Did your Criminal Traffic Stop Originate in a Parking Lot?
Many arrests originate from traffic stops in parking lots. More often than not, the underlying "parking lot" stop is not a valid stop. Therefor, the ultimate arrest / criminal charge may be contested and often thrown out.
Did your DUI or DWLS originate from a parking lot stop?A traffic stop is a seizure for purposes of the Washington State Constitution. Such a stop is permissible only if the initial interference with the suspect's freedom of movement is justified at its inception. Law enforcement is not justified in stopping a person absent a citable infraction or crime. When an unlawful seizure occurs, all subsequently discovered evidence is fruit of the poisonous tree and must be suppressed.
This "suppression" issue comes up a lot with stops that occur in parking lots.
The Revised Code of Washington has a section known as the "Rules of the Road." RCW 46.61.005 specifically identifies where in the State of Washington the rules mandated in Title 46.61 are to be applied.
The provisions of this chapter relating to the operation of vehicles refer exclusively to the operation of vehicles upon highways except:
(1) Where a different place is specifically referred to in a given section.
(2) The provisions of RCW 46.52.010 through 46.52.090, 46.61.500 through 46.61.525, and 46.61.5249 shall apply upon highways and elsewhere throughout the state.
46.52.010 through 46.52.090 refers to accidents and reports and does not apply to the listed infraction in the case at hand. 46.61.500 through 46.61.525 refers to Reckless Driving and the various DUI Statutes. 46.61.5249 is the Negligent Driving Statute.
The great great majority of infractions that police pull people over for in parking lots do not fit within the listed exceptions and therefore the commission of such infraction must take place on a "highway". In other words, for police to pull you over for the majority of infractions, you must be on a "highway."
The term "Highway" is defined in RCW 46.04.197.
Highway means the entire width between the boundary lines of every way publically maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel.
A parking lot is not a "highway" as required by statute.In a large number of cases, the Officers will state in their reports that they pulled the defendant over in a parking lot. However, if that parking lot does not meet the definition of "Highway" it does not fit under RCW 46.61.005.
Here is what this looks like in the real world - There could be a stop sign in a parking lot. If you roll through the stop sign and an officer sees you, they will probably pull you over. If you smell like alcohol when they contact you, they will probably investigate you for DUI. If you have consumed enough alcohol, they will arrest you and process you for DUI.
However, if you understand the law you can challenge the initial stop, and all the evidence gathered after the stop would be suppressed. End result - case dismissed. Remember, if a stop is not justified at its inception then following contact is impermissible.