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Dalton Law Office, PLLC
Vancouver, WA DUI Defense

Being charged with DUI can be an overwhelming and scary process.  We are here not only to fight for your rights and future, but to keep you informed every step of the way ... for your peace of mind.... or call Ms. Dalton 24 hours, 7 days per week for urgent legal matters at 503-nine-five-seven-9018.

DUI Questions & Answers

Aggressive criminal defense services available in Southwest Washington areas including Clark County, Vancouver, Camas, Washougal, Battleground, Ridgefield, Stevenson, Kelso, Longview, Cowlitz County, Skamania County, Wahkiakum County, Klickitat County and other areas..

Dalton Law Office

2904 Main Street, Suite 100

Vancouver, WA   98663

 

To contact Ms. Dalton directly by e-mail, click here.

Disclaimer: The information here is presented only as a general reference regarding the legal issues involved in a criminal accusation.  Any information presented through this site should not be considered formal legal advice and does not mean or imply any attorney-client relationship. Every case is different and consequences and results can and do vary in accordance with the individual facts of each case.  For a specific opinion regarding your own situation, please contact an experienced lawyer , Nicole T. Dalton for a free initial consultation.  You can also call my cell phone for 24-hour criminal advice if you are stopped or approached by police regarding a criminal accusation, at area code five-zero-three-957-9018 .  

 

This web site is not intended to solicit clients for any legal issue or incident outside of the State of Washington.

If I get stopped by police while driving, what should I do?

Every situation is different, but the following information is intended to serve as a general guideline when faced with a possible DUI accusation in Washington State.  You are legally required to stop for police and provide them with proof of your license, registration, and insurance.  Unfortunately, many law enforcement officers stop people for minor traffic infractions and then turn it into a DUI accusation.  Officers need to have sufficient legal justification to arrest a person for DUI.  To justify a DUI arrest, police must try to obtain evidence.  You have a legal right to refuse to help law enforcement officers obtain some of the evidence they can use to convict you.

If stopped for a traffic matter, you should have your license, registration, and insurance documentation within easy reach and ready when the officer arrives at the car.  One technique officers use to look for evidence of driving under the influence is to immediately ask drivers whether they have had anything to drink.  You have no obligation to answer an officer’s questions about alcohol consumption.  Lying to an officer can be charged as a crime, but if asked, you may politely respond with a question such as, “Am I free to go now, officer?”  If the officer continues to question you about alcohol or about where you have been or where you are going, you may respond politely with statements such as, “I would like to just be on my way, officer.   Please just give me my ticket now so I can be on my way.”

 

If the officer continues to press for information , you can tell him or her, in no uncertain terms, “I won’t answer any questions without a lawyer.”  Call a lawyer if you need to do so and if you are able.  Although the officer may be unhappy with this response, it lets the officer know that he or she needs to stop questioning you.  A traffic ticket issued by an angry officer is normally a better result than a DUI arrest.  If you are arrested anyway, it is usually easier for a lawyer to defend a case where the accused has not made any incriminating statements or voluntarily given any evidence that could prove guilt.  If you are stopped, call us at 360-213-0013, or for after hours or weekend urgent legal advice, call Ms. Dalton’s cell phone at 503-nine-five-seven-9018.  
 

You are not legally required to participate in any field sobriety tests.  The officer might make it sound like a command, not a request, but Washington law does not require drivers to submit to sobriety tests on scene.  You have the right to refuse field sobriety tests.  Be polite and refuse to do the walk and turn, the one leg stand, the gaze test, the portable breath test, or any other tests the officer asks you to perform at the roadside.  If you are arrested and brought to a police station, however, it may be a good idea to provide the breath sample there. Washington law imposes serious consequences for refusing to blow at the station and enhanced penalties for convictions with refusals to provide a sample on the court-approved, stationary machine.  Law enforcement officers must read you your rights regarding the breath test and the consequences of refusing that test.

Can I be charged with DUI if I have not had any alcohol?

Yes.  Police can arrest people for driving under the influence of illegal drugs and even for driving under the influence of prescription medications.  But, just like the previous question and answer illustrate, you don’t have to help the police get evidence against you.  You are not required to offer any information about any consumption of controlled substances or do any field sobriety tests.  If you are charged with DUI based on the officer’s suspicion of drug use, getting a skilled lawyer is a must.  (Click here for more info on drug DUI charges).

