Bellingham DUI Statistics Misleading.

Bellingham DUI Statistics Misleading.

This past weekend the Western Front and local News Radio, reported the following story: The Washington State Liquor Control Board recently released a list saying 38 people who were arrested for a DUI in 2010 told police they had their last drink at Rumors. Just behind Rumors, 30 people said they had their last drink at The Royal Inn. While this might not surprise some Western students familiar with the Bellingham nightlife, Sheriff Bill Elfo says most DUI problems actually...


This past weekend the Western Front and local News Radio, reported the following story:

The Washington State Liquor Control Board recently released a list saying 38 people who were arrested for a DUI in 2010 told police they had their last drink at Rumors.

Just behind Rumors, 30 people said they had their last drink at The Royal Inn.

While this might not surprise some Western students familiar with the Bellingham nightlife, Sheriff Bill Elfo says most DUI problems actually come from casinos in Whatcom County.

Behind The Royal Inn, 19 people said they had their last drink before getting a DUI at the Silver Reef Casino, in Whatcom County.

To the average reader or listener, who is likely to be uneducated in the realm of DUI, this may be taken at face value, but, like all things DUI, information relayed to the general public is misleading at best and flat out wrong at worst.  As a defense attorney, I see the reports filled out with this “admission” frequently.  The information comes from question 28 of the WSP DUI Interview that is included in every DUI arrest regardless of the agency that made the arrest, as they all use this same pre-printed form.  The officer generally asks the questions from the form.  If the person answers, it is recorded here.  After this “interview” the breath test machine is prepared and one of the prompts from the machine asks the officer for the “drinking code.”  Every establishment licensed to serve alcohol in the county and state, has been assigned a code.  These liquor service codes are maintained in a book close to every breath test machine in the State.  If the officer is so inclined, s/he will look up the code that corresponds to the answer on question 28 and enter it into the machine.  The database of the machine records this information and stores it.  The information is available to anyone who knows how to look up these databases online.

It is from this source that reports in the form of the above come from.  However, they are misleading because, not everyone answers the questions due to invoking their right to silence, or by speaking to an attorney upon being taken for a breath sample, which automatically invokes the right to silence and therefore an officer is prohibited from asking any questions.  Also, as  mentioned above, not every officer records the drinking code even if they have the information as it is not mandatory.

Furthermore, an arrested person may have had their last drink at the disclosed location, but by no means became impaired at the disclosed location.  Consider a person who has a  drink at a location and then heads to a friends house for a few more, but this is not disclosed to the officer.  Sometimes a person does not even drink at the location, but admits to have left that location and it is assumed by the officer that consumption took place there when it really was not.  While it was likely designed to be a way of tracking the locations that may be guilty of chronic over-service, it is by no means an accurate measure due to these issues outlined here.  Nor should it be relied upon to sanction the most “popular” establishments found in the database.  This is an excellent example of how, in a DUI charge a client who testifies on their own behalf is considered to be unworthy of trust, or as having to much of an interest in the outcome of the case, unless of course the information provided such as this, tends to be trustworthy to find an accused guilty.

As with any news, information, or media, it is also good to research the information for yourself before making any conclusions.  Especially when it comes to crimes like DUI.  An allegation of DUI is always sensationalized and while it may be considered news worthy, in my experience, DUI stories as more likely “stories” that grab viewers attention than accurate facts.  As potential members of a DUI jury in the future, it is a good practice to not jump to conclusions.

A DUI charge is full of complex evidence that is easily manipulated and presented in the worst possible light.  As a result only the most experienced DUI lawyer can demystify and expose its limitations and “secrets.”  A successful outcome requires a highly specialized level of understanding, skill, passion, and compassion. Jonathan Rands is an experienced, dedicated, and tenacious DUI lawyer with proven DUI defense success. If you or someone you know is facing a DUI or alcohol related arrest, contact Jonathan Rands.