Seattle DUI Attorney
When you are pulled over and charged in Seattle for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol or drugs, you need to call a Seattle DUI attorney as soon as possible. If you are convicted, you face serious penalties, including jail time, the loss of your license, and the cost and inconvenience of an ignition interlock device being installed in your vehicle.
To fight against DUI charges, whether it is a first offense or a subsequent DUI, you need to work with a knowledgeable and experienced DUI defense lawyer. You are going to need a King County criminal defense lawyer to review your situation, determine the strength of the prosecutor’s case, and identify the strongest possible defense.
When you have a lawyer, you will not have to navigate the King County district court yourself. Your attorney will know the ins and outs. You can avoid common yet significant mistakes by having a DUI lawyer deal with the paperwork and court appearances.
Most importantly, hiring a Seattle DUI attorney improves your chance of obtaining the best possible outcome. An experienced attorney from Emerald City Law Group will work hard to have your case dropped or dismissed. If this is not possible, then we will prepare for court. We will work to prove you are innocent, and when necessary, we will strive to mitigate the consequences of a DUI conviction.
To learn more about Washington DUI charges, contact Emerald City Law Group online or by calling 206-973-0407.
Washington DUI Laws
Every state prohibits driving while intoxicated or impaired. However, each state has its own statute that defines what it means to drive while drunk or on drugs. Washington’s drunk driving statute is found in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), Section 46.61.504.
Washington law states that you can be convicted of a DUI if you are in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, or if you are in actual physical control of a vehicle and:
- Within two hours of being in actual physical control of the vehicle, your breath or blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or higher; or
- Within two hours of being in actual physical control of a vehicle, your body’s THC concentration is 5.0 or higher; or
- Under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or
- Under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug.
What Is Actual Physical Control of a Vehicle?
It is important that you notice Washington’s DUI law does not say “driving” a vehicle. It says being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle. This phrase is not defined in the statute; however, over the years, it has come to mean that you were in a position to drive the vehicle. This is a much broader standard than actual driving. You can be arrested and charged with a DUI if you are merely sitting in your car.
Washington’s Legal Limit
As you can see in RCW 46.61.504, the legal BAC limit is 0.08 percent. However, this standard only applies to individuals who are 21 years or older and who are driving personal vehicles.
If you are a minor, which means younger than 21, your BAC limit is .02 percent. This is essentially a zero-tolerance policy for underage drunk driving. If there are any signs that you are impaired while driving, and if your chemical tests show only .02 or higher alcohol in your breath or blood, you will face charges for an underage DUI.
Also, if you have a commercial driver’s license and are in your commercial vehicle, then your professional legal limit is .04 percent. This is not quite a zero-tolerance policy, but it is much lower than the typical adult limit.
Elements of a DUI Charge in Seattle
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in the King County district court, there are certain elements the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt for you to be convicted.
The elements of a DUI include:
- Actual physical control of a vehicle: One way in which you may defend yourself is by arguing you were not in physical control of the car. For example, you may have been in the vehicle, but you did not have the keys. Without the keys, you could not have driven the car while impaired.
- You were under the influence of alcohol or drugs: A prosecutor can prove you were under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both in numerous ways. One way is to show you had a BAC or THC concentration above the legal limit. However, you can be convicted of a DUI with a BAC lower than 0.08 percent or a THC concentration lower than 5.0. The prosecutor may have other evidence that you were inebriated, including a lower presence of drugs or alcohol in your system, your verbal responses to questions, your behavior during a traffic stop, and your physical capabilities or difficulties during the traffic stop.
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DUI Offenses Emerald City Law Group Accepts
At Emerald City Law Group, we handle all types of DUI charges. Do not be afraid to call us if you are dealing with:
Washington DUI Penalties
When facing a DUI charge in King County, you should be aware of the potential sentence you face. Most DUIs are charged as gross misdemeanors, which are punishable by hefty fines and up to a year in jail. If you are charged with a fourth DUI within a 10-year period, you will be charged with a Class B felony.
