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Legal News and Helpful Articles
The Washington State Supreme Court recently addressed whether an officer is legally required to impound a vehicle after arresting the driver for a DUI or Physical Control While Under the Influence.
Our current law, RCW 46.55.360, also known as “Hailey’s Law”, requires that the officer tow the vehicle to an impound lot for a minimum of 12 hours after arresting the driver for a DUI. The Supreme Court examined this law, and found that it violates Article I, Section 7 of our state constitution, which prohibits unreasonable search and seizures.
In enacting RCW 46.55.360, the legislature sought to avoid an impaired person from claiming his or her vehicle from the tow yard. The problem is that the law ran afoul of what our state constitution allows. Moreover, tow yards charge several hundred dollars per day to store a vehicle. For many people, a mandatory impound may effectively mean a permanent forfeiture of their car due to inability to pay the cost of a tow yard. The Court ruled that an officer must consider reasonable alternatives, such as whether a sober passenger can drive the vehicle home, before towing the car.
In Washington, the right to be free from unreasonable governmental search and seizures is embedded into our state and federal constitutions. State v. Day, 161 Wn.2d 889, 893 (2007) (citing U.S. CONST. amend. IV, WA CONST. art. I, Sec, 7). Generally, officers must have a warrant before intruding into a person’s private affairs, and warrantless searches and seizures are presumed unreasonable. Id. Impounding a car is a seizure under our state constitution. State v. Reynoso, 41 Wn. App. 113, 116 (1985) (citing State v. Davis, 29 Wn. App. 691 (1981)). Thus, a seizure is only lawful if authorized by law. Under our state constitution, the impound of a vehicle is only allowed when the vehicle contains evidence of a crime or when there is “reasonable and proper justification for impoundment.” State v. Houser, 95 Wn.2d 143, 153 (1980). The reasonableness of a seizure must be decided in light of the facts of the particular case. Id. at 148. This means that an officer must consider reasonable alternatives to impoundment. State v. Tyler, 177 Wn.2d 690, 699 (2013). Thus, an impound pursuant to a DUI arrest is only lawful if the arresting officer, in considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, finds no reasonable alternatives to impoundment. The officer must first consider if a sober passenger can drive the car home, or if the car is safely off the roadway and not presenting a danger to others, before towing the vehicle.
In conclusion, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled in favor of several motorists, preventing an officer from automatically impounding their car after a DUI or Physical Control arrest. The Court ruled that the arresting officer must first make an individualized inquiry – i.e. can a sober passenger drive the car home? Is the car safely off the roadway? – before towing the car.
If you or someone you know is facing a DUI or Physical Control charge, contact an experienced attorney today. Tom Carley offers a free consultation to discuss your case. (360) 726-3571.
Do Police Officers Have Video Cameras?
Ever hear the phrase “there are two sides to every story”? This old adage commonly appears in criminal cases. There is the officer’s version of events, and then there is the defendant’s version of events. My clients will often disagree with the things an officer writes in his or her report, or my clients will point out several details that the officer fails to mention. The lack of transparency can be frustrating for many people, because judges and juries tend to believe the police officer’s version of events. How can we truly know what transpired during an officer’s investigation? My clients commonly ask me “Do police officers have video cameras?”
In many jurisdictions, police officers wear body cameras that capture video and audio. For example, in Washington, the Seattle Police and Spokane Police departments employ the use of body cameras for their officers. Unfortunately, this is not the case for law enforcement agencies in Clark County, including Vancouver Police, the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, and Washington State Patrol.
Patrol Vehicle Dash Cameras
If you have been charged with a crime and you disagree with the officer’s version of events, what are you supposed to do? There may be other video options available. The Washington State Patrol equips its troopers’ vehicles with dash cams – cameras mounted to the top of their patrol vehicles. These cameras are forward-facing, and capture what the officer sees. In addition to this video feature, State Patrol troopers have microphones attached to their bodies that record audio. I find this information useful to see if the investigating officer cut any corners in his investigation of the case.
The vehicle dash camera can give you a firsthand glimpse of the officer’s perspective. In the context of a DUI, Reckless Driving, Negligent Driving, or Driving While Suspended charge, the existence of a dash cam is useful information for a defense attorney because we can compare the audio and video to the officer’s official written report. I have often seen an officer write ABC in his report, however the dash cam shows XYZ.
