Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

If you’ve been pulled over for driving while intoxicated, a police officer may ask you to take a Field Sobriety Test (FST). It’s important to know you have a legal right to deny participating in the test but understand what that means for the next steps in your case before you do.

What Is A Field Sobriety Test?

Police officers use FSTs as a physical test to gauge a person’s level of impairment while driving. An FST differs from a blood alcohol concentration test.

The three standard National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) FSTs include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN), the walk and turn, and the one-leg stand.

A police officer often uses a driver’s poor FST results to justify a DUI arrest. For a DUI arrest to be legal, the officer must have evidence and probable cause. Driving pattern, manner of speech, and the driver’s appearance can contribute to the probable cause, but a poor FST performance can help.

Can I Refuse a Field Sobriety Test?

The short answer is yes; you can refuse a field sobriety test after being pulled over. FSTs are voluntary, and you can not be punished or charged with a crime.

However, the officer can testify in court that you refused to take the FST. This means your refusal to take the test may look like you were trying to hide that you were impaired.

If you already submitted to an FST, the officer may testify in court that your poor performance proves intoxicated driving. However, a savvy defense attorney will argue that your poor FST performance was due to something other than intoxication, such as tiredness, and that, in general, FSTs are unreliable indicators of impairment.

Note that even if you deny the FST but are arrested for driving under the influence, generally, you must take a blood, breath, or urine test at an officer’s request once you’re at the police station.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With A DUI or DWI?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI, reach out to VanWa Legal’s attorneys to help you mount a robust defense for your case.

We have vast experience navigating the Washington State court system and advocating for our clients who have been charged with DUIs.

We offer free consultations to help you understand your chances and afford quality representation in your case.

How Can You Better Your Life After a Criminal Conviction?

If you’re facing criminal conviction or have already been convicted of criminal offenses, the sooner you start to think about bettering your life, the sooner you’ll be able to get back on track.

If you’ve been convicted, enlisting an expungement lawyer can help you overcome obstacles you’d face from obtaining your dream job or moving on with other areas of your life.

What Can I Do To Get My Life Back On Track After A Criminal Conviction?

Having your record expunged after a criminal conviction provides many benefits. First, once a court vacates a conviction, it can not be included in your criminal history if you face another charge down the line.

You’ll also be able to apply for a job or rent an apartment without disclosing your vacated conviction. If the employer asks if you were ever convicted of a criminal charge, it is entirely legal to answer “no” after an expungement.

If you want to delete a misdemeanor in Washington, you’ll need to meet the following criteria under RCW 9.96.060:

  • You do not have any new, pending charges since the conviction you are seeking expunge;
  • Three years have passed since you completed all terms and conditions of the sentence, including paying all fines, fees, and restitution (5 years for domestic violence crimes);
  • This is the first conviction you are trying to expunge;
  • You don’t have any restraining orders, domestic violence protection orders, no-contact orders, anti-harassment protection orders, or civil restraining orders enforced against you.

Misdemeanors that include DUI or certain related offenses, certain prostitution offenses, a violent offense or attempt thereof, a sex offense, obscenity and pornography offenses, or sexual exploitation of children offenses can not be expunged in the same manner.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Arrested With Criminal Charges?

If you’ve been arrested and charged or already convicted with criminal offenses, reach out to VanWa legal right away. We provide clients with free consultations on every case. In addition, we offer flexible payment plans if you cannot afford to pay all upfront.

Our experience working within the Washington State criminal court system can help you minimize the damage of any criminal convictions, in some cases expunge your record, and get your life back on track right away. Often, we can help you expunge your record without you even needing to appear in court.

Hiring an expungement lawyer can help you better your life, give you new job opportunities, and help you move forward after a criminal conviction.

Minimizing the Damage from a Felony Drug Charge

If you’ve been charged with a felony drug offense, you should enlist the help of an experienced attorney right away to help minimize the damage.

Depending on the type of drug, the amount of drugs in your possession, and your alleged intent, your lawyer will have different routes to help protect you.

