For those who have been arrested , processed and charged with DUI in the state of Washington, the consequences can run the gamut from unwanted to devastating. If however, there is a minor under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time of the arrest, not only could those consequence increase significantly, Washington Child Protective Services (CPS) will step in and investigate. It is always important to consult with a DUI lawyer in the event of a DUI arrest. In the event there was a minor involved, consulting with a DUI lawyer experienced in handling CPS matters is crucial. This article is not about instilling fear and panic though. In the vast majority of cases, CPS involvement will be very brief. The article is about what to expect and how to prepare so as to best ensure that CPS is out of the picture as soon as possible.
WHY WASHINGTON CPS GETS INVOLVED IN DUI CASES
RCW 46.61.507 requires that when a person is arrested for either DUI or Being in Actual Physical Control of a vehicle while impaired (Physical Control) AND the driver’s child, under the age of 16, is in the vehicle, Washington State Child Protective Services must be notified. The purpose of the CPS referral is not to remove the child or children from parental custody. Rather it is to perform a child welfare check to make sure that the child is not in any immediate danger of being harmed.
FIRST CONTACT WITH CPS
Shortly after the CPS referral is made, a CPS caseworker will contact the driver for purposes of conducting an interview and a child home welfare check. This first contact is usually made within 24-48 hours of the arrest with the home visit scheduled as shortly thereafter as possible. The CPS caseworker will interview the parents or custodians, view the home and look into the general well-being of the child. There is not just one “right” way to handle and prepare for the CPS involvement. Each case is different and the advice from person to person may vary greatly depending on the overall circumstances. The best general advice for preparing oneself for the DUI related CPS interview is to consult with an attorney knowledgeable in this area in advance. What might constitute great advice in one case might be the absolute worst advice in another.
If the caseworker assigned believes that, after reviewing the police incident report and interviewing the guardians, that the statute was more likely than not violated, a finding of “founded” will be entered into the guardian’s CPS file. If there have been no previous CPS referrals and the child does not appear to be in any danger, this will more often than not end the inquiry. However, if there have been previous referrals or the child does appear to be in harm’s way, the investigation will continue and further CPS action may follow. However, if the DUI referral was the only reason for the contact, it is very unlikely that any further action would be warranted.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have been arrested for DUI and your under 16 year old child or children were in the car, don’t panic. Yes, CPS will get involved. But if you are like most people who have found themselves in the situation, that involvement will be brief and uneventful. What is important is that you are prepared, that you know what to do and say, and that you don’t act in such a way that may make a bad situation much worse.