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If You Steal a Riding Lawn Mower, Are You also Stealing a Car?

Posted Saturday, October 21, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

If you steal a lawn mower, then are you guilty of Theft of a Motor Vehicle…or just a lawn mower?

Our State Supreme Court was asked to decide that question recently and decided that a riding lawn mower does not fit the definition of a “motor vehicle” under Washington’s theft of a motor vehicle statute. The Court reasoned that the legislature had chosen not to define “motor vehicle” in the theft statute, and therefore the Court gave the term its plain and ordinary meaning. They determined that the legislature had used the term “car,” “auto,” or “auto theft” more often in its findings than the term “motor vehicle,” and that the legislature “passed this bill with the explicit purpose of curbing the rising rate of auto thefts.”

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The Draeger Alcotest 9510 Breath Machines are Coming!

Posted Saturday, October 14, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

The Washington State Patrol has been slowly replacing the old DataMaster Breath test Machines with the new German-manufactured Draeger Alcotest 9510, a device primarily based on the same flawed fundamentals as the old machines. At this point, King County has not begun using these machines but that point will be here soon. The Draeger Alcotest machines have been installed in Snohomish County. However, due to some courageous litigation challenging the manufactures’ reluctance to disclose basic documents about its technology, prosecutors so far have decided not to use breath results.

The main concern with the Draeger is with the software and how it manipulates the reported results. Questions are being raised whether some of the algorithms used are based on science at all. Further, Draeger, an old German company, sells their machines exclusively to governments and has refused to disclose the source codes and technical information to the public, thereby concealing the information from the public.

I have recently filed a challenge to the Draeger Alcotest results currently being used in Island County and will post updates as litigation progresses.

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Study: Eyewitness Testimony is Unreliable.

Posted Friday, October 13, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A recent Australian study has concluded that when too many eyewitnesses are in unanimous agreement with one another then their testimony is more likely to be unreliable. The fascinating and counterintuitive results could have serious implications for the criminal justice system, where unanimous agreement is usually seen as a sign that the testimony is more reliable.

The study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A, researchers looked at how reliable unanimity among eyewitnesses identifying a suspect in a police lineup actually is. The study found that if up to three eyewitnesses identified the same suspect then their testimony could be considered reliable, but unanimity among more than three eyewitnesses made it less reliable. That’s because human memory is innately imperfect and there will always be a risk of misidentification, so if a dozen eyewitnesses are identifying the same suspect then that is less a sign that their testimony is correct and more an indication of systemic bias, such as an officer in the room giving each eyewitness subtle hints about which person in the lineup they believe to be the culprit.

This study should serve as a reminder to anybody who is being charged with a criminal offense that evidence against them can always be challenged and that no outcome is ever guaranteed. For those who have been charged with a crime, it is important to talk to a criminal defense attorney immediately. An experienced attorney can help clients build their case and fight to minimize the damage that a charge or conviction may carry.

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Search Warrant Needed for Homeless Camper’s Tent?

Posted Wednesday, October 11, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Do police need a warrant to search a homeless man’s tent even if camping illegally? Pippin was a homeless man, living in a tent on public land in Vancouver. Police officers approached his tent and requested that he come out. When he didn’t and officers heard noise inside, they lifted a flap of the tent to look inside and observed a bag of methamphetamine. He was charged with drug possession.

The Court debated three factors—the historical protections, the intimate details revealed from a search, and the implications of recognizing this privacy interest. The Court found that Pippin’s tent functioned as part of his private affairs worthy of protection from unreasonable intrusions. His tent and its contents fell among those “privacy interests which citizens of this state should be entitled to hold, safe from governmental trespass absent a warrant, according to the Court. Therefore, Pippin’s tent and contents are protected under the Washington Constitution.

State v. Pippin, 48540-1-II

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Washington’s DUI Laws Toughest in Nation

Posted Friday, September 29, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Washington State’s DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation and every couple of years the State Legislature makes them tougher in some way. The DUI statute RCW 46.61.506 criminalizes those under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, driving with a breath test reading of .08 or higher and driving with a THC level of 5 nanograms.

The penalties for a DUI conviction are administrative and criminal. The Department of Licensing will seek to suspend a person’s license if they are driving with a breath test reading of .08 or higher and driving with a THC level of 5 nanograms, or they refuse to provide a breath sample. The normal suspension period is 90 days unless a person refuses a breath test, wherein they face a minimum of a one year loss of their license. The driver has the opportunity to challenge the Department’s action with an administrative hearing, usually conducted over the phone.

The criminal penalties are stiff. A court must impose mandatory jail time of either one or two days for a first-time offense with maximum time reaching a year. The financial penalties for a DUI conviction can reach up to $5,000.00. Upon conviction, a court will impose five years of jurisdiction or probation, require an alcohol evaluation and other requirements during this probationary period.
A DUI arrest also carries potential damage to a person’s career. Those with a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and pilots can be affected. Also, it’s very difficult entering into Canada with a DUI conviction.

For more information, go to www.ahufflaw.com.

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