Last week the Washington State Supreme Court elected to uphold citizen privacy rights and struck down “Hailey’s Law” (RCW 46.55.360) as an unconstitutional invasion of privacy.
Prior to this landmark decision, anyone arrested in Washington State for driving under the influence (or physical control) automatically had their car impounded for a minimum of 12 hours. This was so even if there was a sober, licensed driver available to drive the car safely away from the scene, or even if the car could be parked safely off the roadway.
In State v. Villela, after the impound of the defendant’s car, the police “inventory” searched it and found evidence of possession with intent to deliver drugs. Villela argued this search was illegal, as it was after an impound under Hailey’s Law.
The Washington State Supreme Court found under State v. Villela that our State Constitution – specifically Article 1 Section 7’s guaranteed right to privacy – cannot simply be amended by a legislative act to take away the protections of the Constitution. The Court found the statute unconstitutional because it authorizes a disturbance of private affairs regardless of whether authority of law exists. The court found that the officer should have considered reasonable alternatives to towing and failing to do was an unconstitutional seizure. In order to impound a car, the Court held that there must be either – (1) probable cause that there is evidence of some crime inside the car, or (2) some exception to the warrant requirement.
The decision by the Washington Supreme Court changes a long standing requirement by law enforcement – that anyone arrested for DUI must have their car towed and impounded for at least twelve hours. Some folks will hail this change, others will disparage it. It is all in the eyes of the beholder.
If you or a loved one has been arrested for a DUI, you should immediately contact a Seattle DUI defense attorney. 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 Seattle DUI attorney when arrested for an alcohol and/or drug related DUI in Washington State. SQ Attorneys is here to help – (206) 441-1600.