Monthly Archives: November 2013

Winter DUI Emphasis Patrols to Begin Again

Be aware, all . . .

All along the I-5 corridor from Canada to Mexico, law enforcement agencies begin emphasis enforcement beginning on Wednesday November 27, 2013.

http://duienforcers.camp7.org/Default.aspx?pageId=1142680&mode=PostView&bmi=1444365

The goal is to prevent even a single death on I-5 during the Thanksgiving weekend.   To that end, Washington, Oregon, and California law enforcement are combining forces this week to keep the road safe from impaired drivers.  Spread the word!

More DUI Drivers Are Testing Positive for Marijuana

According to new data released from the Washington State Patrol, more drivers have been testing positive for marijuana since Washington legalized the drug last year.

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/11/22/3331209/more-drivers-testing-positive.html

In the first six months of 2013, 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically, there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year. But this doesn’t necessarily mean there’s been a rash of people driving high, says patrol spokesman Bob Calkins. Well, then what’s the reason?

“We’re testing blood we didn’t test before,” he said.

In addition, the overall number of impaired-driving cases handled by the patrol doesn’t appear to have risen this year, and should be on track to hit the rough annual average of 20,000 – which could mean some people are using marijuana instead of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, Calkins said.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/11/22/3331209/more-drivers-testing-positive.html#storylink=cpy

Last year, Washington and Colorado voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana by adults over 21. Both states have set a legal limit of 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood for drivers; anything above that is a per se violation of impaired driving laws, similar to blowing 0.08 or above on an alcohol breath test. The violation is generally a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail — and at least one day in custody for a first offense.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/11/22/3331209/more-drivers-testing-positive.html#storylink=cpy

Of the 745 people who tested positive for marijuana in the first half of this year, the State Patrol says a slight majority tested above the legal limit. The exact number: 420. It’s a curious coincidence, since “420” is an old slang term for marijuana.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2013/11/22/3331209/more-drivers-testing-positive.html#storylink=cpy

My opinion? If they can, they will. Meaning, if the police can test your for blood for marijuana, they will. As I predicted in earlier blogs, the passage of I-502 gives police more search authority. If police think you’re high, they’ll request a blood test. If you refuse, they’ll get a warrant for your blood and/or enter a “Refusal” DUI.

The data is predictable. What I’m seeing happen, unfortunately, is the police seeking blood tests on my clients who are not smoking marijuana. Making matters worse, I’m seeing judges impose Ignition Interlock Devices as a condition of pretrial release, and before clients are convicted of ANYTHING!

There’s something wrong with that. Just saying.

State v. Quaale: Mistrials Happen When Police Officers Offer Opinion Testimony

The WA Court of Appeals wrote an excellent opinion on the issue of whether a defendant’s right to a fair trial was violated when the Prosecutor invited objectionable testimony from the officer.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/pdf/309339.opn.pdf

The defendant was charged with Eluding police and DUI. At trial, the Trooper  was asked to describe the extent of his experience, explain the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus and the procedure for testing it, and tell the jury about his administration of the test to the defendant. The prosecutor also asked, “In this case, based on the HGN test alone, did you form an opinion based on your training and experience as to whether or not the defendant’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired?”

Rightfully, the defendant’s lawyer immediately objected that the Trooper was being asked to provide an opinion on the ultimate issue determining guilt. The objection was overruled. The Trooper answered, “Absolutely. There was no doubt he was impaired.”

The Court of Appeals reasoned that impermissible testimony regarding the defendant’s guilt may be reversible error because such evidence violates the defendant’s constitutional right to a jury trial, which includes independent determination of the facts by the jury. Here, and even where expert testimony is helpful to the jury, it is unnecessary for a witness to express belief that certain facts or findings lead to a conclusion of guilt. Opinion testimony should be avoided if the information can be presented in such a way that the jury can draw its own conclusions.

 My opinion? The defense attorney was very smart to object to the Officer’s opinion testimony and preserve the issue for appeal. Opinion testimony should NEVER be allowed at trial. The State’s witnesses – including officers – may only testify to their observations. They are not expert witnesses who can offer opinions.

Before trial, I routinely draft and argue motions in limine expressly requesting the judge to instruct the Prosecutor to not ask questions instructing witnesses/officers to provide opinion testimony. These motions strengthen a standing objection and help preserve legal issues for appeal when they are violated. Great opinion.

