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The History of U.S. Blood-Alcohol Level Regulations

Posted Thursday, June 29, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

New York first outlawed driving under the influence of alcohol in 1910. However, blood-alcohol level regulations were not introduced until the 1930s.

The Early Laws

After New York’s prohibition against intoxication, many other states followed suit. However, these laws were vague, with no specific legal limit to define what constituted an impaired driver.

Invention of a Blood-Alcohol System

With the repeal of prohibition, an Indiana University professor of toxicology and biochemistry created a device in 1936 that could determine blood-alcohol concentration, using a balloon filled with a chemical solution. When a person inflated the balloon, the air within would change color if alcohol was present. By 1938, the legal blood-alcohol limit was set at 0.15 in most places, supported by research from the American Medical Association and the National Safety Council.

Introduction of the Breathalyzer

In 1953, the more accurate Breathalyzer was invented by a university professor and retired police captain. Like its predecessor, this device could also determine alcohol concentration using the breath, in combination with chemical oxidation and photometry.

Modern Regulations

When Mothers Against Drunk Drivers was created in 1980 to bring awareness to drunk driving deaths, the attitude toward and penalties for DUI were relatively lax. The organization pushed for tougher drunk driving penalties as well as legislation passed in 1984 raising the drinking age to 21.

Washington Laws

In Washington, current law mandates a license suspension following a DUI. Drivers may request a hearing, scheduled within 60 days of the arrest, at which the individual and his or her DUI attorney can contest the suspension. If the suspension is upheld, licenses are typically suspended for 90 days for a first offense and up to a year for a second offense. For those drivers who refuse to have their BAC measured with a breathalyzer, the license suspension can range from a year for a first offense and more for the second offense, so it is especially important in these cases to retain a DUI attorney.

Additionally, a DUI conviction can carry fines up to $5,000, jail time for up to a year, and other penalties. There are many nuances to DUI penalties that can be taken into consideration; this is why you need an experienced DUI attorney on your side to understand

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Driver’s license suspended due to a DUI? There is relief…an Ignition Interlock License.

Posted Thursday, June 29, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

An Ignition Interlock License (IIL) allows a person to drive a vehicle while their license is suspended or revoked for a drug or alcohol-related offense. To be eligible, you must have an unexpired WA driver license and your suspension must be based on a DUI or Reckless Driving. You are not eligible if your suspension includes Minor in Possession or you are a Habitual Traffic Offender.

You may apply for an IIL at any time, including once you are arrested or after your revocation hearing. When you are issued an IIL you must maintain an interlock device in the vehicles you drive for the rest of your suspension.

Applying for this license is pretty easy. You need to first install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. Next, get proof of financial responsibility, such as a Certificate of Insurance (SR-22). A car insurance agent can help you with this. Finally, complete the Restricted Driver License Application and submit it to DOL with along with the fee.

But what if you drive a work vehicle for your job? The ignition interlock requirement may be waived for most work vehicles if your employer signs an Employer Declaration. But remember that this requirement cannot be waived if the work vehicle is assigned exclusively to you, and is used only for commuting to and from work. You can’t drive it to and from your home.

Another restriction is you can’t drive a commercial motor vehicle while you have an IIL.

Own more than one vehicle? You must install an interlock device in all the cars you drive — not necessarily all the cars you own. If you prefer, you may install an interlock device in one vehicle that you’ll drive while your license is suspended.

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Removing a Prior Conviction? Yes You Can

Posted Wednesday, June 21, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Many people have contacted me over the years wondering if a prior conviction on their record can be removed. Many have faced potential employment or other issues when a background check reveals a prior criminal conviction. Fortunately, Washington state law allows such “post-conviction relief” for some offenses so certain convictions can be removed or “vacated” from your record.

Certain felonies can be vacated but also misdemeanor offenses. To be eligible to have a misdemeanor vacated, a person must have no new pending criminal cases; must have three years without any new offenses; and the offense being vacated is not a violent offense, a DUI or sex offense.

I’ve had clients contact me about vacating convictions for Reckless Driving, Shoplifting, Driving with a Suspended License, Negligent Driving…all of which can be vacated.

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Subpoena or Not Subpoena the Officer?

Posted Friday, June 16, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

In my years of fighting traffic tickets, the most frequent question I am asked is, “Are you going to subpoena the officer to appear in court?” The reason is of course is that if the officer fails to appear at the hearing, the ticket is dismissed by default. While this is true, I’ve found that more and more police departments are making it a priority to ensure officers appear at traffic hearing when under subpoena. In fact, in speaking with various officers they have told me appearing at traffic hearings now takes priority over regular duty and they must provide an explanation to superiors if they do not appear in court.

So whether under subpoena or not, the court rules allow the judge hearing the case to read the officers written report and consider all other documents provided in the case so the officer does not have to appear. Infraction rule 3.3(c) authorizes the court to consider these documents in lieu of the officer’s appearance unless they are under subpoena.

However, the high majority of the time, we are able to find problems with the officer’s report or other evidence presented in the case that normally lead to a favorable resolution. Having the officer personally appear and provide additional testimony can ruin those chances and therefore we normally do not want the officer to appear in court.

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State Court Finds Complete Defense Includes Expert Witness

Posted Wednesday, June 7, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A defendant has a right to present a complete defense, which includes obtaining an expert witness at trial, held Washington Court-Division II.

Christopher Lyons was charged with second degree assault. A competency evaluation found that Lyons suffered from significant delusions surrounding the charges against him and that he was incapable of assisting with his defense.

But Lyons disagreed and argued that the trial court violated his right to present a complete defense by denying him the ability to present a defense expert, a qualified medical expert who was able to testify on his behalf.

The Court agreed with Lyons and ruled that a defendant has a due process right to present a complete defense. In some cases, this right to present a complete defense includes obtaining an expert at trial.

Jun. 6, 2017 - 47231-7 - State Of Washington, Respondent V Christopher Lyons

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