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What You Need to Know About The Draeger Breath Test Machine

Posted Tuesday, May 2, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

In 2014, the Washington State Patrol unveiled the Draeger 9510, the new breath test machine to be used in DUI cases across Washington. This new breath test machine replaces the Datamaster and Datamaster CDM machines, which had been used in our State for 30 years. Although the WSP seemed to be quite confident that some of the problems with the Datamaster machines would be alleviated, the Draeger launch has not gone as smoothly as they would have liked.

Many of us with the defense bar have challenged the admissibility of this machine in several counties but the fight started in Snohomish County, where our group has raised money for experts to identify potential issues with the Draeger. Breath test machines are quite complex both with the science of how alcohol levels are determined and also with the software and computer programming involved, which controls how the machine operates. But we needed more than just the manual or the word of the state-hired breath test technicians. We need to know how exactly this machine works, and more importantly, what problems potentially lie inside the machine’s software.

In 2015, motions were brought in front of a group of Snohomish County District Court Judges regarding the defense’s request to get more access to and information about the Draeger breath test machine. The defense expert testified that he would not be able to determine the accuracy of the Draeger software with only the embedded software source code. Instead, he needed to understand the process involved in the creation of the software. Specifically, the Draeger machine analysis required dynamic testing, which is a process of comparing what the embedded software code should do with what it actually does. This type of testing would take about 6 to 8 weeks, and would require about 5,000 hours to complete.

In order to complete this type of extensive testing, the Snohomish County District Court Judges found that the items requested by the defense were reasonable and discoverable, and therefore the State was ordered to hand over two Draeger machines to the defense and its expert so that testing on the machines could be performed.This ruling was a pretty big win for all defense attorneys and DUI defendants around the State. Snohomish County has told its troopers that the Draeger machine should not be utilized unless necessary, and therefore blood tests are being used in the high majority of DUI arrests.

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What is “The Doppler Effect?”

Posted Tuesday, April 18, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

We have all seen police officers standing by their patrol car aiming a radar gun at oncoming traffic. But how do these handheld devices actually work and are the accurate?

Radar guns work by directing a radio signal towards a vehicle, then receiving back the same signal as it bounces off the vehicle. Then using what is known as the “Doppler Effect,” the device can calculate the speed of the vehicle based on changes in the value of the returning signal.

In addition to radar guns, law enforcement also routinely use Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology, which operates in much the same way as radar, but using lasers instead of radio waves.

Both types of devices are sensitive tools of measurement that require regular calibration and adjustment. Radar guns, for example, requires the use of a tuning fork to make sure that the device is producing accurate readings. Most manufacturers of the devices recommend calibration before and after every use.

Officers using these speed measurement devices must go through approved and certified training programs before operating them.

But remember that like any technology, these devices do have their weaknesses and it’s critical to know and understand where to look and what to look for.

If you have received a traffic ticket, please call my office and let’s talk.

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So when can you “legally” speed in Washington?

Posted Friday, March 31, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

As an attorney who defends people cited with various traffic laws, I am asked that question occasionally. Many people believe that you can exceed the speed limit if you are passing another vehicle taking up the left hand lane. RCW 46.61.100 requires that all vehicles “Keep right except when passing,” leaving the far left lane as a passing lane (unless no one is behind you) and many believe if you want to pass another vehicle traveling in the same direction, speeding to pass is allowed. But beware that the law does not allow you to speed to pass another in the left lane by traveling in an adjacent lane going in the same direction, although I admit it’s tempting . However, the law does allow you to exceed the speed limit when using the opposite oncoming lane to pass another vehicle not divided by a solid line. So if you are driving on a one lane road and the driver ahead of you is traveling below the speed limit, you are allowed to pass the vehicle by using the left oncoming lane to speed past the vehicle before moving back over to your lane once you have passed.

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SPD Body Cams Under Scrutiny

Posted Thursday, March 30, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Seattle’s long-awaited plan to equip police officers with body cameras has hit a snag. The City must wait until a federal judge overseeing reform efforts in the Police Department resolves a thorny issue: Should officers be allowed to watch video from their cameras before they write reports on their use of force?The judge’s court-appointed monitor, Merrick Bobb, argues they should not be allowed to do so.

Bobb believes officers should first write a report based on their perceptions before watching video that might skew their recollections of an entire event. He further argues that viewing such video would give officers the ability to reconcile their memories of an incident with what is shown on the footage and revise firsthand representations or eliminate observations not captured on the video.

But City Attorneys disagree and contend that reviewing the videos promotes accurate reporting, efficient policing and faster discovery of errors that could free someone in custody. Further, attorneys argue that no evidence exists that officers have a general tendency to lie or tailor their statements “to conform to what is — regardless of when it is viewed — an objective piece of evidence concerning events unfolding at the scene.”

Also, letting officers later review the video and supplement their reports — as suggested by the monitor — isn’t practical, the city says.What monitor Bobb and the city do agree on is that officers shouldn’t be allowed to view video before they write reports on the most serious use-of-force cases investigated by the department’s Force Investigation Team, including officer-involved shootings.

Judge Robart must rule on this question before ultimately deciding whether to approve the Police Department’s proposed body-camera policies, which the monitor generally supports.

The judge is presiding over a 2012 consent decree between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the city, mandating Seattle police adopt reforms to address excessive force and biased policing. The decree requires that all use of force be fully, fairly and accurately reported, investigated and reviewed. Robart and Bobb have both pushed for body cameras, and the city has been committed to equipping patrol officers with them. The goal was to begin the rollout early this year.

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Criminal and Driving Bills Still Alive in State Legislature

Posted Thursday, March 16, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

As the State Legislature progresses on, the following bills are still alive and kicking as work continued on in Olympia.

House Bill 1384 aims to protect victims of sexual assault by allowing courts to issue permanent protection orders. Currently, victims can only be granted a protection order for up to two years. The bill has passed both the House and Senate.

A few bills with the intent to reduce distracted driving in our state are still moving forward. House Bill 1371 and Senate Bill 5289 would re-write current law to make it illegal for a driver to hold a handheld device while on a roadway, including while stopped in traffic. Currently, it’s illegal to speak on a phone while holding it to your ear or texting while driving. Under the bill, drivers would be banned from holding any hand-held devices while driving including phones, tablets and other electronic devices, even while stopped in traffic. It would also double the fine, which is currently $136 if caught texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving for second and subsequent offenses within five years.

The new measure would allow the use of a finger to activate or deactivate a function of a device, such as using Siri on the iPhone, and the use of a built-in touch screen control panel within a vehicle to control basic functions like the radio or air conditioning.

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