Are refusal of the field sobriety tests admissible in King County DUI cases?

With the recent rulings regarding blood test refusal and breath test refusal evidence in King County DUI cases, the question begs can the same analysis be used in a refusal of the field sobriety tests? Recent rulings in Seattle District Court and the Regional Justice Center (formerly in Burien) may suggest the answer is yes.

How is this even possible you ask? Well to understand that question one needs to understand how the refusal of field sobriety tests is important and relevant to the Prosecution. Most King County Prosecutors try and argue that the reason a defendant refused the field sobriety tests is because they were too impaired to perform them and would have failed. Well the truth of the matter is most people decline these tests because they are completely voluntary and they are simply exercising a constitutional right every citizen of this Country has.

Yet despite this most Judges allow the refusal of the field sobriety tests to be admissible in trial, and some even allow the Prosecutor to make the above argument to the jury. As a practicing DUI Lawyer in Seattle it is my opinion this argument can be quite effective for the Prosecution and often times paints the defendant as a shifty character or someone who knew they were too impaired to drive.

So why are things changing now? That answer is twofold. First the recent rulings of Missouri v. Mcneely and State v. Guathier cases have made the admissibility of refusal evidence questionable. Secondly is the recent stance the King County Prosecutors Office has taken when it comes to the field sobriety tests. Previously they argued these tests were not a search subject to the 4th amendment, and all the case law in Washington state seemed to agree with them. However recently they have been arguing this is a search and it’s a reasonable one considering the totality of the circumstances and is not subject to the warrant requirement under the 4th amendment.

Now I’m not sure why they have changed their position when it comes to King County DUI cases but they have and I think it is helping make Judge’s decisions easier when it comes to suppressing this refusal evidence. I know of one Seattle DUI case where this issue has been litigated and Seattle DUI Attorney’s motion was granted. It hasn’t been raised yet in the Redmond District Court but Im sure it is on the way. Other Courts have noted it and will soon be litigated.

So long story short. If you’re reading this blog and you have been arrested for a DUI and if you exercised your constitutional right and chose to decline these roadside gymnastics then you may have a chance to get that piece of evidence suppressed in Seattle or another King County District Court DUI case.

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About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle Bellevue DUI lawyer in Western Washington. His practice focuses on representing those charged with DUI offenses. He is rated as a 10/10 by Avvo.com as a Seattle DUI lawyer, and has been named a Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.

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