Category Archives: Ignition Interlock Device

Washington State Patrol Upgrades its DUI Breath-Test Machines

The Washington State Patrol is replacing its old breath-test machines (BAC Machines) with sleek, fast, new $9,500 devices that are used to test drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

While both BAC machines can measure the alcohol in a person’s system by analyzing a breath sample, the much smaller and sleeker replacement features a touch screen and Microsoft Windows software and can process information faster.

The State Patrol will place 83 of the new Dräger Alcotest 9510 machines in police and sheriff’s stations, jails and State Patrol divisions in northeast and southeast Washington before enough are available to use statewide. The machines will be used to test drivers arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.

Whatcom County, Skagit County, Island County and San Juan County’s present BAC machines shall be replaced by the newer models.

Like the old devices, the new one measures alcohol in the lungs by analyzing exhaled breath. However, the new machines utilize a dry gas standard instead of a liquid solution to verify that the instrument is working properly. For years, liquid solutions have had to be mixed locally by scientists, monitored for temperature, and checked regularly by technicians. The Dräger’s dry gas contains a known concentration of alcohol, allowing the instrument to verify that a suspect’s breath alcohol is being measured accurately and reliably, the State Patrol says.

Only troopers, sheriff’s deputies and police officers certified in the Alcotest will be allowed to use the machines.

My opinion? Competent defense attorneys should investigate whether the police officers who arrest our clients for DUI and later operate these machines on our clients are, in fact, certified to operate these machines. If they’re not, then perhaps the BAC result can be suppressed.

Bellingham Police Want to Increase DUI Arrests By 50%.

We were warned . . .

Drunk drivers will be targeted en force over the next year as Bellingham puts extra officers on the streets with state grant money. Bellingham Police Department received a grant from the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission for extra DUI patrols starting Wednesday, Oct. 1 and lasting through Sept. 30, 2015. The department will try to increase its DUI arrest rate by more than 50 percent.

To do so, each enforcement officer will try to arrest one impaired driver every four hours, and crack down on other crash-related behavior. The grant goals follow statewide “Target Zero” goals to reduce and eventually eliminate fatal and serious injury crashes.

Statewide, the yearly goal is to have 24 fewer deaths from crashes and 120 fewer serious injuries.  To kick off the program, Bellingham police will work with the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office to conduct a high visibility DUI enforcement patrol Friday, Oct. 3. Officers will focus on city and county streets with the highest number of injury and fatal crashes.

My opinion? Unbelievable. “The department will to try to increase its DUI arrest rate by more than 50 percent.” Wow. In other words, if you’re driving downtown Bellingham during certain hours, expect to get pulled over. Period.

DUI Patrols To Run Through Sept. 1 in Whatcom County

They’re back.

According to the Bellingham Herald, people out partaking in recently legalized marijuana or drinking at end-of-summer barbecues should plan a safe way to get home, as emphasis patrols are looking for intoxicated drivers in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

Officers from local police departments, sheriff’s deputies from Whatcom and Skagit counties and Washington State Patrol troopers will have extra patrols to catch drivers under the influence as part of the Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign. The emphasis patrols will run through Sept. 1.”Specifically, we want people to know that marijuana doubles the risk of a fatal crash,” Traffic Safety Commission Director Darrin Grondel said in a news release. “With new retail marijuana stores in the mix, we want to remind the public that prescription and over-the-counter drugs, as well as illegal and recreational drugs, can impair driving ability.”

State v. Martines: More Good Caselaw on Blood Tests Taken After DUI Arrests

Excellent opinion from Division I of the WA Court of Appeals.

After investigating and arresting a suspect for suspicion of DUI, the State may not conduct tests on lawfully procured blood samples without first obtaining a warrant that authorizes testing and specifying the types of evidence for which the sample may be tested.

The defendant was seen driving his SUV erratically. He veered into another car, careened across the highway, bounced off the barrier, and rolled over. A Washington State Trooper arrived and took Martines into custody. Martines smelled of intoxicants, had bloodshot watery eyes, and stumbled while walking. Trooper Tardiff sought a warrant to extract blood samples from Martines. His affidavit of probable cause stated that a blood sample “may be tested to determine his/her current blood alcohol level and to detect the presence of any drugs that may have impaired his/her ability to drive.” He obtained a warrant that authorized a competent health care authority to extract a blood sample and ensure its safekeeping. The warrant did not say anything about testing the blood sample.

