It was reported last week that a Mountlake Terrace, Washington Police commander was fired because he was arrested for a driving under the influence (DUI) by a Washington State Trooper.
The police officer was on call than night of the DUI arrest. The report stated that he was with others at a restaurant in Arlington, Washington drinking until about 1:00 am. He then drove to the Tulalip Casino and eventually attempted to drive to his home in Lake Stevens, Washington.
On the way to Lake Steven’s a Washington State Trooper noticed the police officers car crossing the center line and his headlights were off.
The police officer was stopped by the trooper and agreed to submit to field sobriety tests, although he declined the portable breath test. The police officer was subsequently arrested for a Washington DUI and later blew a breath alcohol concentration (BAC) of .055 and .058.
The police officer was charged with DUI and is being prosecuted by Snohomish County Prosecutors. He later entered a not guilty plea at Snohomish County district court according to the Everett Harold.
Let’s break this down and see what we non-police officers can learn:
Getting fired because of being arrested for a Washington DUI:
Being fired because you are accused of a DUI or any crime for that matter is a real possibility. However, in this case it is only an allegation and I would hope an employer would understand that. Although, the allegation itself could cause: The loss of license, ignition interlock device, many court dates, arrest, and many other things that could cause you to lose your job.
Crossing the center line and having your lights off:
Crossing the center line in itself is usually not enough to justify a stop under Washington State v. Prado, However, the combination crossing the centerline and driving on a public road at night without lights on probably would justify a stop.
Agreeing to submit to Field Sobriety Test:
Field sobriety tests are voluntary test the trooper or officer will ask a Washington DUI suspect to perform on the roadside after a DUI stop. They generally consist of three standardized tests, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN or eye test), the walk and turn tests and the one leg stand test. These test have been designed to assist the police in finding probable cause for arrest or more specifically estimating if a BAC is over .10 or not. These test are voluntary and will only be used against you, it is likely wise to decline to participate in these tests.
Declining a preliminary portable breath test:
This is a non-evidentiary test and is voluntary like the field sobriety tests. If you have been drinking it is probably wise to decline this test.
Blowing under .08 (the “legal limit”):
Yes, to many people’s surprise you can be arrested and even convicted when you blow below a .08. This is due to the “affected by” prong of the Washington State DUI law.
“person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state: while the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug”RCW 46.61.502(1)(c)
The government only needs to prove beyond a reasonable that you were under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug.
However, because the BAC is not over a .08, there is no presumption of under the influence or affected by. In my experience, any BAC in the .05 range is very low and difficult for the government’s prosecutor to prove “affected by” beyond a reasonable doubt.
Pleading not guilty:
This is expected, especially in this case where there appears to be a real evidentiary issues regarding actually “under the influence of” or “affected by.” Furthermore, when charged with a Washington State DUI, the defendant nearly always should enter a not guilty plea at arraignment.
If you have been arrested for a Washington State DUI please contact us to receive a detailed, private, confidential free consultation. Every case is unique it is really to your benefit to take the time to meet with any attorney and go over your case in depth.