A dash cam may be able to display whether the officer properly read you your rights, impermissibly questioned you, administered Field Sobriety Tests correctly, or committed any other illegal act in developing a case against you. My practice is to subpoena a copy of the dash cam in every case. I sit down with my clients and review this together.
To learn more about video options available in your case, contact us today. (360) 726-3571.
What To Do After A DUI Arrest
Arrested For a DUI?
When a police officer arrests you for driving under the influence (DUI), it is natural to feel nervous about what may happen to you next. We understand that people never anticipate getting placed into this situation. For many people, a DUI charge is the first time they have ever been through the court system. Putting together a smart action-plan can help make your case go smoothly. This article will help to explain how to put your best foot forward following a DUI arrest.
In most DUI arrests, the officer will take you to the police station and request that you submit to a breath test. During this procedure, police officers must comply with strict obligations to protect your rights. My clients often tell me they were not aware of their rights during this procedure. You have the right to speak with an attorney for advice before deciding whether to submit to this test. In fact, an officer must explain this right to you. An officer must also explain to you that refusing this test will result in the Department of Licensing (DOL) suspending your license.
The breath testing process is a double-edged sword because if you blow above a .08 BAC, the DOL will suspend your license for a minimum of 90 days. On the other hand, if you refuse to blow, the DOL will suspend your license for at least one year. Additionally, your “refusal” can be used against you at trial as evidence of guilt. In general, DUI Refusals are easier to defend at trial, because the jury is left to speculate what your BAC could have been. But if convicted of a DUI refusal, the penalties are harsher than if you had taken the test. It is important to understand that no two cases are alike. A knowledgeable DUI attorney can offer you practical guidance which route – submit or refuse – to take.
Prepare For A DOL Hearing
If you blow above a .08 or if you are alleged to have refused the breath test, you have the right to dispute the administrative DOL license suspension. However, you must request a hearing within 7 days of your arrest. You can read more about DOL Hearings here. If your license does get suspended, you may be able to side-step that suspension. Learn more here.
If you need to contact the DOL to request a hearing, click here.
Hire An Experienced Attorney
DUI’s are complex. Their fingers reach into many aspects of your life – your license, your job, and your home life. It pays to hire an experienced DUI attorney. Do not settle for a general practitioner. While all attorneys have passed the bar and are generally familiar with most areas of law, only a DUI attorney has the expertise to assist you with the complex issues involved in a DUI. A good DUI lawyer can assist you in making sure you can still drive, represent you in front of the judge, expose the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case, and fight to protect your rights.
A strong DUI lawyer has the expertise to examine:
- The legality of the stop
- Field Sobriety Tests – Were they administered improperly? Coerced?
- Miranda Rights – Did the officer violate your rights?
- Confessions – Were those illegally taken?
- Breath testing – Did the officer made any mistakes in this process?
- Blood testing – Are blood results completely accurate?
A professional DUI lawyer knows which videos and records to subpoena, how to investigate the police officer, and how to expose the prosecution’s weaknesses.
Attend Your Court Hearings
We understand that you have a life outside of your case and outside of the courts. However, it is important that you attend your court hearings. If you have been arrested for a DUI, failure to attend court may result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest. The good news is that in some situations, your lawyer may be able to waive your presence so that you do not have to take off time from work.
Communicate With Your Lawyer
I like to think of the attorney-client relationship as a team. Both sides will have to take care of some action-items throughout the case. Having an open line of communication will ensure that all of your questions are fully answered, and your concerns are fully addressed. I want to make sure that you are fully apprised of every step of your case, so that you can make an informed and intelligent decision which direction to take your case. I am available day or night to assist you.
If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, hire an experienced attorney. We offer a free case review. (360) 726-3571.
My License Is Suspended
Can I Still Drive? What Happens If I Am Caught Driving While Suspended?
The answer to these questions depend on a number of things. The underlying reason for the suspension affects whether or not you can still drive while “suspended.” Washington classifies its license suspensions into three categories – “first degree”, “second degree” and “third degree”. Your degree is important in determining whether you can still drive. The suspension degree determines what could happen if a police officer arrests you for driving while suspended.
Third degree suspension
Washington’s third degree suspension is the least serious of all suspensions. Nevertheless, it is still a crime to drive a motor vehicle while you are suspended in the third degree. DWS 3 is a simple misdemeanor. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Often times, it is unpaid traffic tickets or unpaid child support holding up your license. In other situations, failure to successfully complete legal obligations can suspend your license, such as appearing at a mandatory court hearing or completing substance abuse treatment. The good news is that you are eligible to reinstate your license at any time! We can navigate you through this process.
Second degree suspension
Driving while suspended in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Additionally, a conviction of this charge results in an additional license suspension and also counts as a strike against you for purposes of being a Habitual Traffic Offender (see first degree below).
A second degree suspension often results from the Department of Licensing suspending your license for refusing a breath test, submitting a breath sample above a .08 BAC, or for certain criminal convictions. A conviction for these charges results in you being suspended for a period of time, during which you cannot reinstate your license. If you are “suspended” in the second degree, it may be possible to work around this suspension and still drive. However, there are going to be some strings attached to your license before you are allowed to drive. Call us for more information.
First degree suspension
If you are suspended in the first degree, the Washington Department of Licensing has found you to be a Habitual Traffic Offender. This means that you have had at least three qualifying convictions within a 5 year period, or you have committed at least 20 moving violations during that time. If you are suspended in the first degree, then you are not allowed to drive under any circumstances for 7 years.
Washington law imposes harsh penalties for someone convicted of DWS 1. For a first conviction, a judge may not sentence you to less than 10 days of confinement. A second conviction carries a minimum of 90 days confinement. A third or subsequent conviction carries a minimum of 180 days confinement. It is important that you speak with a good attorney about how to fight these charges.
Contact Us For More Information
At Carley Legal, we understand the complexities of Washington’s ever-changing suspension laws. We pride ourselves on understanding the finer details of these laws, because the consequences of a conviction can be severe. We take the time to sit down with you, listen to your situation, go over your case together, and work towards making sure you can still drive. Come see how we can help you.
For many people, an appearance in court is a very new experience. The process can be confusing and scary. This article will help explain how your first court date, the Arraignment, works.
When you have been charged with a crime, the officer usually gives you a Citation, listing what the criminal charge is, and when your first court date is. It is important that you attend this court date, because failure to do so could result in the judge issuing a warrant for your arrest. This first court date is called the Arraignment.
Your smartest move is to tell the Arraignment judge “Not Guilty.” Doing so preserves your rights, your defenses, your options available to you. The judge will then assign you a forward court date, typically about a month and a half out.
As a condition of moving the case forward, sometimes the judge will impose conditions of release. In a DUI matter, this means no alcohol or non-prescribed drugs while the case is pending. If you have a prior DUI, or if your particular DUI involves more serious factors such as a collision, a high breath test, or underage passengers in your car, the judge may place you on Supervised Release. Supervised Release means that you must check in with a probation officer while the case is pending. Additionally, you typically must install an ignition interlock device in your car, submit random UA’s, or abide by other conditions imposed by the judge. An attorney will be able to make the right arguments to the judge to get you the best release conditions possible.
In a Domestic Violence accusation, the Arraignment judge can order that you have no contact with the alleged victim while the case is pending. This can have serious implications for you and your loved ones, because the judge’s order may mean that you have to vacate your residence. A violation of a No-Contact-Order is grounds to have your release be revoked and you taken into custody. It may also result in additional criminal charges. Prosecutors treat violations of these orders seriously.
At Carley Legal Services, we understand the complex issues regarding your Arraignment and conditions of release. We take the time to sit down with you and explain this process, to ensure that you fully understand how your case works. We will represent you in court, communicate with you every step of the way, and will fight to make sure you receive the best possible outcome.
Contact us for more information. The consultation is free.
Washington Marijuana DUI – What is it all about?
“I felt fine to drive. Why did the officer arrest me for a DUI?” For many marijuana DUI arrestees in Washington, they tried to do the responsible thing and wait until they felt fine before driving again. Unfortunately, the officer still made the decision to arrest. This article discusses the ins and outs of a marijuana DUI in Washington state.
