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Misdemeanor Offense: The Court Process

Posted Wednesday, May 9, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

I routinely receive questions from folks about what to expect of the court process when charged with a misdemeanor offense.

While being charged with a misdemeanor crime is not nearly as serious as a felony, it can still effect your day-to-day life. The possibility of jail, fines, a criminal record, probation, etc. can turn life upside down. You must know how to navigate the legal process and obtain the very best outcome possible. Occasionally, that could mean trial. Most other times, cases are resolved through negotiations with the prosecutor or dismissed by a judge pre-trial.

Here are answers to some very common questions:

What is a Misdemeanor?

Misdemeanors are criminal charges that, while not nearly as serious as a felony, can result in fines and jail time.

There are two classifications of misdemeanors. The first is a Gross Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Second is a Simple Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

What Happens After I’m Arrested?

When charged with a misdemeanor you may or may not be arrested and brought to jail at the time of the incident. Between an arrest and being charged, the officer will turn over all reports to the prosecuting attorney who will decide which formal charges will be brought filed. Once the prosecutor has a chance to review the case, they will decide how they will charge the crime, referred to this as the “charging decision”. When reviewing a file for charging, a prosecutor can choose what the officer arrested on, add or remove charges, or not bring any charges if they feel there isn’t enough evidence.

What Happens When I’m Charged With a Misdemeanor?

Most misdemeanors begin with a citation or Notice to Appear which includes a date when you must appear in court. That appearance is called an Arraignment.

What Happens at the Arraignment?

At the arraignment hearing you will appear before a judge in court, notified of the charge(s) against you along with possible fines, jail time, or additional penalties , and then enter a Not Guilty plea. You’ll also be read your rights and any restrictions you must comply with until your case is resolved, including conditions for release from jail.

Watch for more information about the Court Process coming soon.

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Seattle Traffic Tickets: Pre-Hearing Conference or Not?

Posted Friday, May 4, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The many changes and additions to the signage guiding our cars and bikes through the busy streets of Seattle have caused a rise in traffic citations for failing to obey or follow the signs. Examples include limiting the times to turn left or right and being aware of new bike lanes when making these turns. I have been contacted by many people cited by police for these various violations that are for the most part “moving” violations, meaning they will appear on your driving record if found committed. Many ask me about the “Pre-Hearing Conference” that Seattle Municipal Court automatically schedules when a person decides to challenge their ticket. But what is a “Pre-Hearing Conference” and can you keep your ticket off your record with it?

The answer is simply NO, you will not be able to protect your driving record by appearing at this conference for the simple reason of that’s not what the hearing is for. A “Pre-Hearing Conference” is a hearing automatically scheduled for everyone who wants to fight a ticket. However, the purpose of this hearing is to simply mitigate or request a lower fine rather than contest or fight the ticket. In order to keep a ticket off your record, you need your case set for a “Contested Hearing.” This is a formal hearing presided by a judge and conducted by a prosecuting attorney.

When a person retains me to fight a Seattle ticket for them, I immediately file my paperwork with the court that includes a “Waiver of Pre-Hearing Conference.” This requires the court to skip this unnecessary step and set the matter directly for a “Contested Hearing,” which is what is needed to keep this ticket off your record.If you are one of the many who have received a traffic ticket in Seattle or anywhere else in the area, contact my office at 206-729-3477 and let me explain how we can keep your record clean.

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Left Lane Travel- The Court Makes a Ruling

Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

We’ve all experienced this situation while cruising down the freeway in the left lane. There’s no one in front of us when all of a sudden we come upon a vehicle taking up the left lane and slowing everything down. But is this left-lane driver committing a traffic violation by doing so?

This was the question before the Court of Appeals recently when the issue before the Justices was whether a driver may travel continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway without thereby committing a traffic infraction.

