Close-up Shot of Police Car Siren Lights - dui traffic stop concept

Being pulled over for a DUI in Washington can be a terrifying experience. However, there are certain procedures and protocols involved in every DUI traffic stop — and it’s important to know what to do if you find yourself in this situation. While every DUI case involves a unique set of facts and circumstances, the following explains what to do if you’ve been stopped by law enforcement on suspicion that you’ve been drinking and driving.

Stop Your Car When it is Safe to Pull Over

Law enforcement may stop your vehicle in the event they have “reasonable suspicion” that you have committed an offense. The offense might be as simple as speeding, or an officer might have reason to suspect you are driving under the influence of alcohol if they observe your car swerving, driving too slowly, frequently braking, or a number of other driving indications. Once the officer’s emergency lights come on, you must stop your vehicle. Nevertheless, you should not put yourself in harm’s way — it may be necessary to briefly continue to drive until you reach a safe area.

Provide Your ID to the Police When Asked

Once you have been pulled over at a DUI traffic stop, police will ask for your license, registration, and insurance to determine your identity. You should be polite and cooperative at this time — presenting yourself as argumentative or belligerent could impact what happens next. It’s crucial to understand that pursuant to Washington law, a driver must provide this information to the officer. The officer may also bring the information back to their vehicle, where it is out of your sight.

Be Aware You Have the Right to Remain Silent

The United States Constitution provides you with the right to not incriminate yourself in any criminal matter, including a DUI traffic stop. In other words, you have the right to remain silent — while you should always be polite, you do not have to answer questions the police ask you. You can also refuse a search of your vehicle if the police do not have a warrant.

If you are taken into police custody, they must read your Miranda warning before they can question you. The Miranda rule specifies that in the event you have been arrested, you must be made aware that you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in court, and you have the right to an attorney. In addition to informing a person of their rights, this rule also helps to protect a suspect from being coerced into providing statements to police officers.

Know You Have the Right to Decline Any Field Sobriety Tests During a DUI Traffic Stop

At a DUI traffic stop, the police might ask you to take a field sobriety test to help them determine whether you are under the influence of alcohol. The roadside tests typically administered include the following:

  • Walk and Turn test — The walk and turn test consists of performing a series of nine steps heel-to-toe in a straight line. Upon completion, you must walk in the opposite direction. The officer will observe your physical actions during the test to determine intoxication.
  • One Leg Stand test — During this test, an officer will ask you to stand on one leg for approximately 30 seconds. They will look to see whether there are clues of intoxication, such as swaying, hopping, or using your arms to balance.
  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test — This field sobriety test at a DUI traffic stop checks your eyes for jerking to determine whether you are intoxicated.

These tests are completely voluntary under Washington law — and you have the right to decline them. While an officer may ask you to perform other roadside tests, the above are the only ones that have been approved by the federal government as being empirically related to a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC).

Critically, field sobriety tests are simply a measure of agility and the ability to perform certain physical feats. No roadside test can accurately determine a person’s level of intoxication. In fact, there can be many variables that come into play apart from intoxication that can result in a failed test, such as medications, illness, roadway conditions, lighting, footwear, and misunderstanding the instructions. Although a refusal can be used as evidence in court, it may be best to politely decline a field sobriety test unless you are certain you will perfectly perform it.

Understand Washington’s Implied Consent Law

Unlike field sobriety tests, which are optional, a chemical test is mandatory. Under Washington’s implied consent law, any person who operates a motor vehicle is deemed to have given their consent to a breath test for the purpose of determining their BAC. While you can still refuse the breath test — and the officer must give you the option to decline — a refusal will result in administrative penalties which are separate from any criminal consequences.

Notably the law says that, refusing a chemical test will lead to suspension of your license for a period of one year. Your refusal may also be used as evidence against you in your DUI case in court. If you refuse to take the evidential breath test, the police officer might elect to apply for a search warrant to draw your blood. There is no right to refuse a blood draw that is compelled by a search warrant. Deciding whether to take or refuse a chemical test can have a significant impact on your case and it is essential to consult with an attorney before taking either course of action.

More Questions About DUI Traffic Stops? Contact an Experienced Washington DUI Attorney

If you’ve been accused of a DUI, a knowledgeable attorney can help you navigate the legal process and fight the charges against you. Providing skillful counsel and experienced advocacy, The Fox Law Firm PLLC has been achieving positive results for clients in DUI cases since 1985. Contact Attorney Jon Fox for a free consultation by calling (425) 584-6679.

Categories: DUI Arrests