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Vancouver Criminal Law Blog

Federal experiment expected to lead to pot-impairment guidelines

Decades of scientific research eventually led to the establishment of .08 percent as the nationwide blood-alcohol limit for drivers. However, even now, testing for alcohol impairment is far from a perfect science. Samples can be tainted or otherwise compromised by flawed testing and procedural mix-ups, and standardized field sobriety tests are still largely subjective.

Now significant research is being done on how cannabis use affects drivers, the goal being to establish guidelines for what is regarded as driver impairment and what is regarded as safe, reasonable use. The federal government funded a years-long experiment in which volunteers consumed controlled amounts of marijuana and alcohol and then got behind the wheel of a driving simulator. According to a chief researcher on the project, the volunteers "were happy to participate."

Court: WA police officers can't skip warrant for blood testing

Is a blood sample for a blood-alcohol test essentially the same kind of evidence as a fingerprint, voice recording, article of clothing or some other item seized in an investigation? No, said a Washington Court of Appeals. The three-judge panel recently heard a case involving a man whose blood sample was seized and then tested in connection with a drunk driving investigation.

The test indicated that the man's blood-alcohol content was .12 percent and that he had Valium in his system. However, the warrant that was obtained to take (or seize) a blood sample said nothing about testing (or searching) the sample. The accused man was convicted of DUI, but he appealed the conviction, claiming that the state had no probable cause to test the blood sample for traces of drugs. In the police report, the arresting state trooper noted the smell of alcohol, not suspicion of drug use.

How does DUI license suspension work in Washington?

People accused of drunk driving in Washington will have to address not only a criminal case, but also the administrative issue of driver's license suspension. That means people accused of DUI will have two separate cases, one in criminal court and one with the state Department of Licensing (DOL).

Even if the DUI charge against you is ultimately dropped or dismissed, your driver's license could still remain suspended. It is important, then, to request a hearing with the DOL if you want to retain your driving privileges. Such a hearing has to be requested within 20 days of your arrest. Not requesting a DOL hearing will result in a minimum 90-day license suspension under Washington's implied consent law. If you refused a breath test, then your license could be suspended or revoked for a minimum of one year.

Uber reports 10-percent decrease in DUI arrests in Seattle

There have been reports that some cities, including Seattle, have seen about a 10-percent decrease in drunk driving arrests since the introduction of ride-sharing services from companies like Lyft and Uber. One analyst found an especially large decrease in DUI arrests  -- 18.5 percent -- among people younger than 30 in Philadelphia.

So are fewer people driving while under the influence because of the availability of more convenient transportation options? The numbers seem to suggest as much, though more studies need to be done to confirm. Uber and Lyft have welcomed news that their services may be preventing drunk driving, and recently Uber provided its own analysis of DUI arrests in Seattle. The company's blog refers to the reduction in DUIs as the "Uber effect."

Juries in Seattle side with defendants in marijuana DUI cases

The position of some police officers and prosecutors is that a driver's blood-alcohol level or THC level doesn't have to be above the legal limit for the driver to be impaired. In other words, even if your BAC is under the legal limit of .08 percent, a prosecutor may still charge you with DUI. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that the charge won't be dropped or dismissed once you get help from a DUI defense attorney.

The question of actual driver impairment has become more complicated since the passage of Washington's recreational marijuana law. To be clear, in Washington, it is illegal to drive while impaired by any drug, including marijuana, prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Still, whether the amount of a controlled substance detected in a person's system has impaired his or her ability to driver is a matter for a court to decide. If the prosecution lacks material evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then the charge should be dropped or dismissed.

Washington dad charged with child endangerment after DUI stop

In Washington, if you are convicted of drunk driving, then the possible penalties you could face depend mainly on two factors: your alleged blood-alcohol content and whether you have any prior DUI convictions. Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, additional allegations may be added to the DUI charge -- for example, if you were involved in an auto accident or if children were in your vehicle at the time of the traffic stop.

An Olympia man is facing very serious DUI charges after police stopped his vehicle with his children inside. Police claim a roadside breath test registered the 34-year-old father's blood-alcohol content at .234 percent. He was arrested and charged with DUI, and because his children were in the car, he is charged with two counts of reckless endangerment of a child.

Supreme Court makes ruling on drunk driving tips

In March we brought up an important legal issue regarding reasonable suspicion and traffic stops. The post raised important questions about DUI stops and how police need to have a reason for pulling people over. The question raised by some of our Washington readers was this: could an anonymous tip to police qualify as reasonable suspicion when performing a drunk driving stop?

But it wasn’t just readers in this state that had this question. In fact, this same question was raised by another drunk driving case in another state. In Navarette v. California, which went before the Supreme Court, a woman had called 911 to report that she had allegedly been run off the road by a Ford pickup truck. Suspecting drunk driving, an officer responded to the report and followed the driver. Despite exhibiting normal driving behaviors, the man was pulled over. Though he was not drunk, according to reports, he was accused of transporting 30 pounds of weed that the officer claimed was “in plain smell.”

Studies show link between sporting events and domestic violence

Domestic violence is one of those complicated topics to touch on because of the nature of the topic. While it’s important to be sensitive to victims, it’s also just as important to hear both sides of the story. In some cases, a person can be wrongfully accused of the crime without having actually committed it. This often comes with a lifelong negative stigma that can interfere with a person’s life.

Nonetheless, we wanted to bring up the topic with our readers in this week’s post. That’s because, according to several studies conducted here in the United States as well as in the United Kingdom, some people might be at risk of being accused of domestic violence around the time of sporting events more so than they would at any other time. But why is this and what could this mean for our Washington readers?

NBA player pleads not guilty to DUI charges

Whether you live here in Washington or another state, chances are you are one of the many who believe that celebrities and professional athletes, because they are in the public eye, should present themselves as role models at all times. This often means that the public is less forgiving when a celebrity or athlete makes a mistake and does something that is considered illegal.

Unfortunately, this form of judgment can be just as damaging as the criminal charges themselves because they can affect how a person is viewed by their peers and can even affect their career as well. And even if they are cleared of the charges or are proven not-guilty, the public may still view them negatively for quite some time afterwards.

Scientists make device to detect drunk driving, but is it legal?

A group of scientists in Poland are proud of their most recent accomplishment this month because they feel they will finally be able to give law enforcement the edge when it comes to drunk driving. But the news we are about to tell you may actually raise some concerns among many residents here in Washington who may realize the legal problems that could arise out of this new discovery.

According to an article from the Huffington Post, the scientists developed a laser-based device that can detect alcohol vapor in a vehicle that moves past the sensor. Much like radar guns that are used to catch people who are speeding, the Polish scientists say their device could provide the same level of law enforcement except with drunk driving.

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