Washington Court Suppresses DUI Breath Test Results After Police Fail to Provide Statutory Warnings

Police officers must generally follow statutory and constitutional protections when arresting or interacting with individuals. In a recent case, the Washington Court of Appeals addressed the consequences of failing to provide the required statutory warnings before administering a breath test to a defendant arrested for driving under the influence (DUI).

In State v. Murray, 192 Wash. App. 1040 (2016), a Washington State Patrol Trooper stopped the defendant for a traffic violation. The trooper alleged that she smelled alcohol from inside the defendant’s vehicle and that the defendant’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and her speech slurred. After the defendant performed field sobriety tests, the trooper arrested her. During a standard inventory search, a pipe and a bag of marijuana were found in the defendant’s vehicle. At the police station, the trooper read the defendant the implied consent warnings for the breathalyzer test, but she failed to provide warnings about per se THC concentration in her blood. The defendant agreed to a breath test that indicated a level over the per se limit for alcohol.

Pursuant to RCW 46.20.308, an officer is required to inform a driver of specific warnings regarding the consequences of denying or submitting to a breath test. Before trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence of the breath test results, contending that the trooper’s failure to provide all of the warnings required by RCW 46.20.308 was a violation of her rights. The defendant’s motion was denied by the trial court, and the defendant was found guilty as charged. On appeal, the superior court reversed the lower court, holding that officers do not have discretion to decide which of the required warnings are given to subjects suspected to have consumed both alcohol and THC. The state appealed, and the matter was brought before the Washington Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the state argued that the warning provided by the trooper gave the defendant a sufficient opportunity to make an informed and intelligent decision about taking the breath test, and that any deficiency did not prejudice the defendant. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that before an officer administers a breath test to a person reasonably believed to be driving under the influence, the officer must provide the driver with certain warnings required under RCW 46.20.308. As a result, since the state could not show that the trooper gave all of the required warnings to the defendant before administering the breath test, the results were not admissible as evidence of her guilt. Accordingly, the defendant prevailed, and the DUI conviction was reversed.

If you are facing criminal charges, an experienced defense attorney can help protect your constitutional rights and ensure that the proceedings are fair. The Seattle DUI attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC provide dedicated and aggressive representation to defendants charged with criminal offenses in Washington, including drug and alcohol related charges, domestic violence, and more. To discuss your case with one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys, contact Blair & Kim, PLLC by phone at (206) 622-6562 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Washington Appeals Court Holds No Exigent Circumstances Justify Warrantless Blood Test in Marijuana DUI Case, Seattle Attorneys Blog, published March 25, 2016

Washington Court Holds That Defendant’s Previous Conviction Elevates DUI to Felony Charge, Seattle Attorneys Blog, published September 15, 2015

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