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Can you Obstruct police by refusing to answer the door?

Posted Thursday, April 18, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

Can a person commit the crime of “Obstruction” by refusing to open the door for officers when responding to a 911 call? This was the question before the Court on a case that started out as a call to police by neighbors and ended up with an arrest for not opening the door when officers arrived.

Mr. McLemore and his girlfriend were having an argument in their apartment that led to neighbors calling 911. When Shoreline police arrived, Mr. McLemore refused to open the door and shouted at police to go away. Fearing a crime being committed, police broke down the door but found no one hurt and no crime committed. However, police arrested McLemore for Obstruction of a law enforcement officer. The arrest appeared to be based on McLemore’s belligerent refusal to open his door.

On appeal, the Court reviewed whether Mr. McLemore committed Obstruction by not opening the door and yelling at officers. It should be pointed out that officers’ forced entry in McLemore’s home was lawful.

Mr. McLemore argued that he had no legal obligation to open the door to police, and even told his girlfriend to tell the officers she was okay. But the Court found that none of this is punishable “conduct” under the limited construction of the Obstruction statute. Further, the Court had a concern that the jury could have convicted on speech alone. Much of the evidence focused on what McLemore and the officers shouted at one another. There was no evidence presented that McLemore closed his door to prevent the officers’ entry or prevented his girlfriend from opening it. Therefore, the Court found that no crime was committed.

City of Shoreline v. McLemore, State Supreme Court 95707-0

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New Changes to DUI Laws

Posted Friday, April 12, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

It doesn’t take much for a DUI arrest to happen. Even the smallest amount of alcohol can cause an officer to arrest you. Driving Under the Influence can also involve prescription medications if they cause drowsiness or affect your ability to drive. An arrest can lead to serious criminal punishment and civil penalties with the Washington Department of Licensing (DOL). A DUI conviction will result in multiple legal penalties including jail, fines, license suspension, probation and a criminal record.
Even without a criminal conviction a person can still lose their driver’s license or privilege to drive by DOL.

You can be charged with Driving Under the Influence if your driving is affected by alcohol and/ or drugs or if you have a BAC level of:

.08 of alcohol or 5 nanograms of THC for all drivers

.02 if you’re younger than 21

.04 if you’re driving a commercial vehicle

In addition, the Department of Licensing can automatically suspend your driving privilege If you’re arrested for a DUI offense. Starting in 2019, it’s even more important that you contact an attorney immediately due to new changes the DOL has implemented that impact you and your driving privilege.

As of January 1, 2019, the following new laws can affect you:

  • You need to request a DUI hearing with the DOL within 7 days of your arrest

  • The application fee is still $375 unless you are indigent and requests a waiver.

  • The DOL hearing will be held within 30 days.

  • Your license will be suspended on the 30th day if you don’t request a hearing

  • The DOL will only give you 5-days’ notice of the hearing

  • Always make sure the DOL has your correct mailing address so that you receive notices.

Some cases involve a blood test and those cases may require that your request the hearing within 7 days of being notified by the DOL of your blood test results by mail.

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Radar v. Laser – How They Work and Are They Reliable

Posted Friday, April 5, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

A Radar speed measuring device directly determines a vehicle’s speed by measuring the doppler (speed induced) shift of the return of its transmitted frequency. For example, the sound you sometimes hear of an approaching or receding train or emergency vehicle.

How does police radar operate?

Police radar can be operated in two modes. The first is continuously transmitted or constant-on (CO) operation. Police utilize “speed traps” using constantly transmitting police radar that are designed to be harder to detect by radar detectors. Police can operate constant-on radar from a “covered” position—hiding amongst heavy foliage of a median, for example, and pointing their gun across the roadway at an angle—not directly at approaching vehicles.

The second mode of police radar operation is called RF-hold, more commonly known as instant-on radar or IO radar. This method of police radar operation began to appear in the early 1980’s as radar detector usage grew in popularity and it’s designed to specifically defeat drivers who operate a radar detector.

What types of police radar are used?