The potential penalties for DUI charges in Seattle are:
Blood Alcohol Content
24 hours in jail or 15 days EHM, 90-day driver’s license suspension
Two days in jail, 30 days EHM, one-year driver’s license suspension
30 days in jail, 60 days EHM, two-year driver’s license revocation
45 days in jail, 90 days EHM, 900-day driver’s license suspension
90 days in jail, 120 days EHM, three-year driver’s license revocation
120 days in jail, 150 days EHM, four-year driver’s license revocation
Up to 90 days in jail
Up to 90 days in jail
Administrative License Suspension
When you are arrested for a DUI, you may lose your license right away. You face what is known as an administrative license suspension (ALS). This is a civil consequence of a DUI arrest – not a criminal punishment.
You can lose your driver’s license due to:
- Having a BAC or THC concentration above the legal limit; or
- Refusing to submit to a chemical test related to a DUI arrest.
If you have a BAC above the legal limit, a first offense will lead to a 90-day ALS. If you violate Washington’s implied consent law, a first refusal leads to a one-year ALS. For a second violation, you will lose your license for two years.
When you are given notice of an ALS, you need to contact a Seattle DUI lawyer to fight the suspension immediately. If you do nothing, the suspension goes into effect 60 days from the date of your arrest. However, you can request a hearing with Washington’s Department of Licensing (DOL).
A request for an administrative process hearing must be made within 20 days of your arrest. In other words, you have to do this immediately. You need to call a lawyer to discuss learn more about the ASL and to file the request for a DOL hearing.
Potential Collateral Consequences of a DUI Conviction
If you are convicted of a DUI in Seattle, you face a number of secondary consequences. You will now have a criminal record, which can impact all parts of your life. Without a driver’s license, you may have an even harder time.
Some of the most common collateral consequences of a Seattle DUI are:
- Challenges continuing school
- Difficulties finding and maintaining work
- Ineligibility for certain professional licenses
- Difficulty obtaining certain professional licenses despite eligibility
- Reduction or loss of child custody or visitation
- Challenges regarding your immigration status
- Possible deportation, if you are an undocumented immigrant
- Challenges traveling to other countries, including Canada
- If convicted of a felony, loss of the right to own or possess firearms
King County DUI Court Process
If you are arrested for a DUI, the next step is to be booked into jail. This entails being photographed, fingerprinted, and put into a cell. You also will be questioned and given a phone call. Once in jail, an officer will determine if you are subject to bail, and if so, the amount of the bail.
At the jail, you will be asked to submit to a breath test. The results of the breath test are available quickly. You also may be asked to submit a blood sample. This sample is processed by a state lab, and the results may take weeks.
If you are subject to bail, you should speak to friends, family, or a lawyer about arranging a bail bond. You will not be released until you obtain a bond. However, you may not be subject to bail. In this situation, you may be released when the police believe you are no longer a danger to yourself or others.
You may go through an arraignment or initial hearing at a King County district court right away. There are three district courts in the area—in Seattle, Redmond, or Kent. In Seattle, you may be released with a DUI citation document that gives you a mandatory court date within the week. However, there may be a delay in the prosecutor filing DUI charges. In this situation, you may be released from jail and receive notice of your arraignment at a different date.
Your arraignment is a simple court hearing. You will hear the exact charges against you, and the judge will inform of you of certain rights, such as the right to a DUI defense lawyer. At the arraignment, you must enter you initial pleading.
After the arraignment, your lawyer and the prosecutor may discuss a plea negotiation. They will participate in a pre-trial conference, during which time they may discuss an appropriate resolution to the case without going to trial. If you firmly believe you are innocent of the charges, and if your attorney believes you have a strong defense, you may not want to agree to a plea bargain.
During this time, your lawyer may file various motions. Depending on the circumstances, your lawyer may file a motion to dismiss or a motion to exclude evidence.
A few days or weeks before a trial may be scheduled; there will be a readiness hearing. This provides your DUI attorney and the prosecutor another chance to see if the case can be resolved without a trial. It is also time for both parties to say they are ready to schedule the trial.
If the case is not dismissed or dropped, or you do not accept a plea bargain, you must go to trial. During a trial before a judge or jury, your attorney will strive to prove you did not commit a DUI.
