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Spokane DUI Defense Attorney

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Meet Our Attorney

DUI / DWI Defense

Jason Johnson

Fighting DUI Charges

Did you go out to happy hour and have a few drinks with your friends? Did you think you could drive home but got stopped on the way home? When you get arrested for a DUI, it can feel like your whole world is crashing around you. Then trying to figure out the criminal justice system can be very stressful and confusing. If you have been arrested on drunk driving charges, you may be tempted to simply plead guilty to put the matter behind you. This can be a grave mistake. DUIs have stiff penalties that can lead to jail time and the loss of your license, and those penalties increase with each time you are charged with a DUI. Even if the police claim to have a strong case against you, there are effective legal strategies a skilled DUI lawyer can use on your behalf. At Johnson Litigation, we examine all aspects of the stop, arrest, and investigation to expose weaknesses in the state’s cases against our clients.

Receiving a DUI is very stressful, but Spokane DUI lawyer can help you through this stressful time.

How can a lawyer help you in your DUI defense?

DUI laws are very strict and even first-time offenders can be sentenced very harshly. A first-offense DUI conviction may have long term consequences including mandatory jail time, home monitoring, fines, and a driver’s license suspension. An attorney will help you navigate the justice system while fighting for your rights!

Washington State DUI Laws and Charges

In Washington, under RCW 46.61.502 a person is guilty of driving of a DUI if they drove a vehicle with:

  1. A blood alcohol level (BAC) of .08 or higher within two hours after driving; or
  2. With a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per milliliter within two hours after driving; or
  3. While under the influence of intoxicating liquors or drugs; or
  4. While under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.

An individual may also be charged with being under physical control of a vehicle while under the influence (RCW 46.61.504), driver under twenty-one consuming alcohol (RCW 46.61.503), driving under the influence with a commercial drivers license (RCW 46.25.090).

Consequences of a DUI

First Offense DUI BAC less than .15% BAC .15% or higher
Maximum Jail time 364 days 364 days
Fines and Fees $823 to $5,000 $1,015 to $5,000
License Suspension 90 days 1-2 years
Ignition Interlock 90 days

 

One year after suspension

 

Probation Up to Five years (usually 2 in Spokane) Up to Five years (usually 2 in Spokane)

 

These are potential penalties for your first DUI! These penalties increase based on how many DUI’s you have on your record. These penalties are harsh and can affect your future.

Criminal Process

If an officer stops you and suspects that you are under the influence, they will typically administer voluntary field sobriety tests. It is important for you to know what to do if the officer chooses to investigate you for a DUI.

  1. Be polite to the officer, if you argue they are more likely to investigate further and be irritated.
  2. Politely decline to answer any of the officer’s questions. The officer will often question, where you are going, where you came from, and what/how much you had to drink that night, you do not have to answer any of the officer’s question, just politely decline to say anything.
  3. Do provide you license, registration, and insurance when asked. The officer has a right to see this information during a traffic stop.
  4. If the officer wants to do the field sobriety tests, (which officers often will say is “will you do some tests to make sure you are safe to drive”) politely decline. You have the right to refuse because the tests can and will be used against you in court.
  5. In Washington, do not take the “preliminary” roadside breath test, this is an optional test that is not admissible to court so there is no good reason to take the test. (This does not apply to other states).
  6. If you are arrested for DUI and taken to do an evidentiary breath test, take the breath test at the station. The official breath test can be used against you in court, but if you refuse the test you face much higher penalties in court. In Washington, you also have the right to speak to an attorney prior to the breath test, call a DUI defense lawyer with Johnson Litigation, PLLC at 509-535-2997.
  7. Part of the DUI arrest is an interview, you also have the right to refuse to answer any of these questions, politely tell the officer you decline to say anything.

Warning: This information is not intended to constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in lieu of consultation with appropriate legal advisers in your own jurisdiction.

