How To Beat Washington DUI
How to Beat a DUI in Washington State
In Washington state, a conviction for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) carries stiff penalties. Depending on your blood alcohol content (BAC), you could spend up to a year in jail and lose your license for over a year. If this is your second or third DUI, then you face much more severe punishment.Fortunately, you can fight a DUI charge—although it won’t be easy. To build a strong defense, you will need to analyze the facts of your case and look for errors made by the police. You should also hire a lawyer, if you can afford one.
Handling Your Arrest and Other Matters
Remain silent when around police.The best thing you can do to build a strong DUI defense is to remain silent when the police stop you. You should also remain silent after the police arrest you. Anything you say can and will be used against you. If the police ask you questions, say, “I don’t want to answer that.”
- For example, if you admit to drinking some beers, then you can expect the prosecutor to use that statement in a trial.
- The more you talk, the more a police officer can recognize slurred speech, which is a sign of drunkenness.
- Once arrested, tell the police, “I want a lawyer. I don’t want to talk to you.”
Write down your memories of the arrest.As soon as possible, you should sit down and write out what you remember about the arrest. Be sure to write down the following, which could help you in your DUI defense:
- What was the weather like? You might be able to claim that you were driving poorly because of the overcast weather.
- Did the officer tell you why you were stopped?
- Were you read your rights after arrest?
- What did the officer say, and what did you say? Try to remember specifically what you might have said.
- Who was with you as a passenger in the car?
- What tests did you take? A field sobriety test? A breath test? Blood test? Did the officer watch you for 15 minutes before administering a test, as is required by law?
Receive notice of your court date.You should receive a notice, probably in the mail, informing you of when you should show up to court. You may also receive this notice from the police officer directly.
Enter a “not guilty” plea.At your arraignment, you will need to plead “not guilty” to the DUI. The judge will then consider whether or not you will receive bail. Bail is a set amount of money you pay to secure your release until trial. If you attend all hearings and satisfy other conditions of your release, then the money will be refunded to you at the end of the case.
- You must also fulfill certain other conditions of release, such as wear an ankle monitor or have an ignition interlock device placed on your car.
- If this is your first arrest for DUI, then you probably won’t have to pay bail. There probably also won’t be any electronic home monitoring.
Hiring a DUI Lawyer
Get a referral.You might not know any attorney who can represent you. Accordingly, you will need to get referrals. You can find DUI attorneys in the following places:
- The Yellow Pages. Attorneys still advertise in the phone book. Check to see if the attorney states they practice DUI defense.
- Another attorney. If you used an attorney to draft a will, then call him or her up and ask for a referral to a DUI attorney.
- Your county bar association. You can find links to each county’s bar association at the Washington State Bar Association website.
- Public defender. If your income is low enough, you may qualify for a public defender depending on the punishment you face. You can ask the judge at your arraignment if this is an option. You will need to fill out some financial forms.
Perform background research on the lawyer.If you are looking to hire a private lawyer (instead of a public defender), then you should do some background research on the lawyer. Search online and check the following:
- The lawyer’s website. Most should have a website. Check to see how professional it is, and also what kinds of DUI or criminal law experience they have.
- Client reviews. Many websites, such as Avvo, have client reviews. Look to see what former clients have said (with full knowledge that unhappy clients are more motivated to leave reviews).
- Disciplinary history. You can check a lawyer’s disciplinary history by visiting the Washington State Bar Association and performing a Discipline Notice Search. Enter the lawyer’s name and click “Search.”
Schedule a consultation.Call up any attorneys who interest you and ask to schedule a consultation. Also ask for the price. Many DUI attorneys offer free consultations.
- Ask what you should bring to your consultation. Generally, an attorney will want to see your bail papers, criminal citation, and other criminal history records.
Ask the lawyer to analyze your case.The lawyer should ask relevant questions that help him or her analyze your case and decide on the best course of action. For example, the lawyer will want to know the following:
- Whether you have prior DUI convictions or other criminal convictions. If so, the date of those convictions.
- Whether you have a professional license (such as nursing license) that could be impacted by a DUI conviction.
- Whether you can get other evidence necessary to make a strong defense.
Check the lawyer’s fee.DUI lawyers can generally charge anywhere between ,500 and ,000, depending on the case’s complexity.You should talk about how much the lawyer charges. Also ask these questions:
- Does the lawyer only charge on an hourly basis, or does he or she also offer fixed-fee agreements?
- Who else might work on the case in the firm? Does the lawyer bill for their time too?
- What kind of payment plans does the attorney offer? Can you pay in monthly installments? With a credit card?
Hire the lawyer.If you felt comfortable talking to the lawyer and his or her fee was acceptable, then you should hire them. The lawyer will give you a fee agreement to sign.Read it over and make sure you agree with everything written in the agreement. This is your contract with the lawyer.
- If you didn’t quite feel comfortable with the first attorney, then get more referrals.
Consider a plea bargain.Although you want to beat the DUI charge, you should at least discuss the possibility of a plea deal with your lawyer. If this is your first DUI and the evidence against you is strong, then you might be better off taking a plea deal. You should talk this over with your lawyer.
Building Your Defense
Identify if the stop was legal.You can get the case thrown out if you can show the officer did not legally stop you. This might be the easiest way to win your case. In order to stop you, police must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed a crime.
