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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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Over the Legal Limit of .08? There is Hope

Posted Friday, May 24, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

A Washington driver may be found guilty of Driving Under the Influence in several ways. For an alcohol-based case, a person may be found guilty if a jury determines a person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was .08 or above within two hours of driving. With marijuana, a level of 5 ngs of THC within two hours of driving is prohibited. Even a case with no breath or blood draw can be prosecuted if there is other evidence showing impairment, such a poor field tests, slurred speech or bloodshot eyes. Washington currently uses the Draeger Alcotest 9510 breath machine, which has replaced the prior DataMaster devices.

Alcohol is not a constant in a person’s body. When alcohol is consumed, it first must be absorbed by the body in order to get in to a person’s blood system and affect their mental and physical faculties. Once the alcohol is absorbed, it will dissipate, or eliminate, from the blood system. Thus, alcohol works somewhat as a “bell-curve” in a person’s body. The problem is that’s not a perfect bell-curve. The rate at which alcohol absorbs and stays in the blood system varies by the person. The rate and pattern of a person’s alcohol consumption can affect how quickly the alcohol absorbs as well as if there is a plateau period, or time for which the alcohol content remains the same. The average dissipation rate ranges from .015-.020% per hour.

Because there are so many variables, merely knowing a person’s BAC at a specific time does not tell us exactly what that person’s BAC was at any specific time in the past. This is important because it means, without more information, knowing a BAC at some point in time after a person was driving does not give us enough information to know what that person’s BAC was at the time that person was driving, especially of a person’s BAC is just over the legal limit.

Just because a person blows a .08 or above does not necessarily mean that person is guilty of Driving Under the Influence. There are many other factors that go into a DUI case such as the Field Sobriety Tests, physical signs and other clues. For example, how well a person exits their car or walks or stands or communicates with the officer.

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Negligent Driving in the First and Second Degrees

Posted Friday, May 24, 2019 by Andrew Charles Huff

There are two types of “negligent driving” offenses in Washington state law but with huge differences between the two laws. The main difference is “Negligent Driving in the First Degree” is a criminal offense while “Negligent Driving in the Second Degree” is an infraction.

NEGLIGENT DRIVING IN THE FIRST DEGREE

This misdemeanor offense is defined as “operating a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed alcohol or illegal drugs.” This means a person must display both “negligent driving” and signs of consuming alcohol or drugs.

The term “negligence” is defined as “failing to exercise ordinary care or the care a reasonably careful person would exhibit under the same or similar circumstances.” The other element is “exhibiting effects of having consumed liquor or drugs,” which could be as little as having the odor on your breath, displaying signs or being in possession.

A conviction of “Negligent Driving in the First Degree” is punishable by a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. There is no additional license suspension for this conviction.

NEGLIGENT DRIVING IN THE SECOND DEGREE

A Negligent Driving in the Second Degree is an infraction defined as “operating a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property.” The base fine for this infraction is $250.00. Some examples of Negligent Driving in the Second Degree include excessive speed or any driving that puts others in danger.

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