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Seattle Traffic Tickets: Pre-Hearing Conference or Not?

Posted Friday, May 4, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

The many changes and additions to the signage guiding our cars and bikes through the busy streets of Seattle have caused a rise in traffic citations for failing to obey or follow the signs. Examples include limiting the times to turn left or right and being aware of new bike lanes when making these turns. I have been contacted by many people cited by police for these various violations that are for the most part “moving” violations, meaning they will appear on your driving record if found committed. Many ask me about the “Pre-Hearing Conference” that Seattle Municipal Court automatically schedules when a person decides to challenge their ticket. But what is a “Pre-Hearing Conference” and can you keep your ticket off your record with it?

The answer is simply NO, you will not be able to protect your driving record by appearing at this conference for the simple reason of that’s not what the hearing is for. A “Pre-Hearing Conference” is a hearing automatically scheduled for everyone who wants to fight a ticket. However, the purpose of this hearing is to simply mitigate or request a lower fine rather than contest or fight the ticket. In order to keep a ticket off your record, you need your case set for a “Contested Hearing.” This is a formal hearing presided by a judge and conducted by a prosecuting attorney.

When a person retains me to fight a Seattle ticket for them, I immediately file my paperwork with the court that includes a “Waiver of Pre-Hearing Conference.” This requires the court to skip this unnecessary step and set the matter directly for a “Contested Hearing,” which is what is needed to keep this ticket off your record.If you are one of the many who have received a traffic ticket in Seattle or anywhere else in the area, contact my office at 206-729-3477 and let me explain how we can keep your record clean.

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Left Lane Travel- The Court Makes a Ruling

Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

We’ve all experienced this situation while cruising down the freeway in the left lane. There’s no one in front of us when all of a sudden we come upon a vehicle taking up the left lane and slowing everything down. But is this left-lane driver committing a traffic violation by doing so?

This was the question before the Court of Appeals recently when the issue before the Justices was whether a driver may travel continuously in the left lane of a multilane roadway without thereby committing a traffic infraction.

The petitioner Steven Thibert was observed by police traveling in the left lane even though no other vehicles were traveling in the unobstructed right lane. The police officer conducted a traffic stop for violating RCW 46.61.100(2), captioned “Keep right except when passing, etc.”

However, Mr. Thibert argued to the Court that traveling continuously in the left lane is a traffic infraction only when it impedes the flow of traffic, which in his case he was not.

But the Court looked at the statute and held that plainly read, RCW 46.61.100 does in fact make it a traffic infraction to travel in the left lane in the four circumstances identified by RCW 46.61.100(2). The word “shall” in subsection (2) (“all vehicles shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, except …”) “is presumptively imperative and operates to create a duty.”

Therefore, drivers should delegate the left-hand lane for passing other traffic and not drive continuously in this lane even if no traffic is impeded.

State v. ThibertWA State Court of Appeals, Division III

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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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