 

Don’t you have to drink a whole lot of alcohol to be over the legal limit?

No.  First of all, you could be prosecuted for DUI even if you test under the .08 legal limit.  In addition to allowing conviction of persons who blow a .08 or more in a valid test, Washington law also allows DUI convictions based on evidence that a person was driving and affected by alcohol.  Although the Washington State Liquor Control Board publishes a Blood Alcohol Concentration Guide, the guide is not a good predictor of an individual’s BAC as it cannot account for individual metabolic variation, health issues, or other factors that may give rise to big differences between individuals’ consumption of alcohol and blood alcohol level.  For some people, even one glass of wine could put them over the legal limit or serve as a basis for prosecution due to the effects of alcohol on the driver.  

 

Also, criminal convictions of misdemeanor Negligent Driving in the First Degree can be obtained based on evidence that the driver has driven negligently, in a manner that could endanger persons or property, and shows the effects of having consumed liquor, an illegal drug, or a prescription drug not in accordance with prescribed warnings and directions.  Unfortunately, in Washington State, the “.08 legal limit” is not really the legal limit.

 

What are the consequences of pleading guilty or being convicted of a DUI?

Aside from the personal suffering and possible impact on your career, there are many consequences of a DUI conviction.  The following are just some of the possible legal consequences of being convicted of driving under the influence RCW 46.61.5055.  For DUI offenses charged as a gross misdemeanor, Washington State imposes minimum mandatory jail sentences for convictions, lasting from one day to 120 or more days in jail, plus up to 150 additional days of electronic home monitoring.  Under the statute, a DUI conviction in Washington can result in suspension or revocation of your license from 90 days to four years.  To reinstate a driving privilege after a DUI conviction, the Department of Licensing may require the driver to install an ignition interlock device in the vehicle for between one and ten years. For people with certain prior offenses, or with injuries, a DUI can become a felony charge.

DUI convictions also carry a heavy economic impact on people convicted of this crime.  In addition to Misdemeanor fines of up to $5,000, with minimum fines starting at more than $850 plus additional court costs and assessments, substantial additional costs are associated with electronic home monitoring, installing and renting ignition interlock devices, and mandatory alcohol assessment, treatment, supervision and other requirements.

Can a DUI charge turn into a felony conviction?

Yes.  For persons with four or more offenses within a ten year period, or with certain prior offenses, Washington law turns a DUI conviction into a felony.  Convicted felons face serious consequences including loss of civil rights and discrimination in employment and housing.  A felony conviction can cause loss of voting rights, restrictions on your ability to travel to other countries, and loss of the right to possess or own firearms.

 

Can a DUI conviction be removed from my criminal record?

No.  In Washington, the laws that permit vacating and sealing criminal records do not allow DUI convictions to be vacated and sealed.  However, a lesser charge obtained by your attorney in the process of plea bargaining may well qualify at a later date to be vacated and sealed from the public eye.  When the only convictions on a person’s record have been vacated and sealed, the person can subsequently, truthfully say that they have never been convicted of any crime.  In many cases with a first offense and a relatively low BAC, lesser charges of Negligent Driving I or Reckless Driving may be obtained and those charges would typically qualify to be vacated and sealed after a waiting period.

 

Are there any defenses to driving under the influence?

There are a number of possible legal defenses that an experienced DUI defense lawyer will explore.  Each case is different, but typically we scrutinize the whole process, looking for deficiencies in the state's case from beginning to end, including: the legality of the traffic stop, whether and how field sobriety tests were performed, the legality of any statements obtained, whether the breath or blood tests were performed in compliance with the law, whether there are any laws used to obtain evidence or otherwise related to the charges are unconstitutional or defective, whether the equipment used to perform the tests was in disrepair and whether proper maintenance and calibration were performed, and whether any external factors, such as medical conditions or issues with the machine, possibly affected the test results in the individual case.  

 

Depending on these and more factors, a person may have one or more defenses that a skilled DUI attorney can use to obtain the best possible results.  At the Law Office of Nicole T. Dalton, PLLC, we closely scrutinize the whole process and use any legal defense we can find to give our clients the best shot at a good outcome in their cases.  If you have been arrested for DUI or a driving or alcohol related offense in Southwest Washington, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Nicole T. Dalton to find out more about your rights and your options.  We are here to help.