If the police suspect that you are driving under the influence, they will make an arrest. Following an arrest, the police will usually take you to the police station to administer a breath test. If there was an accident and the person is incapable of giving a breath test, the police may take a blood test at a hospital.

After you get arrested, and formal charges are filed, a DOL hearing will occur.

You will first need to request a Washington Department of Licensing hearing within seven days. After the request you will receive notice that the Department of Licensing (DOL) is intending to suspend, revoke or deny your license, permit or privilege to drive. A hearing examiner (employee of the DOL) will serve as the judge, jury and prosecutor all in one. The administrative hearing tries to resolve whether there was a lawful arrest, whether the arresting officer had reasonable grounds to believe the driver was driving under the influence, whether the driver was properly advised of his rights and warranting, and whether the driver’s blood or breath indicate a reading over the legal limit. While winning a DOL hearing is an uphill battle, it is a great opportunity to interview the arresting officer and lock him or her into testimony without the assistance of the prosecutor. This is not the end of the process though.

Separate from the DOL hearing the criminal process begins following a charge or arrest. In Spokane there are four major steps in fighting a DUI charge.

Step 1 – Arraignment

An arraignment is a simple hearing where the judge formally notifies you of the charges that have been filed against you. You will plead “not guilty” at the Arraignment. Pleading guilty at an arraignment would waive your right to a trial.

After pleading not guilty, a pre-trial conference will be set.

Step 2 –  Pretrial Conference

At a pretrial conference, the prosecutor, and the defense attorney will be present. The Judge will ask about the progress of the case, and whether the case is ready for trial or if the case has reached a settlement. If the parties are ready to proceed with trial, a trial date will be set.

Step 3 – Motions or Evidentiary Hearing

If there are evidentiary issues in your case, a DUI defense lawyer will request an evidentiary hearing. Before the hearing our team works together to draft a motion to dismiss for evidentiary issues which is supported by case law. After we file a motion to dismiss, the State will respond to our argument by arguing that there are not evidentiary issues. Our office then files a reply to the State’s argument.

Next a hearing will be scheduled. At the evidentiary hearing your DUI defense lawyer will do an opening argument and argue how there was no probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. The State will do their opening argument and call several witnesses to the stand, mostly the arresting officers. Our DUI defense lawyers will be able to cross exam these witnesses, and then make a closing statement. If the judge finds that there is enough evidence to prove that there was probable cause to arrest you for a DUI, a trial date will be set. If the judge finds that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest you for a DUI, the judge may dismiss your case.

Step 4Trial

A trial will be heard by a jury of six people. The State and defense will subpoena witnesses involved in the case. At trial the State must prove beyond reasonable doubt that you were driving or in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence. The State will present their side of the argument and questioning witnesses. The defense will cross-exam the State’s witnesses, and then present their side of the case. After closing argument, the jury will be sent back to the jury room to deliberate on whether the State has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving or in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence.

The jury will be given jury instructions which include the elements of driving or being in physical control while under the influence. These jury instructions state-To convict the defendant of the crime of driving or being in actual physical control while under the influence, each of the following three elements of the crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • That on or about (date), the defendant drove or had actual physical control of a motor vehicle;
  • That the defendant at the time of driving or being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle
  • Was under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor OR
  • Had sufficient alcohol in his/her body to have an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher within two hours after driving or being in actual physical control as shown by an accurate and reliable test of the defendant’s breath or blood;
  • That this act occurred in the City of Spokane or County of Spokane.

There are several other jury instructions that our team will provide the jury, including evaluation of blood or breath results.

After all the evidence is presented at trial, a jury will deliberate until they reach a verdict. The verdict may be guilty, not guilty, or guilty of a lesser crime. If the jury find you guilty then sentencing will occur.

This is a quick overview of the criminal process. A DUI charge has many different steps, and Johnson Litigation will be there with you throughout the process.

Is the DUI Breath Test machine accurate?

