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Washington State DUI Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions By DUI Suspects

After representing thousands of people throughout the State of Washington we have heard every question imaginable.  Keep them coming.  We still love watching the faces of clients relax as they get the information they need to feel in control of the DUI arrest situation.

The following pages are an attempt to gather that information together so that those facing a recent arrest for DUI in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett or anywhere in Washington State can get the information they need.

Its easier on the phone and in person to answer your questions and we would love to help you out so don't hesitate to call us for a free consultation at 206-971-0067.

This is an ongoing project so please call us if we haven't posted an answer to the following questions.  Please see the list on the right.

Below is a list of soon to be answered questions.

Please email your questions and we will post the answers as soon as we can.  We are constantly fielding new questions.

Its Free and often immediate

This information is designed only to provide general legal information about the criminal process.  This information is not legal advice addressing a client's specific legal concerns.  We need to speak with you to provide that. Please call us or a reputable DUI criminal defense attorney.  We offer a free consultation at 206-382-9200.

How do I get my driving record or background check?

The quickest way to get your driving record is to request it online.  You can then download a PDF copy to your computer and email it to your attorney or alcohol evaluator, or whoever is asking for it.  You will need your Driver License number, Social Security, a major credit card, and a pdf reader on your computer or smart phone.  Here's the link.

Will I be arrested for DUI if I sleep drunk in my parked car?

Not if you are off the road.  But thats the issue, were you parked "off the roadway."

The legal definition of "off the road is heavily debated and depends on the judge ruling on your case. The Seattle Municipal Code 11.14.530 defines roadway as that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk or shoulder even though such sidewalk or shoulder is used by persons riding bicycles. In the event a highway includes two (2) or more separated roadways, the term "roadway" shall refer to any such roadway separately but shall not refer to all such roadways collectively.

The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 46.04.500 definition of roadway is exactly the same.

The issue then arises when the car is pulled off what normal people think of as the roadway, into a parking spot.  They turn the car off because they are out of the roadway but there is a curb between them and the sidewalk.  Seattle DUI prosecutors believe this is still the roadway, even though the car is parked, turned off, and not moving.

Can you get a DUI on a bicycle?

This seems like a simple question doesn't it?  Its a little more involved that you'd think.  But following the basic definitions of things gets us our answer, which is "yes, you can get arrested for a DUI on a bicycle now.

First, what is a DUI?  A DUI is defined as driving a "vehicle," while under the influence.

Second, what is a "vehicle?"  A vehicle is something capable of being moved upon a street or alley and in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a street or alley, including bicycles.

So, you don't need to license your bicycle but you can get arrested for DUI riding it in Seattle and the State of Washington under the RCW.

A bicycle under the Seattle Municipal Code is 11.14.055 - Bicycle."Bicycle" means every device with two (2) or more wheels, of which not more than one (1) wheel shall be less than sixteen (16) inches in diameter, having a steering device and saddle or seat or seats, and propelled solely by human power.

The Seattle Municipal Code has another definition of vehicle - motor vehicle.  The Seattle Municipal Code and the Revised Code of Washington both define a motor vehicle to include bicycles now.

SMC 11.14.360 says that a "motor vehicle" means every vehicle which is self-propelled and every vehicle which is propelled by electric power obtained from overhead trolley wires, but not operated upon rails. (RCW 46.04.320)

Can I be arrested for DUI on a Segway in Seattle, Washington?

As above under bicycles, the definition of "vehicle" controls here.  Under the Seattle Municipal Code, a vehicle does not include "power wheelchairs or other devices....moved by a human or animal."  So at this point a Segway appears to be an exception and not a vehicle falling under the DUI statute.

What does it mean that my DUI case was dismissed with prejudice?

If your DUI was dismissed with prejudice then congratulations.  You case is done and it can't be refiled.  The term without prejudice means the prosecution can refile the charge.

I was arrested for DUI and the police took my gun.  What happens to my gun?

If you were arrested for DUI in Seattle or anywhere in Washington State and the officer took your gun into police property you can get it back unless it was used in the commission of the crime.  But, ask your attorney or call us for a free consultation because it may not be good strategy to push for your gun back until after you properly resolve your case.  Call an attorney.

Where are the DUI traps in Seattle?

The Seattle DUI traps or focus areas vary and move from week to week.  You can be sure that the favorite areas are the bars on Capital Hill and Between Ballard and Freemont.  DUI squads from the Seattle Police Department and the Washington State Patrol come together with other officers from other jurisdictions and focus on certain areas at various times.  The area around Leary Way and 8th in Freemont has received lots of attention over the last few years, including funding from the "Target Zero," a federal law enforcement program.

