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Balancing safety against individual rights in DUI enforcement

In addition to catching alleged criminals, many believe that law enforcement agencies have the power to act as a crime deterrent. People are less likely to break the law if they see that there is a high probability of getting caught and severe consequences if they do get caught.

That being said, law enforcement agencies need to strike a balance between vigorous enforcement and respecting the rights of citizens. For certain crimes, including driving under the influence, striking this balance is especially difficult.

What is ‘physical control’ and how is it related to DUI?

Everyone knows that drunk driving is illegal and can result in serious criminal penalties. But can someone be charged for an alcohol-related motor vehicle offense if they never actually drove the car while intoxicated? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

Washington is one of a number of states with “physical control” laws. While a charge of driving under the influence requires evidence of both drug/alcohol impairment and driving, a physical control charge only requires evidence of intoxication and evidence that a person had “actual physical control of a vehicle,” which essentially means that they were in a position where they could drive the vehicle.

Washington state Supreme Court delivers important DUI ruling

When police officers make an arrest for driving under the influence, they typically try to make sure that they first obtain the results of a breathalyzer test. This usually proves to be among the evidence needed to secure a DUI conviction at trial. When suspects refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test, they will almost certainly be penalized by loss of their license, but they can sometimes manage to avoid a DUI conviction (due to a lack of test results).

Last month, the Washington state Supreme Court delivered a ruling reinforcing the need for solid evidence in order to secure a DUI conviction. The Court upheld the reversal of a man’s DUI conviction that had been based largely on testimony from the officer saying he had “no doubt” that the man had been impaired.

Understanding reasonable suspicion & probable cause in DUI cases

In December, we wrote a post about the standard of “reasonable suspicion.” In order for a traffic stop to be considered valid, an officer must have a reasonable suspicion – based on observed behavior – that the driver may have committed a crime. The officer does not necessarily need to suspect drunk driving in order to make the traffic stop, even if the stop results in DUI charges. Rather, he needs to suspect that some crime or infraction may have been committed.

Reasonable suspicion is a term that many Americans are unfamiliar with. In today’s post, we’ll discuss how reasonable suspicion differs from the better-known phrase “probable cause.”

DUI is a more complex issue than many realize

There are few who would be willing to argue that drunk driving is not a problem in the United States. The statistics make clear that it is a deadly problem. But like many problems, the issue of drunk driving is complex.

Recently, an article in TIME magazine offered suggestions as to "why police aren't catching drunk drivers." In today's post, we'd like to discuss why both the premise and the conclusions drawn in that article are misguided.

Should personal breath tests be required to prevent DUIs?

Most roads in the United States have speed limits that are enforced by police. We know we are over these limits because of speedometers in our vehicles. Now consider for a moment what would happen if speedometers weren't required in vehicles. Would it bother you if you were pulled over for speeding even though you know it could have been prevented if you had the right tools?

If you're like a lot of our Washington readers, the scenario above might seem like a no brainer. Of course having speedometers in vehicles is necessary because they help us to avoid violating state speed-limit laws. But what if we apply the same logic to drinking and driving? Should personal breath tests be required to help prevent DUIs? According to some, the answer is yes.

New Year's holiday wrecks result in 2 DUI charges

Washington police suspect that two recent wrong-way accidents were caused by drivers who may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time. The first wreck occurred on New Year's Eve, and the other happened less than 12 hours later on New Year's Day. Both drivers have been charged with DUI.

The New Year's Eve wreck occurred less than an hour before midnight after the driver of a pickup truck was apparently driving east on the westbound side of the Interstate. After he hit an SUV, one other vehicle was also struck. The driver of the SUV was killed, although his two minor passengers survived the collision uninjured. The alleged wrong-way driver was injured in the collision and had to be taken for treatment to a local area hospital. Police report that he will also be charged with vehicular homicide.

Washington man accused of drunk driving after crashing truck

A pedestrian footbridge is closed to foot traffic until necessary repairs have been completed following a one-vehicle accident. Although the wreck involved no other vehicles and it's unclear whether either of the vehicles two occupants suffered injuries, the driver is under investigation for possibly drunk driving. Authorities are still investigating further details as well.

Around 1:15 a.m., a truck apparently collided with a pedestrian bridge before plunging into a nearby creek. Police have not stated if they know why the vehicle left the roadway in the first place. Both of the people in the truck were able to exit the vehicle safely before police arrived. After Washington authorities arrived on the scene, the driver of the truck was arrested.

Lack of evidence means new trial for man convicted of DUI

For any criminal charge to be found valid, there must be enough corresponding credible evidence to prosecute and convict an individual. A Washington man is getting a second shot at a DUI trial after our state's Supreme Court determined that there simply wasn't enough evidence to convict him. A date for the new trial has not been set yet.

In Aug. 2011, the driver allegedly led police on a chase that wound through a neighborhood, breaking speeds of over 50 mph. Police also say that he did not have his headlights on even though the incident took place at night. When he was finally pulled over, the only test that he underwent was the horizontal gaze test, a common field sobriety test 

DUI charges filed after Washington State Patrol trooper struck

What started as an investigation into a car wreck caused by a police cruiser ended with the arrest of an alleged drunk driver. Police claim the driver attempted to flee the scene, which resulted in additional charges being filed in addition to his DUI. As the investigation continues, police are seeking additional witnesses to the second wreck.

When a Washington State Patrol trooper witnessed two vehicles that he believed to be racing, he attempted to cross over to the other side of Interstate 5. Instead, he apparently lost control of the cruiser and collided with a nearby light pole. The light pole then fell, striking two cars. The state trooper was apparently the only injured person in that wreck.

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