Written by attorney Saad Qamer Qadri

DUI Protocols

In Washington State DUI cases, police officers are not only required by law to follow specific “protocols" but are also required to follow state and federal constitutional principles when making a DUI stop and/or arrest. The following are but a few examples of the protocols and/or principles that law enforcement officers must follow. First, a police officer must have “probable cause" or “reasonable suspicion" to believe a traffic infraction or crime has been committed in order to make contact with a driver in Washington State. Second, Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (to be considered valid) must be conducted according to very specific protocols that are outlined by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA"). Third, if a breath or blood test is conducted, it must comply with the protocols outlined in the Washington Administrative Codes as well as the Revised Codes of Washington, and in the case of breath tests, the breath test machine used to obtain the breath sample(s) must be properly calibrated and in good working order. Because of the protocols and principles that must be followed by police officers in Washington State, it is important that in all Washington state DUI cases an accused preserve as much evidence as possible. For example, if there is an in-car camera it is imperative to request and obtain any film footage the camera may have caught during law enforcements’ contact with the accused. Similarly, if there is a camera in the room where a breath test is obtained at the police station, it is extremely important to request and obtain the film footage the camera may have caught during the accused’s breath test processing. Obtaining film footage is important because it may confirm or dispel whether all protocols and procedures were followed by the law enforcement officer during his processing of the person accused of DUI. Many folks believe, for example, that the NHTSA Standardized Field Sobriety Tests are designed to ensure failure; it goes without saying that a good percentage of the population will have difficulty performing some, if not all, of the tasks required. This is true because of age, weight, height and whole host of other impactful factors. The tests are “standardized" and thus how they are administered is very important. Viewing film can help determine if the tests were administered correctly, and thus can help assess whether the police officer truly did have sufficient grounds (“probable cause") to arrest the person accused of DUI.

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