Martines’ blood was taken at a local hospital. Then it was tested for the presence of drugs and alcohol. The test results indicated that Martines had a blood alcohol level of .121 within an hour after the accident, and that the drug diazepam (Valium) was also present. Martines had a prior conviction for vehicular assault while driving under the influence. The State charged him with felony DUI under RCW 46.51.502(6)(b)(ii).

The trial court denied Martines’ motion to suppress. He was found guilty at trial. The case went up on appeal. The primary issue on appeal was that testing a blood sample for any purpose is a search for which a search warrant is required. Because the warrant authorizing the extraction of blood did not specifically authorize blood testing of any kind, Martines argued that the results should have been suppressed as the fruit of an illegal search.

The court held that (1) the extraction of the blood was one search while (2) the testing of the blood constituted another:

“The extraction of blood from a drunk driving suspect is a search.  Testing the blood sample is a second search.  It is distinct from the initial extraction because its purpose is to examine the personal information blood contains.  We hold that the State may not conduct tests on a lawfully procured blood sample without first obtaining a warrant that authorizes testing and specifies the types of evidence for which the sample may be tested.”

In short, the court held that extracting someone’s blood is a first search, and testing the blood is a second search. The first search – the initial extraction – is totally different than the second search, which is analyzing the blood. Because the second search is so intrusive (blood contains someone’s personal DNA code, pregnancy results, information on diseases, etc.), a second warrant is needed. Consequently, the State may NOT test blood samples without first obtaining a warrant that authorizes testing. The warrant must specifically state the types of evidence they’re looking for.

My opinion? State v. Martines is an interesting decision. I admire the Court of Appeals for making a decision which is consistent with Missouri v. McNeely (discussed in another blog) and going one step further favoring a defendant’s constitutional rights under the 4th Amendment. The opinion prevents police officers from getting a boilerplate search warrant and going on fishing expedictions when they pull people over on suspicion of DUI. The officers must be trained to determine what exactly they’re looking for; be it drugs, alcohol or both. Saying someone has bloodshot/watery eyes, slurred speech and smells of intoxicants does not, by itself, cut it anymore.

Good job, Court of Appeals. I’m impressed.

State v. McNeely: U.S. Supreme Court Says Blood Draws Require a Warrant

In May, the United States Supreme Court handed down Missouri v. McNeely, a semi-controversial decision which now requires police officers to obtain search warrants for blood draws if emergency circumstances – in legal language, exigent circumstances – do not exist.

The issue decided by the U.S. Supreme Court was whether the natural metabolization of alcohol in the bloodstream presents a per se exigency that justifies an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement for blood testing in all drunk-driving cases.

The facts were such that the defendant McNeely was stopped by Missouri police for speeding and crossing the centerline. After declining to take a breath test to measure his blood and alcohol concentration (BAC), he was arrested and taken to a nearby hospital for blood testing. The officer never attempted to secure a search warrant. McNeely refused to consent to the blood test, but the officer directed a lab technician to take a blood sample anyway. McNeely’s BAC sample was well above the legal limit. He was charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI).

The U.S. Supreme Court held that rather than applying a blanket per se exigency due to the dissipation of BAC in a person’s body, an exigency must also be based upon “special facts” under a case-by-case analysis.

The Supremes reviewed prior caselaw on this subject. In State v. McNeely, the Court pointed out that a diminishing BAC result upon the passa ge of time that happens during a DUI investigation is only one factor that must be considered in determining whether a warrant is required. The Court in McNeely further stated that other factors, such as the procedures in place for obtaining a warrant or the availability of a magistrate judge, may affect whether the police can establish whether an exigency exists. In other words, a warrantless blood draw can still be conducted provided there are other factors articulated by the officer.

