Seattle Traffic, DUI and Criminal Defense Attorney

Available 24/7 – (206) 729-3477
The Best in Traffic, DUI and Criminal Defense

The Seattle DUI and Criminal Defense Blog

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.

Permalink to this entry

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.

Permalink to this entry

Estimating Your Speed? Three Ways in Washington

Posted Thursday, March 2, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Police officers wanting to determine your speed have three valid methods recognized in our state by courts. They are 1) Speed Measuring Device (radar or laser) 2) Pace Method and 3) Aircraft.

The most popular method is the use of a “speed measuring device” or radar/laser gun. We have all observed a state trooper along the side of the road pointing a device at traffic to determine a vehicle’s speed. A beam is emitted from this device, bounces off the target vehicle, then returns to the device where the data is quantified into a specific reading.

The second way is the “pace” method, where an officer essentially uses their patrol vehicle to estimate another vehicle speed. An officer maintains an equal distance between the suspect car and patrol vehicle and uses the car’s speedometer to determine the vehicle speed.

The final method is the use of law enforcement aircraft and hash marks on the roadway. Here, a pilot for the Washington State Patrol will spot a vehicle that appears to be speeding, then measure the time it takes that vehicle to travel between two pre-measured hash marks on the freeway. Based on this measured time, the aircraft pilot can calculate the vehicle’s speed. The pilot next communicates this data down to a state trooper who will conduct the traffic stop.

Permalink to this entry

DUI "Field Sobriety Tests"-What Are They?

Posted Wednesday, March 1, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Unlike blood alcohol content (BAC) or other DUI tests, field sobriety tests are voluntary in Washington and most other states. In many cases, you can decline to take one. The key is in determining whether or not the field sobriety tests as administered are valid evidence. These tests are usually used when a person is stopped on the suspicion of drinking and driving.

The most common Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s) are:

  1. One-Leg-Stand Test

  2. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test

  3. Walk and Turn (WAT) Test

History of Field Sobriety Tests

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration created a standardized model for field sobriety testing in 1981. The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) uses three tests in combination, and the NHTSA recommends that all law enforcement agencies use this standardized program and the associated training.This standardized testing system - a system that NHTSA has deemed the most reliable of the available field tests - can be a DUI defense in an area where the standardized tests aren’t used.

Even where the standardized test is used, there may be some errors in the test. The SFST was designed to help officers measure the appropriateness of making a DUI arrest, not necessarily as evidence to prove that a driver was intoxicated. According to 1998 data from the NHTSA, the combination of three tests used together was only accurate in 91% of DUI cases. The arresting officer is wrong in 9 out of every 100 field sobriety tests - and those were the rates for the officers who volunteered DUI arrest records.

Not all officers who use the SFST as a preliminary DUI assessment have been properly trained to administer and interpret the test. Accurate administration of the three tests according to NHTSA procedures requires that an officer follow strict guidelines. All three tests must be administered under certain conditions.

Field sobriety tests can become a critical piece of evidence in a DUI case when a BAC or breath test was refused or the test has been found to be unreliable and suppressed.Some DUI courts may admit field sobriety tests that were administered imperfectly and let the DUI attorney argue the inaccuracy. Other DUI courts have ruled tests not administered

Permalink to this entry

Washington State Senate Votes to Make 4th DUI a Felony – For 6th Time

Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

The Washington State Senate voted 41-0 Thursday morning to make the fourth DUI a felony. This was the sixth time the Senate has given such a measure a unanimous vote since 2015. The previous five times, House leaders declined to bring the measure to the House floor for a vote.

Senate Bill 5037 would allow the fourth offense in Washington to be charged as a Class C felony. A person with three prior convictions for driving under the influence or related offenses, and no other criminal history, would be subject to a sentencing range of 13 to 17 months’ incarceration.

An analysis by the state Office of Financial Management estimates that 192 new felony cases would be tried in county superior courts each year.

Permalink to this entry

Contact Andrew Today…

47.6057080 -122.3302060