Know Your Rights

What to do if you’re…

Stopped By The Police
  • Be polite and respectful.
  • Stay calm and in control of your words, body language, and emotions.
  • Remember anything you say or do can be used against you.
  • Keep your hands where the police can see them.
  • Don’t Run. Don’t touch any police officer.
  • Don’t resist even if you believe you are innocent.
  • Don’t complain on the scene; you can do this later.
  • Do not make any statements regarding the incident.
  • Ask for a lawyer immediately upon your arrest.
  • Remember officers’ badge numbers.
  • Write down everything you remember ASAP.
  • Try to find witnesses and their names and phone numbers.
  • If you are injured, take photographs of the injuries as soon as possible, but make sure you seek medical attention first.
  • If you feel your rights have been violated, contact a lawyer.

What you say to the police is always important. What you say can be used against you, and it can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you bad-mouth a police officer.

You do not have to answer a police officer’s questions, but you must show your driver’s license and registration when stopped driving a car. In most other situations, Washington law does not make it a crime to refuse to identify yourself to a police officer.

You do not have to consent to any search of yourself, your car, or your house. If you do consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a search warrant ask to see it.

Stopped For Questioning
  • You have a right to refuse to answer questions. You should politely assert this right.
  • Police may “pat-down” your clothing if they suspect a concealed weapon. Don’t physically resist, but make it clear that you don’t consent to any further search.
  • Ask if you are under arrest. If you are, you have a right to know why.
  • Don’t run away, even if you believe what is happening is unreasonable. That could lead to your arrest.
Stopped In Your Car
  • Upon request, show them your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. Be polite, however, if asked, make it clear you do not consent to a search. It is not lawful for police to arrest you simply for refusing to consent to a search.
  • If you are given a ticket, you should sign it. You can always fight the case in court later.
  • If you’re suspected of drunk driving (DUI) the officer will likely to ask you to do some voluntary field sobriety tests. They are voluntary. You can decline to do them. The officer may also ask you to submit a voluntary breath sample at the scene on a portable breath tester. It is also voluntary. You can refuse to do it. If arrested and taken to the police station you will likely to be asked to submit to another breath test. If you refuse that test your driver’s license may be suspended. And if you refuse that test, the officer may request a warrant to draw blood to test anyway.
Arrested Or Taken To A Police Station
  • Tell the police you want to remain silent and to talk to a lawyer. Don’t give any explanations, excuses or stories. You can make your defense later, in court, based on what you and your lawyer decide is best.
  • Ask to speak to a lawyer immediately. If you can’t pay for a lawyer, you have a right to a free one, and should ask the police how the lawyer can be contacted. Don’t say anything without a lawyer.
  • Within a reasonable time after your arrest, or booking, you have the right to make a local phone call: to a lawyer, bail bondsman, a relative, or any other person. The police may not listen to the call to the lawyer.
  • Sometimes you can be released without bail, or have bail lowered. Have your lawyer ask the judge about this possibility. You must be taken before the judge on the next court day after arrest.
  • Do not make any decisions in your case until you have talked with a lawyer.
Visited by the Police At Home
  • If the police knock and ask to enter your home, you don’t have to admit them unless they have a warrant signed by a judge.
  • However, in some emergency situations (like when a person is screaming for help inside, or when the police are chasing someone), officers are allowed to enter and search your home without a warrant.
  • If you are arrested, the police can search you and the area close by.

The DUI Process

DUI laws are complex, confusing, and carry serious consequences.

To make sure that you are fully informed of the potential consequences and possible outcomes in your case, you need the sound advice of an experienced DUI defense attorney.

When you are arrested for a DUI, two distinct procedures are triggered: a Court Case and an Administrative Action.

The Court Case and Administrative Action happen at the same time and are, for the most part, independent of one another. So, you could be found not guilty of the DUI charge in the court case, but still have your license suspended by the Department of Licensing in an administrative action.

In the Court Case, the prosecutor will ultimately try to convict you of a crime, impose jail time, fines and other penalties. But even at your arraignment, the very first court hearing, your rights are in jeopardy because the prosecutor will try to impose certain conditions restricting your freedom. Our public defenders will fight for you, to help minimize or eliminate these restrictions to your freedom.

The next hearing, called the pretrial hearing, will happen about a month after your arraignment. At that hearing, the judge will want to know whether the case is going to trial or not. Ninety percent of cases settle before trial. But you need the advice of a knowledgeable public defender or DUI defense attorney to decide what is best for you, and, if you decide to settle, an attorney that can get you the best possible deal. If trial is your best option, then you need a skilled attorney with a lot of trial experience to maximize the likelihood of a Not Guilty verdict.

At the same time, the Department of Licensing will try to suspend your driver’s license in an Administrative Action. Unless you request a hearing within 7 days of your arrest, your driver’s license may automatically be suspended. The hearing is usually won or lost on technical legal grounds. There is no doubt you need the help of an experienced DUI defense attorney to do this hearing for you.

The severity of the court and administrative consequences that you may be facing depends on whether you have prior alcohol-related offenses and the breath/blood test results.

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