At a trial, one of the challenges we make in a Spokane DUI charge, is to challenge the “accuracy” and “reliability” of the Breath Test machine.  A breath test instrument is designed to correlate the ethynol molecules in a person’s breath (referred to as breath alcohol content; BrAC) to a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC).  Obviously, the more accurate result is a blood test.   However, Washington has elected to implement a Breath Test Program throughout the state – this decision is money motivated.

There are many “assumptions” that go into the breath test machine.   One of the biggest assumptions is a person’s external breath temperature.  Not everyone is the same.  People have different body types, sizes, shapes, problems, and temperatures.  There are studies that show that a change of a single degree Celsius can through off the results of the breath test machine by anywhere from 6% – 20%.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what a person’s external breath temperature is and have that taken into consideration by the machine when providing the numbers?   There is!  However, Washington has elected not to provide this attachment to breath test machines.  Why?  Again, this decision is money motivated.

The cost reimbursement for a DUI charge resulting from a breath test is around $500 (this does not include fines and other fees).   The cost reimbursement for a blood draw is around $35.   A blood draw has less maintenance, is more accurate, is often quicker to obtain (especially with consent), yet Washington has implemented a Breath Test Program – for money.

A skilled Spokane DUI lawyer at Johnson Litigation will challenge the accuracy and reliability of a breath test at trial.

Is a DUI Blood Draw Accurate?

A blood draw is the most accurate way of determining a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC).  However, there can be issues with a blood draw that a skilled DUI lawyer can expose at a motion to suppress or at trial.

If sanitary, alcohol wipes are used in prepping a spot for a blood draw, there can be contamination of the sample, giving false results.   Additionally, the vials that are provided for the blood draw are filled with an anti-coagulant.  If the vials are not properly shaken or mixed after the blood is obtained, the sample can ferment – again resulting in a false result.

What Johnson Litigation, PLLC can do for you.

At Johnson Litigation our team works together to provide a strong defense and work hard to get the best possible outcome for your DUI case. We have many years of experience of fighting DUI cases and receiving favorable outcome for our clients.

Before trial Johnson Litigation will assist you with your DOL hearing and pre-trial motions. Depending on your case our office will make pre-trial motions to dismiss your case. Many individuals believe that DUI cases are very straight forward, but there may be various evidentiary issues in your case including an illegal stop, breath and blood testing errors, problems with the field sobriety tests, corpus delecti and whether there was even probable cause to arrest you for a DUI. When you hire Johnson Litigation we first go through the discovery of your case to see if there are any evidentiary issues. If we notice any evidentiary errors, we draft a motion to dismiss and argue this in front of the Judge.

In handling your DUI case, we will explore all pertinent questions concerning the case against you, including

  • Did the police officer have reasonable suspicion to pull you over?
  • Were the roadside tests conducted properly?
  • Was the breath test machine functioning properly?
  • Was it administered by qualified personnel?
  • Were there gaps in the chain of custody of blood or urine test material?
  • Were there any blood test errors?
  • Were there problems with the administration of the field sobriety tests?
  • Is there enough evidence to prove you were driving the vehicle besides your own statements?
  • Was there probable cause to arrest you for a DUI?

If your case does not get thrown out on evidentiary errors or we do not receive a favorable offer from the prosecutor, we are willing to take your case to trial. At trial, Johnson Litigation aggressively advocates for you. We will challenge the breath or blood test, problems with the field sobriety tests, and whether it was a legal stop. Johnson Litigation prides ourselves on our trial strategy and being able to get you the best possible outcome for your DUI case.

Contact Johnson Litigation, PLLC to help you with your DUI.

DUI charges are serious, and you should contact an attorney immediately to help you with your case. The earlier you contact an attorney the faster you can discuss your options and get help with your DUI.

If you or someone close to you has been charged with a DUI call Johnson Litigation.

CALL TO GET YOUR FREE CASE EVALUATION!