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Vancouver WA DUI Law Blog

Understanding the accuracy of breath tests

Most drunk driving charges are typically based on a blood alcohol concentration test. There are a variety of brand names in the field of breathalyzer testing, however, it is important to keep in mind that breathalyzers do not test blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Testing blood alcohol concentration actually requires the analysis of a blood sample. BAC is estimated indirectly through the use of breathalyzer tests.

The different types of breathalyzer machines operate differently and larger machines typically tend to provide better results than smaller, hand-held, breathalyzer machines. In some states, data from hand-held machines may not be presented as reliable evidence in court. In addition, some states only use blood tests to protect the innocent and those wrongfully accused of a drunk driving crime.

What are potential drunk driving penalties in Washington?

Drunk driving can impact individuals who might not otherwise think of themselves as part of the criminal justice system. For this reason, you may wonder what the possible penalties for drunk driving in Washington are. In Washington, it is important to keep in mind that an individual can receive a DUI for either driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Penalties may be assigned based on arrest, conviction and following a DUI conviction. It is important to keep in mind that the administrative and criminal processes associated with a DUI charge are not the same.

In Washington, the legal limit is 0.08 percent blood alcohol content (BAC), however, the harshness of the potential penalty may increase according to the BAC level. For many individuals, the most significant penalties that are possible following a DUI can include jail time and driver's license suspension or revocation, however, significant fines are also possible. Depending on the number of DUI offenses the accused individual has, a driver's license may be suspended for 90 days to four years. Options such as an ignition interlock device, however, may allow a driver to ability to drive during a license suspension or revocation period.

Why the administrative license hearing is important in DUI cases

One of the most significant consequences of drunk driving charges is the administrative penalties. Administrative penalties include the loss of a driver's license following a DUI charge or conviction. In addition to the inability to effectively get to and from the accused party's workplace and other activities, all of which a driver's license suspension or revocation may cause, it can also be a costly process, even if you are permitted to drive with an ignition interlock device. For those reasons, it is important to understand the administrative hearing process and be able to effectively and efficiently respond.

The administrative hearing process surrounding the license suspension and revocation process in Washington, though prompted by DUI charges, is separate from the criminal process. A party that has allegedly provided a breath sample above the legal limit or refused to take a breath test will automatically have their license suspended. To contest the license suspension, the party must request a hearing within 20 days of your arrest for DUI.

Washington Supreme Court gives man new DUI trial

While it may not always be something that is well understood, important safeguards exist within our criminal justice system to protect individuals accused of crimes. A new trial was recently granted to a man by the Washington State Supreme Court for driving under the influence. The ruling was based on the fact that during the man's trial, a State Patrol trooper stated the man was "absolutely" impaired following an alleged police chase through an Eastern Washington community. The trooper's opinion was only based on performance of the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. During the HGN test, a driver is asked to follow a pen or finger with their eyes.

There are three common field sobriety tests. The officer failed to perform any other field sobriety tests on the man other than the HGN test. In addition, no breath or blood test was conducted to determine intoxication. The Supreme Court ruled that the single test alone was not enough for the officer to offer expert testimony related to the man's impairment. There are many rules that exist as part of our criminal justice system to protect citizens and accused individuals.

Options following a DUI, including deferred prosecution

Drunk driving charges are unquestionably serious and may carry significant penalties that can disrupt any accused individual's daily life. In Clark County, different options may be available to those facing DUI charges in response to the charges. Individuals in Washington can face DUI charges for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs (including legal drugs) and prescriptions drugs.

Researchers in Washington state working on marijuana breath test

Breath test technology and reliability is an important aspect of the criminal justice process for anyone accused of impaired driving. At Washington State University, research is currently underway to develop a marijuana breath test. Researchers are working to develop a breath test for marijuana that is similar to blood alcohol tests currently used by law enforcement authorities for alcohol. A chemistry professor at the university noted that certain current technologies used for drug detection purposes can be "repurposed" to test breath for THC. THC is the psychoactive component of marijuana. In Washington state, five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood is the legal limit for drivers.

According to researchers, the marijuana breath test that is being developed is not likely to provide the exact level of THC present in the driver's body; rather, the breath test that is being developed will inform officers that some level of active THC is present in the driver's body. Researchers believe this will help law enforcement authorities determine if a driver suspected of impaired driving should be arrested and will minimize so-called "false positives." Follow up tests would have to be conducted by police to be used as evidence in a court proceeding. Tests presumably include blood or urine tests such as those currently used to measure alcohol. The device is currently in the development phase and testing is expected to begin next year, first on human breath and then in the field.

Washington State Patrol now using new breathalyzer machines

Whether an accused individual has submitted to a Breathalyzer test or has refused to submit to a breathalyzer test, understanding how breathalyzer tests work, and what challenges they may be subject to, can be useful. The Washington State Patrol (WSP) recently unveiled new breathalyzer equipment. The machines have been described as the "next generation" in breath testing equipment. The Draeger Alcotest 9510 breath test instruments are being incorporated into authorities' current DUI enforcement program. Law enforcement authorities have been working to ensure the new equipment fits in with the current enforcement program. A law enforcement representative reports that the new machines are easier for officers to operate and are more accurate and reliable.

The new machines replace the National Patent Analytical Systems DataMaster. The DataMaster has been used since the 1980s and parts are no longer manufactured to repair it. According to law enforcement, both the new and older machines produced accurate results of the blood alcohol content of individuals suspected of DUI. The most significant difference between the two generations of machines is that the new machines employ a dry gas standard, opposed to a liquid solution, to verify the machine is functioning properly. According to authorities, when the new machines encounter a problem, they shut down and a technician is required to fix the problem.

Driving under the influence in Washington includes marijuana

Penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the state of Washington are serious. Currently, however, drivers who fail a breath test for driving under the influence of alcohol immediately lose their license while drivers who have failed a blood test for driving under the influence of marijuana do not automatically lose their licenses and are permitted to keep their license.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission and the state Department of Licensing want the inequality between automatic license suspension for those driving under the influence of alcohol versus drugs resolved. The legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Washington has led to a variety of changes in the laws in the state. Authorities want to language of the driving under the influence laws, which were revised for the legalization of marijuana, to allow for the license suspension for drivers whose blood was legally drawn and measured at over the legal limit for marijuana while operating a vehicle.

What are the potential consequences of breath test refusal?

In Washington state, drivers provide implied consent to chemical breath tests or blood tests to determine blood alcohol content level. By using the roadways, drivers provided consent to be tested if law enforcement believes that the driver is operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Because of the implied consent law in Washington, drivers may wonder what the consequences of refusing a breath test are.

It is important to understand that to require a breath test, the police officer must have probable cause to suspect that the driver was operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs and in control of a vehicle. In some circumstances, such as if the driver is unconscious, the driver is suspected of being under the influence of drugs or a party has been harmed in a drunk driving accident, a blood test will be taken.

Understanding driver's license suspension in Washington in detail

The loss of a driver's license can present a significant disruption in most people's lives. It can affect their ability to travel to and from work and complete other daily tasks. For individuals accused of a DUI, the arrest alone can cause their driver's license to be suspended. Within 20 days of the arrest, the accused individual can request a hearing to contest the license suspension. To avoid license suspension, the hearing examiner must find in the accused individual's favor.

If no hearing is requested, or the hearing examiner finds against the accused individual, the individual's license will be suspended for a period of time ranging from 90 days to 2 years. This is obviously a significant amount of time to be without a driver's license and the length of suspension depends on the seriousness of the incident and the existence of any prior DUI offenses.