Last week I had a 3.6 hearing on a DUI case in Seattle Municipal Court. For those of you that dont know what this is. A 3.6 hearing is a hearing where a motion is argued to suppress or exclude pieces of evidence in a DUI case. This can range anywhere from a basis for the stop, to the field sobriety tests, to the breath test.
Now Im not the kind of attorney that has to blog about every time Im in trial, or every time I litigate a motion. To me this is just part of my every day practice, and I think that attorneys that do that just suffer from a lack of self esteem, and they need constant affirmation they are doing a good job. In my opinion if you need constant affirmation you're doing a good job then you're doing this for the wrong reasons. But this is another topic for another blog.
What I wanted to discuss is a case called State v. Mackey. This is a Washington State Court of Appeals case which was argued in Division 3. The facts of this case are: Mackey observed changing lanes without signaling. He was observed drifting across the left yellow line, and drifting across the right lane divider. After the Trooper activated his lights to initiate a stop, Mackey continued to drive an unusually long distance before coming to a stop. Upon approaching the vehicle the Trooper observed furitive movements within the vehicle. Upon contact the Trooper noted a strong odor of alcohol, there was admission to drinking, Mackey's eyes were bloodshot and watery, and he had difficulty locating his license, and then he had difficulty extracting it from his wallet. In the opinion the Court of Appeals held "indications of intoxication can include coordination problems, an odor of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, flushed face, and disarrayed clothing."
Now this case is often cited by the Prosecution as what constitutes a basis to ask a driver to exit a vehicle based on reasonable suspicion the driver is impaired by alcohol to make a Seattle DUI arrest. But what is often overlooked is the number of signs that exist in this case. The driving, the odor, admission to drinking, bloodshot watery eyes, difficulty finding license, difficulty removing from wallet. To me that seems like a lot of signs of impairment to give an officer a reasonable suspicion the driver might be impaired.
But what happens when none of those signs exist in a case other than odor and an admission to drinking very little alcohol. I mean after all it is not illegal to consume alcohol and drive. Long story short a Judge disagreed with me on this issue. What do you think?
Remember if you have been contacted by law enforcement, ask to speak with a Seattle DUI lawyer immediately after arrest.