If the court convicts you of a drug charge, your ability to seek gainful employment is dangerous. A good lawyer will help you understand your drug charges and work to find an angle to minimize the damage so you can continue with your life.

What Are Possible Defenses In A Felony Drug Charge Case?

Your lawyer will take a unique avenue to your case depending on the drug charge when building your defense.

Your lawyer can try these options to possibly help you avoid a conviction or a lengthy jail sentence. Possible defenses or options include:

  • Diversion
  • Drug Offender Sentencing Alternatives
  • Drug Court
  • First Time Offender Waivers
  • Alternative sentencing options
  • Claiming search issues with the police
  • Fourth Amendment violations
  • Arguing your intent
  • Chain of custody problems with evidence
  • Factual defenses
  • Poor police work
  • You were in legal possession of the drugs under the care of a physician
  • Claiming you didn’t know you were in possession of the drugs

What Are The Possible Punishments For A Felony Drug Charge In Washington State?

Most drug charges in Washington classify as felonies, so your case carries grave consequences from the start if you don’t handle it properly.

If convicted, your fines can be as high as $500,000 per drug count. Even first-time offenders can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison. If this is not your first conviction, the fines and jail sentences may double. If you were dealing drugs to minors, you could be facing life in prison.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With A Felony Drug Offense?

If you’ve been arrested on a felony drug charge, reach out to VanWa’s legal team right away. Our criminal defense attorneys offer free consultations to help you understand your options and chances of avoiding conviction.

We offer flat-fee pricing to help you obtain the best legal representation and move forward with your life.

Drug laws have been evolving in Washington State and across the country quickly, so employing an attorney that understands the law and can apply the new changes to your case is your best chance at minimizing the damage.

What is the Fallout from a Malicious Mischief Conviction?

If you were in what started as a verbal fight but then break something owned by someone else or you co-owned, you may be charged with Malicious Mischief.

While this is a lesser charge than physically hitting someone else, the charge still holds grave consequences that you’ll need an experienced domestic violence defense attorney to help you navigate.

What Is Malicious Mischief?

Malicious Mischief is a standard domestic abuse charge that is a gross misdemeanor charge where a person knowingly and maliciously damages someone else’s property.

What Is Malicious Mischief In The First Degree?

A person is guilty of Malicious Mischief in the First Degree if they knowingly and maliciously causes physical damage to the property of another in an amount exceeding $5,000.

Outside of domestic abuse, Malicious Mischief in the First Degree also applies if the accused causes an interruption or impairment of service rendered to the public by physically damaging or tampering with an emergency vehicle, property of the state, a public utility, or mode of public transportation, power, or communication. This also includes damaging or tampering with an aircraft.

Malicious Mischief in the First Degree is a class B felony. In Washington State, a class B felony conviction carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.

What Is Malicious Mischief In The Third Degree?

In addition to breaking property, Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree includes writing, painting, or drawing any inscription, figure, or mark of any type on any public or private building or other structure or personal property owned by any other person.

If you’re charged with Malicious Mischief in the Third Degree, the police must arrest you, the court will impose a domestic violence no-contact order, and you may lose your firearm rights.

Gross misdemeanor convictions carry up to 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With Malicious Mischief?

If you’ve been charged with malicious Mischief, employing a strong domestic violence defense attorney will strengthen your chances of winning your case. Contact VanWa Legal right away for a free case evaluation.

We have more than a decade of experience navigating Washington State’s domestic violence laws and can help you get your case on track for your best chance.

We can discuss alternative resolutions with you so you don’t have to plead guilty or go to trial. We generally handle misdemeanor Malicious Mischief charges on affordable flat-fee terms to help you afford a robust legal defense. We can even offer payment plans if you can’t afford the entire fee upfront.

Roadblocks to Restoring Your Firearms License

With suitable legal representation, it’s possible to regain your firearms license without appearing in front of a court. Many value firearms possession as a critical second amendment right.

However, depending on what led to revoking your firearms license, you may face some roadblocks.

What Are Some Roadblocks To Restoring My Firearms License?

If a court finds you guilty of any felony conviction, it automatically leads to losing your right to possess firearms. In addition, any violent offense convictions may also hinder your ability to regain your right to carry arms.

