When one is charged with DUI in Island County or Seattle, they may have their entire case dismissed if the police conducted an unlawful stop.
The Fourth Amendment and Article I, §7 of the Washington State Constitution
The Fourth Amendment provides that people should not be subject to unreasonable searches and seizures and that search warrants should only be issued after probable cause is established.
The general rule that has evolved from the Fourth Amendment is that any warrantless search or seizure is per seunreasonable (i.e. unlawful) absent proof that one of the few limited and jealously garded exceptions.
At one time the Fourth Amendment only protected people from the actions of the Federal Government. However, following the American Civil War and the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause, the Fourth Amendment was eventually “incorporated” into the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore expanded to protect citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures conducted by all types of government – whether federal, state, or local. Ultimately, the Fourth Amendment is now binding on the states, local governments, and their agents.
Article I, §7 of the Washington State Constitution reads, “[n]o person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” This provision, with it’s “private affairs” language, has been interpreted by the Washington State Supreme Court to give citizens even more protection than the Fourth Amendment.
Ultimately, the Fourth Amendment and Article I, §7 have enormous implications when it comes to DUI practice.
Consequences of Police Violation of the Fourth Amendment or Article I, §7
As mentioned in previous posts, if the police violate the Fourth Amendment or Article I, §7 of the Washington State Constitution, two major rules are triggered–the exclusionary rule and the “fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine.” In short, where there is an unlawful search or seizure, all the “fruits” (i.e. results) of the search and seizure become poisonous and tainted. This essentially means that all of the evidence gathered as a result of the unlawful search must be suppressed in a CrR 3.6 hearing. This can lead to an entire case being dismissed regardless of whether the accused was guilty.
Unlawful Police Stops of Drivers.
When a police officer stops a vehicle, such a stop constitutes a “seizure” under the Fourth Amendment. As indicated above, in order for any warrantless search or seizure to be lawful, it must fall under one of the jealously guarded exceptions to the warrant requirement.
An officer may pull an individual over only if the officer has reasonable and articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot or has “probable cause” to believe that a crime is being committed. Therefore, a police officer may pull a vehicle over if the individual violates the traffic laws.
A Washington State traffic law, RCW 46.61.140(1), requires drivers to remain within their lane of travel “as nearly as practicable.”). In State v. Prado, Division One of the Court of Appeals of Washington looked to this statute to determine whether it provided a police officer with sufficient cause to justify a traffic stop.
In Prado, a police officer stopped the defendant pursuant to RCW 46.61.140(1) as he exited I-5 because the defendant merely drove across an eight-inch white line by two tire-widths while exiting. Thereafter, the defendant was ultimately arrested for DUI. An appeal later followed.
The appellate court in Prado ultimately held that a defendant’s single, one second crossing over a lane marker by approximately two tire widths did not constitute a traffic violation and therefore did not justify a traffic stop. The Appellate Court recognized that the Legislature’s use of the language “as nearly as practicable” demonstrated the legislature’s recognition that “brief incursions over the lane lines will happen.”
Therefore, the defendant in Prado was subject to an unlawful stop and the DUI charge was dismissed after all evidence obtained following the stop was suppressed.
Evidence can be suppressed including everything from officer observations to the results of a breath or blood test conducted to determine blood alcohol levels.
The attorneys at Platt & Buescher have been handling DUI cases for over 20 years in Seattle, Island County, and in Greater Western Washington. Contact Platt & Buescher at (360) 678-6777 about your Island County or Seattle DUI. Platt & Buescher represents individuals charged with DUI from Tacoma to Bellingham, and everywhere in between.