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Vancouver Criminal Law Blog

Man charged with DUI after being pulled over by motorhome

An unusual traffic stop ultimately led to the arrest of a Washington driver. The arresting police officer was not in a police cruiser at the time of the stop and was instead driving a motorhome that doubles as a mobile processing center for alleged DUI charges. While not typically used for such action, the motorhome does have emergency lights.

The incident occurred at roughly 3 a.m. when an officer was returning the motorhome to a local police officer. As he was leaving the Interstate, he claims that he spotted a vehicle that was operated suspiciously. Apparently, there were no other officers or police vehicles in the area that would have been able to pull the driver over.

DUI, vehicular homicide charges for man in single-vehicle wreck

A single-vehicle accident recently resulted in one injury and one death. Authorities suspect that the accident may have been caused by drunk driving, and the surviving individual in the wreck has been accused of DUI and vehicular homicide. Apparently, Washington police are still investigating the wreck.

While it is unclear why the driver lost control of his vehicle in the first place, Washington authorities believe that the man’s pickup drifted off of the road at the time of the incident. It subsequently struck a nearby guardrail, which caused the vehicle to roll. It ultimately came to a stop back on the road in the north lane of Highway 7.

Washington man charged with DUI after almost striking officer

Washington residents may be unaware that a drunk driving charge does not necessarily have to be related to alcohol. Recently, a man was charged with DUI after allegedly imbibing certain prescription medication. The authorities claim that he drove while under the influence of such medication and almost ran over the foot of a Washington police officer with his vehicle.

At the time of the incident, the officer was in the process of impounding a car. The man accused of the DUI is said to have driven his truck into the parking lot where the impounding was taking place, and ended up blocking the driver of the tow truck in. The officer involved approached the truck driver, but according to him, the driver insisted that he was not blocking the tow truck.

What makes a DUI a felony in Washington?

In Washington, you can face a felony drunk driving charge if you have previous DUI convictions or if someone was injured in an accident in which police say you were driving while drunk or drugged. In particular, if you have four or more DUI convictions on your record in the last 10 years, then prosecutors may charge you with class C felony DUI. The charge may also carry a felony status if you have a prior conviction of vehicular homicide or vehicular assault.

In any case, felony DUI charges should be taken very seriously. People convicted of felony DUI face severe penalties, including jail time, fines, higher insurance rates, alcohol treatment programs, ignition interlock devices, community service and probation. Some people also lose their jobs. To seek the best possible outcome, people accused felony DUI will need to mount a strong legal defense.

Judge dismisses DUI charge against Spencer Ware

Back in January, just a few hours after the Seattle Seahawks defeated the New Orleans Saints in the NFL playoffs, a Washington State Patrol officer stopped a vehicle driven by Seahawks running back Spencer Ware. According to police, Ware was arrested after a number of callers reported seeing an SUV erratically moving across lanes of traffic. Police also claimed that Ware, who had three passengers with him, ran a red light before being pulled over.

Ware submitted to a field sobriety test and a breath test, the latter of which indicated blood-alcohol levels of .124 percent and .122 percent. The legal limit is .08 percent. The police report also says that while Ware was in a room for breath testing, he admitted that he was driving because he was less intoxicated than his friends.

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.

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