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Are “Speed Traps” Legal in Washington?

Posted Friday, April 6, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The answer is no, speed traps are not allowed in Washington except with some limited exceptions.

But first, what exactly is a “speed trap” in our state? A “speed trap” is when law enforcement uses a pre-measured distance of roadway and then calculates the vehicle speed by using the lapsed time during which the vehicle travels between the entrance and exit of this speed trap. RCW 46.61.470 prohibits the use of these “speed traps” and only authorizes officers to determine speed by using a radar device, aircraft or the “pace” method. The “pace” method is when an officer uses their speedometer to determine a vehicles speed by traveling the same distance behind them.

RCW 46.61.470 does allow an exception to the speed trap rule…and that is the use of “aircraft.” The Washington State Patrol uses their aircraft to measure the speed of a vehicle driving between pre-measured distances on the highway. The pilot will measure how long it takes a vehicle to drive between a pre-measured distance, calculate its’ speed and then radios this information down to a trooper on the road who makes the stop.

But besides this limited use, law enforcement cannot use “speed traps” as defined to stop and ticket drivers for speeding.

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Speed Measuring Devices-How They Work

Posted Friday, March 30, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

I have represented literally hundreds of people who have been cited for speeding and other traffic violations. Those who have been pulled over for speeding likely know that your vehicle speed was likely recorded by a laser or radar Speed Measuring Device (SMD). Law enforcement agencies use both radar and laser SMDs to enforce speed limits.

How “Speed Enforced By Radar” Really Works

RADAR stands for “Radio Detection And Ranging” and is a general term for the process of determining the range, angle, or velocity of objects. Modern traffic radar uses the Doppler effect, which is an increase or decrease in the frequency of waves traveling between an observer and an object.

The Doppler effect can be observed for any type of wave - water wave, sound wave, light wave, etc. We are most familiar with the Doppler effect because of our experiences with sound waves. Perhaps you recall an instance in which a police car or emergency vehicle was traveling towards you on the highway. As the car approached with its siren blasting, the pitch of the siren sound (a measure of the siren’s frequency) was high; and then suddenly after the car passed by, the pitch of the siren sound was low. That was the Doppler effect - an apparent shift in frequency for a sound wave produced by a moving source.

The Doppler effect doesn’t just apply to sound. Light also travels using wavelengths. And this is how Troopers measure speed.

How do Troopers Use Radar for Speed Testing?

When measuring for speed, a Trooper will typically use an SMD to direct a beam of light toward an object. The SMD measures the time it takes for the beam to be reflected back to the device. This split-second measurement is incredibly precise, and tells the Trooper the object’s estimated speed.Law enforcement officials typically measure speed in three different scenarios: while stationary on the side of a roadway, while in a moving motor vehicle, or from an overhead aircraft.

While stationary, if the Officer or Trooper suspects a driver is traveling faster than the posted speed limit, they will simply aim an SMD at the vehicle to detect the actual speed and confirm their suspicion.If an SMD is mounted in a moving motor vehicle, the device will measure the difference in speed between the moving police or patrol car and the suspect vehicle. The device will then calculate the true groundspeed of the suspect vehicle.

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Wrongly Convicted? It Can Happen and Here’s How

Posted Friday, March 30, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The best legal representation doesn’t always protect someone accused of a crime from being wrongfully convicted. Despite the use of modern surveillance and DNA evidence, a jury convicting an innocent person can still and does happen on occasion. Here are the top six causes of wrongful convictions by a jury.

  1. False confessions

Innocent people often say incriminating things while being questioned by law enforcement. People will sometimes confess to crimes they did not commit, even pleading guilty, either because they believe they have no choice or they are pressured into making confessions with the prospect that pleading guilty will result in a less severe penalty than if they fight charges.

  1. Government official misconduct

While the majority of prosecutors I have worked with over the years have been highly professional and ethical, occasionally government officials will push for a conviction when desperately searching for a guilty party.

  1. Eyewitness misidentification

Eyewitness identification can be a useful evidentiary tool in a case. However, misidentified suspects are the most common cause of wrongful convictions in the U.S. Memories are flawed, can fade over time and police may use misleading lineups.

