Should I Refuse a Breathalyzer?

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Washington Breathalyzer Test

Police lights flashing in your rearview mirror can create anxiety. If the stop is because an officer suspects you are operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol, anxiety might increase. Will you be thinking clearly enough to handle the situation if you asked to take a preliminary breath test (PBT)?

Washington, like all 50 states, has implied consent laws. Possessing a driver’s license implies consent to a breath test if you are suspected of driving under the influence. If you refuse to take a breath test, both in the field and later at the police station, an officer is supposed to inform you that you do indeed have a right of refusal.

Should I refuse the Breathalyzer?

However, at that same time the officer must notify you that refusing to take the test results in a mandatory 2-year license suspension at minimum for a first offense. If it is a second offense, the suspension is for 3 years. The penalties for refusing to take a Breathalyzer in Washington state are the same, or even harsher, as if you are convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level of .15 or more.

This suspension is an administrative suspension, administered by the Washington State Department of Licensing and not the courts. However, refusing to take the test can also be used against you in criminal DUI proceedings, and could be seen as an indirect admission of guilt.

What if I refused the Breathalyzer?

If you exercise that right to refuse the breath test, you might still be subject to a blood test. The law says that nothing prevents an officer from obtaining blood, “pursuant to a search warrant, a valid waiver of the warrant requirement, when exigent circumstances exist, or under any other authority of law.”

An experienced defense attorney from Twyford Law Office can help you determine if you have grounds to challenge a DUI charge. If a police officer has not properly explained implied consent, or made errors while administering breath tests or field sobriety tests, there may be grounds to reduce or dismiss the charges.

Can Police Search My Car?

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Can the Cops search my car?

In Washington, police cannot search a car without a search warrant. A warrant must be obtained from a court, and police must carry out the search within a certain designated time frame.

In 2012, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that police must obtain a search warrant in order to search a vehicle. Even if the police have reason to suspect that a vehicle contains evidence of a crime, they still must obtain a warrant before proceeding with a search. Specifically, in the 2012 case State v. Snapp, the Washington Supreme Court found that searching a car for evidence of a crime when the driver has already been arrested is illegal under Article I, Section 7 of the state constitution.

Search Without a Warrant?

Some states allow police to search a car without a warrant if there is probable cause to believe the car contains evidence of a crime, but in Washington, not even probable cause makes a search without a warrant legal. However, without probable cause, police cannot obtain a search warrant. Washington law defines probable cause as “having more evidence for than against; a reasonable belief that a crime has or is being committed.”

If a police officer does not have a warrant, he or she cannot search the car without your permission. In such a case, you may respectfully decline to have your car or person searched; though in some cases, police are allowed to perform a quick pat-down of your clothes in order to check for weapons.

Exigent Circumstances

There are certain conditions under which police may search a car without a warrant: such as if immediate action is required to protect someone or prevent evidence from being destroyed. These are known as “exigent circumstances.”

If police stop your car, you should remain in your vehicle and maintain a calm, respectful attitude. Actions like getting out of your car without being asked or reaching underneath your seat can be construed as threatening. Turn on the interior light if it’s dark outside, and keep your hands on the steering wheel in plain sight.

If the officer asks to see your license, registration, or proof of insurance, the law requires you to comply. Do not argue with the officer, and restrain the urge to complain or resist. If you feel you have been treated unfairly, you should take your complaint to traffic court rather than argue with the police at the scene. Remember that anything you say can be used against you.

While you must show your license and registration if asked, you do have the right to refuse to answer any questions. If the police ask to search your car, and do not show you a warrant, you can refuse. If the officer says he or she has a search warrant, you should ask to see the warrant before letting him or her search your car. Be polite, but make it clear that you do not consent to a search.

If the police give you a ticket, you should sign it to avoid arrest. Then, if you feel the ticket is unfair, you can argue it later in traffic court. Likewise, if the police ask you to take a blood, urine, or breath test, you should comply. Refusing to do so can cause your license to be suspended.

If you are arrested, you should ask why, then ask for a lawyer immediately. You have the right to know the reason for your arrest, and you have the right to a lawyer’s counsel.

Marijuana in Spokane

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The Spokane Marijuana Issue

Three years after the legalization of the use of marijuana in Washington in 2013, many cities and towns are still struggling with the issue. Spokane is no exception. While states like Oregon, which legalized the possession and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 years and older in July 2015, seem to celebrate the plant (marijuana is making an appearance at the Oregon State Fair agricultural competition), Washington is taking it a bit slower. Homegrown cultivation of marijuana for personal use is still a felony in Washington and there are still many restrictions on marijuana in the Washington state drug laws. The only exception is for authorized medical marijuana.

In addition, some cities are considering ballot measures to restrict the presence of marijuana in public places. The city council in Spokane recently considered placement of a ballot measure aimed at keeping pot shops out of Downtown Spokane. The measure would impose a ban on marijuana being sold in the downtown area.

The Ballot Issue

The Spokane City Council has sent a proposal to the City’s hearing examiner for legal advice on whether or not the Council can place an ordinance on a November ballot that would ban the sale of marijuana in Downtown Spokane. The Council is not suggesting that marijuana sales be banned from downtown, but rather it is investigating the legality of putting the issue on the ballot in order for voters to decide for themselves.

What This Means for You

The Council will have to consider putting the ordinance on the ballot if the hearing examiner gives the OK. If it passes, the citizens of Spokane will then decide through the ballot box whether to keep marijuana shops out of the downtown area.

If the issue does not make it to the ballot, opponents who are serious about banning the sale of marijuana in Downtown Spokane may need to begin collecting signatures for a petition that will place the issue on the ballot.

Options for Those Who Are Caught

In Washington, it is legal to possess, for recreational use, up to one ounce of marijuana. This only applies to people over the age of 21. It is illegal for those under 21 to possess marijuana in any amount unless authorized by a medical marijuana card. Though recreational use is legal for some, it is not legal for any individual to grow marijuana plants, even for their own use. It is still illegal to consume marijuana in public places and doing so can result in a civil penalty of up to $100. Possessing more than an ounce of marijuana is a criminal act that can result in fines and jail time.

Additionally, possessing more than 40 grams of marijuana is considered a felony and can be punishable by incarceration of up to five years and a fine up to $10,000, and subsequent offenses can carry double those penalties. In between, possession of between 1 ounce and 40 grams of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 90 days of incarceration.

If you have been accused of violating these laws, there are alternative sentences available, one of which is rehabilitation for drug addiction. Drug Court is a pre-sentencing option that gives you the opportunity to enter into drug treatment instead of jail. If all the requirements and expectations of the program are met, you could possibly have your case dismissed.

Another option is DOSA. The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA) is a post-sentencing program that may help reduce your sentence. With DOSA, you may be able to spend the last half of your sentence under community supervision and in outpatient treatment, as long as you follow the rules of the program.

Possible Repercussions If Marijuana Sales Are Allowed Downtown

Opponents of the sale of marijuana in the downtown area are concerned about maintaining the family-oriented atmosphere of Downtown Spokane. They feel that marijuana does not belong in the busy downtown area, where families and kids might easily be exposed to it. They express concern about the effects of young people witnessing others smoking a joint right out in the streets of downtown.

Another concern of opponents of the sale of marijuana downtown is that marijuana use would lead to more crime in Downtown Spokane. Regardless, supporters of the proposal have stated that their problem is only with the sale of marijuana downtown, not with marijuana use in general.

In any case, the proposal is under review and voters may not get the chance to express their own opinion through the ballot box until 2017.