State v. Morales, 84197-7. The Supreme Court, with Justice Charles Wiggins writing the majority, reversed a DUI conviction due to an inadequate test warning from the trooper.
The State of Washington requires that any individual arrested for vehicular assault must take a blood alcohol test. However, rules require that the individual must be given adequate warning regarding the test and informed that they have a right to select any qualified individual to perform further tests.
Jose Morales was arrested in 2004 following a vehicle collision in which he continued to drive for one mile after the wreck. The officer at the scene asked an interpreter to communicate the warning to Morales following discovery that he only spoke Spanish.
Morales contested his convictions for DUI and vehicular assault by means of driving a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicating liquor and in a reckless manner. He did not contest the convictions for hit and run nor vehicular assault by means of disregard for the safety of others. He further argued that the State failed in proving that he had actually received the necessary warning regarding alcohol testing.
The court referenced State v. Turpin in explaining the important obligation the state has in preserving the “protection of the subject’s right to fundamental fairness” regarding implied consent. This case had a similar precedent in which a subject had not been informed of the blood testing until after the testing had been completed, nor was Turpin informed of her rights for additional testing per RCW 46.20.308.
The court found that the State was incapable of proving whether Morales had in fact been read the “308 rule.” The only proof in the affirmative was the Trooper’s testimony that the interpreter had told him he had informed Morales of the rule, which the court called “classic hearsay.”
The court reversed the convictions for DUI and vehicular assault by driving under the influence, while affirming the hit and run convictions, and put on remand further proceedings consistent with that opinion.
Justice Jim Johnson, in dissent, claimed that the state did meet the preponderance of evidence burden in proving that the 308 warning had been given. Further, he claimed that even if the burden was not met, admitting the test results was a “harmless error.”