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Recall of Blood Vials Could Effect DUI Cases

Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

Testing blood for alcohol or drugs in Washington state requires use of pre-packaged blood testing kits manufactured and provided to police agencies throughout the state. However, the manufacturer of these blood testing kits just issued a recall for defective vials delivered between August of 2018 and current day. The reason for this recall is the company delivered hundreds of vials that did not contain the preservative necessary to prevent alcohol fermentation, a required component for proper blood testing. What this means is the results of some blood tests could be inaccurate.

Law enforcement routinely use these vials, which come packed in a box for police to carry around in the trunk of their cars until needed, for testing of alcohol or drugs in a person’s blood. This is considered a more direct manner of testing for alcohol then with a breath test machine, which tests for substances in blood by way of the breath.

There have been hundreds of vials used to draw blood from individuals arrested and tried on suspicion of Driving Under the Influence with many cases resulting in a conviction. Others have had their license suspended based on these results.
Because of potentially bad evidence due to faulty vials, many of these cases should be overturned and any blood test results should not be allowed as evidence in the future.Prosecutors have the option of trying DUI cases without blood test results. Under Washington law, a person could be found guilty of Driving Under the Influence if the amount of alcohol in their system impairs their ability to drive safely, regardless of their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level. Other evidence can also be found in a person’s behavior, appearance and Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) at the time of the stop.

Call me directly to discuss your DUI case and we will discuss your options, which might include throwing out any tainted blood draw evidence.

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Stopped for a DUI? This is What to Expect

Posted Wednesday, June 19, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

Many cases for Driving Under the Influence begins with a regular traffic stop but ends up as a full blown DUI investigation. When this happens, police officers normally request a person perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests to determine whether they will make an arrest or not. When this situation occurs, it is important to understand your rights and the consequences of performing or refusing these roadside agility tests. These standardized roadside tests normally consist of the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk and Turn test and finally the One Leg Stand. These physical tests are normally followed by a request for a portable breath test (PBT).

The Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFST’s) is one tool that law enforcement will use to determine whether or not they believe you are impaired by alcohol or drugs.

The first test is normally the “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus,” which tests eye muscles twitching while they move back and forth. This can be used as evidence of consumption and at times impairment.

The “Walk and Turn” is another field test that challenges a person’s agility, balance and ability to remember and follow multiple directions.

The third test is the “One Leg Stand”, which also tests agility, balance and ability to follow multiple directions.

These roadside tests are voluntary and you have the right not to perform them. Be aware that police score these tests quite differently than most would expect and they are hard to pass. For this reason, I normally advise people to politely decline these physical tests, especially if you have any leg, knee or back injuries. Some people will have issues performing these tests due to clothing or improper shoes. These factors can cause false positive results on these roadside tests.

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Take All Misdemeanor Charges Seriously

Posted Friday, June 14, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

Misdemeanor charges are less serious then felony offenses but the consequences can be just as serious in the real world if not handled properly by an experienced attorney. Gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to a year in jail and fines up to $5,000.00. This is but one reason why it is crucial for anyone facing such a charge to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney .

Any jail time for misdemeanors typically means spending time in a county or city jail, unlike sentences for felonies that could include prison time. For less serious crimes, the punishment might consist of no jail time, community service, electronic home monitoring, fines and probation. Misdemeanor convictions can also negatively impact other areas of someone’s life including job opportunities.

Facing criminal charges is a big deal because a conviction can have severe consequences, even if limited to a misdemeanor. The best way to deal with the situation is to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the laws, the courts and the people involved in all aspects of a criminal prosecution. The goal in every case is to build a strong defense focused on securing a favorable result.

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The DUI Process in Washington

Posted Tuesday, June 11, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

I have represented folks charged with Driving Under the Influence from all walks of life, and I understand being arrested and cuffed can be a very frightening experience.So, what should you do if you have been accused of Driving Under the Influence?

The Initial DUI Investigation

Many times a DUI arrest begins with a routine traffic stop. Reasons for stops include speeding, weaving, improper turns, not using a signal and any other violation of the traffic code. Occasionally, an officer will contact a driver who has already pulled over to the side of the road or has been in an accident.

After you have been stopped, the officer can extend the stop into a DUI investigation if they develop a reasonable suspicion of driving impaired. Signs or “clues” include slurred speech, odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, or coordination issues with handling your license and insurance.

Field Sobriety Tests

Field sobriety tests are physical, roadside tests that you will be asked to perform so that the officer can evaluate your coordination, reaction time, and balance. The three primary “standardized” tests are:

Walk and Turn;One-leg stand; andHorizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

If you agree to perform any of these tests, the results will likely be used against you, even if you think you did well. For example, you might be unknowingly displaying a “clue” because you are not familiar with the test.

Once you complete the field sobriety tests, the officer normally requests you provide a sample into the Portable Breath Test (PBT), which is a small handheld breath testing device. However, the results of these devices are not admissible at trial and are prone to error and inaccurate result.

If you are placed under arrest, you will be asked to consent to testing of your blood alcohol concentration with a breath testing machine. Washington now uses the AlcoTest 9510 Breath Test Machine, which replaced the DataMaster. If you refuse to provide a breath sample, you could face a year-long license revocation for refusing and the officer can always obtain a warrant to obtain a sample of your blood for testing.

The Summons to Appear

At some point, depending on the allegations you will receive a summons to appear in court for your Arraignment Hearing, and is the first time you need to appear in court for your DUI charge. The next hearing following the Arraignment Hearing is the Pre-Trial Hearing. Many cases can be resolved at this hearing depending on the evidence and any prior history.

If you find yourself in such a situation, it’s important to contact an attorney immediately to begin some steps on your case that could help with a positive resolution. Call me directly at 206-729-3477 and let’s discuss your case.

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But Is It a Uniform?

Posted Thursday, May 30, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

When is a police uniform a “uniform” when running from the police officers? This somewhat odd question was the specific issue in the recent appeal of Michael Connors, who challenged his conviction of “Attempting to Elude a Police Officer.” In his appeal, Mr. Connors argued the prosecutor presented insufficient evidence that he had been pursued by a police officer “in uniform.”

Mr. Connors was driving a stolen car when he failed to stop when signaled by a police office, instead deciding to speed away. After being caught and arrested, Mr. Connors argued the statute required a pursuing officer to be “in uniform” and the officer was wearing “normal clothes.”

At trial, the arresting officer testified he was dressed as follows:

“A black external vest carrier, so it actually goes over normal clothes, has all my normal duty gear, I just carry it on a vest in front of me instead of on a belt. It has a Spokane Police badge on the front; it’s a patch. And then it has clear block reflective letters across the back that say police. Then I wear a drop-down style holster and it has a shiny silver Spokane Police badge on the front of my leg.”

After conviction, the appellate court found the officer’s clothing at the time met the ordinary definition of a “uniform.” For example, the vest worn by the officer was specific to the Spokane Police Department. It served to notify the public that the officer was an official member of the police department. The fact that the officer wore “normal clothes” under his police vest does not mean he was not wearing a uniform.

Therefore, as long as a distinctive garment that clearly identifies police as law enforcement, the statutory requirement of a “uniform” is met and conviction was affirmed.

State v. Connors, Division 3, No. 35718-0-III

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