Washington state recently legalized the use of recreational marijuana. Around the same time, the state legislature amended its DUI laws to include marijuana usage. Much like alcohol, it is illegal to drive motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. So what is the legal limit? The state legislature has set a per se impairment bar of 5 ng/mL (nanograms per milliliter) of marijuana in your blood.
How is this measured? What does it equate to? The Washington state toxicology lab tests all blood samples taken during a DUI arrest. Marijuana levels are tested using Liquid Chromatography/Mass Tandem Spectrometry. It measures the level of active THC in your system, as well as Carboxy THC in your system. Active THC is the psychoactive compound in your system making you feel “high”, or under the influence. By contrast, Carboxy THC has no psychoactive components to it. Rather, it indicates past marijuana usage. In fact, for a regular smoker, Carboxy THC can stay in your system for up to a month. A skilled DUI defense attorney understands these measurements and how to best defend your charge.
Tom Carley has defended numerous drug-related DUI’s and knows how to defend against these charges. Police officers must comply with strict regulations in drawing your blood, storing it, transporting it, and analyzing it. Any mistakes made along this chain of events can lead to inaccurate blood results, resulting in an unfair case against you.
Some prosecutors still elect to prosecute a DUI charge despite questionable reliability of the blood results, or not having any blood results to assess. This is because police officers often arrest you before they know the results of your blood. How long does the blood analysis process take? The Washington state toxicology lab currently takes several months to test and analyze your blood.
An officer on scene does not have these scientific tools available to him or her. Rather, the officer must rely on his or her senses. The officer takes into account the totality of the circumstances to decide whether you are impaired. The officer evaluates your driving, such as whether you were swerving out of your lane, driving without your headlights on at night, driving on the wrong side of the road, or other driving infractions. Additionally, the officer searches for an odor of intoxicants coming from within the vehicle and/or your breath. The officer looks for bloodshot and watery eyes, slurred speech, slow and deliberate movements, poor coordination, and bad balance. There are a number of things an officer takes into account when deciding to arrest you or let you go. To arrest, the officer must have probable cause (enough facts taken together with reasonable inferences, which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that you are impaired to an appreciable degree).
A skilled defense attorney knows how to question the officer’s investigation. Tom Carley has defended hundreds of DUI’s and knows how best to defend your case. He and his team are willing to work hard for you to achieve the best possible outcome. He takes the time to sit down with you, explain to you the law and how it applies to your case, and offer honest and practical advice. Tom prides himself on client communication, and is always available to answer your questions.
We offer a free consultation and may be able to help you. Contact us to discuss your case today.
DUI suspended license hearing – Recent Legal Changes
Have you been arrested for a DUI or DWI? You probably received a stack of papers from the arresting police officer after you left the station. Pay attention to this paperwork, because one of those papers is a Request for a DOL Hearing. In most situations, the Department of Licensing will suspend your license because of the DUI arrest. This can arise from blowing above a .08 or from refusing the breath test. You have a right to challenge this license suspension. It helps to have a skilled attorney on your side.
Washington recently changed the law regarding DOL hearings. The DOL now gives you 7 days from your arrest to request a license suspension hearing. The DOL charges you $375 to request this hearing. It is important keep this time window in mind, because if you do not request a DOL hearing, then your license suspension takes effect 30 days after the arrest date.
What happens in a DOL licensing hearing? A hearing examiner typically considers whet
her the officer made a lawful arrest for a DUI and whether his/her decision to arrest was based on legally obtained evidence. Once
arrested, the officer must do several things correctly during the breath test process – from advising you of your
rights and making sure you understand all your options, to administering a proper breath sample on a working machine. Numerous technicalities go into this process where a good DUI defense attorney can assist.
At Carley Legal Services, we can help. We provide experienced legal counsel for your licensing needs. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Lost your paperwork? You can request a DUI suspended license hearing here.
Lost your license privileges? If the Department of Licensing has already suspended your license, we can provide you candid and honest advice about how to maintain your ability to drive. In today’s society, the reality is that most of us need to drive to get from A to B. Even with a suspended license, a good attorney will be able to assist you. Call us to see how we can help you.