Many individuals who have been arrested for a driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington fear that they have no other options.
However, several defenses do exist to help someone facing a DUI charge. These defenses can reduce the charges or even could throw them out altogether.
Below are some of the more common defenses for a DUI offense.
As soon as someone is pulled over for a possible DUI, law enforcement will begin to accumulate both physical and visual evidence to support the case. This evidence can include the defendant’s behavior and physical appearance, as well as testimony from witnesses and police reports.
In addition, the evidence normally includes at least one or more of the following: field sobriety test results, breath test results or blood test results.
While this evidence can help prove the case, this evidence can help dispute the case, as well.
Lack of Reasonable Suspicion to Stop
One of the first questions a defense attorney will ask is why the police would want to stop the defendant. Generally, a police officer has a pretty low burden of proof when making the decision to pull someone over.
However, certain challenges can be brought to question why the officer pulled the person over. Certain behavior can raise a red flag for intoxicated driving such as speeding, having a headlight or tail light out, not using headlights at night, driving too fast or too slowly or swerving.
However, if the defendant happened to do something that was not illegal but was still pulled over and then failed a field sobriety test, it is possible for the attorney to question the circumstances surrounding being pulled over.
Another question comes up when the officer did not have a legitimate reason for detaining the driver instead of citing him or her for an offense and letting the driver leave. If the violation was something that required a simple citation and nothing more, the detention and keeping the driver there can be challenged. This challenge could be exceptionally strong if the officer did not observe any behavior or indication of the driver being intoxicated.
Many courts have considered it a violation if the initial officer asks for a DUI officer to come and forces the person to stay there for an unreasonable amount of time, especially if no reason exists for suspicion that the driver was intoxicated.
Lack of Probable Cause for Arrest
Another challenge can be brought if the officer did not have probable cause for the arrest. A defense attorney may review the Field Sobriety Test (FST), if one was given, as well as any other factors or behaviors that were observed at the time of the arrest.
If the officer is not able to articulate a reason for the arrest or the facts he or she used to make the arrest were not significant enough to satisfy the probable cause burden, this defense could end up being successful.
Lack of Admissibility of the Breath Test
Washington law enforcement utilize the BAC Datamaster or Datamaster CDM machines and the new Draeger Alcotest 9510 to test a driver’s breath.
If the officer did not follow protocol when administering the test, or if the driver had anything in his or her mouth such as fingers, vomit, water, etc., the test results could be contaminated. Further, if the driver requested to speak with an attorney before taking a breath test, or if the officer denied the driver access, the results could also be ruled inadmissible.
No Warrant to Draw Blood
If the evidence relies heavily on a blood draw done of the defendant, an additional defense can be the admissibility of the blood draw.
A warrant is needed in most situations for a blood draw to be admissible, unless the defendant gave informed consent for the draw. A defense counsel will want to review the warrant itself, ensure that the driver was given a copy of the warrant and a receipt of the blood draw taking place.
Additionally, the defense attorney will want to see if a proper chain of custody occurred with respect to the blood draw, as well as whether proper protocol was followed by the medical personnel who took the defendant’s blood.