Whenever you see a DUI arrest documented on one of the police television police shows, there is always a videotape of the driving, the field sobriety tests, and other parts of the processing. Sometimes, the video also includes the actual breath test. People expect that DUI arrests will be recorded.
Officers who have special training to detect whether a DUI driver is impaired by drugs are known as “Drug Recognition Experts” or “DREs.” Washington State has a growing number of officers who have received this training and DUI officers in Seattle and King County are emphasizing the detection and arrest of drivers who are suspected of being DUI because of drugs. This is especially true since the passage of I-502, the marijuana legalization law.
When a person is arrested for a misdemeanor DUI in Washington State and taken to the police station the police will usually ask: “Will you take the breath test?” The answer to this question can greatly influence the complications that will arise from the DUI arrest, including length of license suspension and also the mandatory minimum DUI criminal penalties.
Some people don’t answer with a “yes’ or “no” but rather with the statement “I would like a blood test.”
If you are placed on probation for a DUI arrest in Washington state, one of the conditions is often not to consume alcohol. Probation and your alcohol treatment provider are given great latitude in enforcing that order, and most do so by requiring urinalysis (UA) tests.
Most people believe that they can pass a urinalysis if they have not been consuming alcohol recently. That used to be true but many treatment providers and probation officers are now utilizing Ethylglucuronide (“EtG”) Urine tests. EtG urine testing detects alcohol metabolites in your urine. Depending on the type of screening that is performed some studies suggest that an EtG test can detect alcohol metabolites in your urine as far back as 80 hours from the time the alcohol entered your system.
In 2006, the legislature directed the Department of Health (DOH) to adopt rules about mandatory reporting of health care practitioners who commit unprofessional conduct, or unable to practice safely. Part of this new regulatory scheme is the requirement to self-report even if there has been no criminal conviction as the new rules require disclosure of pending actions triggered by an arrest. A DUI arrest falls into this rule of disclosure.
Washington State DUI laws provide that the test of a DUI suspect’s alcohol level will be done by taking a sample of breath, and generally not blood. However, breath alcohol content and blood alcohol content can be different, especially when a person’s body temperature is elevated.
When one drinks, the alcohol is absorbed by the body and eventually gets into the bloodstream. That same alcohol gets into the breath of a person through the interaction of the lungs and the bloodstream. It is a well known fact, however, that body temperature affects how much alcohol is passed from the blood to the breath. For instance, if a DUI suspect drank enough beer to produce a blood alcohol reading of .07 (under the legal limit) you would think that the breath alcohol reading would be .07 as well. If the subject had a fever, however, the breath alcohol reading would be higher, perhaps over the .08 legal limit. This is not a theory but it is a scientific fact.
The State of Washington emphasizes alcohol treatment when necessary in connection with a Washington state or Seattle DUI arrest or conviction. However, it is not well known that even in the absence of a DUI conviction or a DUI arrest, the DOL will not issue a license to an individual who has been classified as an alcoholic or an alcohol abuser.
Clients often ask us, “How much is too much to drink before getting behind the wheel?” Unfortunately, our answer is always “It’s complicated.”
The simple answer is that “too much” is the amount that causes a breath test reading of .08 or more within two hours of driving. This is the clear cut standard set by law under RCW 46.61.502.
But how is a driver to determine whether he or she is .08 or higher before driving? The fact is that there is no practical way to make this determination with precision.
One of the relatively unknown aspects of Washington State DUI law is that the penalties for violations of certain mandatory requirements of probation will result in mandatory sentences that the judge must impose. Take the case of an individual for whom this is the first DUI conviction. Either one or two days of jail time would likely be imposed, along with other penalties, and the judge would “suspend” all of the remaining jail time (nearly a year of jail time) on condition of compliance with the terms of probation. If there is a violation of probation, the judge has the power to impose some or all of the remaining jail time. In certain circumstances, however, the judge is required to impose 30 days of confinement.
Nobody wants minors to drink and drive and Washington’s minor dui law is known as a “zero tolerance” law. Washington’s law prohibits a minor from driving after consuming alcohol. The law is commonly known as a “Minor DUI” but it a violation does not require proof that the minor drove under the influence of alcohol. All that is required is that the minor drive after drinking, as evidenced with a breath test reading of .02 or higher. It is considered a simple misdemeanor, but minor DUI carries potential jail time and licensing consequences for minors.