This rule stems from the federal Gun Control Act of 1968, which states you cannot possess a firearm if you have been convicted of a crime “in any court” that carries a maximum punishment of more than one year in prison.

Under 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20), a felony conviction does not prevent you from possessing a firearm if your civil rights have been restored or your conviction has been vacated.

Regardless of the federal law, you’d work to restore your gun rights in state court first, not federal.

Other issues that may prevent you from restoring your firearms license can be if you were committed to any mental health institutions. Under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(4), you cannot own or possess a firearm if you have been “adjudicated as a mental defective” or have “been committed to a mental institution.”

In addition to federal law, many domestic violence misdemeanor offenses will also cause your license to be revoked. These include convictions for:

  • Assault in the Fourth Degree
  • Stalking
  • Coercion
  • Reckless Endangerment
  • Criminal Trespass in the First Degree
  • Violations of a Protection Order or No Contact Order

You need to meet specific criteria to qualify to have your firearm rights restored. Primarily, if you were found guilty of a sex offense or Class A felony charge, the court will not restore your firearm license. Also, you may not be currently facing prosecution for any criminal charge.

What Can I Do To Reinstate My Firearms License?

If you’re looking to reinstate your firearms license, contact the VanWa law firm right away. We can help you file a petition to restore firearm rights in Vancouver, WA, and much of Southwest Washington. If your petition is denied, then you can seek judicial review in federal court.

If you were convicted of a felony, you must show you have gone at least five consecutive years without being convicted of any crimes before a court will consider restoring your firearms license.

We offer flat-fee payment plans to help any client retain the help of our experienced attorneys.

Am I Eligible for a Deferred DUI Prosecution?

In Washington State, a deferred prosecution, as laid out in 10.05 RCW, allows someone accused of a crime, such as a DUI, to cite diseases such as alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental health issues and seek medical treatment and avoid harsh prosecution.

What Is Deferred DUI Prosecution?

Deferred DUI prosecution allows those suffering from alcoholism, drug addiction, or mental health issues to avoid jail time to seek medical attention. If the accused seeks treatment, the charges will be dropped in three years.

After the accused provides proof they successfully rehabilitated during the two-year treatment program, the court will dismiss the charges.

The state designed the deferred prosecution program for people who admit they have a severe alcohol or drug problem.

The Washington State legislature enacted the program because the “program is an alternative to punishment for persons who will benefit from a treatment program if the treatment program is provided under circumstances that do not unreasonably endanger public safety or the traditional goals of the criminal justice system. This alternative to punishment is dependent for success upon appropriate treatment and the willingness and ability of the person receiving treatment to cooperate fully with the treatment program.”

Am I Eligible For A Deferred DUI Prosecution?

To qualify for a deferred DUI prosecution, you must petition the court at least seven days before the trial begins and then receive an evaluation. Again, it’s best to enlist the help of an experienced lawyer to help you take these steps.

In some cases, if you can prove reasonable cause for the delay with a written motion and affidavit, the court will allow more time. But the defendant must reimburse the court of witness fees and expenses related to the delay.

The accused won’t qualify for a deferred prosecution more than once. So if this is your second DUI, and you used deferred prosecution the first time, it won’t be allowed for this charge.

Also, if the person has committed multiple offenses more than seven days apart, they can’t consolidate the charges into a single program.

To qualify for the program, you must admit three things to yourself and the court:

  1. You have a serious drug or alcohol problem;
  2. If you don’t get the treatment you need, you are likely to re-offend; and
  3. You do not sincerely believe you are innocent of the crime.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With A DUI In Washington State?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI while driving in Washington State, contact the VanWa legal team right away.

Our experienced attorneys understand the complex DUI laws of Washington State and can help you explore your options to protect yourself and seek the treatment you may need.

Deferred prosecution isn’t the easy way out and requires years of work, so evaluating this option with an attorney is critical.

Washington State Reclassifies Drug Possession as Misdemeanor

Washington State Supreme Court strikes down felony drug possession law as unconstitutional. Redefined as misdemeanor. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed legislation on Thursday to recriminalize simple possession as a misdemeanor.

