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Tiger Woods' DUI Arrest-No Alcohol...And He's Not Alone

Posted Friday, June 2, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most of us have watched Tiger Woods’ enormously successful golf career over the years, as he confidently marched down the course, smashing records and winning events in front of fans and massive television audiences.

But the legendary golfer ran smack into a roadblock when video just released showed the world’s former No. 1 golfer in a DUI investigation struggling to stand, walk and speak coherently as police officers looked on. In video from Florida’s Jupiter Police Department, Woods stumbles through field sobriety tests, wobbles on the side of the road and at times appears confused about officers’ commands. He was soon placed under arrest for Driving Under the Influence.

Woods told officers he did not drink, but took several prescription medications, according to a police report. He took a Breathalyzer test, registering 0.000 on it both times, and a urine test, records show. And with that, Woods has become the most high-profile example of a worrisome nationwide trend: Drugged driving is on the rise, and for the first time ever, people involved in fatal crashes are more likely to have drugs than alcohol in their systems.

A report published this April by the Governors Highway Safety Association and the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility found that both illegal and prescription drugs are found in the bodies of fatally-injured drivers—a good source of data, since they are tested more often than drivers in non-fatal crashes—about 43 percent of the time. Alcohol above the legal limit, meanwhile, was found in just 37 percent of the drivers.

The number of people driving under the influence of prescription drugs has increased in recent years. A just-released study found that 20 percent of drivers had used a prescription drug in the past two days—mostly sedatives, antidepressants, and painkillers. We are also seeing a rise in marijuana use in a DUI-context and is slowly becoming the most common drugs used by drivers.

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Washington BUI: Boating Under the Influence

Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Boating season is here and crafts of all shapes and sizes are appearing on our waterways. The season also inevitably brings Boating Under the Influence (BUI) arrests, a common charge in Washington over the summer months. Unlike Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charges, there are currently no licensing consequences no mandatory jail. However, this is still a criminal misdemeanor and an alcohol offense. Therefore, jail and/or alcohol treatment are potential outcomes in case of a conviction.

The elements of BUI in Washington are similar to that of Driving Under the Influence charge. It is a “per se” violation if you are operating a vessel and have a BAC of .08 or a THC concentration above 5. If neither breath nor blood tests are available, the prosecutor can still prove a violation by showing you were “appreciably affected” by alcohol or drugs (or combination of the two) at the time you were operating the vessel. Additionally, the BUI statute is also implicated if one is accused of operating the vessel recklessly, whether or not alcohol or drugs are involved.

In a more recent section to the law, a person’s refusal to submit to a test of the alcohol concentration, THC concentration, or presence of any drug in the person’s blood or breath now constitutes a class 1 civil infraction under RCW 7.80.120.Boating Under the Influence: RCW 79A.60.040 / Reckless Boating: RCW 79A.60.040

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New Changes to No-Texting Law

Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A new law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee prohibits simply holding an electronic device including phones while driving, including while in traffic or waiting for a traffic light to change, that takes effect mid-July.

Texting or holding a phone to your ear is already against the law in Washington state, but this new law also prohibits you from sitting in traffic and using your device. Anything that requires you to hold an electronic device while behind the wheel will now be prohibited except “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of a personal electronic device while driving will still be allowed.

Current Washington law only prohibits texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving.

Once the measure takes effect, the standard traffic fine of $136 would apply to a first offense but would increase to about $235 for a second offense. The first distracted-driving offense would also be reportable to insurance companies, which could raise rates like any other moving violation.

Another section of the new law also says a person who engages in “any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle” is subject to pay an additional fine of $100. It only applies if an officer catches a driver being distracted while committing a standard traffic offense, such as running a stop sign because their coffee spilled or a pet jumped in their lap. Exemptions under the law include using an electronic device to contact emergency services, or operating an amateur radio station or two-way or citizens band radio

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Washington red light camera tickets

Posted Friday, May 12, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

In Washington, a red light camera ticket does not appear on your record and therefore does not result in any points. However, you may be subject to a maximum fine of $250.