My opinion? McNeely is a good, straightforward decision. In short, McNeely holds that when a person refuses to voluntarily submit to a chemical test for BAC, if time permits, a warrant should be obtained. If an officer cannot get a search warrant in a reasonable time, the officer should explain in great detail why a search warrant could not be obtained. The officer must be able to articulate what factors were present that created an exigent circumstance. Also, and importantly, “exigent circumstance” cannot be a result of the officer’s conduct. There must be objective, independent facts articulating why exigent circumstances exist to get a warrant.

How High Is Too High to Drive?

An interesting news article discussed how high is too high to drive after smoking marijuana.

As usual, the answers to this question were widespread:

“Pretty damned stoned is not as dangerous as drunk,” said Mark Kleiman, professor of public policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, who served as Washington state’s top pot consultant. He said Washington state has a law that’s far too strict and could lead to convictions of sober drivers, with many not even knowing whether they’re abiding by the law.

Washington state and Colorado, the only two states to fully legalize marijuana, have set a limit of five nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood. In Washington state, legalization proponents included the language in the ballot initiative approved by voters in 2012.

While police can use breathalyzers to easily measure the amount of alcohol in one’s bloodstream, the best way to determine marijuana intoxication is by examining a blood sample. Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court complicated the situation for states by ruling that police must get a warrant before testing blood for a DUI.

As the debate heats up, both sides can point to competing research.

In February, researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health reported that fatal crashes involving marijuana use had tripled over the past decade, with one of every nine drivers now involved in a deadly accident testing positive for pot.

My opinion? The bad news is at the moment we don’t have have anything sensible to do about stoned driving. The good news is that it’s only a moderate-sized problem. I, for one, have not seen a dramatic increase in marijuana DUI’s and/or drug DUI’s. It simply hasn’t been an issue.  The best solution, it seems, is to wait for the science to improve.

Winter DUI Emphasis Patrols to Begin Again

Be aware, all . . .

All along the I-5 corridor from Canada to Mexico, law enforcement agencies begin emphasis enforcement beginning on Wednesday November 27, 2013.

The goal is to prevent even a single death on I-5 during the Thanksgiving weekend.   To that end, Washington, Oregon, and California law enforcement are combining forces this week to keep the road safe from impaired drivers.  Spread the word!

More DUI Drivers Are Testing Positive for Marijuana

According to new data released from the Washington State Patrol, more drivers have been testing positive for marijuana since Washington legalized the drug last year.

In the first six months of 2013, 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically, there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year. But this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a rash of people driving high, says patrol spokesman Bob Calkins. Well, then what’s the reason?

“We’re testing blood we didn’t test before,” he said.

In addition, the overall number of impaired-driving cases handled by the patrol doesn’t appear to have risen this year, and should be on track to hit the rough annual average of 20,000 – which could mean some people are using marijuana instead of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, Calkins said.

Read more here:

Last year, Washington and Colorado voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults over 21. Both states have set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood for drivers; anything above that is a per se violation of impaired driving laws, similar to blowing 0.08 or above on an alcohol breath test. The violation is generally a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail — and at least one day in custody for a first offense.

Read more here:

Of the 745 people who tested positive for marijuana in the first half of this year, the State Patrol says a slight majority tested above the legal limit. The exact number: 420. It’s a curious coincidence, since “420” is an old slang term for marijuana.

Read more here:

My opinion? If they can, they will. Meaning, if the police can test your for blood for marijuana, they will. As I predicted in earlier blogs, the passage of I-502 gives police more search authority. If police think you’re high, they’ll request a blood test. If you refuse, they’ll get a warrant for your blood and/or enter a “Refusal” DUI.

The data is predictable. What I’m seeing happen, unfortunately, is the police seeking blood tests on my clients who are not smoking marijuana. Making matters worse, I’m seeing judges impose Ignition Interlock Devices as a condition of pretrial release, and before clients are convicted of ANYTHING!

There’s something wrong with that. Just saying.