Washington State Legislature Reestablishes Criminal Penalties

Requires individuals to be referred to eval and possible treatment for first two offenses. Alots $100 million for disorder treatment, outreach, recovery.

At a signing ceremony Thursday, Inslee called the legislation “a much more appropriate and successful way to address the needs that underlie drug abuse.” He did veto a portion of the bill (Section 21) that would have created a new penalty and had that penalty go into the new account that was created. Activity in the account is funded by the state General Fund.

“This legislation will help reduce the disparate impact of the previous drug possession statute on people of color,” he said. “It moves the system from responding to possession as a felony to focusing on the behavioral health response.”

The law will stand for two years and then legislators will have to pass new laws on drug possession. However the Recovery Navigator program which is being established statewide, will remain in place. Program connects people with drug disorders to a wide range of recovery care resources.

The advocacy group Treatment First WA has been at the forefront of decriminalization efforts in Washington State. Though a 2020 campaign failed due to complications in getting needed signatures during COVID crises, the group attempted to get broader treatment-first initiatives passed in 2021. The measure passed the House committee but ran out of time and didn’t meet the legislative deadline.

Moderates and conservatives insisted that simply removing penalties would leave people with little motive to get treatment. These penalties, they argue, set a standard that wouldn’t be subverted by local anti-drug laws. Such an eventuality would leave a hodge-podge of laws that would be confusing and difficult to enforce.

State legislators are hopeful that even more progressive measures can be signed into law once the benefits of the current programs become evident. Washington State citizens seem to be generally in favor of decriminalization according to a poll by FM3 Research. The survey showed that 71% of respondents preferred a treatment-first approach to drug policy.

Oregon is moving forward even more aggressively by decriminalizing all drugs as of November 2020. And they are not alone among other states who are moving towards more progressive drug policies. Maine, Vermont and California all have significant legislature moving forward that emphasize legalization of a broad variety of “recreational” drugs.

Evidence That Can Be Used Against You in a DUI Case

When charged in a DUI case, defendants may fear the case will be open-and-shut if an officer administered a blood-alcohol test.

However, more evidence than just a breathalyzer test can be used against you, and understanding what type of evidence will be used can help you and your legal team mount the best defense.

What Evidence Would A Prosecutor Use Against Me In A DUI Case?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, the evidence collection begins with the arresting officer who first pulled you over. That officer’s reports and testimonies will go into why they pulled you over, what they observed at the scene, and anything you said, as well as any on-scene tests such as a breathalyzer or other field sobriety tests.

Regarding the officer’s testimony, anything they observed, such as the smell of liquor coming from your breath, if you slurred your speech, or had bloodshot eyes, can be used as evidence against you.

Any evidence of open beer cans or empty liquor bottles from the scene, as well as reports of you driving recklessly, such as swerving or drifting off the road, can also paint the picture you were driving while intoxicated.

In addition to the officer’s verbal testimony, if the officer had a bodycam on or a dashboard camera on their vehicle, the prosecutor may use any footage against you.

Any witnesses who saw you driving may also be called to illustrate reckless driving.

Can I Be Charged for a DUI Without Blood Alcohol Evidence?

You can still be charged with a DUI, even if you deny a blood alcohol test. If you refused the breathalyzer test when pulled over for suspected drunk driving, some consequences would follow, such as an automatic license suspension.

If your case goes to trial, the prosecutor will likely argue to the judge or jury that you refused the test to hide the fact you were intoxicated.

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Charged With A DUI?

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, contact the VanWa law offices right away. Just because you’ve been arrested doesn’t mean you will be convicted.

Our expert legal team understands the nuances of DUI laws in Washington State, working on both sides of the aisle.

We offer clients free consultations to help you get started in defending your case.

After getting a better grasp on your case, we can decide to argue the test results were inadmissible if law enforcement violated your constitutional rights in any way or how the officer, who collected the sample, did not comply with federal or state procedures.

Are You Being Harassed By Your Accuser?