Police radar guns operate on three frequency bands: X-band, K-band, and Ka-band. Most newer police radar guns operate on the super-wide Ka-band. K-band is still quite common, given its historical advantage to Ka-band. The oldest X-band radars are slowly being supplemented with newer and smaller digital (DSP) Ka-band radar and even more lethal police laser guns.

How is police radar used from a patrol car?

Police radar can be operated in a stationery position or moving vehicle. Washington state allows radar to be operated by a patrol officer while driving or “moving mode.” Some police radar units that are mounted to patrol vehicles have two transmitters, one pointing forward and one pointing towards to rear. The rear facing transmitter can easily clock vehicles that are following a patrol vehicle so be mindful when approaching a patrol car on the highway.

Is radar accurate?

The short answer is yes, it’s very accurate. Sometimes radar’s performance can be reduced during times of inclement weather, but that doesn’t reduce accuracy, just effective targeting ranges.

How far can my speed be determined by radar?

Generally speed measurements are taken when you are within a 1000 feet and sometimes closer when an officer hides in a stationery position.

How is laser different from radar?

Today’s laser guns provide the same advantages of stealth operation and offer very quick acquisition of speed.

Radar is not particularly efficient at determining a single vehicle’s speed when there are many vehicles on a crowded highway. With laser, the officer can specifically target your vehicle in much the same way a sniper with a scope does.

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Washinton's Speeding Laws

Posted Monday, April 1, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

Washington has two types of speeding laws: “absolute speed limits” and a “basic speeding law.” The difference between the two are significant.

Basic Speeding Law

Washington’s basic speeding law prohibits driving at a “speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing.” In other words, motorists must always drive at a safe speed. What a safe speed is will depend on the circumstances. For instance, driving 55 miles per hour might be safe on a sunny day with little traffic on the roads. However, if you are driving that same road on a dark night with and icy conditions, then traveling 55 miles per hour could be dangerous and a violation of the basic speeding law.

Absolute Speed Limits

Washington’s absolute speed limits are pretty basic. These limits prohibit driving faster than:

60 miles per hour on state highways50 miles per hour on country roads25 miles per hour on city and town streets25 miles per hour when passing school or playground crosswalks

Penalties for Exceeding Speed Limit

Generally, a speeding citation will cost you up to $250 in fines. The maximum fine is doubled for speeding violations in school and playground crosswalks.

Reckless Driving and Other Possible Charges

Depending on the circumstances, speeding could lead to a “Reckless Driving” charge depending on the speed and circumstances. Washington defines Reckless Driving as operating a vehicle “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

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To Refuse or Not to Refuse

Posted Friday, March 29, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

One question I’m frequently asked is if arrested for Driving Under the Influence whether you should provide a breath sample when requested by the officer. The answer really depends on the type of breath test offered but also the potential penalties attached to a “refusal” of the breath test machine.

One of the first things you may be asked to do after an arrest for Driving Under the Influence is to provide a breath test. While you could decline the invitation to submit to a breath test, doing so can create a much more complicated outcome for you.

The only breath test machine you can refuse in Washington without consequences is the portable breath test (PBT) device normally administered at the scene and many times prior to arrest. This hand-held device is used by the officer to determine whether there exists probable cause to arrest. Any results are not admissible as evidence. I normally advise clients to decline the portable breath test (PBT) because the results are not admissible and no licensing consequences exist.

Don’t refuse the formal breath test at station

Once you are under arrest and transported back to the station, you will most likely be asked to submit breath samples into the breath-alcohol machine. The primary machine now used in our state is the AlcoTest 9510. First, any results from this device can be used against you to prove impairment and /or whether you were over the legal limit of .08. Second, if you refuse this test, the officer will notify the Department of Licensing of your refusal and you will face a potential revocation of a year or more. Third, the officer has the authority to obtain a search warrant authorizing your blood withdrawal for testing and transport you to the nearest hospital for this mandatory blood draw. In other words, you could face a license revocation for refusing the breath test but still have your blood tested for alcohol by blood draw.

Additionally, any evidence of “refusing” a breath test can result in additional consequences in your case such as increased fines and additional jail time.

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