The petitioner Steven Thibert was observed by police traveling in the left lane even though no other vehicles were traveling in the unobstructed right lane. The police officer conducted a traffic stop for violating RCW 46.61.100(2), captioned “Keep right except when passing, etc.”

However, Mr. Thibert argued to the Court that traveling continuously in the left lane is a traffic infraction only when it impedes the flow of traffic, which in his case he was not.

But the Court looked at the statute and held that plainly read, RCW 46.61.100 does in fact make it a traffic infraction to travel in the left lane in the four circumstances identified by RCW 46.61.100(2). The word “shall” in subsection (2) (“all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except …”) “is presumptively imperative and operates to create a duty.”

Therefore, drivers should delegate the left-hand lane for passing other traffic and not drive continuously in this lane even if no traffic is impeded.

State v. ThibertWA State Court of Appeals, Division III

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Are “Speed Traps” Legal in Washington?

Posted Friday, April 6, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The answer is no, speed traps are not allowed in Washington except with some limited exceptions.

But first, what exactly is a “speed trap” in our state? A “speed trap” is when law enforcement uses a pre-measured distance of roadway and then calculates the vehicle speed by using the lapsed time during which the vehicle travels between the entrance and exit of this speed trap. RCW 46.61.470 prohibits the use of these “speed traps” and only authorizes officers to determine speed by using a radar device, aircraft or the “pace” method. The “pace” method is when an officer uses their speedometer to determine a vehicles speed by traveling the same distance behind them.

RCW 46.61.470 does allow an exception to the speed trap rule…and that is the use of “aircraft.” The Washington State Patrol uses their aircraft to measure the speed of a vehicle driving between pre-measured distances on the highway. The pilot will measure how long it takes a vehicle to drive between a pre-measured distance, calculate its’ speed and then radios this information down to a trooper on the road who makes the stop.

But besides this limited use, law enforcement cannot use “speed traps” as defined to stop and ticket drivers for speeding.

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Speed Measuring Devices-How They Work

Posted Friday, March 30, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

I have represented literally hundreds of people who have been cited for speeding and other traffic violations. Those who have been pulled over for speeding likely know that your vehicle speed was likely recorded by a laser or radar Speed Measuring Device (SMD). Law enforcement agencies use both radar and laser SMDs to enforce speed limits.

How “Speed Enforced By Radar” Really Works

RADAR stands for “Radio Detection And Ranging” and is a general term for the process of determining the range, angle, or velocity of objects. Modern traffic radar uses the Doppler effect, which is an increase or decrease in the frequency of waves traveling between an observer and an object.

The Doppler effect can be observed for any type of wave - water wave, sound wave, light wave, etc. We are most familiar with the Doppler effect because of our experiences with sound waves. Perhaps you recall an instance in which a police car or emergency vehicle was traveling towards you on the highway. As the car approached with its siren blasting, the pitch of the siren sound (a measure of the siren’s frequency) was high; and then suddenly after the car passed by, the pitch of the siren sound was low. That was the Doppler effect - an apparent shift in frequency for a sound wave produced by a moving source.

The Doppler effect doesn’t just apply to sound. Light also travels using wavelengths. And this is how Troopers measure speed.

How do Troopers Use Radar for Speed Testing?

When measuring for speed, a Trooper will typically use an SMD to direct a beam of light toward an object. The SMD measures the time it takes for the beam to be reflected back to the device. This split-second measurement is incredibly precise, and tells the Trooper the object’s estimated speed.Law enforcement officials typically measure speed in three different scenarios: while stationary on the side of a roadway, while in a moving motor vehicle, or from an overhead aircraft.

While stationary, if the Officer or Trooper suspects a driver is traveling faster than the posted speed limit, they will simply aim an SMD at the vehicle to detect the actual speed and confirm their suspicion.If an SMD is mounted in a moving motor vehicle, the device will measure the difference in speed between the moving police or patrol car and the suspect vehicle. The device will then calculate the true groundspeed of the suspect vehicle.

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