DUI Washington
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Understanding Your Legal Rights

When you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer for suspicion of a DUI or driving under the influence in the state of Washington, it can be a frightening experience.

You may be afraid because you have had a few drinks, but feel like your driving is not impaired. Should the officer take further steps, arrest you, and take you into custody, your fear can increase. This may cause you to make grievous mistakes and submit to questioning while your judgment is clouded by fear.

You must be aware of specific rights that you have to ensure that you are fully protected by the same laws that may later convict you if you are found guilty. Many of these rights surround the 5 th and 6 th Amendments. While most people are comfortable with both of these, having watched their fair share of law shows on television, it is important that you exercise your rights at the correct time.

Remember, just because you are arrested and charged for a DUI, does not mean you will be convicted. Be respectful and as courteous as possible, but never give up your constitutional rights due to lack of knowledge.

  • You have the right to remain silent – As cliche as this sounds it is 100% true. The arresting officer can ask you as many questions as they want, but never feel compelled to answer anything. If you are stopped by the police or placed under arrest, you can remain silent until you have a chance to speak with a lawyer. This is a very important assertion of your Miranda rights, which often conflicts with what most people understand. In DUI cases, the arresting officer can place you in custody and escort you to the police department. Before they ask you further question they must inform your of your Miranda rights, and after providing them they can continue to ask questions.  Often times the police will delay making an arrest until they have completed their investigation, so as to avoid informing you of your Miranda rights until they have collected all of the information they need.  You should remain silent as soon as you are contacted by the police and provide proof of your drivers license, vehicle registration, and liability insurance.
  • You have the right to refuse to consent to a breathalyzer or any field sobriety tests. The implied consent law in effect in the state of Washington provides for a license suspension if you refuse an evidentiary breath or blood test at the station, but you can never be sanctioned for exercising your right to refuse field sobriety tests or portable breath tests.  You do have the right to say no, if asked.
  • You have the right to deny a request to search your property, your body, or your vehicle. Unless the law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion, they must request that you allow them to complete a search. If you are uncomfortable with this request, you can say no and they must respect your answer. Do not confuse this action with a police officer patting you down or performing a routine frisk, this is allowed without your consent. A search is completely different. They must obtain permission or a search warrant to look in any part of your closed or locked vehicle.
  • You have the right to request another breathalyzer or blood test and pick the lab yourself. After you are bailed out of jail, if you want to report to your personal doctor or other facility for a blood test or drug test, and you are within your rights to complete this step. This may assist with your case and your attorney will more than likely recommend this if time allows.
  • You have the right to know all of the charges and penalties involved with the arrest. This includes both the minimum and maximum terms, which is very important when the charges are serious.
  • You have the right to offer a plea of not guilty while you are being arraigned. During normal circumstances, a prudent judge will not listen to or accept a plea of guilty for a DUI, unless you are represented by counsel and knowingly and intelligently decide to make such a plea.  What you think is a DUI may actually be a vehicular assault or vehicular homicide if someone was injured or killed due to your actions.
  • You have the right to speak with and work with a public defender if you do not have the financial means to pay for a private attorney. This is in accordance with the five principles surrounding the 6th Amendment, which also includes the right to a speedy trial, the right to receive judgment by an impartial jury, the right to know the charges and the right to call or confront a witness or witnesses.
  • You have the right to refuse to testify. In accordance with the 5th Amendment, you have the right to refuse to testify against yourself. If you choose this option, the judge must advise the jury that they cannot hold your decision against you. This would void the outcome, as they may be perceived as biased.
  • You have the right to be presumed innocent before and during the trial. Regardless of the severity of the DUI or other charges, you must be assured that the jury regards you as innocent either until you admit guilt by entering your plea, or you are found guilty.
  • You have the right to file an appeal. After the trial ends and the sentence is given, your attorney can file an appeal following the conviction. Your attorney must present the appeal in Superior Court or the Court of Appeals, depending on the trial court.

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