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Seattle Traffic Tickets-What You Need to Know

Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people who travel downtown Seattle, whether in a vehicle, on foot, or bike have probably noticed the numerous new signs and added lanes for travel, sometimes causing some momentary confusion.

This year, workers will upgrade Third Avenue so commuters can board buses at all doors. They’ll adjust signal timing on Second and Fourth Avenues to give buses a jump start on cars. They’ll convert Seattle’s isolated trolley lines into a real system by joining them with a new line along First Avenue past the Pike Place Market. And they have already started work on a protected bike lane for Seventh Avenue.

Some of these projects could actually increase congestion through downtown this year. But here’s the good news: In the long run, they’re designed to help move more people through downtown by capitalizing on the growing popularity of transit in Seattle. And they’re intended to help us avoid an even bigger mess in 2019.

But it also creates unfamiliar situations for drivers who come across new traffic signs limiting access to certain hours or designating a “bike only” lane adjacent to car lanes, etc. More and more drivers are being ticketed in Seattle in part due to the new traffic regulations.

If you receive a traffic ticket in Seattle, you need to check the “Contested Hearing” box on the ticket and mail it into Seattle Municipal Court within 15 days. Seattle Municipal Court has a slightly different system in dealing with infractions. The Court will immediately schedule a “Pre-Hearing Conference” with a magistrate instead of a judge. This Pre-Hearing Conference is only for the purpose of mitigating your ticket and not contesting it, and therefore should be waived. Instead, a Contested Hearing is the only procedure to keep the ticket off your record.

If you receive a ticket, call my office at 206-729-3477 and let’s discuss your options. We will fight it and can keep it off your record, saving you from high insurance rates.

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Field Sobriety Tests-What Should I do?

Posted Monday, February 19, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Most people know what roadside “Field Sobriety Tests” are and many visualize a person teetering on one leg along a highway as a police officer watches intently, looking for any and all clues to use against them. These roadside exercises are used by law enforcement to gather clues of impairment but at the same time it’s just as easy for a sober driver to fail these tests as an impaired driver. Given this reality, submitting to them might be a mistake.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are nationally recognized tests designed to help law enforcement officers identify drivers suspected of driving under the influence. You are NOT required to perform them in Washington.

In theory, these tests are designed for sober drivers to easily pass and for impaired drivers to clearly fail. As we’ll see, however, this is not always the case for a variety of reasons, such as nervousness, cold temperatures, distraction from oncoming traffic, or naturally poor balance. .
Throughout each of the tests, law enforcement officers will be looking for slip ups, or clues, indicating impairment. If you display enough of these “clues” and you will be placed under arrest. Unfortunately, the line between passing and failing these tests are completely subjective and open to the interpretation of a suspicious officer.


The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test is used to identify a nystagmus, or involuntary twitch in your eye, as an officer moves a stimulus (such as a pen or finger) across your face.

All eyes will have a nystagmus when the eye is at an angle greater than 45 degrees. Those with alcohol in their system, however, can have it happen before 45 degrees.

While the HGN test is the most scientific of all of the FSTs, it is still open to interpretation and highly subjective. While alcohol is shown to cause nystagmus, it’s not the only cause and this makes the reliability of the test shaky at best.


The walk and turn test is a divided attention field sobriety test. It is used to determine whether a suspect can complete tasks with divided attention.

During the test, an officer will instruct you to walk nine steps heel to toe in a straight line. Once you reach nine steps, you’ll then have to turn on one foot and head back the other direction. The police officer will be taking note if you…

Are able to maintain balance while listening to the officer’s instructionsStart before the officer has completed instructions Stop to regain balance while walking in the lineAre maintaining heel to toe walking throughoutAre using your arms to maintain balance Maintain balance while turning half way through Take the correct number of steps

If you display any of these, it will be taken as a “clue” you are under the influence.


Like the walk and turn test, the One Leg Stand is designed to test if you’re able to complete tasks with divided attention.

Standing with one foot approximately 6 inches off the ground and your foot pointed, you must keep perfect balance while counting to 30. Your arms are to remain at your side and you must be looking down the entire time. The officer will be on the lookout for if you…

Put your foot down before the test is complete Sway over the course of the 30 secondsHop while attempting to maintain balance Use your arms to help maintain balanceAgain, any of these will be taken as a “clue.”

Why Might You Fail a Field Sobriety Test?

It’s important to remember that field sobriety tests are designed to make you look impaired– whether you are or not. One reason is you are asked to walk and stand in certain ways that are both abnormal and unfamiliar to people. For example, most people don’t walk on a straight line touching heel to toe on a regular basis or attempt to balance on one leg for 30 seconds.

The fact of the matter is any police officer who pulls you over and is attempting to get you to take a field sobriety test is suspicious you are drunk. They are going to do whatever they can to conform these suspicions. Field sobriety tests are a way for them to do that.

Remember, field sobriety tests are not objective tests. All three tests take into consideration the subjectivity of the police officer in how they thought you performed.

Should You Submit to a Field Sobriety Test?

Unlike refusal of a BAC test, which will automatically net you a 1 year license-suspension , there is virtually no consequences for failing to submit to a field sobriety test and I normally advise people not to take these tests. Police officers know you don’t need to take the test, but will try to get you to submit to one anyways.

Were You Charged with a DUI?

Were you charged with a DUII? Contact me today at (206) 729-3477 to learn your options. Your consultation is always free and confidential.

