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Judge-“No Probable Cause to Arrest-Case Dismissed”

Posted Monday, May 5, 2014 by Andrew Charles Huff

A major victory for a client charged with Driving Under the Influence in Tacoma recently. The arresting officer made a valid traffic stop based upon a minor infraction. However, client exited the vehicle and walked towards the officer with no problems, and performed well enough on the Field Sobriety Tests. Client was not slurring and did not appear confused.

The key here was the Field Sobriety Tests. Although the client exhibited a few clues, her overall performance was very good. The judge summarized his ruling by looking at the entire picture or the evidence as a whole. While there was evidence of drinking, not so for impairment. We win!

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Too High to Drive?

Posted Thursday, February 27, 2014 by Andrew Charles Huff

Washington recently legalized the personal use of marijuana for those age 21 and over by way of Initiative 602, joining the state of Colorado. This new law has similar restrictions to the use of alcohol. For example, besides being a certain age, one cannot simply enjoy a toke out in public (at least not legally, that is). And like alcohol, driving a vehicle while affected by marijuana is illegal.

But how does the law determine if you have taken too many hits off the bong? The first way is if you have a measured amount of 5.0 ng of THC concentration in your blood within two hours of driving a vehicle. This is normally measured by drawing a sample of your blood and having it analyzed. The other method is based primarily upon observations made by the police officer, including the use of field sobriety tests, of which many we have all heard of, such as the One Leg Stand, and Walk and Turn.

One challenge facing officers investigating a driver suspected of being impaired by marijuana alone are the use of these standardized field sobriety tests, such as the Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand. The problem is these tests were solely developed to use on drivers suspected of “alcohol” impairment, not marijuana. The various studies which developed this battery of tests for law enforcement concluded that those who display a specific number of clues were likely to be over a .10 blood alcohol level. No where was it determined or even mentioned that these tests could be used for those suspected of being too “high” to drive.

So the question remains that unless there is an admissible blood draw showing 5.0 ng of THC, just what is “too high to drive?”

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DUI “Checkpoints”-Not in Our State

Posted Friday, February 7, 2014 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most of us have been in that situation before…we are driving down the road and suddenly we see flashing lights in our mirror. Next is the sinking feeling in the pit of our stomach as we look for a place to pull over and hope our vehicle registration is current. But when this happens, our men or women in blue must have a reason to light you up and assert this authority. And we know what they are…speeding, expired tabs or other infraction, or something more serious like Reckless Driving.

Officers regulate traffic, advise motorists of hazards, investigate crime scenes, make arrests, anything else that is within the course of their duties as a law enforcement officer. But as agents of the State, police officers’ actions are governed in part by the US and Washington State Constitutions. Any action or restriction imposed upon us by law enforcement must be reasonable and constitutional.
We have a right as citizens to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. “Unreasonable” has been held to mean without “probable cause” or a legal basis to conduct a stop. For example, a police officer can stop you for speeding and write you a ticket. A police officer can stop a driver if he observes signs of intoxication while driving. A police officer cannot, however, stop a driver to simply check and make sure all is well. Officer Jones cannot pull one over for no other reason but to see “if” the driver “might” be showing signs of impairment.

Other jurisdictions that have tried these “DUI roadblocks” have run into constitutional challenges. A federal appeals court recently halted a sweeping set of changes to the New York Police Department’s practice of stopping and frisking people on the street, and in strikingly personal terms, criticized the trial judge’s conduct and removed her from the case.

Any discussion of trying to implement such “check points” in our state must always be met with absolute resistance. Our freedoms and privacies we currently enjoy must be protected, even simply driving down the street minding our own business. Once we give those up, we might never get them back.

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Sluured Speech-What Does it Really Tell us?

Posted Friday, October 4, 2013 by Andrew Charles Huff

As a criminal defense attorney who deals with folks accused of driving impaired, I routinely work with people who exhibit all kinds of different “signs” or clues that police officers are trained to look for in a DUI investigation. Common sense supported by scientific research tells us that when people have consumed enough alcohol to the point of being “impaired” by it, the human body can let us know in different ways. These signs include balance problems, coordination issues, confusion, becoming over emotional, just to make a few.

One clue that is well-known among most people and one we typically think about in a DUI context is a person slurring their speech. Slurred speech is a primary clue police officers are trained to look for in identifying those who have drank too much. The argument is too much alcohol can effect your ability to properly form words in a clear and coherent manner. In other words, slurred speech.

But what does slurred speech really tell us about whether someone is impaired by alcohol? Does a person who is speaking differently after being stopped by a police officer truly exhibiting a clue that suggests impairment? In all honesty, there is little evidence that this is symptomatic of intoxication, in large part because there are many other causes of speech issues. For example, consider the situation a person finds themselves in when stopped by a police officer, especially when they have consumed even a small amount of alcohol and are not impaired. Speech problems are largely attributed to stress, fear and just plain nerves, three common feelings experienced when in a DUI investigation. No matter how polite and friendly an officer might be, being stopped and investigated can be frightening. And a person reacts to fear in much the same way of being impaired…speech problems is one commonality. Think of how many times you have become tongue-tied or had a hard time getting your words out when in a scary or stressful situation.

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New DUI Laws

Posted Monday, August 19, 2013 by Andrew Charles Huff

New DUI laws

On July 18, 2013 Governor Jay Inslee signed into law ESSB 5912, a somewhat complex piece of legislation that makes vast changes to the laws governing Driving Under the Influence in our state. These extensive changes effect Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirements, deferred and suspended sentences and adds marijuana language.

One of the most significant changes involves mandatory IID installation for a person with a prior DUI/Physical Control conviction. A person arrested for a DUI with a prior conviction will now be required to install an IID within five days after they are released from custody and must file proof. Some court administrators have publicly considered the impact on their courts from some of these new monitoring requirements,much as the mandatory ignition interlock requirements. Many courts could also see added costs, which many times comes along with increased monitoring.

ESSB 5912 also closes the door on a sentencing judges’ discretion to impose what is called a “deferred sentence” for someone pleading guilty to Driving Under the Influence. A “deferred sentence” allows a someone with a conviction to petition the court for a dismissal order to the charge if all sentencing conditions are met.

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