  1. Untested or unproven “junk science”

“Junk science” is a term used to describe untested or unproven forensic testing methods. This unreliable information is often presented in testimony by forensic analysts, making a defendant appear guilty. This can occur due to a lack of research, or even misconduct on the part of the analyst.

  1. Informants with incentives

An informant’s testimony can sway an entire case against a defendant. Some informants are given incentives to testify against a defendant in payment or favors and many times juries never know of these incentives.

  1. Negligence, errors or misconduct by the lawyer

A defendant relies on their lawyer to give them important information and guide them in decision-making. However, a lawyer may fail to call witnesses, investigate fully or prepare for court, leaving their client vulnerable. On the other hand, prosecutor misconduct or errors can also influence a case.

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You Get the Late Night Arrest Call...Now what?

Posted Monday, March 19, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

You get a call in the middle of the night from a friend or family member who has just been arrested for Driving Under the Influence. You can hear the stress in their voice and you want to help. So what do you do?

It can be just as difficult to see someone you love arrested for a DUI as it is to experience it yourself. So when you receive that late night call, what do you do if someone you love finds themselves facing a DUI arrest?First, realize that the person you love is hurting at a very deep level. Being arrested, at least for the folks we help, is incredibly traumatic. Between the handcuffs in the back of a police car, a locked jail cell, and the very public airing of a less-than-proud moment, your loved one truly needs your support and compassion more than ever.

Second, make sure your loved one quickly finds solid legal help. Many times the person you love may resist spending the family’s resources on an attorney to help. They think “I made a mistake, I don’t want to compound the harm to my family by spending money”. If you see this, please step in to help make sure that your loved one is legally taken care of. It isn’t the court system’s job to take care of your person, and if your person isn’t helping him or herself. Please do what you can to be sure that things don’t become worse than they need to be.

Third, look at the big picture. Working through a DUI arrest is a process, and your loved one will get through this. It’s certainly not the most pleasant experience but the challenges will be minimized. You can help by supporting each other emotionally and finding an attorney you can trust. Then you can focus both your energies on the things you can change rather than spinning in anger or shame.Call my office at 206-729-3477 and set up a free consultation with me to discuss your or your loved ones case. We will make a difference.

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Washington’s New Breath Test Device: Draeger Alcotest 9510

Posted Friday, March 16, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

When the Washington State Patrol decided to finally replace its aging fleet of DataMaster and DataMaster CDM breath machines, it did so out of necessity. The DataMaster manufacturer National Patent Analytical Systems announced that they would be no longer produce these machines and technicians were forced to use old parts for repairs. The Washington State Patrol decided to purchase the Dräger’s Alcotest 9510 as Washington’s new breath test machine.

The Alcotest 9510 measures the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood by taking two separate breath samples and then sends those samples one at a time through the machine’s two testing chambers. The first chamber analyzes alcohol contained in the breath sample by using a chemical reaction from an electrochemical cell (referred to as the EC result). Next the machine sends the same breath sample into a second chamber where it is tested using infrared lights called infrared spectroscopy (referred to as the IR result). Once IR result is completed the machine purges itself of the air sample and gets ready for the second breath sample from the suspect.

For a successful final BAC, all 4 readings must be within a certain tolerance of one another to be considered a “true” reading. This is done by plugging the numbers into an algorithm created by the manufacturer. However, Washington State law gives the defendant the benefit of the doubt by taking the lowest of the 4 readings and rounding down to the second decimal place.

Additionally, the suspect must meet certain requirements such as a minimum air volume and blowing duration. If the sample is too small and the machine cannot test it, an officer might think you are playing games with the machine and purposely not blowing hard enough. This could result in a Refusal to Submit to a Breath Test.As with the prior machine, the officer must change the mouth piece between each breath to minimize the effects of any residual alcohol. There must also be a two-minute lock out between each breath sample to ensure the machine has enough time to purge the last breath sample before taking a new one.

Additionally, an officer must conduct a “15 minute observation period” to observe the suspect continuously prior to blowing into the machine.
Finally, the Drager uses two ethanol dry gas cylinders mounted on the rear of the instrument rather than the wet external sample. These are secured with a technician key and cannot be altered by the operator.

If you have been arrested for Driving Under the Influence, it is imperative you speak with an attorney immediately. Call my office for a free consultation at 206-729-3477.

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