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New Changes to No-Texting Law

Posted Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

A new law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee prohibits simply holding an electronic device including phones while driving, including while in traffic or waiting for a traffic light to change, that takes effect mid-July.

Texting or holding a phone to your ear is already against the law in Washington state, but this new law also prohibits you from sitting in traffic and using your device. Anything that requires you to hold an electronic device while behind the wheel will now be prohibited except “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of a personal electronic device while driving will still be allowed.

Current Washington law only prohibits texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving.

Once the measure takes effect, the standard traffic fine of $136 would apply to a first offense but would increase to about $235 for a second offense. The first distracted-driving offense would also be reportable to insurance companies, which could raise rates like any other moving violation.

Another section of the new law also says a person who engages in “any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle” is subject to pay an additional fine of $100. It only applies if an officer catches a driver being distracted while committing a standard traffic offense, such as running a stop sign because their coffee spilled or a pet jumped in their lap. Exemptions under the law include using an electronic device to contact emergency services, or operating an amateur radio station or two-way or citizens band radio

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Washington red light camera tickets

Posted Friday, May 12, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

In Washington, a red light camera ticket does not appear on your record and therefore does not result in any points. However, you may be subject to a maximum fine of $250.

Are they Worth Fighting?

Traffic cameras are now posted at numerous intersections and school-zones throughout the State. In 2005 Washington State authorized cities to install traffic cameras for the stated purpose of reducing red-light violations at dangerous intersections and speeding violations in school-zones. Since 2005 dozens of cities, including our largest cities of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, have installed hundreds of these traffic cameras.

Issues with Contesting a Traffic-Camera Ticket

There are many problems with the way that Washington traffic-camera law works. First, the cameras only record the vehicle involved in the alleged infraction but do not record the driver. Fortunately for drivers there is still a way to assert their innocence. Drivers wrongfully accused of these violations can sign a “Declaration of Non-Responsibility” in which they deny that they were driving at the time of the alleged violation. Under Washington law, a court is required to dismiss the traffic ticket upon receipt of this document.

Another issue with our state’s traffic camera law is the law does not allow a driver accused of a traffic-camera violation to confront the witness against them in a court of law. In a criminal case, a defendant is constitutionally guaranteed the right to confront and question a witness who provides testimony against him. Unfortunately, in a traffic-camera ticket hearing, Washington drivers are not permitted to confront the witness against them. In many Washington cities, that witness actually works as a police officer in Arizona because the company who provides traffic cameras to Washington cities is located in Arizona. The Arizona police officer, while working as an employee of the Arizona company, reviews the traffic- camera recordings. After viewing a recording, the officer signs a written statement alleging that the vehicle in the recording committed a traffic infraction. That statement is later used by a Washington city as evidence against the alleged driver. Washington drivers who challenge their traffic-camera tickets will never get the chance to confront or question the police officer who signed the written statement. Does this sound remotely fair to Washington drivers?

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How many types of breath test machine are used in Washington?

Posted Friday, May 12, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

I am routinely asked about which breath test machine is currently being used in Washington state to measure alcohol content after an arrest for Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

The answer is at the current time the state is using TWO breath test machines…the DataMaster/DataMaster CDM and the Drager Alcotest 9510.

DataMaster/DataMaster CDM.

For years the Washington State Patrol has used the Datamaster and Datamaster CDM breath test machines made by National Patent Analytical Systems for all Washington breath tests. This device uses a technology called infrared spectroscopy to measure alcohol in a person’s blood. Alcohol is one of a number of molecules that absorbs infrared light, and the Datamaster measures the amount of infrared light within the sample chamber that reaches its detector in order to come up with an alcohol measurement.

Drager Alcotest 9510

Recently some counties in northern and eastern Washington have switched to the new state of the art breath testing machine called the Draeger Alcotest 9510. The Draeger uses two technologies to measure alcohol on the breath. One of those technologies is the same infrared spectroscopy method used by the Datamaster. The IR technology of the Draeger is, however, more sophisticated than that used by the Datamaster because an additional “filter” is used to try to flag the presence of other chemicals on the breath that might cause a false positive. In addition, the Draeger uses a separate technology, an electrochemical fuel cell, to come up with a separate alcohol measurement. Because the fuel cell is sensitive only to alcohols, there is less potential for chemicals other than alcohol to cause a false positive result.