If the judge or jury finds you are innocent, the case is over. However, if you are found guilty, the judge will sentence you in accordance with Washington’s minimum and maximum DUI penalties.
When the Police Can Pull You Over
To get a DUI, you have to first be stopped by the police. However, a cop cannot stop you for just any reason. Instead, there is a standard that police must meet. An officer must have reasonable suspicion that you have, had, or will commit a crime, which may or may not be a DUI.
Reasonable suspicion is not a gut feeling or hunch. It needs to be based on observable facts. For example, an officer may notice that you are driving erratically, crossing over into other lanes and changing speed often. Or, an officer may see you violate a traffic law, such as driving through a stop sign or speeding.
Once the police have reasonable suspicion regarding a crime, they can stop you. They will ask for your identification and proof of insurance. You are required to provide this. They may ask you a few questions about where you have been and where you are going. They are using this time to look for signs of alcohol or drugs in the vehicle or signs of impairment.
If the officer believes you are intoxicated and arrests you, you should ask to contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Do not answer any questions without a DWI defense lawyer present.
Washington DUI Checkpoint Law
Sobriety or DUI checkpoints have been approved by the U.S. Supreme Court as long as they are performed within certain legal boundaries. A majority of states also allow DUI checkpoints, citing the need for public safety is more important than a temporary disruption into your private activity. However, Washington’s Supreme Court did not agree with that argument.
Random roadblocks checking for DUIs are not lawful in Washington. Unfortunately, this does not stop the police in Seattle and throughout Washington from being liberal in pulling over drivers, especially on nights, weekends, and holidays.
If you are pulled over, and you believe the officer did not have reasonable suspicion, contact an affordable DUI attorney in Seattle at Emerald City Law Group.
What to Do During a Seattle DUI Stop
To protect your rights and safety, you need to know how to behave during a DUI stop. It is essential that you calmly cooperate with the officers and that you do nothing that could escalate the situation.
To begin with, when you see the flashing lights behind you, pull over as soon as you can. Get as far from traffic as possible so that neither you nor the officer will be in harm’s way. This may mean pulling onto the shoulder, turning onto a side street, or pulling into a parking lot.
After you stop, turn off any music or radio playing and place your hand on the steering wheel. Keep both hands visible for the officer.
When the officer arrives, typically their first request will be for your name, license, and proof of insurance. You must provide the officer with identification and insurance. You are not legally entitled to withhold your name or ID. If you do, you may be arrested. Also, you are required to have proof of auto insurance any time you drive. If you do not prove proof, you will be ticketed.
In most cases, you will need to reach for your ID or insurance card. You may have to reach into your pocket, glove compartment, or purse. Before you do this, tell the officer where you intend to reach. Do not make any sudden, unnecessary, or unannounced movements.
During this time, the officer will begin to ask you questions. You are not required to answer. You have the right to answer or to calmly and politely decline to answer. At this time, you have to make a judgment call regarding whether you feel safe answering the questions.
If the officer suspects you are intoxicated, they will ask you to step out of the car. You must get out of the vehicle if asked. Do this slowly and carefully to ensure the officer can see what you are doing.
Once outside of the vehicle, the officer may ask you to blow into a roadside breath test. You are not required to perform a roadside breathalyzer. By refusing, you limit the evidence the officer has against you. However, this does not mean you will not be arrested. There are similar rules for standardized field sobriety tests. An officer may ask you to perform a certain physical task. You are not required to perform any field sobriety tests.
If you feel the officer has been asking you questions for a long time, you may ask if you are free to go. If the police officer says “no,” do not drive away. Remain where you are. If you attempt to drive away before an officer gives you permission, you can be stopped, arrested, and charged with a crime.
If the officer decides to arrest you for drunk driving, do not panic or argue. This can be a frustrating and scary experience. However, cooperating is important. It is not time to argue that you are innocent during the arrest. Instead, once you are placed under arrest, do not answer any questions. Invoke your right to remain silent and state that you want an attorney.
As soon as you are able, contact a Seattle DUI attorney, or ask a friend or family member to call Emerald City Law Group as soon as possible.
