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Vernon A. Smith, Attorney at Law

425-999-0517

What Not To Do When Confronted by Law Enforcement

1.  First, DO NOT be rude or argumentative with officers. This is a power struggle you will not win, and everything you say and do may later be used against you in law.  Don't make things worse by being a jerk.  Remain polite and cooperative (but see below) throughout your contact with police.  They have a job to do;  you owe them basic respect in their performance of what can be a dangerous situation.  Most officers respect the fact that you have rights and politely exercising those rights should also be respected by the officer.  If you are driving, however, you must provide the officer with your license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request.

2.  DO NOT give voluntary statements beyond identifying yourself, your address, and other basic contact information.  You have no legal obligations to provide the officer with information about where you have been, where you are going, how much you had to drink, or any other matters beyond the basics.  When asked these additional questions, politely tell the officer "THAT YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY FIRST."  (On-call public defenders are available by phone and the officer can put you in touch with one.)  Remember, you have the right under our constitution to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in court.  Exercise that right!

3.  DO NOT agree to perform any roadside tests. In Washington, you have no legal obligation to perform those tests,  No matter how well you think you can perform them, these tests are designed for failure and the officer is the only person grading your performance.  How do you think you will be graded!   If asked, politely say "THAT YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY FIRST."

4.  DO NOT refuse to exit your vehicle if requested by the officer.  Case law gives officers the right in investigatory stops to have you exit the vehicle.  If requested, place your vehicle in park or set the parking brake.  Turn off the motor.  Exit the vehicle in a safe manner and await further instructions.  Follow basic commands such as walking to a safer area, keeping your hands out of your pockets, etc.

5.  DO NOT resist arrest. Being resistive, combative, or even argumentative will only hurt your case.  That officer will later write up a detailed report of his or her contact with you.  How do you think he or she might slant his/her observations if you have been rude, disrespectful, or combative during this contact?  Do not give the officer any reason to claim you were being "uncooperative" beyond exercising your legal rights.  Further, being sufficiently resistive or combative allows the officer to arrest you for resisting arrest and/or obstructing in addition to any other charges the officer is investigating you for.  If your are being arrested (if you are being handcuffed, you ARE being arrested), make sure you know what the arrest is for.  If you are not sure, ask the officer politely one time what you are being arrested for.  Do not engage in further conversation at this point.  Nothing you say will change the situation, and everything you say may be used against you in court.

6.  DO NOT voluntarily agree to any tests after your arrest until you speak with the on-call public defender. When asked, simply state "THAT YOU NEED TO SPEAK WITH AN ATTORNEY FIRST."  This includes the breath test at the station, a request for a voluntary blood sample, and an exam by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE).  IN RARE INSTANCES, the public defender cannot be reached and you will need to decide for yourself whether you should take the requested breath test.  Be aware that refusing that "voluntary" test subjects you to additional jail time if convicted of DUI and a longer license suspension by the Dept. of Licensing.  You will have to decide what is in your best interest.  But make sure you state to the officer that you are making this decision without benefit of legal counsel and note your objection to the request at this point.

7.  Once you are released from custody, DO NOT put this event our of your mind! First, write down the details as clearly, concisely, and completely as possible.  Every day you delay will cause you to forget details that might be vital to your case.  Record specific statements made by the officer as accurately as possible.  Second, contact an attorney well versed in DUI defense, someone who has focused his practice on this area of law, someone who has spent the time, effort, and money on perfecting his craft as one of the top DUI attorneys in this state.  Preferably, you want someone who is not only a member of the National College for DUI Defense, but also one of the founding members of that College and one of only 3 attorneys in this state presently certified by that College in the intricacies of DUI defense.

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