Most people are aware that driving a car while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to serious penalties and a criminal charge. In the state of Washington, car owners should also be aware that they can face similar charges for even being in a vehicle if they are under the influence of any type of drug or alcohol. While this concept may be confusing to some, it is a real law and strongly enforced by police. If you are facing charges for any type of DUI offense in Seattle, it is vital that you call a defense attorney right away in order to make sure that you understand your charges and your rights.
In Washington, there are two laws that pertain to DUI offenses. The first, under RCW 46.61 502, states the following:
“A person is guilty of driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, marijuana, or any drug if the person drives a vehicle within this state”
This law is generally what most people think of when they think of about DUI laws. It relates to a driver who is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol operating their vehicle. The second DUI law, RCW 46.61.504, states following:
“A person is guilty of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has actual physical control of a vehicle within this state”
This law sounds very similar to the first, but it can apply to a much broader range of situations. For example, a person seen exiting their vehicle with keys in their hand by police may be charged with this crime if they are intoxicated, because police may not have witnesses them driving under the influence, but they had the keys and were behind the wheel showing they were in “physical control” of the vehicle.
A recent example of how this law comes into play in the real world occurred earlier this year in Seattle. The Seattle Times reports on the story of a 47-year-old deputy, Whitney Richtmyer, who was recently fired after he was found asleep in his patrol car and showing signs of impairment. The case began on New Year's Day when a citizen called 911 to report that the deputy was hunched over the steering wheel of his police vehicle. Responding officers noticed that Richtmyer was exhibiting signs of impairment. A police drug recognition expert was called and ruled that the deputy was likely under the influence of some sort of drug. Though Richtmyer was not driving his vehicle, he was still arrested for impairment while in physical control of a motor vehicle because he was found behind the wheel of his police car.
In March, a lab analysis found that multiple prescription drugs all at impairing levels were found in the deputy's bloodstream and, in June, he was relieved of his position. While this situation had very serious consequences for Richtmyer and his career, it also demonstrates that anyone behind the wheel of a vehicle can be charged with DUI in Washington. If you are facing a criminal charge for a similar offense, contact a DUI attorney right away.