Earlier this year the Washington State Supreme Court considered whether Article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution prohibits a requirement of random urinalysis (known in the court system as “UA”) of individuals on probation for a gross misdemeanor DUI offense. The defendant in the case plead guilty to DUI. The trial court imposed a sentence which included a condition that the defendant not consume alcohol, marijuana, or non-prescribed drugs. To ensure compliance, the court also ordered the defendant to submit to random UA testing.
Being that Washington’s privacy laws are even more restrictive than our federal laws, the defendant appealed the court’s ruling claiming that the random UA’s violated her privacy rights. She argued that a warrantless search of an individual on probation for a gross misdemeanor “must be supported by a well-founded suspicion” that she violated one of the conditions. The court found in her favor and vacated the sentence.
The prosecution, of course, appealed the ruling. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision finding that people on DUI probation did not have a privacy interest in preventing random UA’s for the purpose of monitoring compliance with a probation condition prohibiting alcohol and drug use. In response, the Defendant took it up a notch and petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals and found that probationary UA’s in fact did implicate privacy interests. However, the court also found that people on probation have a reduced expectation of privacy. Thus, the Court concluded, the invasion of the defendant’s privacy was performed with the authority of law. This was so because the state had a compelling interest in protecting the public and promoting the defendant’s rehabilitation. The Court further found that the testing was narrowly tailored to monitor the defendant’s compliance with a valid condition of probation. The Court went on to note that a random UA of a person on probation could – under certain circumstances – also lack the authority of law. For instance, if the testing was not sufficiently connected to a valid condition of probation, or if it was conducted in an unreasonable manner. So, in short, privacy rights are implicated by probationary UA’s, but they are permissible so long as they are adequately tailored to a legitimate purpose.
If you or a loved one is accused of DUI, you should immediately consult with a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer. A qualified and respected Seattle DUI lawyer, among other things, can quite possibly save the aggrieved person thousands of dollars in court and insurance fees, the extent of loss of privilege to drive, and the amount of jail time to be served. We have said it before and will say it again, Washington DUI laws are far too complicated for any ol’ attorney to handle. Be smart and consult with a qualified and skilled
when arrested for an alcohol and/or drug related DUI in Washington State.