Standardized Field Sobriety Tests Are Not Mandatory
One of the ways in which police officers gather evidence of drug- or alcohol-related intoxication is through standardized field sobriety tests (SFST). There are three tests standardized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: For this test, an officer will ask you to look at a small object, such as the top of a pen. Then, you will be asked to follow the object back and forth with your eyes without turning your head. This test allows an officer to review the movement of your eye to see if you can track an object smoothly or not. Everyone’s eyes jerk a little bit, and when you look to the side, at an extreme angle, your eyes will have a more pronounced jerking motion. However, when you are impaired due to alcohol, your eye will have a greater jerking motion at a lesser angle than normal.
- Walk-and-Turn Test: You may be asked to take nine steps in a straight line, touching your heel to the toes on your other foot. At the ninth step, you must turn on one foot and then return in the same way.
- One-Leg Stand Test: You may be asked to stand on one foot with the other about six inches off the ground. While you stand on one foot, you will be asked to count out loud beginning with one thousand.
You are not legally required to take any of these tests. If the officer asks you to perform one of these tasks or any other physical task, you may politely refuse. You may say “I respectfully decline to submit to field sobriety tests.”
Washington’s Implied Consent Law Regarding Breath and Blood Tests
Under RCW 46.20.308, everyone who drives a vehicle in Washington consents to a breath test upon an arrest for drunk or drugged driving. This is known as the implied consent law. Simply by driving, you have impliedly agreed to take a breath test to determine your alcohol or drug concentration after a DUI arrest.
For a breath test to be required, you must be placed under arrest for a DUI. Then, the officer must read your Miranda Rights and inform you of Washington’s implied consent law and the consequences of refusing a breath test.
A roadside breath test is not the same thing as a formal breath test conducted after an arrest. Typically, an officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test during a traffic stop to determine an approximate BAC. This test would be prior to an arrest and before being given the implied consent warning. It does not fall under Washington’s implied consent law, and you can refuse it without fear of criminal consequences.
The officer also may ask you for a blood sample. Typically, for an officer to require you to submit to a blood test, they must obtain a warrant, or you have to agree to undergo a blood test without a warrant. The officer can seek a blood test when there are exigent circumstances as well.
If you refuse a breath or blood test that is controlled by the implied consent law, you can face administrative and criminal penalties. A first-time refusal will lead to a one-year driver’s license suspension. Each additional refusal increases the term of the suspension.
When the Police May Search Your Vehicle
When you have been stopped for a DUI in Seattle, you need to know when the officers can search your vehicle. If the officers search your car without the right to do so or permission, then this is a violation of your constitutional right. The U.S. Constitution protects you from unreasonable searches and seizures.
In general, the police need a warrant to search an area in which you have a right to privacy. However, there are many exceptions to the warrant requirements.
A common exception is that the police have probable cause that there is evidence of the crime in your vehicle. For example, if you are arrested for a DUI, the police may have probable cause that there is alcohol or drugs in the vehicle. They can look through the interior of the car where those objects could be found.
Another exception that allows the police to conduct a search is when that search is related to the arrest. Additionally, the police can search a vehicle if they believe it is necessary for their protection and safety. This may be their reason for searching the vehicle for a weapon.
The police may not have a valid reason to search your car during a traffic stop or immediately following an arrest. In this situation, they may ask if they can look through your car or open your trunk. You can and should say no. The police can search your vehicle if you give consent, but there is no reason to let the police learn through a private area when they cannot do so lawfully without consent.
If you believe you were subject to an unlawful vehicle search, call Emerald City Law Group right away. If the police gain evidence through an unconstitutional search and seizure, your Seattle DUI attorney will fight to have that unlawfully obtained evidence excluded from your case.
Possible DUI Defenses
When you are facing DUI charges in Seattle, do not assume you will be convicted. DUI charges do not equal a DUI conviction. The prosecutor has a lot of work to do before a judge or jury can find you guilty. And before that can happen, there are many ways a Seattle DUI attorney can fight to have the charges reduced or dropped. There also are ways in which a lawyer can defend you at trial and pursue an acquittal.
Some of the most common ways to fight DUI charges include:
- Proving you were subject to an unlawful traffic stop.
