Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Washington DUI Myths: Debunked

dui mythsCriminal defense lawyers in Tacoma, WA represent defendants charged with all different manners of crimes, from low-level misdemeanors to serious felonies. Driving under the influence of alcohol is one of the most common offenses in any state, with nearly 1.5 million people arrested for a DUI each year. That’s about 4,000 DUI arrests every day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Even so, criminal defense lawyers often field questions about DUI offenses, and it is not uncommon for DUI attorneys to be informally asked to lecture about DUI laws at parties. When it comes to drunk driving, most drivers have more questions than answers. Unfortunately, there are many myths, urban legends, half truths, and misinformation surrounding drunk driving—myths that can make drivers vulnerable if they’re pulled over by police.

So to try and dispel some of the common DUI myths in Washington state, we—the team at The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden—are here to dispel some of those myths.

Myth #1: Washington is an implied consent law, which means you must submit to field sobriety tests.

Washington is an implied consent state, which means by driving a car you are automatically providing your consent to submit to a breathalyzer or blood test following a lawful arrest. However, Washington’s implied consent law comes with two important caveats. First, the police must explain the law before administering a test. If you have any questions, speak up! Second, the implied consent law does not include the field sobriety tests, including the initial preliminary breath test (PBT), the roadside breathalyzer test.

In fact, most DUI attorneys will tell you to refuse all roadside sobriety tests altogether. Many people believe that sobriety tests like walking heel-to-toe or reciting the alphabet backwards are designed to be failed. Even sober people can fail these tests, and once they do, the police can use that failure as evidence of intoxication.

Remember: when in doubt, keep quiet, be polite, and ask to speak to your lawyer before answering any questions.

Myth #2: Your driver’s license will be automatically suspended if you refuse the field sobriety tests.

As we explained above, the implied consent law does not require you to take roadside sobriety tests, although the police may make it seem like you do. In Washington, there are actually two breath tests administered by police when someone is suspected of drunk driving.

First, there’s the PBT, which you can refuse to take. If you refuse to take the PBT, or if you fail, you will be taken to the police station for the official DataMaster Breath Test, which is the test covered by Washington’s implied consent law. Drivers who refuse this breathalyzer test will have their driver’s license suspended for one to two years. Not only that, but your refusal can be used as evidence against you in a criminal trial.

After failing or refusing the DataMaster Breath Test, the police will then file a report with the Washington Department of Licensing. You will have 20 days from the date of your arrest to request a hearing and you will have to pay a $375 fee. The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden Tacoma DUI attorneys often help people with both DUI criminal cases and DOL hearings, which are handled independently of one another.

Myth #3: You can beat a breathalyzer test by placing a penny in your mouth (or vinegar, charcoal, peanut butter, etc.).

This myth is simply false, period. Although breathalyzer tests are not 100% accurate, they have been designed so they cannot be manipulated. During a breath test, the police will often instruct you to blow harder, and failure to do so will only arouse their suspicion. If they take you to the station, they will observe you for 15 minutes prior to the test and ensure your mouth does not contain any foreign objects.

Many people also believe that so long as they do not blow 0.08% breath alcohol content or above that they will be in the clear. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. If the police suspect a driver is under the influence of marijuana, they may use the breath test to rule out alcohol impairment. For drivers under the age of 21, even a 0.02% BAC could result in DUI charges.

Myth #4: I’m really good at driving drunk, unlike those other drunk drivers who hurt people.

Of all the myths surrounding drunk driving, this is by far the most harmful.

According to the NHTSA, an estimated 29.1 million people will drive under the influence of alcohol this year alone, and the average drunk driver will get behind the wheel 80 times before being caught. Unfortunately, some people only get caught after causing serious harm to themselves or another person.

If you regularly drive drunk, it is only a matter of time until you’re caught and arrested for a DUI. That is if you’re lucky. If not, you’ll be charged with a DUI and vehicular manslaughter.

Myth #5: If I failed a breathalyzer test, my life is over.

Being arrested for a DUI in Washington can change your life forever. Even a first DUI offense in can result in fines of up to $5,000, a mandatory ignition interlock device, jail time of up to 364 days, and a 90 day driver’s license suspension (or a year if you refused the test). These consequences are incredibly serious, and any DUI attorney who tells you otherwise isn’t being honest.

That doesn’t mean your life is ruined forever. Many alcoholics first get into treatment after a DUI arrest. Other people arrested for DUIs aren’t alcoholics, but just people who made a mistake.

These are only a handful of the myths surrounding drunk driving in Washington, and after a DUI arrest, many people have nowhere to turn for answers. Working with a DUI attorney can help clear up any lingering confusion they may have following their arrest. Plus, Washington DUI attorneys can help represent the defendant in both the courtroom and DOL hearings in order to ensure they get the legal representation they deserve.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DUI in the Tacoma, Washington area, then don’t hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden.

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