Frequently Asked DUI Questions

NOTE: this is not legal advice, is intended for general reference only, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should call (206) 799-3579 and speak to a Seattle or Tacoma DUI attorney directly for information regarding your particular case. Our DUI attorneys are licensed in the State of Washington only. Thank you.

"What should I do if I'm pulled over and I've been drinking?"

Here are a few things you should keep in mind, in the event you are ever stopped by a police officer after you've been drinking.

"Don't Drink and Drive." Your best advice of course is don't drink and drive. Unless you're a teetotaler, however, or you don't have a license, chances are good that, at some point, you will get behind the wheel after having a drink or two (or more).

Be polite ... and remain silent. If stopped, be polite but do not engage in conversation with the officer. You are required to provide license, proof of insurance and registration if asked; you are not required to answer any questions. "How much have you been drinking?" should be answered with "I'd rather not answer questions without my attorney" or even with a polite smile and shake of the head.

Reduce the "signs of impairment." Having your driver's license, proof of insurance and registration ready before he gets to your window will greatly reduce the chances that he will claim you "fumbled" as you were retrieving them.  If it's late at night, consider using Visine before you start driving, especially if you wear contacts or smoke. I can't recall the last time I read a DUI arrest report for alcohol where the officer didn't say the person had "bloodshot watery eyes." If you are alone, and it's not too cold out, consider driving with a few windows cracked or open for a bit to air out the inside of your vehicle (but roll them up before being stopped to avoid appearing too obvious). Officers love to include information about how "the smell of intoxicants poured out of the driver's window" as they spoke with him. A piece of gum isn't a bad idea, but don't pop it in for the officer to see; that's what we call a "tell."

Politely decline to submit to the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and Portable Breath Test (PBT). The officer will ask you if you would like to perform some voluntary Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs). If it were me, I would politely decline and respond with "not without my attorney present." He will tell you they are intended to make sure you are "ok to drive." That is a sham; they are intended for one reason - to help build their case against you. Because once the officer asks you to do these tests, he has already decided you are impaired, and he is going to arrest you.

To be honest, if you decline the FSTs there's still a good chance you will be arrested. And while it's possible you could perform so well on them that the officer could change their mind, in eight years handling thousands of DUI cases, on both sides of the aisle, I rarely if ever see or hear of that happening. What I do know is that the FSTs, one of which I equate to walking on a gymnastics balance beam, are absolutely designed to make you fail. that cop's going to arrest you anyway; why help him manufacture more "evidence" against you?

Speak to an attorney as soon as possible. After arrest, the officer should advise you that you have the right to remain silent and the right to speak to an attorney, among others. These are among the “Miranda” warnings an officer must read you following arrest. Cops usually do this right after the arrest, but not always; sometimes they wait until arriving at the station for the breath test, and sometimes (though very rarely) they don't do it at all. This can result in suppression of evidence, especially any statements you may have made. But you should always remain silent following arrest, except to insist that you be able to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. The officer may reply that you'll have a chance to call your attorney when you get to the station. That's fine – just say nothing until you do.

Speaking to an attorney (or a public defender, who is also an attorney, if you can't find one of your own) will benefit you in several ways. First, it will extend the amount of time between the driving and the breath test (should you end up taking it). The attorney will advise you (and possibly the officer) not to answer any questions, including the DUI interview questions. It will give you an opportunity to speak with something (hopefully) trained and experienced in DUI law, who can ask you the relevant questions to determine whether or not you should agree to the breath test. Usually the answer to this is yes, but not always. Finally, it will force the officer to give you privacy, leaving the room and possibly breaking visual contact with you temporarily. If the officer already conducted the mouth check (prior to the breath test), and doesn't do another one after you're done with the attorney, it may be grounds to have the breath test thrown out. (See my February 2013 blog on the subject here.)

A DUI attorney will know best what's your best move. You should have the number for a Seattle or Tacoma DUI attorney saved in your phone contacts, and a business card in your wallet as a backup. Feel free to put our digits in there – (206) 799-3579.

"What are Field Sobriety Tests?"

Standardized tests include:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

Walk and Turn

One Leg Stand

Portable Breath Test (PBT)

Non-standardized tests (Finger to Nose, Alphabet, Balance Test, Finger Dexterity)

Drug Recognition Examination (DRE)

"I've been arrested for DUI. Now what?"

“Sorry ma'am – I can't give you legal advice.” — Officer Friendly

If you're reading this page, you've probably been recently arrested or charged with a Seattle or Tacoma DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or related charge. You've already been through the frightening and demoralizing experience of being put in handcuffs, driven to a police station and asked to provide a breath (or blood) alcohol test. You may have been booked, forced to post bail to be released. Your vehicle was impounded and you had to wait at least 12 hours to get it out, costing several hundred dollars to do so. Perhaps you're still waiting.

