped by police while driving, what should I do?
Every situation is different, but the following information is intended to serve as a general guideline when faced with a possible DUI accusation in Washington State. You are legally required to stop for police and provide them with proof of your 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. If you are stopped, feel free to call me 24-hours a day, seven days a week at 360-213-0013.
Are field sobriety tests required?
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 . It is advisable to be polite and you are allowed to 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, especially if there is a good chance the BAC will be relatively low. There are many BAC estimators available on the internet, although these estimators can only estimate what is typical and do not account for many variables, including food consumption and metabolic differences. Washington law imposes serious consequences for refusing to blow at the station. Law enforcement officers must explain your right to refuse and the consequences of refusing that breath test. You have a right to speak with a lawyer before deciding whether the blow.
Can I be charged with DUI for drugs in my system?
Yes. Police can arrest people for driving under the influence of legal and illegal drugs and even for driving under the influence of prescription or over-the-counter 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.
At the Dalton Law Office, PLLC, we have extensive experience litigating “drug” DUI’s and we take an aggressive approach to defending your rights. Washington law allows prosecutors to charge people for driving under the influence of almost any drug. That’s not fair. We use cutting edge defenses in handling cases such as driving under the influence of Ambien, Zoloft, prescription and other drugs. The state’s prosecutors and laboratory “experts” often play fast and loose when it comes to drug DUI charges. Our mission is to nail them and stop abuses of power and abuses of “scientific” evidence.
Whether the drug is clearly an intoxicant or one you’d never think would be the basis of a DUI charge, we’re prepared to pull out all the stops in defending against unreasonable laws and in defending your freedom.
What are the consequences of pleading guilty or being convicted of a DUI?
Aside from the personal suffering and possible impact on your career, there are many consequences of a DUI conviction. The following are just some of the possible legal consequences of being convicted of driving under the influence RCW 46.61.5055. For DUI offenses charged as a gross misdemeanor, Washington State imposes minimum mandatory jail sentences for convictions, lasting from one day to 120 or more days in jail, plus up to 150 additional days of electronic home monitoring. Under the statute, a DUI conviction in Washington will also result in suspension or revocation of your license from 90 days to several years. To reinstate a driving privilege after a DUI conviction, the Department of Licensing may also require the driver to install an ignition interlock device in the vehicle for between one and ten years.
DUI convictions also carry a heavy economic impact on people convicted of this crime. In addition to fines of up to $5,000, additional court costs and assessments may be imposed, substantial additional costs are associated with electronic home monitoring, installing and renting ignition interlock devices, and mandatory alcohol assessment, treatment, supervision and other requirements.
Beyond these direct consequences, a DUI conviction has many collateral or indirect effects. A DUI conviction creates a criminal record, which may impact your current and future employment opportunities, as many employers perform background checks. In Washington, DUI charges are not eligible to be vacated and sealed from a person’s criminal record. Additionally, certain professional licenses might be affected, potentially limiting your professional growth.
A person convicted of a felony DUI in Washington State will become a felon and be prohibited from possessing firearms. Additionally, Washington House Bill 1562, passed in 2023, may impact your gun rights in relation to prior convictions as defined under RCW 46.61.5055. Although it is unclear as yet whether this bill will pass constitutional muster, it goes into effect in this summer and appears to result in loss of firearm rights for those convicted of a qualifying second offense.
A DUI conviction may also affect your ability to travel internationally. For instance, Canada has strict rules regarding admissibility of individuals with DUI convictions. Although we cannot advise on Canadian law, even a single DUI conviction may render a person inadmissible in certain countries without obtaining specific legal clearance from their governments.
Moreover, a DUI conviction can have personal consequences such as increased insurance premiums and potential impacts on child custody proceedings. It is also essential to note that while a first DUI offense does not generally result in a felony on your record, repeated offenses would increase the severity of the consequences, which may escalate to a felony status.
Additionally, a DUI conviction may also influence your eligibility for certain types of government assistance or housing. Even though these implications are not part of the criminal penalty, they can greatly impact your life.
Can a DUI charge turn into a felony conviction?
Yes. If the person has three or more prior offenses within ten years as defined in RCW 46.61.5055, Washington law turns a DUI conviction into a Class B felony. Convicted felons face serious consequences including loss of civil rights and discrimination in employment and housing. A felony conviction can cause loss of voting rights, restrictions on your ability to travel to other countries, and loss of the right to possess or own firearms.
Can a DUI conviction be removed from my criminal record?
No. In Washington, the laws that permit vacating and sealing criminal records do not currently allow DUI convictions to be vacated and sealed. However, a lesser charge offered by the prosecution or obtained by your attorney in the process of plea bargaining may qualify at a later date to be vacated and sealed from the public eye.
Don’t you have to drink a whole lot of alcohol to be over the legal limit?
The simple answer is, 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, unfortunately, this 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 result in individual variations. 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. We have seen cases where drivers consumed as little as just one glass of wine and were charged with DUI. A combination of alcohol and prescription, over-the-counter, or other drugs may result in DUI charges, even where the alcohol is minimal and the drug is seemingly innocuous.
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.
Are there any defenses to driving under the influence?
There are a number of possible legal defenses that an experienced DUI defense lawyer can explore. Each case is different, but typically we scrutinize the whole process, looking for deficiencies in the state’s case from beginning to end, including: the legality of the traffic stop, whether and how field sobriety tests were performed, the legality of any statements obtained, whether the breath or blood tests were performed in compliance with the law, whether the equipment used to perform the tests was in disrepair and whether proper maintenance and calibration were performed, and whether any external factors, such as medical conditions or issues with the machine, possibly affected the test results in the individual case.
Depending on these and more factors, a person may have valid defenses that a skilled DUI attorney can use to obtain the best results possible in a given situation. At the Dalton Law Office, PLLC, we closely scrutinize the whole process and use any legal defense we can find to give our clients the best shot at a good outcome in their cases.
If you have been arrested for DUI or a driving or alcohol related offense in Southwest Washington, don’t hesitate to contact the Dalton Law Office to find out more about your rights and your options. We are here to help.
To speak with one of our attorneys by phone or schedule an appointment, call 360-213-0013.
Ms. Dalton and our other DUI lawyers make themselves personally available as soon as possible for DUI and related charges.
For emergency situations, after regular business hours, call our office and our message will give you our cell phone number.