Field Sobriety & Breath Test Defenses

Proving DUI Charges Can Difficult

DUI Field Sobriety & Breath Test Defenses - WA StateDUI Field Sobriety & Breath Test Defenses - WA StateTo convict you of driving under the influence (DUI) in Washington, the state must prove either that you were operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 or higher or that you were operating a vehicle while affected by alcohol. While you may feel intimidated by the power and evidence the state has against you, proving those charges can be difficult for a prosecutor to do.

Challenging BAC & Field Sobriety Tests

Whether you are facing first-offense DUI, repeat-offense DUI or felony DUI, the defenses available to you in your DUI/DWI case will be very fact-specific to your situation. They may include:

  • Challenging the legality of the stop and subsequent DUI arrest
  • Exposing or highlighting problems with the field sobriety and BAC tests
  • Countering of the observations the police officer has reported

For every observation an arresting officer makes about you, there often are very reasonable explanations. For example, if the officer says that you had bloodshot watery eyes when you were pulled over at 2 a.m., perhaps you eyes were bloodshot and watery because you were tired or because you were suffering from allergies.

Many of the defenses in drunk driving cases are technical in nature and are known only to dui lawyers who are experienced with Washington DUI case law. For example, breath tests results can be suppressed in many Washington courts due to problems with the implied consent law and recent problems with the state toxicology laboratory. Without breath test results, there may not be enough evidence to convict you.

Common Field Sobriety & Breath Test Defenses

Every time the state of Washington thinks it has made it easier for prosecutors to convict people charged with drunk driving, DUI lawyers seem to find problems with their laws and procedures. Those problems can often create opportunities for defenses that an experienced attorney can use to protect your rights.

Here are a few field sobriety and breath test defenses being used in WA state:

  • Under Washington’s implied consent law, police officers read a statement warning you of the licensing consequences if you blow over the legal limit or if you refuse to take a breath test. However, lawyers have argued that the language used in the warning is misleading, fundamentally unfair, and denies your due process rights. Some judges have agreed with those arguments and have suppressed the breath test results.
  • A few years ago, the Washington state toxicology lab manager signed an affidavit stating that she tested the alcohol solution used to calibrate Datamaster DMT machines, when actually somebody else did the testing. In some Snohomish County and King County courts, judges were suppressing the results of breath tests based on this and numerous other problems in the toxicology lab. Some courts are still suppressing breath and/or blood tests based on either internal malfeasance or for failure to follow accepted scientific protocol.
  • An experienced DUI defense attorney may be able to challenge the field sobriety test results. I have the same training and certification as the police officers who conduct field sobriety tests, and I am even qualified to teach them how to conduct these tests. I know how to cross-examine officers who conduct these tests and I know when these tests have not been conducted according to the standardized protocols.
  • In 2004, Washington state enacted a new law making it extremely easy for prosecutors to get breath test results admitted into evidence to juries. However, lawyers argued that the law was unconstitutional and hundreds of breath tests were suppressed until October 2006.

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