Tag Archives: Washington State Patrol

Beware the Morning DUI

A little too tipsy to drive home? You’d be wise to grab a cab, ride with a sober driver or bunk it for the night if you’re at a friend’s house.

I’ve no doubt you’ve heard these words of wisdom before. But perhaps here’s some you haven’t: if you’ve gotten a few hours of shut eye on someone else’s couch after a night of drinking, that doesn’t mean you’re sober.

Believe it or not, law enforcement doesn’t care if you attempted to “sleep it off,” for awhile, and then still put the keys in the ignition. State trooper Krista Hedstrom said they get Sunday morning DUIs all the time.

“It is very common,” she said.

Such a traffic stop often goes like this, Hedstrom said:

Trooper: “How much have you had to drink?”

Driver: “Nothing. I just woke up.”

Trooper: “But were you drinking last night?”

And whether the drinking was done before sleeping or after, a trooper will conduct a DUI investigation if they have reason to believe you have alcohol in your system, Hedstrom said.

State Patrol Posts DUI Breath Tests Online

The Washington State Patrol has created an online database of all breath tests given to DUI defendants. You can find the database here.

Go down to the bottom of the page and click “Enter WebDMS.”Then click on “DataMaster search,” and you can browse the records.

It’s not exactly a breeze to search, however. You must know the “DataMaster” code — basically the location of the DUI breath machine — if you want to look up DUI results in a given period. But here’s one that I know: 140051. That’s the DataMaster machine in the Kitsap County jail.

The operator is the officer that made the DUI arrest. If you scroll to the right, “BrAC1” and “BrAC2” are the results of the two tests. Just plop a decimal point in front of the numbers (e.g. 123 becomes .123) and there you have it.

You cannot see defendant’s names here, only dates of birth.

State Cops, Too, Will Follow Cell Phone Law

Talking on a cell phone while driving will soon cost you $124. A new law bumps up the existing cell phone ban from secondary offense to primary — meaning that an officer does not need any other reason to write you up for carrying on a conversation while heading down the highway.

There were exceptions to the law, however, one of which is if the person holding the phone is badged and driving a car with lights and sirens.

The Washington State Patrol, however, is rewriting its own handbook in that regard. Its chief, John Batiste, believes his troopers need to set an example.

“Using a hands-free device is a good idea for everyone, including troopers,” Batiste said in a press release. “Every driver has an obligation to be at their best while behind the wheel.”

Batiste added that he supports cell phone use by employees because the state patrol’s radio
system can be monitored, and phones can provide a way to communicate privately.

The state isn’t the only one to push for hands free devices. The Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office has installed a hands free system called Parrot into nearly all of its patrol cars in the last six months, spokesman Scott Wilson said.

It may be implemented as a policy at the sheriff’s office as well. But as Wilson points out, the system, which broadcasts the call over the car’s stereo, is “crystal clear,” and convenient.

“I don’t know why anybody would not use it,” he said.

Not all of the county’s law enforcement agencies are changing policy. But the higher ups are asking for their officers to use good judgment.

“We have not set any such similar policy requiring them to use hands free devices, but we have suggested that they use good judgment and talk on the phone without hands free devices only when its safe to do so,” Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend wrote to me in an email. “Most of our officers use their own personally owned cell phones and have the hands free blue tooth type devices already and use them while on duty just like they would on their off duty time.”

Shawn Delaney, Poulsbo Police Department’s deputy chief, said they too don’t have a policy. But he said they’re cognizant that the public might not realize officers are exempt from the law, and want to set an example in not using the phone unless it’s necessary in the commission of their duties.

Tom Wolfe, Bremerton Police’s captain of patrol, said the department also encourages officers to pull over for calls that aren’t emergent in nature.

That said, there are circumstances — in progress calls and the like — where the officer has no choice but to talk on a cell phone while driving. The situation is so imminent that even going hands free is too time consuming, he said.

“The need to convey information in some situations immediately outweighs attempting to hook a phone up to any device,” he said.

Roadways Were Busier for Troopers in 2009

DUIs, speed, and pretty much everything else had Washington State troopers working harder in Kitsap County in 2009. Krista Hedstrom, our local state patrol spokeswoman, sent me the stats this morning. Among them:

  • DUI related collisions were up 23 percent with 117, compared with 95 in 2008.
  • Speed related collisions were up 10 percent with 273, compared with 248 in 2008.
  • DUI Arrests in Kitsap County were up by 2 percent in 2009. Troopers removed 858 impaired drivers from the roads in Kitsap compared with 839 arrests in 2008.
  • Speed contacts were up 16 percent in 2009. Kitsap troopers contacted 16,788 speeders in 2009, compared with 14,457 in 2008. Out of those contacted, 11 percent more received tickets than in 2008.
  • In addition, there were 247 more drivers contacted who were issued tickets for aggressive driving in Kitsap County than in 2008. In 2009, 2,620 drivers were ticketed for aggressive driving violations, compared with 2,373 in 2008.

In neighboring Mason County, the numbers were actually down:

  • DUI related collisions were down 45 percent with 45, compared with 82 in 2008.
  • Speed related collisions were down 39 percent with 67, as compared with 109 in 2008.