- This is not a difficult standard if the officer can point to any kind of driving infraction, such as having a burned out headlight, speeding, weaving in and out of lanes, or running a red light. However, you can challenge whether or not you really were speeding, for example, by having witnesses testify that you were driving under the speed limit.
Cast doubt on a field sobriety test.The officer might have given you a field sobriety test, which may have involved you touching your nose, standing on one foot, or walking in a straight line. These types of tests are not reliable, and you should identify other factors which might have caused you to fail the test:
- You’re overweight or have a physical disability. It should be no surprise if you couldn’t stand on one foot.
- The weather conditions were bad. If it was icy out, then you might have slipped while walking in a straight line.
- Your footwear was unstable.
- You generally lack coordination. Some people are naturally clumsy, especially when nervous.
Find defects in your breath test.If your BAC is 0.08 or above, then you have an uphill climb defending yourself. However, you can point to well-known defects in breathalyzers. For example, you could raise the following objections:
- The breath test machine was not properly maintained. For example, it might not have been calibrated in a while.
- The machine malfunctioned. In Washington, your test results will be presumed inaccurate if the BAC machine malfunctioned within a certain amount of time before or after your breath test.
- The officer used the machine wrong. For example, he or she might not have been trained in properly using the machine.
- You had just used mouthwash or other hygiene products which can trigger a high BAC.
Identify medical problems which lead to a high BAC.Many different medical conditions can cause an officer to believe you are intoxicated when you are not. You should look through your medical history and see if any of the following apply:
- Diabetes. Diabetes can make you appear intoxicated because you are shaking, disorientated, and have slurred speech. Also, the breath test might be inaccurate. The breath test doesn’t measure alcohol in your breath. Instead, it measures how much light is absorbed by different chemicals, including acetone. Diabetics produce elevated amounts of acetone.
- Acid reflux. A breath test is intended to measure the alcohol content in your deep lungs. However, if you have acid reflux, then the test might be measuring the alcohol in stomach acid that has backed up.
- Dentures. Your dentures, braces, or crowns can trap alcohol and release it back out when you take a breath test.
Identify flaws with blood tests.Instead of taking a breath test, you might have given a blood sample to be tested for alcohol content. Blood tests are more accurate than breath tests. However, you can still challenge their accuracy by pointing to certain flaws:
- The person who analyzed your blood was unlicensed or hadn’t been trained properly.
- The equipment used to analyze your blood was outdated.
- There was a breakdown in the chain of custody. For example, the blood drawn from you might have become mixed-up with someone else’s blood. Your attorney can analyze the chain of custody.
Have an alcohol evaluation done.One thing prosecutors in Washington fear is that you are an alcoholic who will drink and drive again if they give you a break. For this reason, you need proof that you don’t have a problem with alcohol or drugs. You can get an alcohol evaluation done at a treatment agency.
- You might even take classes or undergo a treatment program, if necessary. You should be proactive fulfilling all requirements.
Get relevant videos.Your defense would be stronger if you can get copies of video that show you were not behaving in an intoxicated manner when arrested. For example, both the police car and the booking room may have video.
- Your lawyer will be able to request copies of video.
Fighting the DUI in Court
Make discovery requests.Your lawyer will be able to request copies of certain documents to help you plan your defense. Based on the particular facts of your case, your lawyer might request the following:
- Information on the officer’s certification to administer a breath test. Your lawyer might also request information about the officer’s disciplinary history.
- Your medical records, if you think a medical condition led to an inaccurate test result.
- The arrest report and any video.
Attend your hearing.You should look your best when you attend your hearing because you are being judged first on appearances. Court is a conservative place so dress accordingly.
- Your lawyer will handle the hearing. All you will possibly have to do is testify.
- If for some reason you chose not to have a lawyer, then you should sit in on a DUI trial, if possible, to see what happens. Call the court clerk and ask when a hearing is being held so that you can observe it.
Cross-examine the state’s witnesses.The state has the burden of showing that you were driving under the influence. Accordingly, the state has to put on evidence first. You can expect the state to call the arresting officer, as well as a BAC technician and a representative of the state’s Toxicologist’s Office.Your lawyer gets to cross-examine all of these witnesses.
- For example, your lawyer might challenge the officer’s knowledge of the breath test and training to administer it.
Testify on your own behalf.You have a Constitutional right not to testify. However, you might benefit if you do. Talk it over with your lawyer. Ultimately, it is your decision whether or not to testify.
- You might testify if you were the only person with knowledge of the police stop. For example, you might have been driving alone. If the officer lied on the stand and said you were speeding, then you might be the only person who can testify that you weren’t.
- However, if you had a passenger with you, then they could testify to everything that happened during the police stop. In that case, you won’t be harmed if you don’t testify.
Receive the verdict.After hearing all of the evidence, the judge or jury will deliver a “guilty” or “not guilty” verdict.The jury will not explain their reasoning, so you won’t know what evidence they found persuasive or not.
- If you are convicted, you should talk with your lawyer about an appeal. With an appeal, you ask a higher court to review the trial transcripts. If the judge made a serious error, you can sometimes get the verdict set aside.
Comply with the judge’s orders.Your punishment, if convicted, may consist of time in jail and fines. However, the judge might also order community service or alcohol treatment programs. If you want to get your license back, then you must follow the judge's orders.
Video: How to Convince a Prosecutor to Dismiss My DUI Case? (A Former DA Explains)
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