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Pulled Over for DUI Part 2 — Washington State Law

A driver charged with DUI in Seattle or Island County may have their case dismissed where police unlawfully stop the driver.

Many prosecutors and defense attorneys have used Prado in support of the proposition that a mere one second crossing over a lane marker by approximately two tire widths does not justify a traffic stop. However, a recent opinion filed Mart 14, 2011 seems to interpret State v. Prado in a way that provides even greater protection to drivers.

The Washington State Court of Appeals in State v. Archuleta elaborated on State v. Prado and indicates taht the rule announced in Prado was not limited to its specific facts.

In Archuleta, a driver in King County crossed over or touched the fog line at least three times in a quarter of a mile. The police officer who observed this decided to pull the driver over. As a result of this stop, the driver was charged with a crime.

The defense moved to suppress and argued that the stop was unlawful based on Prado. The Prosecution responded by arguing that Prado was distinguishable because it involved a driver who only crossed over a line once as opposed to three times.

The appellate court, in Archuleta, revisited Prado and its reasoning. The appellate court determined that Prado relied heavely on several out-of-state cases that involved factual scenarios where drivers crossed over or touched lines more than once. As a result, the appellate court determined that Prado required a totality of circumstatnces test that considers whether the driver’s actions constitutes a danger to others – it is not limited to merely counting the number of times a driver might touch a lane line.

Thus, in Archuleta, the court determined that no evidence existed that the driver’s crossing over or touching the lane line placed others in danger or was indicative of impairment. Therefore, the court determined that the stop was not justified and required all evidence that resulted from the stop to be suppressed.

In light of Archuleta and its extention of the court’s analysis in Prado, a strong argument exists that crossing over a line several times does not justify a police officer to pull a driver over.

However, although a strong argument exists, Archuleta is an unpublished opinion. RCW 2.06.040 indicates that unpublished opinions lack or have limited precedential value. Nevertheless, the reasoning in Archuleta, and its interpretation of Prado provides an arrow in the defense attorney’s quiver to make a compelling argument that mere incursions, whether one incursion over the line or three, that do not place others in danger do not provide police officers with a legal justification to pull drivers over. Police officers who pull drivers over must have more to justify their stops.

DUI defense attorneys are hopeful that a panel of judges will recognize the precedential value of Archuleta, and the importance of further clarifying Prado, publish Archuleta in the near future.

The DUI defense attorneys at Platt & Buescher have been representing those accoused of DUI in Seattle and Island County, and in Greater Western Washington for over 20 years. Contact a Platt & Buescher DUI attorney at (360) 678-6777 about your DUI charges.