Richland mayor was over legal limit to drive. He blames the DUI on dehydration

The Richland mayor gave two breath samples after his DUI arrest on Saturday night that reportedly showed he was over the legal limit to drive.

Bob Thompson, 63, initially told a Washington State Patrol trooper that he wouldn’t be willing to do a portable breath test, court documents reveal.

But after initially trying to avoid being handcuffed by the trooper, Thompson provided two samples on a DUI breathalyzer.

The portable device, which tests the alcohol content of a person’s breath, gave four readings that ranged from 0.111 to 0.116, documents show. The legal limit to drive in Washington state is up to 0.08 percent.

Thompson — a criminal defense lawyer for more than 36 years — told the Tri-City Herald on Monday that the result of his breathalyzer was 0.11. He said dehydration, possibly caused by a medical procedure, may have contributed to his unexpectedly high readings.

Under state law, a defendant typically is given the benefit of the doubt by taking the lowest of the four breathalyzer readings.

Independent blood test

Before Thompson was booked into the Benton County jail early Sunday, he requested an independent blood test at a Tri-City hospital. His attorney, Kevin Holt, may seek to use those test results instead.

Thompson has pleaded innocent in Benton County District Court to driving under the influence, a misdemeanor. He is out of custody on his personal recognizance.

The sitting mayor has drawn three challengers in his bid for re-election this year. He has been on the Richland City Council since 1994.

Court documents obtained by the Herald on Tuesday show Thompson was pulled over at 11:58 p.m. Saturday in Kennewick at Gage Boulevard and Center Parkway, just west of the Columbia Center mall.

Trooper James Stairet said he first noticed Thompson’s 2014 BMW X5 speeding west on Quinault Avenue in the right lane. The BMW was traveling 42 mph in a 30-mph zone, documents said.

Stairet said he noticed the SUV drift out of his lane, then correct back into the lane, as it took the right curve from Quinault to north on Center Parkway.

Bob Thompson 2017.jpg
Bob Thompson

The trooper activated his emergency lights as they approached the roundabout, where he again reported seeing the BMW cross the white line out of its lane.

Thompson pulled over and put his arm outside his open window after stopping. Stairet noted that the motion appeared as if the driver was becoming impatient while waiting on the trooper to approach his vehicle.

Thompson’s eyes allegedly were watery and bloodshot. He said he’d been at a fellow lawyer’s house and had three drinks.

Thompson was surprised to hear he’d been going over the speed limit and appeared bothered that he had been stopped, Stairet wrote in his narrative of the arrest.

Argued with trooper

Stairet asked Thompson to get out of his SUV and Thompson asked why.

“I don’t know, why am I stepping out?” he reportedly said.

Thompson allegedly became argumentative, said he wouldn’t get out unless he was being arrested, told the trooper to read him his Miranda rights and said the trooper couldn’t make him get out.

“I advised the subject I could make him get out of the car. The subject asked if he was under arrest when he stepped out of the car,” Stairet wrote. “The subject then asked if I thought he was going to hurt me and then stepped out of his car.”

Thompson allegedly used his car door to balance himself as he stepped out of the SUV.

Thompson refused to perform voluntary field sobriety tests, and suggested that his girlfriend in the passenger seat could drive him to his Richland home.

“I advised that was not an option,” wrote Stairet.

Thompson then repeated, “I would never do that” when talking about field sobriety tests, such as the one-leg balancing test. That’s when Stairet said he brought up using a portable breath test machine, and Thompson replied that he wouldn’t do anything.

“I then turned the subject around and grabbed both of his hands, to place him under arrest,” Stairet wrote in his narrative. “The subject forcefully withdrew both of his hands from my grasp. I was able to regain control of both hands and placed the subject under arrest for DUI.”

After he was arrested, Thompson agreed to the portable breath tests.

Thompson told the Herald on Monday that he believed it was safe to drive after having three drinks earlier in the evening.

He also praised Trooper Stairet and Benton County jail staff for their professionalism during his arrest.

He is due back in court in August.

Kristin M. Kraemer covers the judicial system and crime issues for the Tri-City Herald. She has been a journalist for more than 20 years in Washington and California.