January 25, 2024
Can You Fight A DUI In Washington State?
Driving under the influence, commonly referred to as DUI, is a serious offense in Washington State. However, if you’ve been charged with a DUI, it doesn’t mean that you’re automatically guilty. In fact, there are numerous ways to fight a DUI charge in Washington state, and it’s well within your rights to do so. So, let’s delve into the specifics of how you can fight a DUI charge in Washington.
Understanding Washington State’s DUI Laws
Before we get into the specifics of fighting a DUI charge, it’s important to understand what constitutes a DUI in Washington State. Under Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.61.502, a person is considered guilty of driving under the influence if they operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher within two hours of driving. They can also be charged with a DUI if they’re under the influence of any drug.
Therefore, if you are stopped by law enforcement and suspected of being under the influence of either drugs or alcohol while driving, you may be charged with a DUI. This can lead to serious penalties such as fines, license suspension, mandatory chemical dependency treatment, and even jail time. But remember: being charged does not mean you are guilty.
Hire an Experienced Attorney
If you’ve been charged with a DUI in Washington State, one of the first things to do is hire an experienced DUI attorney who specializes in DUI cases. An attorney will guide you through the legal process and provide essential advice on how best to defend your case.
DUI laws are complex and challenging to navigate alone. An experienced attorney will understand the intricacies of these laws and can help identify the most effective defense strategies for your specific situation. They may challenge the legality of your traffic stop, the accuracy of your breath or blood test, or even the way in which the field sobriety tests were conducted.
Challenging the Traffic Stop
One common defense to a DUI charge in Washington State is challenging the legality of the traffic stop. Law enforcement officers must have reasonable cause to pull you over. This means they must observe a violation of traffic laws or witness behavior that suggests impaired driving. If the officer cannot provide a legal reason for the stop, any evidence collected during the traffic stop may be deemed inadmissible in court.
Your attorney can request footage from police dashboard cameras or body cameras to determine whether there was indeed reasonable cause for the stop. If it’s found that there wasn’t sufficient reason for the officer to pull you over, then your DUI charge might be dismissed altogether.
Questioning Field Sobriety Tests
Field sobriety tests are usually conducted by law enforcement officers to determine if a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, these tests are not always accurate and can sometimes lead to false positive results. For instance, a person with certain medical conditions or disabilities may fail these tests even if they’re completely sober.
Common field sobriety tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), Walk and Turn (WAT), and One Leg Stand (OLS) tests. A good attorney can challenge the results of these tests by questioning their accuracy, how they were conducted, and whether the officer administering them was properly trained to do so.
Contesting Chemical Test Results
Chemical tests, including breathalyzer and blood tests, are used to determine your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest. However, these tests aren’t foolproof and could be challenged on several fronts.
For example, breathalyzer tests need to be properly calibrated and maintained to provide accurate results. If the equipment used was not in good working order or if there were errors in the administration of the test, these could significantly impact the test result. Similarly, in the case of blood tests, there could be issues with how the blood sample was collected, stored, or analyzed.
An experienced DUI attorney can raise these concerns and potentially get the test results dismissed as evidence.
Presenting an Affirmative Defense
An affirmative defense is one where you admit to driving under the influence but argue that you had a valid reason for doing so. For example, if you were forced to drive while intoxicated to prevent a greater harm (such as escaping from a dangerous situation), this could be considered an affirmative defense.
Another common affirmative defense is involuntary intoxication, where you weren’t aware that you’d consumed alcohol or a controlled substance. This could occur if your drink was spiked without your knowledge.
Keep in mind that these defenses are generally more difficult to prove and require strong evidential support. However, with the help of a skilled attorney, it’s possible to successfully use an affirmative defense in a DUI case.
Seeking a Reduction or Dismissal of Charges
If all else fails, it may be possible to negotiate for a reduction or dismissal of charges. This usually involves bargaining with the prosecution to reduce your DUI charge to a lesser offense such as reckless driving or negligent driving.
Your attorney can also negotiate for alternative sentencing options like a stay of proceedings or deferred prosecution programs which may allow you to avoid having a DUI conviction on your record.
Remember: every DUI case is unique and what works in one case might not work in another. Therefore, it’s crucial to have an experienced DUI attorney who can come up with a tailored defense strategy for your specific situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are the penalties for a DUI in Washington State?
