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Pierced tongue wouldn’t get you out of breath test under bill approved by Washington House

UPDATED: Thu., March 2, 2017

Washington would get tougher on motorists who drive drunk or under the influence of drugs under a bill that received overwhelming support Thursday in the House.

It would allow law enforcement officers to arrest and hold a person suspected of impaired driving if that person is waiting arraignment on a previous impaired driving. A driver who is required to have an ignition interlock as a result of a conviction would need to go without a new violation for six months, rather than the current four months.

It also eliminates a reason for refusing a Breathalyzer in a DUI stop. Current law allows drivers to refuse that type of field test if they have “a foreign object” in their mouth, and that has allowed people with tongue piercings to legally decline the test.

“Research has shown piercings do not make a difference,” said Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, the bill’s sponsor. “Sorry, if you have a pierced tongue, you’re going to have to use the Breathalyzer by the side of the road.”

The bill was sent to the Senate on a 95-3 vote.

Giving chase

On a separate proposal, the House agreed to expand the ways a driver can be charged with attempting to elude a police vehicle, saying it wouldn’t necessarily have to be the vehicle that starts the chase.

Rep. Matt Shea, R-Spokane Valley, objected to the change, but not because he thought those drivers should get off easy.

“We all believe eluding is a problem,” Shea said, but the law doesn’t clearly define it. That vagueness could have “significant repercussion for communities of color,” he said.

The House ignored suggestions from opponents that it delay the vote to improve the bill, sending it to the Senate on a 65-33 vote.

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