Is it illegal to rev your engine at stoplights?

The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) sets decibel limits for noise that can be emitted from cars at WAC 173-62, which is the Ecology Departments Laws and standards.  Strange but true.  The standards change for cars at different speeds.  There is lots of language in the statute about decibels, which they couldn't possibly measure at the point of a stop but there is a general "excessive" noise section which also applies to peeling out.  So the answer is, in short, and unfortunately too much discretion for the officer.  Its his subjective opinion.  WAC 173-62-030 (2) and (3) say:

Every motor vehicle operated upon the public highways shall at all times be equipped with an exhaust system and a muffler in good working order and constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise.(3) No person shall operate a motor vehicle in such a manner as to cause or allow to be emitted squealing, screeching or other such noise from the tires in contact with the ground because of rapid acceleration or excessive speed around corners or other such reason, except that noise resulting from emergency braking to avoid imminent danger shall be exempt from this provision.

What's the penalty for lying to a police officer?

Many people find out later that police officers lied to them in order to get the arrested person's cooperation.  Frustrated by police officers dishonesty they decide to lie to police.  This isn't a crime until it takes the form of Obstruction of Justice or when a statement is "sworn" under penalty of perjury.

Obstruction of Justice is a crime under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9A.76.020, which says that a person is guilty of the crime of Obstruction if they willfully hinders, delays, or obstructs an police officer in the discharge of his or her official powers or duties.

Most often we see this crime charged when people give false names or information at the outset of an investigation.  Another crime that is somewhat related and we see charged in these kinds of situations is False Reporting.

False Reporting is defined in the RCW under 9A.84.040, which says A person is guilty of false reporting if with knowledge that the information reported, conveyed, or circulated is false, he or she initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a fire, explosion, crime, catastrophe, or emergency knowing that such false report is likely to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or transportation facility, or to cause public inconvenience or alarm.

Both Obstruction and False Reporting are gross misdemeanors, which means that they carry up to 364 days in jail.

Did the Police Officer have authority to arrest me?

A common question people ask is related to police officers making arrests for DUI or other criminal traffic crimes in parts of Washington that the officer is not employed to "protect."  For example, Washington State Patrol officers, who people believe are highway police officers, make arrests on city streets.   This is allowed under the law because WSP are authorized to make arrests on any roadway in the entire state.

Specific city police officers or county sheriff officers can not make arrests outside of their jurisdiction without specific authorization from the neighboring jurisdiction unless they are in what is called "hot pursuit" of someone who the officer reasonably believes is committing a crime.

I swore at the office and threatened him, was that illegal?

Often people who "mouth off" to police officers can be arrested for Obstruction.  See above for a description and reference to the statute.  If you delayed the officers investigation then yes you may be arrested for Obstruction.

If the threat was more than a delay of his or her investigation then it may have been the crimes of Assault or Harassment.  If the threat was of violence and it was imminent and believable then most likely you were arrested for Harassment.

The crime of Harassment is defined in RCW 9A.46.020 as:

A person is guilty of harassment if:

(a) Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens:

(i) To cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or

(ii) To cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or

(iii) To subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or

(iv) Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and

(b) The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. "Words or conduct" includes, in addition to any other form of communication or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication.

Can police speed down neighborhood streets with no lights?

No.  All drivers must follow the Rules of the Road as outlined in the Revised Code of Washington.  But having said that, a question of police protocol and will be relevant and dependent on each different law enforcement's policy and procedure.  You can assume that each department has their own policy but all will have language that language echos the RCW, which mandates "reasonable safety".  RCW 46.61.210 says that operators of emergency vehicles have a duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway.  RCW 46.61.035 says the same.

RCW 46.61.035 outlines those situations that emergency vehicle operators may drive without observing the Rules of the Road, with a few specific qualifications like: proceed past a red or stop signal or stop sign, but only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation;     exceed the maximum speed limits so long as he or she does not endanger life or property;    disregard regulations governing direction of movement or turning in specified directions.

The exemptions granted to an authorized emergency vehicle operator apply only when  they are making use of visual signals.

I was arrested for DUI but I don't  speak English?

