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Traffic Ticket Challenge Reaches Iowa Supreme Court

Posted Friday, September 29, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A dispute over a $75 speeding ticket has climbed through the levels of Iowa’s court system, reaching the lofty heights of the Iowa Supreme Court for oral arguments.

Ms Marla Leaf received a speeding ticket when a traffic camera allegedly caught her driving 68 mph in a 55-mph zone in Cedar Rapids. Although not the typical case for a state’s high court, Leaf argued that her constitutional rights and state law were violated because the City of Cedar Rapids delegated police powers to the private company that maintains the speed cameras.

Her attorney argued to justices that such cameras are “unduly intrusive, unfair and simply amounting to sophisticated speed traps designed to raise funds for cash-strapped municipalities by ensnaring unsuspected car owners in a municipal bureaucracy under the circumstances where most busy people find it preferable to shut up and pay rather than to scream and to fight.”

Leaf further argues that it is unlawful to give the authority to assess speeding — something it says is police work — to the private camera company, Gatso. Also, the cameras don’t issue tickets to semitrailers and government vehicles, calling the discrepancy arbitrary and a violation of equal protection.

The Court is expected to issue a decision in a couple of weeks.

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Language Issue Helps Saves Client's License

Posted Friday, September 22, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A great outcome last week on a DUI case. My client was arrested for Driving Under the Influence but declined to take a breath test at the station, and therefore faced a year-long license suspension. However, English is a second language of my client and she clearly did not understand all the warnings read to her about a potential license suspension and didn’t even realize she was refusing the breath test.

At the hearing, we challenged the “refusal” of the breath test by arguing that although the officer used an interpreter to read her the “Implied Consent Warnings,” the officer could not have known for sure whether the interpreter was actually reading these warnings because the officer doesn’t speak Vietnamese. An officer is required to read these Implied Consent Warnings to anyone prior to asking them to provide a breath sample. But in this case, the State was unable to prove what warnings were actually read to my client because of the language barrier.

Great decision and a great win!

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Five Years Crime Free for Firearms Restoration-But When Does that Time Apply?

Posted Thursday, September 14, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A person with a criminal conviction can petition the Superior Court to restore firearm rights but one of the conditions is five crime-free years. But when do these five years without a new conviction actually apply?

This was the question posed to the State Supreme Court-Division One recently by Edgar Dennis III. Mr. Dennis lost his right to possess a firearm but then had no criminal convictions for 16 years. But in 2014, he was convicted of a misdemeanor. Two years later, he petitioned for restoration of his firearm rights, but the court denied the request, citing his 2014 conviction. He appealed and argued the statute is ambiguous. Mr. Dennis said the law actually means that any consecutive five year period without a criminal conviction is sufficient, even if he had one or more misdemeanor convictions within five years of filing the petition.

The Court declined this argument and held that the legislature’s intent was to require at least five consecutive conviction-free years immediately preceding a petition for restoration of gun rights. So the misdemeanor conviction two years makes him ineligible.

State v. Edgar Dennis III Division One-DIVISION ONE

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Physical Control? A DUI without the Driving

Posted Tuesday, September 12, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Picture this scenario…You have been out with friends one night and enjoyed a couple of alcoholic beverages. You start to drive home but along the way it hits you that you have consumed a bit too much alcohol and probably shouldn’t be driving. So you do the right thing and pull over to the side of the road with the intention of sleeping for an hour or two. But after a police officer contacts you, you are placed under arrest for…Physical Control.

Specifically, a “Physical Control” charge is defined by RCW 46.61.504 as being in actual “physical control of a motor vehicle with a breath alcohol concentration of .08, a marijuana amount of 5 nanograms, simply under the influence or any combination.

Many clients ask me why it can be illegal to sit in your car while under the influence but not actually driving. The key here and what really makes this a crime is the “control” you have over your vehicle at that moment. In other words, if you are able to place your car in drive and exert actual control at any time and take off, this is considered a crime.

However, the law allows someone to take this specific action, i.e. pull over to the side of the road and not drive, as a defense to the crime of Physical Control. But the key here is literally “the key.” You need to remove your key from the ignition and place it somewhere not very accessible, such as in your glove box or the backseat. Otherwise, with your key in the ignition, you could find yourself in “physical control” of a vehicle while under the influence.

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What About Grooming or Coffee While Driving?

Posted Tuesday, September 5, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Our state is the latest to implement tougher distracted driving laws to the displeasure of many. Our new law, which took effect July 23, 2017, prohibits drivers from using almost any handheld device, including not just phones but also tablets, laptops, e-readers, and gaming gadgets. In other words, it creates an infraction for reading, writing, or viewing messages, pictures, and data on a handheld device—even while stopped at a red light or a stop sign, or when mired in stop-and-go traffic. The new law makes all these violations a primary offense, meaning police can use them as the sole reason to pull drivers over.

Wait…can I still drink my coffee?

But many have contacted my office asking about other distracting behaviors; namely, grooming and eating or drinking beverages while driving. The new law does in fact make grooming, eating or drinking while driving as a “secondary offense” , meaning drivers grooming themselves or enjoying coffee cannot be stopped unless they commit a separate primary offense, such as speeding or failing to signal.

If you are stopped and ticketed for any of these offenses, call my office at 206-729-3477 or visit my website at www.ahufflaw.com.

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