Yet the fact remains that physiological differences between people, such as lung capacity and breathing pattern, to name a few, will cause natural differences in the accuracy and reliability of breath test results. It is also very important to the accuracy of the test that the operator of the breath test machine administer the breath test itself as well as the pre-test mouth check and “observation period” correctly. Unlike the WSP breath test technicians who maintain and repair Washington breath test machines, breath test operators do not have in-depth training on how the machines work. Most law enforcement officers around the state are certified to operate machines in their area, but their ignorance of the science involved and their relative inexperience in breath testing can cause mistakes during the test administration process that might seriously compromise the value of the results of the test.

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DUI Charge? You can fight it

Posted Friday, May 5, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

If you are facing charges for driving under the influence, you must remember that you still have the right to defend yourself. As an experienced criminal attorney in Washington state, I can help you fight this DUI charge. Here are some of the most common issues found in most cases:

  1. Improper Stop-No Probable CauseOne of the most common defenses to a DUI is that the officer did not have a good reason to stop the vehicle. For example, if you were driving the speed limit, not swerving, properly applied the brakes or accelerated, used your turn signals and your tags were up-to-date, the officer’s reason for pulling you over may be improper in the eyes of the court.

  2. Mistakes with the Field Sobriety Tests (FST’s)When a police officer makes a stop for a suspected DUI, he or she will typically administer a field sobriety test. If the officer made mistakes while administering the test or the results were questionable, this could help your case.

  3. Problems with the Portable Breath Test (PBT)Another test that the officer might use is a Portable Breath Test or PBT. However, these results are not admissible in trial in the state of Washington and is only used to establish probable cause. However, if the officer did not administer the test properly or lacked training, the court may completely throw out the results.

  4. Problems with the standard Breath Test Machine (DataMaster)After your arrest, the officer will usually offer you a standard breath test at the police station. We can always challenge the results of these results, including interference issues, improper administration, whether or not you vomited and other factors.

  5. Failure in the chain of custodyThe chain of custody can often result in tainted or missing evidence. If an officer or lab technician did not properly handle the results of your blood alcohol test, or if the results were lost, we could successfully challenge the results.

  6. Changes in blood alcohol levelsIt takes time for alcohol to absorb into the blood stream. It is possible that your blood alcohol concentration was under the limit at the time the officer stopped you. However, by the time you arrived at the police station and the officers administered a blood test, your blood alcohol content could have increased to or beyond the limit.A DUI conviction can have far reaching consequences. If you are facing a drunk driving charge, call my office and let’s talk.

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Should I Fight a Traffic Ticket?

Posted Friday, May 5, 2017 by Andrew Charles Huff

Yes, you should because they matter to your insurer and will lead to rate increases in your auto insurance.

The cost of auto insurance depends on a range of factors. Some of these may be specific to your individual circumstances but one main factor is your personal driving record. Traffic violations, such as speeding tickets, are considered part of your driving record. And insurers may consider those violations with the perception that you’re at higher risk of an accident which will affect the cost of your insurance.

A speeding ticket can affect your car insurance in a number of ways:Increased rates. First, speeding tickets may increase the amount you pay for car insurance. Insurance companies can check your driving record and see whether you have traffic violations, including speeding tickets. The more traffic violations you have, the more likely it is you’ll see increases in the cost of insurance. Drivers who receive speeding tickets may be considered a higher risk group, and therefore be charged more for auto insurance even if they haven’t made a claim themselves.

Less cost reduction over time. Getting multiple traffic violations may cause you to miss out on cost reductions on your insurance. In general, more experienced drivers are likely to pay less for auto insurance. However, a poor driving record might reduce or even eliminate any benefit you might receive from gaining driving experience. Loss of standard coverage.

Finally, if your record of accidents and traffic violations is serious enough, you may not be able to find a private insurance company that will offer you auto insurance coverage at all. In that case, one potential way to get insurance is through a state-run risk plan.

So if you receive a traffic ticket, it pays to retain our office and let us keep it off your record.

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