In Washington State every now and then a Washington Supreme Court case dramatically changes the laws involving DUIs. The case of State v. Gauthier is precisely one of those cases. In case you’re not familiar with this Supreme Court case is stands for the proposition that use of defendant’s assertion of his constitutional right to refuse to consent to warrantless search in a criminal trial violates the defendant’s constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure.
This case involves a DNA swab and the defendants refusal which was later used against him in a criminal trial. So how does this relate to DUI law in Washington State.
Well under RCW 46.20.308 (2)(b) which is Washington State’s statute dealing with breath test and blood test refusals. The implied consent law states which is one of the warnings required by this particular statute is that a driver’s refusal to consent to a warrantless breath test “may be used in a criminal trial.” Thus if a defendant in a DUI case refuses to take a breath or blood test, the Prosecutor in that criminal trial can argue to a jury that the reason the defendant choose not to take that test is because they knew they would be over the legal limit. This is the conscious of guilt argument that Washington case law has upheld for years.
However if you apply the analysis in the State v. Gauthier case to DUIs you can make the following argument. First since a blood test has been established as a search subject to a 4th amendment analysis, then a breath test should also be considered a search. If a breath test is a search subject to the 4th amendment and the defendant exercises their 4th amendment right and there is not an exception to the warrant requirement. Then that invocation of a constitutional right cannot be used against them.
Additionally since Washington State uses the implied consent statute which states a refusal can be used against them. This is no confusing and misleading. Since a refusal of a constitutional right cannot be used against a defendant.
Now obviously there is a little bit more than goes into this argument and analysis. But since this Washington State Supreme Court case has come out a new interpretation of the implied consent law in Washington State can be made and used in a DUI criminal case or trial.