6 Questions Your DUI Lawyer Will Ask You

by John Lutgens on January 14, 2014

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(US Law) If you are arrested for driving under the influence it is in your best interest to consult a criminal lawyer who has experience defending DUI cases in your state. Punishments for this crime in the state of Washington are particularly harsh, but you may be able to receive a lesser sentence or be cleared of charges with a lawyer’s help. Here are a few of the questions a DUI attorney is likely to ask.

1. How Much Did You Have To Drink?

Your DUI defense attorney will probably use a scientific method called “Widmark’s Formula,” to find out if the amount you had to drink was in fact enough to produce a reading over the legal limit. To be even moderately accurate, your lawyer will need to know the amount of time you spent drinking and type of alcohol consumed, as well as other vital facts, such as your body weight. Your lawyer can use this evidence in court to cast doubt on the results of the breath test machine.

2. Why Did the Officer Stop You?

There needs to be a valid reason why the officer pulled you over, and it must be proved in court if challenged by the defense. Americans have the right to travel free of unjustified police interference, which means random stops by police and stops based on a hunch are illegal. A roadblock or checkpoint  is a random stop and is not permitted in the state of Washington, although other states do use them.

3. Did You Take a Portable Breath Test?

The police use portable breath test (PBT) machines to help them decide whether or not to make DUI arrests.  This test is typically given roadside at the time of the arrest and results are used for probable cause.  The “official” breath test machine is located at a police station and the results can be used as evidence at trial.

There is a critical difference between the PBT and the “official” test: By law, you do not have to take the portable test. But, the law states if you refuse to take the test at the police station that you will lose your driver’s license for at least one year. It is a serious mistake to confuse these tests, however, the legal difference between the two is not always explained to a driver during a drunk driving arrest and processing.

4. Did You Take A Field Sobriety Test?

Field sobriety tests, such as reciting the alphabet, picking up coins, and answering trick questions, are not a legal obligation under Washington Law. However, refusing to submit to the tests will probably not prevent your arrest, and the officer’s subsequent suspicion may even get you arrested faster. A recent decision by Washington state Supreme Court (State v. Stalsbroten) allows a prosecutor to argue that your refusal to take field sobriety tests is evidence of “consciousness of guilt.”

Most of these tests do not represent a scientific measure of intoxication and there is no research to justify their use. But, there are three sobriety tests that have been approved by the Federal Government for use by police and determined to be empirically related to blood alcohol levels . They are: the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, the “One-Leg Stand” and the “Walk and Turn” tests.

5. Did The Officer Read You Your Rights?

If the arresting officer failed to read you your Miranda rights, the effects will depend on the specific facts of your case.

Most people are willing to waive their right to remain silent and answer questions, assuming that their cooperation with the officer it will help their case. However, by asking questions the officer is doing his job to find more evidence to incriminate you. You have the right not to answer any questions, and your silence cannot be used against you as evidence of consciousness of guilt.

6. Is There A Hole Punched In Your Driver’s License?

A hole in your license means that the police have reported your arrest to the Department of Licensing (DOL) and that the suspension/revocation of your license is forthcoming. The DOL will take action against your license even if you are eventually found innocent of the DUI charge. The hole punched in your license indicates that it will now expire 60 days from the date of your arrest. Within that time, they will suspend or revoke your license according to the police report.

Note also that if you were to be the victim of a car accident while yourself even partly under the influence of alcohol, you may not be able to claim for the accident – for instance, in New Jersey, there is a legal concept called ‘comparative negligence’ where both parties may be partly responsible for the accident – and if a person is found 50 percent or more responsible for an accident, they cannot seek compensation for their injuries – see this guide from Rosengard Law Group for more information on that point.

This article was written in collaboration with John Lutgens, a DUI attorney in Washington state. For more information about defending a drunk driving charge, visit jlutgenslaw.com.

John Lutgens
Mr. Lutgens is a criminal defense attorney in Washington State specializing in DUIs. Find out more about his practice at http://jlutgenslaw.com/
John Lutgens
John Lutgens

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  • Shelby Livingston

    When in a pinch, its really hard to remember but still if you can keep your wits on your sleeve you might just be able to do this. So good advice I suppose. I once got caught and it was Professional Divorce Attorneys Broward that questioned me!

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