If you were arrested for DUI in Washington State and don't speak english, you may have been advised of legal warnings or advisements in you primary language.  If not and your understanding of english is very limited then you will have a good issue to suppress the breath test evidence.  The arresting DUI officer has a duty under RCW 46.20.308 to advise you of your Implied Consent Warnings.  He or she will then have to testify that you understood your warnings prior to giving a breath sample.

Likewise, the field sobriety tests administered in the roadway is likely to be suppressed as its meaningless if you didn't understand the instruction because they were administered to you in a language you don't understand.

I was arrested for DUI on an intermediate license.  What happens now and how do intermediate license drivers prove a relationship?

Why are so many King County and Washington State Patrol officers patrolling Seattle?

Answer pending

Is it true cop radar guns don't work in rain or darkness?

Answer pending

I was stopped by an off-duty police officer who was working a construction site?

Answer pending

When I was arrested for DUI did the police lawfully impound my car?

The DUI police are mandated now to impound your car if you are arrested for DUI.  Haileys Law, as its termed, is a reaction to a horrible accident that happened after a non booked DUI arrestee was taken home by the WSP, then called a cab to get her car that was left on the side of the road upon her arrest.  She then killed a young girl, Hailey, who was in a car with her family and was struck by the released DUI arrestee.

Can police search my trunk or locked glove box?

No, not unless its for officer safety.  This evolving area of law is constitutional and isn't supposed to change that easily.  But this issue was recently addressed by our highest courts.

Can I be arrested for DUI if a car is not moving?

Yes,  if you are behind the steering wheel and your car is not moving you can be arrested for DUI in Washington State.  The answer here is dependent on whether the car was "safely off the roadway.

I was arrested for DUI in Seattle with children in my car?

Call us immediately.  The law now mandates a referral to Child Protective Services.  Do not talk to CPS without the advice of counsel.

My car was impounded from my driveway for a DUI arrest?

This is amazing but true.  The police will impound your car even if its in your driveway. Even though it slows down the officers ability to get back out there and make more arrests, they will wait for a tow company.  The law mandates it now under WAC 204-96-0202.

How does Seattle law define a junk motor vehicle?

The City of Seattle defines a junk car as an inoperable car stored on private property.  That sounds obvious but the City defines that as a car that can't be safely moved under its own power.  This will be a car with a dead battery flat tires missing parts or severe body damage. Thats a broad definition, but one good note is that the cars registration or license isn't a key factor.  The SMC Code section that defines "junk" is SMC 23.84A.020 J

The definition of "junk motor vehicle" is found is SMC 11.14.26811.14.268 - A."Junk motor vehicle" means any motor vehicle meeting at least three of the following requirements:

1.Left on private property without the permission of the person having right to the possession of the property;

2.Left on a street, alley way open to the public, or on municipal or other public property for twenty-four (24) hours or longer;

3.Extensively damaged, such damage including but not limited to any of the following: A broken window or windshield, missing wheels, tires, motor, or transmission;

4.Apparently inoperable;

5.Having a fair market value of Five Hundred Dollars ($500) or less;

6.Without a current certificate of registration or a current and proper vehicle license.

Is it legal to drink on publicly owned golf courses?

Answer pending.

Can I drink in Seattle parks?

Answer pending.

Does using a paper bag make drinking publicly legal?

Answer pending.

I was pulled over for not yielding to an emergency vehicle that was on the side of the road?

Answer pending.

What happens if you refuse a Breathalyzer on your boat?

Answer pending.

Will a drunken boating arrest affect my driver's license?

Answer pending.

Is it illegal to drive barefoot or with flip-flops?

Answer pending.

When are police or others trespassing on my property?

Answer pending.

Is motorcycle lane splitting legal?

Answer pending.

Is passing on the right illegal?

Answer pending.

Can you be arrested for DUI with only prescribed drugs other than pot in your system?

Answer pending.

Can I drive holding my cell phone if it's on speaker phone?

Answer pending.

When does hands-free cell phone law not apply?

Answer pending.

I was arrested for speeding and DUI but I saw the speed limit sign in front of me?

Answer pending.

What do those numbers on my driver's license stand for?

Are cops required to wear seat belts at all times, I was arrested and stuffed in the squad car without a seatbelt?

Can a DUI suspect request a breath test or a blood test?

Answer pending.

Does a paper bag save you from violating the open-container law?

Answer pending.

When do junker cars in a yard become illegal?

Answer pending.

What is the age people are legally required to stop driving?

Answer pending.

What happens if you forget your driver's license renewal?

Answer pending.

What color lights are allowed on the rear of vehicles?

