Article I, section 7, of the Washington Constitution provides that “No person shall be disturbed in his private affairs, or his home invaded, without authority of law.” Washington criminal defense attorneys know that the privacy protections of section 7 provide greater coverage than the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution in some areas.
In a recent case, the Washington Supreme Court considered whether section 7 prohibits a requirement of random urinalysis of individuals on probation for a misdemeanor DUI offense. The defendant in this case pleaded guilty to a gross misdemeanor DUI offense. The trial court imposed a partially suspended sentence, with a condition that she not consume alcohol, marijuana, or nonprescribed drugs. The court also ordered that she submit to random urinalysis drug testing to monitor her compliance with that condition.
The defendant appealed on the grounds that the random urinalysis condition violated her privacy rights under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as well as article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution. She argued that a warrantless search of an individual on probation for a misdemeanor “must be supported by a well-founded suspicion” that she violated one of the conditions. The court found in favor of the defendant, vacated the sentence, and remanded.
The State then appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision below, finding that people on DUI probation did not have a privacy interest in preventing random urinalysis for the purpose of monitoring compliance with a probation condition prohibiting alcohol and drug use. The defendant then petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review.
The Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals and found that urinalysis implicates privacy interests in two ways. First, collecting the sample is “fundamentally intrusive,” particularly if it is done under observation. Additionally, the analysis of urine can reveal private medical facts about the individual.
The Court further found, however, that people on probation have a reduced expectation of privacy. The State has a right to supervise a person on probation more than other citizens, but the reduced expectation of privacy is only allowed to the extent it is necessitated by the operation of the parole and probation process.
The Court then concluded that the invasion of the defendant’s privacy was performed with the authority of law. It found that the state had a compelling interest in protecting the public and promoting the defendant’s rehabilitation. The Court further found that the testing was narrowly tailored to monitor the defendant’s compliance with a valid condition of her probation.
The Court noted that a random urinalysis of a person on probation could lack the authority of law if the testing was not sufficiently connected to a valid condition of probation or if it was conducted in an unreasonable manner. General, exploratory searches are also impermissible under the Washington Constitution. Random urinalysis therefore cannot be used as “a fishing expedition” for evidence of other crimes.
It is important for anyone charged with a DUI offense to understand the potential sentence, including any conditions of probation that he or she may face. If you are facing DUI charges, contact the Washington DUI defense attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC by phone at (206) 622-6562 or through our website.
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