If you’ve been accused of a crime, one of the first pieces of advice your lawyer will give you is not to contact your accuser. However, sometimes the tables turn, and your accuser starts harassing you.

People often use the term “harassment,” however, in the legal world, a specific definition needs to be met in order for law enforcement to step in and help the harassment stop.

What Constitutes A Harassment Charge?

Someone can be charged with harassment if they knowingly threaten to:

  • Inflict bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person;
  • Kill your or someone else;
  • Cause physical damage to the property of a person that is not their own property;
  • Physical confine or restrain the person they’re threatening or someone else;
  • Commit any act that would harm anyone physically or mentally.

Harassment can take on many forms, such as cyberbullying, stalking, hate crimes, psychological and sexual harassment. Often a prosecutor can bring domestic violence and harassment charges together.

What Are The Penalties For Harassment In Washington State?

Depending on the level of the harassment charges, a person convicted will either face misdemeanor or felony charges.

Harassment often qualifies as a Class C felony, which can carry a jail sentence of up to five years and a fine up to $10,000. When the harassment charge qualifies as a misdemeanor, it can be punishable for up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Before an official ruling is made in a court, if your accuser is making you feel uncomfortable, you can petition the court for a restraining order.

An anti-harassment order is a particular restraining order only available to victims of harassment.

The anti-harassment order bans the respondent from contacting you, forbids the respondent from keeping you under surveillance, and requires the respondent to stay a stated distance away from your home or workplace. Any state can enforce this order, and you can get the forms at your District Courthouse. However, the court hearings necessary to grant this order may take up to two weeks to schedule.

If you need emergency protection, you can file for a “temporary order for anti-harassment.” The judge will hear your reasoning for requiring such an order the same day.

What Should I Do If My Accuser Is Harassing Me?

If you feel your accuser is harassing you, contact our legal team at VanWa Legal right away.

We offer prospective clients free consultations. During our session, we can discuss how you’re being treated and if it fits the legal definition of harassment.

What is the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony DUI in Washington State?

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can incur heavy fines, license suspension, and even jail time. However, certain factors determine whether Washington State’s legal system deems your infraction a misdemeanor or felony.

Understanding the difference between the two and the contributing factors to how the court classifies a misdemeanor versus felony DUI can help you defend yourself and prepare for what’s ahead.

How Does Washington State Determine Between A Misdemeanor And Felony DUI Charge?

Washington State law determines between a misdemeanor and felony DUI charges based on several factors, such as how many DUI convictions you’ve had in the past, if drugs were involved, and your Blood Alcohol Content test and results.

Felony charges possess more serious consequences than misdemeanors, and typically an “aggravating factor” must be present for the prosecutor to elevate the charge to a felony level. Aggravating factors can include driving without a license, previous DUI convictions, etc.

A court will elevate a DUI conviction to a felony if:

  • the driver has four or more prior DUI related offenses within the last 10 years;
  • a driver has a previous conviction for vehicular assault or vehicular homicide while under the influence;
  • a driver has a prior felony DUI conviction.

What Are The Main Differences Between A Misdemeanor And Felony DUI Charge?

The main differences between a misdemeanor and felony DUI charge rest in the severity of the charges and the consequences. However, all Washington State DUI convictions require some minimum jail time.

In Washington State, a misdemeanor DUI’s punishment ranges from 24 hours to 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Your BAC results or if you refused a BAC test will determine the jail sentence length.

A gross misdemeanor’s punishments can range from 364 days in jail and up to a $5,000 fine.

If you’re charged with a felony, the punishment is sentenced under the Sentencing Reform Act guidelines. Under the SRA, your prior DUI convictions within the ten-year window count as “points” against you. With three prior points, the judge will sentence you to at least 13 months of jail time. Felonies are also charged in Superior Court, opposed to District Court for misdemeanors.

What Should I Do If I Am Being Charged With A DUI In Washington State?

If you have been charged with a DUI in Washington State, contact VanWa’s offices right away. Our team has vast experience navigating the complex DUI laws of Washington State.

VanWa’s legal team offers free consultations to prospective clients so you can understand how the details of your case may affect the result.