Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Arrests and Warrants

The majority of DUI cases in the state of Washington begin with an initial traffic stop, an accident, or a mechanical breakdown. The traffic stop could be for driving behaviors which suggest to a police officer that the driver is impaired (weaving, crossing the center line, driving very slowly) or could be for something as simple as a broken taillight or an expired registration sticker. Whatever the reason for the initial stop, if the officer suspects you are driving under the influence, you may be asked to step out of your vehicle. If an officer stops you and suspects that you are driving under the influence, they will ask you to step from the vehicle. The officer usually asks to administer field sobriety tests (FST) and for a suspect to submit to a portable breath test (PBT). At this point, it is extremely important that you understand your rights—and that you exercise those rights. Your rights, once you have been stopped on suspicion of DUI, include the following:

  • You are not required under the law to make a statement or answer questions asked by the officer. You are required to provide identifying information, but nothing more.
  • You absolutely have the right to refuse field sobriety tests, as they are voluntary.
  • You have the right to refuse to take a voluntary/preliminary roadside breath test, do not get this confused with any breath test you’ve been asked to take at a police station.
  • Unless there is cause to do so (the police have reason to believe evidence which is relevant to the crime you are suspected of could be found in your vehicle), you have the right to refuse a search of your vehicle, your person, or your property, however the police are allowed to “frisk” you to ensure you are not carrying a weapon.
  • If your car is later impounded, it may be legally be searched, except for any locked compartment—which requires a valid search warrant.

These tests are all voluntary and should be refused no matter what until you have been able to speak to an attorney.

If you are arrested on suspicion of DUI, you have the right to speak with a DUI attorney prior to making a decision regarding whether you will submit to a breath or blood test before making your decision. No matter what time of day or night, you will be put in touch with an on-call drunk driving defense attorney, or you can contact us 24/7 and speak to a DUI lawyer. If you submit to a breath test, you have the right to have an additional breath or blood test performed by a qualified person of your choosing.

Keep in mind that under Washington’s implied consent law, once you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe you have been driving under the influence, you will be offered a state-certified breath test. If you refuse to take the test, a first DUI offense refusal will result in a one-year license suspension. If you refuse to take a BAC test for a second DUI offense, you could have your driver’s license suspended for two to three years. If, however, you agree to take the test and your BAC results are at or above the legal limit, your driver’s license will be suspended for 90 days. Requesting a DOL hearing within 7 days allow you to challenge the license suspension.

You can refuse BAC testing, but it is usually not recommended. Remember that you have a right to receive notice of the charges against you and the potential penalties—including maximum penalties and mandatory minimum penalties. Being arrested and taken to a police station can be an intimidating, scary experience. The officer can bypass BAC testing and request a warrant for a blood draw. If granted by a judge, the warrant for the blood will be executed by someone authorized to draw blood. This is done if drugs are suspected or if BAC testing is refused.

DUI Search Warrants in Western WA

Washington State police officers may obtain a search warrant in order to obtain a blood sample if you refuse a breath test or the officer suspects you are under the influence of drugs. When police officers suspect that an individual is driving under the influence of marijuana, they will go to these lengths to achieve test results. Once a search warrant is in place, your consent is not required, and the warrant is not a request. The search warrant must have been obtained under a lawful basis and probable cause, however, in some instances Washington police officers will go to these lengths to force a suspect to comply with DUI tests.

A search of your person or vehicle could also require a warrant unless the police reasonably fear for their safety or believe you are drug-impaired—in either case, you may be patted down for a weapon hidden in your clothing or for drugs or drug paraphernalia. The same holds true for your vehicle—a probable cause warrant is usually required. Probable cause is often established when evidence is in plain sight (empty alcohol bottles on the seat or floor of your car).

If there is no immediate visible evidence and you refuse to allow a search of your car, the officers can ask for a warrant, or, if your vehicle is impounded, officers can conduct an inventory related to that impoundment. Washington law requires your car to be impounded for a minimum of 12 hours following a DUI arrest. While your car is impounded, law enforcement has the right to conduct a standard “inventory” which may turn up evidence which can then be used against you in a court of law.

Getting the Help You Need After Being Charged with Drunk Driving in Washington

If you are arrested, you could be booked into jail, or you could possibly be released. You may or may not be provided a court date—your first appearance, or arraignment is likely to be within a few hours to a few days following your release. If you have been charged with a DUI in Western Washington, it is extremely important that you contact experienced drunk driving defense lawyers.

Make sure that your mailing address is updated with the DOL.

At the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden, our Lakewood DUI lawyers will work hard to help you avoid as many consequences of your DUI as possible. As a top DUI defense lawyer in Western Washington, Barbara A. Bowden can ensure your DUI is handled properly, in a timely manner. If you are in the Lakewood, WA or Tacoma, WA area and have been charged with drunk driving in Washington, contact the Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden DUI lawyers.