A Meaningless “Right” In Bellingham-Whatcom CountyJonathan Rands
You have just been arrested and provided a breath sample that seems very wrong. There is no way that the printed result could be right. After all how could it be when you only had 1 drink? Or in another scenario, you have spoken with an attorney before you have to give a breath sample and s/he has advised you to give a breath test and then exercise your right to an “independent” test of your choosing and tell the...
You have just been arrested and provided a breath sample that seems very wrong. There is no way that the printed result could be right. After all how could it be when you only had 1one drink? Or in another scenario, you have spoken with an attorney before you have to give a breath sample and s/he has advised you to give a breath test and then exercise your right to an “independent” test of your choosing and tell the officer that you want to be taken for a blood draw at your own expense.
After all, this is your right, correct? YES. The Implied Consent law in Washington states that a driver arrested for DUI has a right to an independent alternative test by a qualified person of their choice. Despite the importance of an alternative blood test, many citizens do not know how to obtain one, and many lawyers forget to counsel the 2am client to do so. This right translates into very important evidence that often times provides a more accurate test and when the old and unreliable breath testing technology shows a person to be around the .08 to .10 mark, a blood test will often show that they are in fact innocent of DUI as they are under the legal limit of .08, or under the .15 threshold where more sever sanctions upon DUI conviction occur.
While this is a right all driver’s suspected and arrested for DUI have, it is one that is NOT respected in Whatcom County. Although this is a right of a driver granted by statute, it is no less a right than the rights granted by Constitution. The right to an independent test is no less a right that the right to vote, bear arms, free speech, or freedom to assemble. The fact that this right is most meaningful in a unpopular situation of DUI, does not diminish it.
A person who tries to exercises this right is unfairly denied the ability to obtain an alternative test in this county. Here is why: The main arresting agencies in Whatcom County are, State Patrol, Whatcom County Sheriff, Western Washington Campus Police, Bellingham Police, Ferndale Police, Lynden Police, Blaine Police, and Sumas Police. Due to policy issues every person arrested for DUI in Whatcom county is to be booked into the County Jail. Arrested persons are typically taken to the nearest breath testing machine, located in either the jail or the city police depatrment and once a breath sample is obtained and if at, or above .08 they are transported and booked into jail on the charge of DUI.
Once at the Jail, despite the fact they have trained medical staff they will not perform a blood draw. The only facility in the county where there are qualified persons to perform a “legal” blood draw is St. Joseph hospital. The hospital is open 24 hours, but has recently stopped performing these blood draws for those who request it at their own expense. The irony is that St. Joseph will happily perform the exact same blood draw if the arresting officer has a warrant to do do so. This is not at the expense of the driver, but rather the tax payer. The rational for this refusal to perform voluntary blood draws is currently unknown at the time. By virtue of the fact they will do a blood draw if a warrant is present (by the way the warrant does not order them to perform the draw, it only requires the person to submit to a blood draw) indicates that there is no inability to do the blood draw, and that perhaps they are trying to accomplish some moral-legal goal. However, by failing to do a legal blood draw upon the simply request to do so at the requesters own expense, can have the direct opposite effect.