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What To Do and What Not To Do When Pulled Over by a Police Officer

Posted Friday, February 9, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

*Don’t Pull Over Until it is Safe*When you see those flashing lights behind you, don’t pull over until you have a safe place to do so with room to exit your vehicle if necessary. Areas NOT to pull over include: a highway or road with no shoulder; a windy road at night or high-traffic areas. While you do not want to continue driving for too long, you should hold off on pulling over until it is reasonably safe to do so. This is safer not only for you, but also for the police officer.

To let the officer you intend to pull over, I recommend putting on your blinker and driving slowly. This way they will know you aren’t trying to flee, and are simply trying to find a safe space to pull over.

*What Should I Do Once I’m Parked on the Side of the Road?*Stay calm. Just because you’ve been pulled over does not mean you are in trouble. Right off the bat, I recommend turning off your engine, and if it is dark out, turning on your dome light. As you see the officer approaching, roll down your window and place your hands on the wheel so the officer can see them as he or she approaches. Don’t start gathering papers or reaching for the glove box until they arrive and instruct you.

Once the officer has arrived, be sure you are moving deliberately and announcing any time you are reaching for something. You don’t want the officer to misinterpret any of your movements, turning a potentially small traffic stop into a catastrophic misunderstanding.

*Done Leave Your Car*Unless an officer explicitly tells you to get out of your car, do not leave your vehicle. Exiting your car may make the officer interpret your movements as aggressive, leading to an escalated situation that simply does not need to happen.

*Don’t Argue With or Be Rude To The Officer*Nobody wants to be issued a citation, particularly if you feel you’ve done nothing wrong. Often, the stress and frustration caused by being pulled over and questioned by a police officer will cause drivers to be rude or argumentative to an officer.Arguing with the officer, or disrespecting them in any way, could lead to them getting frustrated and escalating the situation. This could lead to increased fines, new charges, or even an unwarranted arrest.

Being respectful on the other hand, could lead to the officer being more understanding of your predicament and letting you off with a warning for minor offenses.

*If the Encounter Begins Escalating from a Traffic Stop to Something More (DUI INVESTIGATION) the Less You Say the Better.*Remember that everything you say to the officer during the traffic stop is admissible in court, so anything you say can and likely will be used against you when attempting to fight the ticket. But once it becomes clear the stop is more than just a traffic stop, beware of everything you say. Often police officers will try to coax you into a discussion or invite you to “prove” your innocence. Don’t do it.

*Don’t Submit to any Field Sobriety Tests*These roadside exercises are difficult for most people regardless of whether they have been drinking. There is no penalty for refusing them unlike the breath test and you should never submit to one, even if you are stone sober.

*Don’t Consent to a Search*In order for an officer to search your car without a warrant, they’ll need either probable cause or your consent.
Even if you know you’ve done nothing wrong or are hiding anything, I still recommend not consenting to a search of your vehicle or person. They could uncover something you don’t remember leaving in your car, and there is no real benefit from letting the officer conduct the search.

Refusing a search is your fourth amendment right, and you should not feel pressure to allow the officer to conduct the search if you are not comfortable.

*If the Officer has a Warrant*If the officer obtains a warrant, you must let them search your vehicle. Do not put up a fight. Make sure to ask to see the warrant first.

Keep in mind as well that anything the officer finds during the search, even if it has nothing to do with what the warrant is for, the “plain view” rule still applies. This means anything else incriminating found can still be used against you in court.

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Washington State’s new Breath Test Machines are Here!

Posted Thursday, February 8, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

In 2009, the Washington State Patrol began the process of replacing its aging fleet of breath test machines called the DataMaster with something new. Eventually, breath machines called the Draeger Alcotest 9510 were approved and purchased by the state. Although initially thought to be state-of-the-art, subsequent litigation has revealed some serious issues in how the machine’s software and how it manipulates the reported results.

This new machine’s software is an important component of breath testing evidence because it directs the physical operation of the breath testing instrument, analyzes the breath sample, and produces the BAC ticket with purported results. These results are then used by the prosecutor to prove a violation of the DUI laws.

The breath test evidence is much more than just the printed numbers. The breath test results are the expression of a set of complex processes involving the hardware and software of the instrument that produces the result and are available for review.

We believe that the Draeger sodtware has substantial flaws and the code produces artificially high results and extrapolates a higher result without the use of a standard to properly calibrate it. As defense counsel, we should have a right to the source code and this is what we are continuing to fight for.

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Court says Due Process Requires Evidentiary Hearings

Posted Wednesday, February 7, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

When a person pleads guilty to a crime but allegedly violates the terms of the agreement, is this person then entitled to an evidentiary hearing if they deny the violation?

Mr. Caleb Townsend pled guilty to two felony charges pursuant to a plea agreement. For his part, Mr. Townsend agreed to abide by all release conditions, including a requirement that he “commit no law violations” while awaiting sentencing.
However, prior to sentencing, the trial court found that he violated the terms of the plea agreement but without such a hearing. Although Mr. Townsend did not request an evidentiary hearing, he did protest his innocence.

The Appellate Court found that this evidentiary hearing right is rooted in the constitutional right to due process. As such, it cannot be waived by simply not requesting one. Therefore, the new violations were overturned and an evidentiary hearing was ordered.

WA State Court of Appeals, Division III, No. 34984-5-III State v. Townsend

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