- Establishing you were subject to an unconstitutional search and seizure.
- Fighting to exclude unlawfully obtained or inadmissible evidence.
- Proving you were no tin actual physical control of the vehicle at the time of the stop.
- Proving a blood or breath test was improperly administered.
- Proving chemical test equipment was defective, flawed, or improperly calibrated.
- Arguing the outcome of a chemical test is invalid or unreliable.
- Establishing that SFSTs are unreliable.
- Proving that officer improperly conducted and graded a SFST.
- Proving you have a medical condition or physical ailment that exhibited itself similar to intoxication.
As you can see, there are many ways to challenge DUI charges. A conviction is not inevitable. However, to ensure you use the most appropriate defense strategy, you should work with a Seattle DUI lawyer. If you attempt to defend yourself, the prosecutor will have the upper hand. If you rely on a public defender, your case will not get the attention it deserves. Public defenders are hardworking and skilled attorneys. However, they are significantly overworked.
Washington Alternatives to DUI Jail Time
When facing DUI charges, you may be sensitive to the fact that you can be jailed for this offense. If convicted, you may be sentenced to only a minimum amount of time in jail. Your attorney can also fight for your jail time to be converted to monitored confinement at home. For a first-time DUI, it is common to ask for and receive EHM instead of jail time. Another option a judge may agree to instead of incarceration is community service. Your lawyer may be able to argue exchanging hours of community service instead of days in jail.
An Overview of the DUI Process in Washington
Our Seattle DUI attorneys at Emerald City Law Group are here to help you effectively handle DUI charges and protect your rights throughout the DUI arrest and court process. You can contact us at any time, though the sooner you contact us, the better.
The DUI process in Washington encompasses:
- Your initial stop by an officer while in a vehicle.
- Officer questioning and being asked to submit to a roadside breath test or SFSTs.
- Your DUI arrest and being read your Miranda Rights.
- Being transported to a local police station.
- An officer giving you Washington’s implied consent warning.
- Being asked to submit to a blood or breath test.
- Your submission or refusal to one or more chemical tests.
- Being informed of whether you are subject to bail or not.
- Your release without bail, or being required to obtain a bail bond.
- Being informed of the date of your arraignment.
- Attendance at your arraignment and providing your initial plea.
- Representation during the pre-trial process.
- Negotiating to have the charges reduced, dropped, or dismissed.
- Facilitating an acceptable plea agreement.
- Aggressively defending you at trial.
- Mitigating the possible impact of a DUI conviction and securing a favorable sentence.
Do I Need a Seattle DUI Lawyer?
If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI in King County, then yes, you should hire an attorney. Whenever you are facing criminal charges, whether it is a misdemeanor or felony, you need to work with someone who knows Washington law, knows King County’s district court rules, and understands how to best defend you in court.
By hiring an experienced DUI attorney, you improve your chance of obtaining the best possible outcome. This may be having the case dropped or dismissed. It may be having the charges reduced to reckless driving, which has a lesser penalty. The best possible outcome may be a plea, in which you agree to plead guilty for a pre-determined penalty. Or, the best possible outcome may be obtaining an acquittal through a trial.
Another benefit of having an attorney is that, if you are convicted, your lawyer would have put in the work to mitigate the potential penalties. Your lawyer will strive for you to receive the minimum penalties available for a DUI conviction, including an alternative to jail.
Have You Been Charged With a DUI? Call a Seattle DUI Attorney Immediately
As soon as you have the chance after being charged with a DUI, we recommend contacting Emerald City Law Group.
However, we understand you may not have the opportunity right away or know how to contact a skilled attorney. In this case, contact a family member or friend who can give us a call at 206-973-0407.
If you have already been released and you need to fight a DUI and an ALS in Seattle, you can contact us through our online form.
Our DUI defense lawyers at Emerald City Law Group are ready to protect your rights and defend you against DUI allegations. We will immediately investigate and analyze your case to determine the best next steps. We will have an honest discussion with you about your options and the potential outcomes of your case.
Throughout your DUI case, you will know where you stand and that we are doing everything we can to help.