Answer pending.

Can you be ticketed for driving too slow?

Answer pending.

I was arrested for DUI but stopped for not keeping my hands on the wheel?

Answer pending.

Are vehicles legally required to have two license plates or one?

Answer pending.

Is it legal to turn into the center turn lane?

Answer pending.

Am I still allowed to drive over passes with studded tires?

Answer pending.

Is it illegal to drive with sunglasses at night?

Answer pending.

Are carpool lanes considered passing lanes?

Answer pending.

How long are drivers required to stop at stop signs?

Answer pending.

Are left turns on red arrows legal?

Can a police officer write a ticket outside his city limits?

I was arrested for DUI and tailgating?

When is a U turn legal?

What is the law regarding signaling lane changes?

Can the DMV or police access your auto insurance records?

Can Seattle cops impound a bike if rider doesn't have helmet?

Are side mirrors required on cars?

Can parking enforcement officers give tickets for non-parking offenses?

What are you legally required to do during a traffic stop?

Are all moped drivers required to have insurance?

What's the difference between a suspect and a person of interest?

What's the yield rule at uncontrolled intersections?

Can firefighters give tickets?

Is going through gas stations to avoid red lights legal?

Is it illegal to drive a pickup without a tailgate?

Do you have to stop at private parking lot stop signs?

Can people be ticketed for the same offense twice in a day?

Last-second freeway off ramp mergers – legal or not?

Are you required to sign a traffic ticket?

Do red-light cameras lead to cell-phone tickets?

Can people be fined for making false police reports?

Do cops always have to ID themselves when asked?

Do I have to stop for pedestrians waiting at a crosswalk?

Who is responsible for cleaning up graffiti?

Can off-duty cops in unmarked cars pull you over?

Are space heaters a fire hazard in work cubicles?

Do land lines work to call 911 even with no phone service?

Do cops have quotas for speeding tickets?

Can I plead the fifth when arrested by cops?

Can I turn across a freeway onramp on a red light?

What's the age cut-off for being carded?

What kinds of ID can I use to get into a bar?

Are fireworks legal on New Year's Day?

Are snowmobiles legal on city streets?

What streets do police first close for ice?

What's the penalty for not yielding to cops?

Do cars always have to yield to pedestrians?

Are cheap smoke detectors safe enough?

Who pays for false burglary alarm calls?

Can you be ticketed driving the speed limit?

What are the basic fines for speeding?

When can I pass a school bus with lights going?

Is it illegal to disobey crossing guards?

Are electric bikes allowed on Burke-Gilman?

Where does the money from traffic tickets go?

Does hands-free law apply to hearing-impaired?

Is it illegal to drive with headphones?

Can Vespas legally travel in bike lanes?

Can drivers ignore red lights at midblock?

Is it legal to eat while driving?

Is it legal to put on makeup while driving?

Are both lap and shoulder seatbelts required?

Can I be fined if my passenger has no seatbelt?

Is it legal to walk home drunk?

Is flashing high beams at cars illegal?

Is the left lane really just for passing?

Is it illegal to drive with tailgate down?

Are classic cars required to have seatbelts?

Can drivers turn left on a double yellow line?

Are motorcyclists required to have insurance?

Is it possible to beat a Breathalyzer by sucking on a penny?

Is it legal to go through red light if you entered intersection on a yellow?

What's the penalty for red-light cameras?

Is it illegal to drive in bicycle lanes?

Do crosswalks have to be marked?

Is it legal to ride in the back of trucks?

Are loud stereos legal?

Can I ride with a Seattle firefighter?

Do kids count for carpool lane tally?

Are loud motorcycles legal?

Is proof of insurance required in rental cars?

Car rolls backwards downhill and crashes. Who is at fault?

Do you have to drive all the way around traffic circles?

Are left turns onto one-way streets allowed at red lights?

Are cars required to have one license plate or two?

Rear-end accident: Who's at fault?

Why are cops exempt from hands-free cell phone law?

Is it illegal for dogs to ride in truck beds unsecured?

Why do police speed without their lights and sirens?

Why are police officers allowed to drive their cruisers to and from their homes, sometimes more than 30 miles out of their jurisdictions?

Is it legal to drive with pets in your lap?

This information is designed only to provide general legal information about the criminal process.  This information is not legal advice addressing a client's specific legal concerns.  We need to speak with you to provide that. Please call us or a reputable DUI criminal defense attorney.  We offer a free consultation at 206-382-9200.

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