Contrary to what most people think, a police officer is not supposed to pull you over for driving under the influence in Washington based on a hunch alone. There is supposed to be a viable cause – which is known as “reasonable suspicion” – for the stop. Whether you were pulled over for a traffic infraction like running a red light or something like a non-working headlight, the officer who flagged you can’t have done so primarily because he or she thought you’d been drinking.
Nevertheless, if you were pulled over because the officer had a valid reason to suspect you were driving under the influence, how knowledgeable you are about your rights at that time and how you behave, speak and act is crucial for any DUI defense you may need to plan with your criminal defense lawyer in Marysville.
At the onset, keep in mind that the officer’s first goal will be to find evidence that you’ve been drinking and driving. Your encounter will go beyond just producing your license and registration because the officer will be gathering evidence against you at every turn in his or her efforts that demonstrate that you’re under the influence and in violation of Washington’s DUI laws.
For example, if you’re fumbling around in your glove box for your legal documents, this could suggest that you’re off kilter and therefore under the influence. Get these documents together before the officer is at your car. Once he or she does come to your car door, roll the window down and act accordingly. Don’t present yourself as argumentative or threatening, and be polite the entire time. You’ve got to keep in mind that the officer is watching every single move you make from this point on, and how you act will directly impact his or her actions toward you.
Should the officer suspect you’ve been drinking, he or she may ask you to get out of the car and do a field sobriety test. In the State of Washington, this is a strictly voluntary test, so you don’t have to do it, although the officer may not be very forthcoming with this information. At this point, you should ask to talk to a criminal defense lawyer in Marysville because even though the tests are voluntary, your refusal to do them can be admitted against you in court.
If you do refuse the field tests, the officer can arrest you for DUI depending on how suspicious he or she grows because of your behavior, actions and general state. The other type of test that can be done on scene is the portable breath test. Like the field test, you can refuse this. However, this test is not admissible as evidence in court to convict, although its results can give the officer probable cause to arrest you. If you refuse the breath test, it is likely that you will be arrested.
When you’re taken into custody, you need to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. As the Miranda Rights famously state, what you say can be used against you in court later, which is why you should only say that you want to speak to an attorney. The rights can be confusing in the sense that they seem to imply you need to see the judge before you can talk to an attorney – “one will be appointed for you” – this is not true. You can speak to an attorney right after your arrest, but you need to tell law enforcement officers that you want to exercise that right, and that should be the end of any discussions you have with them.
Being convicted of a DUI means mandatory fines and jail time. It also goes on your record and your driving history and will affect your ability to work in certain fields. That’s why it’s important to retain the services of an experienced criminal attorney in Washington who will be by your side during the process, explaining your options, and protecting your rights. With so much on the line, you simply can’t leave your DUI defense to chance.