You're now looking through the paperwork the officer gave you before you were booked or released, probably with little if any explanation – and you're looking for answers to the question “what now.”   The good news is, you've come to the right place. We're going to explain what generally happens following a DUI arrest, and what you should do to prepare yourself for each step. Please know that every court and every situation is different, but these are the “broad strokes” that apply to the vast majority of DUI arrests in Washington state.

Talk to a Seattle or Federal Way DUI attorney. The first thing you should do is contact a Seattle or Federal Way DUI attorney who emphasizes DUI in his or her practice. (Note: if you were arrested elsewhere in Western Washington, we're happy to help you as well; if east of Ellensburg, you should consult with a local attorney familiar with that county's courts and their policies. Contact us for a referral.)   See that phone number in the upper right corner of your browser? Call it now and ask to speak to the DUI attorney. (Here it is again: 206-799-3579.)

See that Contact Us form to the right? Send us an email – we'll do our best to respond within an hour. Have you taken some time to look over our website, and you're just not feeling a good fit with us? No problem – that happens. Keep looking. The important thing is to find an attorney who focuses on Seattle and Tacoma DUI defense, who answers your questions and asks their own, with whom you feel comfortable and confident.

Whoever you contact, remember – you want a DUI attorney, not an attorney who dabbles in DUI. The attorney should ask you about the stop itself. Why did the officer say he stopped you? Did he ask if you'd been drinking and if so, what did you tell him? (Consultations between you and an attorney are confidential.)  Did he ask you to perform Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs), and did you agree to? Did you think you had a choice? Did you consent to a Portable Breath Test (PBT)? Did you speak with an attorney following your arrest? Did you submit to the breath test? If so, what was the result? (The officer may have given you a copy of the breath test document, which looks like this. The circled areas are your two breath test results.) If you refused, why? Were you confused about the Implied Consent Warnings (ICWs), and if so, did you tell the officer? This is particularly important if there were any language barriers between you and the officer.

This is just a sample of the questions a Seattle or Tacoma DUI attorney should ask you. They may ask you more than this, but be wary if they skip too many of them. And although price is undoubtedly an important consideration, consider avoiding attorneys who get right to the money discussion. You should usually be the one to bring up fees. (Information on our payment options here.)

Send in the Department of Licensing Hearing Request. One thing a Seattle or Tacoma DUI attorney should ask is whether or not you received the Department of Licensing Administrative Hearing Request Form (here). Remember you have only 20 days from the date of arrest to request your hearing (you can find out more about the Hearing on our DOL page). Ask the attorney what his or her rate of success is and on what basis might they be able to beat a suspension. While they won't be able to give you specifics or guarantees (DOL hearings are increasingly difficult to win), a skilled DUI attorney should be able to explain different ways they've beaten the DOL, as well a how they can help you continue driving even if you are suspended.

Hire a Seattle or Tacoma DUI Attorney. We advise that you thoughtfully consider your decision on which DUI attorney to hire, but that you do so as soon as practicable. Even if your case has not been charged, in addition to the DOL hearing schedule, there are other events in motion. Important evidence such as 911 or dash-cam audio/video recordings, which often benefit the accused, can often disappear in the weeks or months following a DUI arrest, before the case is formally charged. If you wait until you receive your summons you risk this evidence being lost forever. At Gerl Law, we offer flexible payment options so that you can afford legal representation as soon as possible, without compromising your case.

Once retained, your attorney should get to work on your case right away. At Gerl Law, we immediately contact the law enforcement agency that arrested you and request the police report, as well as any audio and video recordings that may have been utilized. If your case has been set for arraignment (typically your first appearance) we schedule that, and if necessary due to conflicts, contact the court to reschedule the date. If your case has not been filed, we monitor on a weekly basis and notify you as soon as filing occurs and your date has been set.

I was arrested for “Physical Control.” Is that the same as DUI?

If you are arrested for or charged with “Physical Control,” you are accused of being in physical control of a vehicle within two hours of your blood alcohol being at or over .08, or while your ability to drive was impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The penalties and consequences for a Physical Control conviction are identical to those for DUI, including license suspension, jail time, and court costs. There are, however, important differences between DUI and Physical Control. For instance, it is not necessary to prove that you drove a vehicle to prove Physical Control. On the other hand, there are particular defenses available in a Physical Control case that are not available in a DUI case – for instance, if it can be shown that at the time you were in physical control your vehicle was “safely off the roadway.”


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Disclaimer: No information presented within the pages of this website should not be considered formal legal advice or the formation of a priviledged lawyer/attorney-client relationship. Please contact an attorney to discuss your specific legal matter. © 2014 Gerl Law PLLC. All rights reserved.