Holiday DUI Patrols are coming

Although there has not yet been a formal announcement, expect to see DUI holiday patrols this year from Thanksgiving through New Year’s. This time of year, state troopers and other police agencies work in unison to increase their presence for DUI emphasis patrols. In the past we have seen, for instance, a coordinated DUI enforcement effort from nine police agencies in King County’s eastside– Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Medina, Lake Forest Park, Issaquah, Bothell, Mercer Island and the city of Snoqualmie. When the DUI task force is patrolling, more people get arrested for DUI. These officers are looking for any driving errors or other probable cause that gives them arguable legal justification to stop a vehicle. If they smell alcohol from the driver, the traffic stop changes into a full-blown DUI investigation and perhaps an arrest. Their goal is a laudable one - removing the impaired driver from the road. Legal issues are raised by this approach. For instance, if a Bellevue police officer stops a vehicle in Kirkland, it must be shown in court that a proper interjurisdictional agreement authorized the Bellevue officer to patrol in Kirkland. Obviously, the best way to avoid the legal and professional problems resulting from a DUI arrest is not drive at all after having had anything to drink. That’s easy advice to give but the law does allow a citizen to lawfully drink and drive so long as the ability to drive is not impaired and the driver is not over the legal limit. Still, a number of law abiding citizens who make legitimate efforts to consume alcohol responsibly will find themselves snared in this year’s DUI dragnet. DUI charges are routinely filed even where breath test readings are well below the legal limit if the officer believes that the driver’s ability to drive is impaired by alcohol to any appreciable degree. In this sense, it is not wise to rely upon the “BAC Charts” issued by the state liquor control which can be found in liquor stores, because a breath test reading under the legal limit is no guarantee that a driver won’t be arrested and prosecuted for DUI. Our DUI law, RCW 46.61.502, criminalizes two things: (1) driving with a prohibited level of alcohol in the blood, and (2) driving while impaired by alcohol. The relevant text of the law is set forth below. RCW 46.61.502 (1) A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state: (a) And the person has, within two hours after driving, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or (b) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or (c) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug