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Washington Supreme Court Holds Random Urine Testing of DUI Probationer is Constitutionally Sound

The Washington Supreme Court recently considered whether a probationer convicted of DUI may legally be required to submit to a random urine test for drugs and alcohol. In an en banc opinion, the state high court affirmed the intermediate court’s holding that since the urine test was ordered to track whether she was complying with a valid probation condition requiring the appellant’s sobriety, it did not violate the state constitution.

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In the summer of 2014, the appellant pleaded guilty to one count of DUI. As a condition of her sentence, the court ordered that the appellant not do drugs that weren’t prescribed or drink alcohol. Over defense counsel’s objection, the court required the appellant to submit to random urine testing.

 

The appellant challenged the ruling before the superior court. She argued that the random urine testing violated her Fourth Amendment privacy rights. She further contended that a warrantless search of a probationer cannot be random but instead must be backed by a reasoned belief that the probationer violated his or her sentence. The court agreed and remanded.

The state appealed, and the appeals court reversed. The intermediate court held that individuals on probation for DUI convictions lack a privacy interest in the random testing of their urine when the urinalysis is used to track whether a probationer is complying with a valid probation condition. The appellant petitioned to the state high court for review.

The Washington Supreme Court first analyzed whether urinalysis of DUI probationers implicates a privacy interest that should be protected from governmental trespass. The court concluded that while probationers do not enjoy the same expectation of privacy as other citizens, random urinalysis implicates their reduced privacy interests under Washington’s constitution. The court reasoned that although these tests are meant to enforce probation conditions, they also collect evidence for possible revocation hearings, thereby implicating probationers’ constitutional privacy interests.

The court next considered whether the privacy invasion at issue lacked legal authority, and it concluded that it did not. The court reasoned that the government has a compelling interest in disturbing the appellant’s privacy interest to promote her rehabilitation and protect the public. Moreover, the random testing at issue was narrowly tailored to monitor compliance with this validly imposed probation condition. The court therefore held that there was sufficient legal authority to require random urinalysis.

In summation, the Washington Supreme Court explained that while random urinalysis of DUI probationers implicates privacy interests, the urinalysis at issue was narrowly tailored and imposed to monitor compliance with a valid probation condition and therefore was legally permissible. Specifically, the condition limited the testing to monitor exclusively for controlled substances and alcohol. Taking into consideration the appellant probationer’s reduced privacy interests, the court concluded that the random urinalysis condition had legal authority. The high court therefore affirmed the decision of the court of appeals.

Chief Justice Fairhurst dissented in a separate opinion. He argued that the majority opinion adopts a strict scrutiny test that is the functional equivalent of the federal needs doctrine. This in turn, he wrote, diminishes the differences between the Fourth Amendment and the state constitutional provision at issue. Furthermore, he wrote that the decision confused the standard by which the court should evaluate probationary searches and could therefore result in consequences beyond the probationary context. For these reasons, he disagreed with the majority opinion.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Illinois, it is crucial to speak to an experienced Illinois DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Harvatin Law Offices, PC provides knowledgeable representation to people in Springfield and throughout Illinois. We have considerable experience defending individuals charged with DUI offenses and representing drivers with revoked licenses before the Illinois Secretary of State. To learn more, and to set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us toll-free at 1-800-829-8513.

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New Law Enables Texans to Seal DUI Records, Illinois DUI Lawyer Blog, August 1, 2017.