The Brass Tacks Part II: Increased Penalties for DUI if Child Under 16 In Vehicle

Here’s a summary of more changes that went into effect on September 28, 2013 regarding our ever-increasing and ever-punitive DUI laws. The changes included changes to RCW 46.61.5055 that increase DUI penalties if there was a passenger under 16 in the car. There’s also an increase in mandatory jail for repeat offenders. Here is what is NOW subsection 6 of RCW 46.61.5055: 

 

(6) If a person who is convicted of a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 committed the offense while a passenger under the age of sixteen was in the vehicle, the court shall:

 

(a) Order the use of an ignition interlock or other device for an additional six months;

 

(b) In any case in which the person has no prior offenses within seven years, and except as provided in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), order an additional twenty-four hours of imprisonment and a fine of not less than one thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars. One thousand dollars of the fine may not be suspended unless the court finds the offender to be indigent;

 

(c) In any case in which the person has one prior offense within seven years, and except as provided in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), order an additional five days of imprisonment and a fine of not less than two thousand dollars and not more than five thousand dollars. One thousand dollars of the fine may not be suspended unless the court finds the offender to be indigent;

 

(d) In any case in which the person has two or three prior offenses within seven years, and except as provided in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), order an additional ten days of imprisonment and a fine of not less than three thousand dollars and not more than ten thousand dollars. One thousand dollars of the fine may not be suspended unless the court finds the offender to be indigent.

 

RCW § 46.61.5055 (6).

 

My opinion? The passage of I-502 has simultaneously loosened Washington’s Drug Laws and enhanced Washington’s DUI laws. Period.

The Brass Tacks: A Look at How Courts Are Automatically Imposing Ignition Interlock Devices ASAP

Recently, a client hired me to represent him on a new DUI charge. Unfortunately, this client already has a prior DUI conviction within 7 years. We met at my office. He showed me his paperwork – arraignment dates, property seizures, BAC ticket, etc. – and also showed me a document I haven’t yet seen in my years of practice.

It was a Court Order signed by the judge titled, “IGNITION INTERLOCK RULES.”

I knew I’d eventually see this document, sooner or later. Under the recent passage of RCW 46.20.740 and RCW 46.20.385 the COURTS – and NOT the DOL – shall order any person convicted of an alcohol-related violation to apply for an ignition interlock driver’s license and to have a functioning ignition interlock device installed on all motor vehicles operated by the person. The court may also order the installation of an interlock device for a driver that is convicted of Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving within 7 years of an alcohol related driving offense. An ignition interlock may be required for Reckless or Negligent drivers without a prior DUI conviction. Finally, under the law, an ignition interlock device will be required for any driver convicted of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.

This document was proof that the Courts are diligently following the passage of these laws. It read the following, ver batim:

* The defendant shall not operate a motor vehicle unless the defendant has a valid driver’s license and insurance;

* Once the defendant has a valid driver’s license and insurance, the defendant shall only operate a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock breath alcohol device while on pretrial;

* The defendant shall have an ignition interlock breath alcohol device installed by a Washington State Patrol certified ignition interlock breath alcohol device vendor on any motor vehicle the defendant will operate;

* The defendant shall bear the cost of installation and maintenance of the ignition interlock breath alcohol device and show proof of installation of the ignition interlock to the court;

* Any ignition interlock breath alcohol device installed pursuant to this order shall be monitored by the installer, and a report filed with the court every sixty (60) days;

* The defendant shall not adjust, tamper with, remove, or circumvent – (1) any ignition interlock breath alcohol device, (2) the wiring of any ignition interlock breath alcohol device, or (3) the ignition system of any vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock breath alcohol device. Any violation or tampering must be reported to the court by the ignition interlock breath alcohol device vendor, and;

* The ignition interlock breath alcohol device shall have the following minimum settings:

– Fail level .02;

– Warn Level of .02

– Hum is required;

– Retests are required;

– Horn is required;

– 3 maximum violations;

– 72 hour grace period.

My opinion? Although I understand the need for community safety, it appears these new requirements are unconstitutional and overbearing in some cases. The government assumes people are guilty before they even go to trial. Indeed, this particular client showed NO signs of alcohol intoxication in his police reports. Police contacted him because someone complained of his driving. After pulling him over, the police had no proof whatsoever that he was under the influence of alcohol, and instead believed he was under the influence of drugs. It’s going to take WEEKS to get his blood test back. In the meantime, he must drive around with an Ignition Interlock Device on his vehicle. Unfair.

If you’re facing a similar situation please contact a qualified attorney. I, for one, look forward to fighting this case tooth and nail and removing the Ignition Interlock Device from my client’s vehicle!