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Pretrial urine tests proposed for DUI defendants

People in Washington who are arrested on DUI charges can be subject to orders from a judge to prevent them from either drinking or doing drugs until after the resolution of the case. However, there is an ongoing debate over the use of urine tests to monitor those restrictions during a pending case following a state Supreme Court decision in 2017.

In a narrow 5-4 ruling, Washington's highest court stated that urine tests for people who had only been accused but not convicted of drunk driving violated the Constitution. The ruling stated that the tests were excessively invasive and that current state law allows only for pretrial urine testing in the case of people facing felony charges or those with previous drunk driving convictions. Following the court's ruling, one state senator introduced a bill to allow judges to order random urine testing for defendants in DUI cases.

While the state senator claims that the bill supports public safety, other lawyers have argued that the legislature cannot specifically enact a law in order to override a decision of the state Supreme Court. They argue that the proposal violates fundamental rules regarding the presumption of innocence and attempts to create an expanded framework for pretrial detention and limitations of freedom.

Others have said that while urine tests are highly invasive, other forms of testing like the use of transdermal bracelets that measure alcohol consumption through the skin may be acceptable under the state's constitution. The issues around urine testing for DUI defendants have been part of an ongoing debate in the state over the type and manner of restrictions that can be placed on defendants before they are convicted or even tried.

People facing drunk driving charges in Washington may wish to consult with a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer may help to provide a defense against drunk driving charges and negotiate with prosecutors.

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