Your Legal Rights In WA State DUI Cases
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If you are stopped, detained, arrested or charged with a Washington State DUI or physical control charge you have many rights.
We created the following list to help you understand your rights in a criminal case.
Deciding which of these rights to exercise and when to exercise them is a decision best made after speaking with an attorney.
Your Rights If You Are Stopped For A Washington DUI
- You have a right to decline to answer any questions. You are required by law to provide certain identifying information but you are not required to make statements or answer questions. Whatever you say to the officer may (and probably will) be used if charges are filed against you at a later time (whether or not you give a formal “statement”).
- You have a right to decline to do field sobriety tests or take a portable or preliminary breath test at the roadside.
- You have a right to refuse to consent to any search of your person, property, or vehicle.
- The police may not search your vehicle unless they have reason to believe evidence relevant to the crime of arrest might be found in your vehicle.
- The police may search or "frisk" you to determine if you are carrying a weapon.
- The police may also search your vehicle if it is placed in impound.
- However, police may not search a locked compartment in your vehicle without a warrant.
- Police officers also may search without a warrant if they have probable cause to believe evidence may be found and when certain "emergency" circumstances exist, such as when valuable evidence would otherwise be destroyed before a warrant could be obtained.
Your Rights If You Are Arrested For A Washington DUI
- You have a right to speak with an attorney before making any decision about a breath or blood test. The police must advise you that you have a right to speak with an attorney as soon as practical after your arrest. The police must provide you with an opportunity to talk to a lawyer before you make a decision about the breath test. In most cases you can be put immediately in touch with an on-call attorney at no cost to you no matter what the time.
- You have a right to have an additional test performed by any qualified person of your choosing. If you obtain such a test immediately after your release from custody, this test may be used to challenge the accuracy of the test administered by the police.
Your Rights If You Are Charged With A Washington DUI
- You have a right to receive notice of the charges and penalties. When you first appear in court, you have the right to be told the nature of the charges against you and to have those charges formally read in open court. You also have the right to be informed of the maximum penalty you could face if convicted and any mandatory minimum penalties the court must impose.
- You have a right to plead not guilty at arraignment. A plea of not guilty at arraignment will not be held against you at any time. In fact, many courts will not allow you to plead guilty to a serious charge like DUI without consulting an attorney first.
- You have a right to an attorney. You have a right to have an attorney of your choosing represent you throughout the entire criminal process and for that attorney to be present with you at all court hearings. If you cannot afford an attorney and qualify financially, the court will appoint a public defender to represent you. You also have a right to represent yourself and proceed without an attorney. However, if you choose to represent yourself, the court will hold you to the same standard as an attorney and expect you to understand the law and procedures as they pertain to your case.
- You have a right to a speedy and public trial by jury. A speedy trial is one that occurs no more than ninety days from the date you first appear on your case if you are out of custody or sixty days if you are in custody. Your trial would occur in a courtroom open to the public. For DUI charges your jury would consist of six people from the community who would hear all the evidence presented and make a decision as to your guilt or innocence.
- You have a right to be presumed innocent. You have a right to be considered innocent of a charge of DUI until you are convicted or until you enter a plea of guilty. However, the court does have the power to impose certain conditions on you while the case is pending.
- You have a right to be convicted by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You have a right to require that the prosecutor prove every element of a Washington DUI or physical control charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest burden of proof in the legal system. As a defendant, you are not required to present any evidence or prove your innocence.
- You have a right to confront witnesses who testify against you. You have a right to confront and cross-examine all witnesses testifying against you. This means that the prosecutor will subpoena any witnesses, including law enforcement officers, and have the appear in court to testify and you (through your attorney) will be able to question these witnesses.
- You have a right to call witnesses to testify on your behalf. You have a right to call witnesses who can testify in a way helpful for your case. These witnesses could include people who were with you before you were arrested for a Washington DUI and can talk about how much you had to drink, your lack of impairment, and your driving. For a Washington DUI charge the court can require (by issuing a subpoena) potential witnesses to appear and testify. You may also choose to hire an expert witness who can appear and testify about the inaccuracy of the breath test administered to you or other issues relating to your arrest for a Washington DUI.
- You have a right to testify or not testify. You have a right to remain silent during trial. This means that if you choose not to, no one can force you to take the stand and testify. If you choose not to testify, the court would instruct the jury that your failure to testify cannot be held against you. You also have the right to testify. If you choose to testify, the prosecuting attorney would be allowed to cross examine you about your case and anything you say while testifying.
- You have a right to appeal a conviction or sentence. If you are convicted of a Washington DUI you have a right to appeal this conviction to a higher court. For a Washington DUI this would be an appeal to Superior Court. If you believe that a judge made an error in sentencing you, you may also appeal your sentence in Superior Court.