Are they Worth Fighting?

Traffic cameras are now posted at numerous intersections and school-zones throughout the State. In 2005 Washington State authorized cities to install traffic cameras for the stated purpose of reducing red-light violations at dangerous intersections and speeding violations in school-zones. Since 2005 dozens of cities, including our largest cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, have installed hundreds of these traffic cameras.

Issues with Contesting a Traffic-Camera Ticket

There are many problems with the way that Washington traffic-camera law works. First, the cameras only record the vehicle involved in the alleged infraction but do not record the driver. Fortunately for drivers there is still a way to assert their innocence. Drivers wrongfully accused of these violations can sign a “Declaration of Non-Responsibility” in which they deny that they were driving at the time of the alleged violation. Under Washington law, a court is required to dismiss the traffic ticket upon receipt of this document.

Another issue with our state’s traffic camera law is the law does not allow a driver accused of a traffic-camera violation to confront the witness against them in a court of law. In a criminal case, a defendant is constitutionally guaranteed the right to confront and question a witness who provides testimony against him. Unfortunately, in a traffic-camera ticket hearing, Washington drivers are not permitted to confront the witness against them. In many Washington cities, that witness actually works as a police officer in Arizona because the company who provides traffic cameras to Washington cities is located in Arizona. The Arizona police officer, while working as an employee of the Arizona company, reviews the traffic- camera recordings. After viewing a recording, the officer signs a written statement alleging that the vehicle in the recording committed a traffic infraction. That statement is later used by a Washington city as evidence against the alleged driver. Washington drivers who challenge their traffic-camera tickets will never get the chance to confront or question the police officer who signed the written statement. Does this sound remotely fair to Washington drivers?

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How many types of breath test machine are used in Washington?

Posted Friday, May 12, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

I am routinely asked about which breath test machine is currently being used in Washington state to measure alcohol content after an arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The answer is at the current time the state is using TWO breath test machines…the DataMaster/DataMaster CDM and the Drager Alcotest 9510.

DataMaster/DataMaster CDM.

For years the Washington State Patrol has used the Datamaster and Datamaster CDM breath test machines made by National Patent Analytical Systems for all Washington breath tests. This device uses a technology called infrared spectroscopy to measure alcohol in a person’s blood. Alcohol is one of a number of molecules that absorbs infrared light, and the Datamaster measures the amount of infrared light within the sample chamber that reaches its detector in order to come up with an alcohol measurement.

Drager Alcotest 9510

Recently some counties in northern and eastern Washington have switched to the new state of the art breath testing machine called the Draeger Alcotest 9510. The Draeger uses two technologies to measure alcohol on the breath. One of those technologies is the same infrared spectroscopy method used by the Datamaster. The IR technology of the Draeger is, however, more sophisticated than that used by the Datamaster because an additional “filter” is used to try to flag the presence of other chemicals on the breath that might cause a false positive. In addition, the Draeger uses a separate technology, an electrochemical fuel cell, to come up with a separate alcohol measurement. Because the fuel cell is sensitive only to alcohols, there is less potential for chemicals other than alcohol to cause a false positive result.

Yet the fact remains that physiological differences between people, such as lung capacity and breathing pattern, to name a few, will cause natural differences in the accuracy and reliability of breath test results. It is also very important to the accuracy of the test that the operator of the breath test machine administer the breath test itself as well as the pre-test mouth check and “observation period” correctly. Unlike the WSP breath test technicians who maintain and repair Washington breath test machines, breath test operators do not have in-depth training on how the machines work. Most law enforcement officers around the state are certified to operate machines in their area, but their ignorance of the science involved and their relative inexperience in breath testing can cause mistakes during the test administration process that might seriously compromise the value of the results of the test.

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