The Brass Tacks Part II: Increased Penalties for DUI if Child Under 16 In Vehicle

Here’s a summary of more changes that went into effect on September 28, 2013 regarding our ever-increasing and ever-punitive DUI laws. The changes included changes to RCW 46.61.5055 that increase DUI penalties if there was a passenger under 16 in the car. There’s also an increase in mandatory jail for repeat offenders. Here is what is NOW subsection 6 of RCW 46.61.5055: 


(6) If a person who is convicted of a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 committed the offense while a passenger under the age of sixteen was in the vehicle, the court shall:


(a) Order the use of an ignition interlock or other device for an additional six months;


(b) In any case in which the person has no prior offenses within seven years, and except as provided in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), order an additional twenty-four hours of imprisonment and a fine of not less than one thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars. One thousand dollars of the fine may not be suspended unless the court finds the offender to be indigent;


(c) In any case in which the person has one prior offense within seven years, and except as provided in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), order an additional five days of imprisonment and a fine of not less than two thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars. One thousand dollars of the fine may not be suspended unless the court finds the offender to be indigent;


(d) In any case in which the person has two or three prior offenses within seven years, and except as provided in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), order an additional ten days of imprisonment and a fine of not less than three thousand dollars and not more than ten thousand dollars. One thousand dollars of the fine may not be suspended unless the court finds the offender to be indigent.


RCW § 46.61.5055 (6).


My opinion? The passage of I-502 has simultaneously loosened Washington’s Drug Laws and enhanced Washington’s DUI laws. Period.

The Brass Tacks: A Look at How Courts Are Automatically Imposing Ignition Interlock Devices ASAP

Recently, a client hired me to represent him on a new DUI charge. Unfortunately, this client already has a prior DUI conviction within 7 years. We met at my office. He showed me his paperwork – arraignment dates, property seizures, BAC ticket, etc. – and also showed me a document I haven’t yet seen in my years of practice.

It was a Court Order signed by the judge titled, “IGNITION INTERLOCK RULES.”

I knew I’d eventually see this document, sooner or later. Under the recent passage of RCW 46.20.740 and RCW 46.20.385 the COURTS – and NOT the DOL – shall order any person convicted of an alcohol-related violation to apply for an ignition interlock driver’s license and to have a functioning ignition interlock device installed on all motor vehicles operated by the person. The court may also order the installation of an interlock device for a driver that is convicted of Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving within 7 years of an alcohol related driving offense. An ignition interlock may be required for Reckless or Negligent drivers without a prior DUI conviction. Finally, under the law, an ignition interlock device will be required for any driver convicted of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.

This document was proof that the Courts are diligently following the passage of these laws. It read the following, ver batim:

* The defendant shall not operate a motor vehicle unless the defendant has a valid driver’s license and insurance;

* Once the defendant has a valid driver’s license and insurance, the defendant shall only operate a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock breath alcohol device while on pretrial;

* The defendant shall have an ignition interlock breath alcohol device installed by a Washington State Patrol certified ignition interlock breath alcohol device vendor on any motor vehicle the defendant will operate;

* The defendant shall bear the cost of installation and maintenance of the ignition interlock breath alcohol device and show proof of installation of the ignition interlock to the court;

* Any ignition interlock breath alcohol device installed pursuant to this order shall be monitored by the installer, and a report filed with the court every sixty (60) days;

* The defendant shall not adjust, tamper with, remove, or circumvent – (1) any ignition interlock breath alcohol device, (2) the wiring of any ignition interlock breath alcohol device, or (3) the ignition system of any vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock breath alcohol device. Any violation or tampering must be reported to the court by the ignition interlock breath alcohol device vendor, and;

* The ignition interlock breath alcohol device shall have the following minimum settings:

– Fail level .02;

– Warn Level of .02

– Hum is required;

– Retests are required;

– Horn is required;

– 3 maximum violations;

– 72 hour grace period.

My opinion? Although I understand the need for community safety, it appears these new requirements are unconstitutional and overbearing in some cases. The government assumes people are guilty before they even go to trial. Indeed, this particular client showed NO signs of alcohol intoxication in his police reports. Police contacted him because someone complained of his driving. After pulling him over, the police had no proof whatsoever that he was under the influence of alcohol, and instead believed he was under the influence of drugs. It’s going to take WEEKS to get his blood test back. In the meantime, he must drive around with an Ignition Interlock Device on his vehicle. Unfair.

If you’re facing a similar situation please contact a qualified attorney. I, for one, look forward to fighting this case tooth and nail and removing the Ignition Interlock Device from my client’s vehicle!