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Know Your Rights if You Drive After Consuming

Posted by Aaron J. Wolff | Jun 21, 2021 | 0 Comments

There is a universal anxiousness that occurs when you are driving home and the police lights shine behind your car and the cop indicates for you to pull to the shoulder. But you have added anxiety because you drank alcohol before driving increasing your likely hood of getting a DUI, so with your anxiety running high and adrenaline kicking in what should you do? If you are being pulled over for DUI or Driving under the Influence in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Everett or anywhere in Washington State there are several important things you should remember and actions you should take.

The best way to prevent a DUI is not to drink and drive

While it seems obvious, the best way to avoiding being pulled over for DUI in Washington State or Seattle is to not drink and drive. The body only expels .015 (g/ml) of alcohol per hour. This means that if you are at the legal limit of .08 then it will take roughly 5.5 hours for your body to fully expel the alcohol from your body. When it comes to alcohol, alcohol in and alcohol out are not equal, it is much faster for you to go above the legal limit than it takes for your body to expel alcohol. If you think you have consumed too much, chances are you probably have. Have a backup plan such as an uber or a friend.

Bottom line is that even if you feel merely relaxed or “buzzed,” you are quite likely over the legal limit.  Even NHTSA has run an add campaign saying “buzzed” driving is drunk driving.  I constantly tell people that it takes so little to get to the legal limit of .08.

Know your rights if pulled over after drinking

If you do decide to drive after drinking then make sure that you know your rights if pulled over for DUI in Seattle, Bellevue or anywhere in Washington State. 

Have all your documents in order

Provide all requested documentation. Whenever you are pulled over, the officer will ask for your license, registration, and insurance. Make sure your glove compartment is cleared of old registrations and that your insurance and up-to-date registration and easily accessible.  This will allow for a smooth handing over of your documents to the police officer.

Don't answer questions about consumption

Do not admit or deny consuming alcohol: say you are not going to answer that question. Officer's will always ask if you were drinking alcohol. They can then use your answer as reason to arrest you. However, do not lie merely stating you did not drink if you did.  The best approach is to say that you are not willing to answer that question.  Obviously, if you have not been drinking then tell the officer that.

Decline to submit to field tests

If an officer asks you to step out of the car, it means the encounter has escalated from a traffic stop to a detention for investigation of driving under the influence.  Outside, they will likely ask you to perform "voluntary" field sobriety tests. I refer to these tests as "roadside agility tests."  I would have difficulty walking a line or standing on one foot completely sober in the comfort of my home.  Now, compare that to being outside on the side of the road in the middle of the night with adrenaline and anxiety running through your body and with alcohol in your system.....  these tests are designed for failure.

Washington case law states field Sobriety tests are voluntary and you have the right to decline to perform the field sobriety tests.  

Decline the roadside breath test

DECLINE the preliminary breath test (PBT).  The officer is required to inform you that the test is voluntary and does not replace the evidentiary breath test at the station.  You have the absolute right to refuse it and since it is voluntary, why give the officer more evidence to be used against you in a DUI charge?

If arrested, IMMEDIATELY request to speak with an attorney

As soon as handcuffs are on immediately request to speak to an attorney. The right to counsel is constitutionally compelled by the Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution.  This means that you have an absolute right to speak to an attorney. Even if you do not know an attorney, ask to speak to a public defender. The officer MUST put you in contact with a public defender.  Once in contact, make sure you are in a private location where the officer cannot overhear the conversation. This conversation is protected and the officer does not have a right to hear or listen to the conversation.

The decision on whether to take or refuse the test at the station is up to you

Each case is unique and there is no clear cut answer on whether to take or refuse the breath test at the station.  There are many factors to consider including:  what your likely BAC is, whether you are on probation for DUI, whether the officer will get a warrant for blood should you refuse.  As such, when speaking with the attorney at the station, you should discuss your option in greater detail.

After being released by the officer or from jail, immediately contact an experienced DUI attorney

The immediate steps after getting released by the officer or from jail is to immediately contact an attorney.  The Seattle DUI attorneys at Aaron J Wolff Defense have over two decades of experience representing people accused of driving under the influence or other alcohol related traffic matters.  We can be reached 24/7 at 206-504-2500.  That said, while we hope you or a loved one is never in need of our assistance, we are always on-call and available for a free, confidential initial consultation.


About the Author

Aaron J. Wolff

A former DUI prosecutor, Aaron Wolff has over 18 years of experience in representing people accused of DUI and is recognized as one of the leading defense lawyers in Washington State. His relentless and passionate advocacy has lead to superb ratings and outstanding reviews from former clients.


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