The penalties for a DUI in Washington State can include fines, license suspension, mandatory chemical dependency treatment, and even jail time. However, these penalties can vary based on several factors including your blood alcohol level at the time of arrest and whether you’ve had previous DUI convictions.
2. Can I refuse to take a field sobriety test in Washington State?
Yes, you have the right to refuse to take a field sobriety test in Washington State. However, refusal could potentially be used against you in court.
3. What is considered a “reasonable cause” for a traffic stop?
Reasonable cause for a traffic stop generally means that the officer must observe a traffic violation or witness behavior suggesting impaired driving such as swerving, speeding, or driving erratically.
4. How can I challenge the results of my breathalyzer or blood test?
An experienced DUI attorney can challenge the results of your breathalyzer or blood test by questioning the calibration and maintenance of the testing equipment, errors in the administration of the test, or issues with how the blood sample was collected, stored, or analyzed.
5. What is an affirmative defense to a DUI charge?
An affirmative defense is one where you admit to driving under the influence but argue that you had a valid reason for doing so. Examples include being forced to drive while intoxicated to prevent greater harm or involuntary intoxication (such as having your drink spiked without your knowledge).
6. Can my DUI charges be reduced or dismissed?
Yes, it may be possible to negotiate with the prosecution for a reduction or dismissal of your DUI charges. This typically involves reducing the DUI charge to a lesser offense or negotiating for alternative sentencing options.
7. What happens if I’m convicted of a DUI in Washington State?
If you’re convicted of a DUI in Washington State, you could face severe penalties including fines, jail time, license suspension, mandatory chemical dependency treatment, an ignition interlock requirement, and insurance hikes. A DUI conviction will also remain on your criminal record.
8. Can I fight a DUI charge on my own?
While it is technically possible to fight a DUI charge on your own, it is strongly advised to seek legal representation. DUI laws are complex and it can be difficult to mount an effective defense without legal expertise.
9. How can an attorney help with my DUI case?
An experienced attorney can guide you through the legal process, help identify the most effective defense strategies for your specific situation, challenge any evidence against you, and negotiate for a reduction or dismissal of charges.
10. What if I was under the influence of drugs, not alcohol?
If you were under the influence of drugs while driving, you can still be charged with a DUI in Washington State. The penalties and defense strategies are similar to those for alcohol-related DUIs.
11. Can I get my driver’s license back after a DUI?
Yes, it is possible to get your driver’s license reinstated after a DUI. Washington has an Ignition Interlock License specifically for persons serving a license suspension related to a DUI. This can make you eligible to drive even with a suspended license. Once your license suspension has been fully served, you can reinstate your license if you satisfy the necessary requirements under the law.
12. What is stay of proceeding or deferred prosecution program?
A stay of proceeding or deferred prosecution program is an alternative sentencing option that allows certain offenders to avoid having a DUI conviction on their record. These programs usually involve completing an alcohol or drug education program and staying out of legal trouble for a certain period of time.
13. What are the consequences of a second or third DUI?
The consequences of a second or third DUI conviction are typically more severe and can include longer jail sentences, higher fines, longer license suspensions, and mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle.
14. Can I be charged with a DUI if I was sitting in a parked car?
Yes, you can still be charged with a DUI if you are found intoxicated in the driver’s seat of a parked car where there is circumstantial evidence that you drove the car. It is also a separate crime called Physical Control to be in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This can be proven under circumstances where you are behind the wheel of a nonmoving car under certain circumstances, and the penalties are identical to a DUI under the law. The exact facts of the case can greatly affect whether or not a DUI or Physical Control charge is warranted.
15. What should I do if I’m pulled over for suspected DUI?
If you’re pulled over for suspected DUI, it’s important to remain calm and polite. You have the right to refuse to answer any questions without an attorney present. If you’re asked to take a field sobriety test or a breathalyzer test, understand the potential consequences of refusing these tests before making your decision.
Having a thorough understanding of Washington State’s DUI laws and knowing your rights and possible defenses can be key in successfully navigating a DUI charge. Always remember that each situation is unique and having experienced legal representation can make all the difference. With knowledge, preparation, and expert legal help, you can confidently face these challenges and seek the best possible outcome.
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