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What to do if Stopped by Law Enforcement

What to do if Stopped by Law Enforcement 

In the event you are stopped by law enforcement, please remember:  

  • The officer is doing a job, which includes keeping our highways and roads safe. 
  • It does not help your case to make it difficult for the officer to to his or her job because the officer will write everything you said on his or her report and then make it more difficult to fight in court. 
  • You must provide the officer with your legal name, but you do not have to answer other questions. Be polite without providing incriminating information.  You don't have to answer questions like "Do you know how fast you were going?" Even admitting to going 75 in a 70 is admission of speeding.
  • Any information you provide the officer during the stop may be used against you for a traffic infraction or even lead to a potential criminal charge.
  • Although you do not have to answer their questions, you do have to provide your driver's license, registration, and insurance. 

Things to do in advance, so you are ready in case you are stopped:

  • Put a copy of your current auto insurance policy and current registration in a zip lock baggie in your glove box, so it is easy to find.  Check periodically to make sure it is current.
  • Your proof of insurance may be in digital form on a phone or iPad, but keep a current copy in your vehicle in case someone else is driving your vehicle.  
  • Be sure your registration is signed and dated.  Each year when you replace your tabs, replace the information in your zip lock bag. It is an infraction to fail to sign the registration. 
  • Have your driver's license readily available.  Always put it in the same place, somewhere easily accessible.
  • If you recently purchased a vehicle, make sure to remove your loan documents from your vehicle to avoid loss of personal information.

If you are driving someone else's vehicle, remember that you are responsible for the vehicle, as if it was your vehicle:

  • Locate signed registration and establish that the vehicle is properly registered.
  • Locate proof of insurance.  Do not drive any other vehicle unless you have actual proof that it is insured and properly licensed.  The driver of any uninsured vehicle would be liable in case of an accident and any tickets issued are to the driver not the owner.
  • It is not a defense to an infraction, or in case of an accident, that the owner told you that the vehicle was insured. 
  • Do not drive a vehicle unless you have actual permission from the owner.
  • Do not drive a vehicle that is in a dangerous condition.  You would be liable for any accident caused by the dangerous condition of the vehicle, as well as any infractions issued by law enforcement.  

A stop by law enforcement for a traffic infraction can morph into a criminal law violation, like a DUI.  What should I do if stopped for a DUI in Washington State?

  • Follow the procedures above.
  • Remember, any information you provide the officer during the stop may be used against you.  The officer is gathering evidence that will be used against you.  Do not make any admissions during the traffic stop as to consumption of drugs or alcohol.  Do not admit to driving or drinking.
  • Be polite but do not answer questions.  It is important to be polite throughout the stop, even if you are arrested.
  • If the officer insists on asking questions, be polite and advise the officer you wish to remain silent and tell him or her that you request to speak with legal counsel prior to answering any questions.  You will be able to contact an attorney after the arrest and before they ask you to provide a breath sample at the station.
  • Do not do the voluntary field sobriety tests on the side of the road. If the officer has asked you to do them, he or she may say that you can “prove you are okay to drive if you do them,” but it is almost impossible to pass these tests.
  • Do not do the portable breath test on the side of the road. It is voluntary and can be used to assist them in establishing probable cause.
  • After you are arrested, you will be taken to the station to give a breath sample, referred to as a BAC. There are no hard and fast rules here, it depends on the facts of your case.  
  • Always ask to speak with an attorney before you provide a breath sample.  Some things to consider:
    • If your BAC is over .08 and it is your first DUI, you are over the legal limit, and your license revocation will be for 90 days.
    • If you refuse and it is your first DUI, then your license revocation is for one-year.  
    • If your BAC is over .15 and it is your first DUI, your license revocation is for one year.  
    • If you know your BAC will be over .15, do not provide a breath sample.
    • Never voluntarily agree to a blood draw. Let the officer obtain a warrant.
    • If you are arrested due to a BAC over .08, you are entitled to an independent testing of your blood. You may request the officer take you to the hospital to have your blood drawn and tested by an independent expert of your choosing.
    • If you have had prior DUI's, you may be required to provide a BAC.

Contact Heritage Law Office Today

We serve clients in Kittitas County and throughout Eastern, Central and Western Washington.  For a free consultation, contact our law office in Cle Elum.  For assistance, call 509-899-5375 or by email.

Counties We Serve

We serve counties and cities throughout Washington State, including Kittitas, Benton, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, King, Lincoln, Okanogan, Othello, Pierce, Ritzville, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Walla Walla, Whatcom, and Yakima. Contact Heritage Law Office for more information.

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