Monthly Archives: August 2015

“Studies” Show Pot-Related Accidents Doubled from 2013-2014

 

 

Newly released data from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) shows that marijuana is increasing as a factor in deadly crashes. The number of marijuana-impaired drivers involved in accidents has nearly doubled at a 48% increase from 2013 to 2014.

“We have seen marijuana involvement in fatal crashes remain steady over the years, and then it just spiked in 2014,” said Dr. Staci Hoff, WTSC Data and Research Director.

Also , Julie Furlong of the WTSC said 60% of the drivers involved in fatal or deadly crashes between 2010 and 2014 were tested for drugs. Of those tested, about 20% were positive for pot. These figures match those of previous years, they remained about the same year after year.

New testing and new analytics are now allowing the WTSC to determine specific THC levels at the time the driver is tested following an incident or crash. It’s called “active THC,” or enough to impair the driver’s coordination and judgement.  According to the WTSC, less than half of drivers who tested positive for pot in 2010 had active TCH. However, that number increased to 65% in 2013, and skyrocketed to 85% in 2014.

Dr.Staci Hoff, Data and Research Director for the Commission, says that simply means 85% of the drivers involved in deadly-fatal collisions in 2014 who had pot in their system were actually high at the time of the accident.

Young men between the ages of 21-25 have seen the greatest jump,  with over a 66% increase.

Some argue these facts show that since the legalization of marijuana in Washington state, we now face a potential epidemic of impaired drivers who are high behind the wheel. As a consequence, the National Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign is gaining momentum. From now through Labor Day, extra law enforcement officers are patrolling areas and locations where DUI is a problem.

Over 100 law enforcement agencies including all districts of the Washington State Patrol will be teaming up and participating in the extra patrols all across the state. These extra patrols are all part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030.

My opinion?

First, only 60% of fatal car crash victims were tested for drugs. Without understanding how this 60% was arrived at, we run the risk of a data selection bias.

Second, if 20% of the group tested positive for marijuana then this only reflects the actual percentage of cannabis users in the state; which, by itself, is not a very convincing argument of anything.

Third, we need more data. You can’t jump to conclusions based on data that’s too new. It needs more time to be compared against other factors. We don’t hear anything else about possible confounding factors to this data, which also raises serious suspicions. However even this admission whittles marijuana as the sole culprit down to maximum of 10% of all fatal crashes.

Fourth, the data comes on the heels of new DUI emphasis patrols. Sounds like a media spin to me.

Finally, what we really need to know is how many fatal accidents occurred solely for users of marijuana over the limit. This number would be the best indication of a causal relationship if confounding factors were accounted for and the sample size was unbiased.

State v. Gauthier: The “Washout” Rule for Felony Convictions

 

Many clients approach me on the question of when prior felony convictions “Washout” from a Defendant’s offender scores. The recent case of State v. Gauthier is a good place to answer that question.

In Gauthier, the WA Court of Appeals Division I decided (1) the prosecutor’s closing arguments were fair,  (2) Gauthier received effective assistance of counsel, and (3) trial court properly calculated Gauthier’s offender score.

At trial, Mr. Gauthier was found guilty of Rape in the Second Degree. On appeal, he argued that the trial court improperly calculated his offender score by failing to recognize that his prior convictions “washed out” pursuant to RCW 9.94A.525(2)(c).

Some background is necessary. Under the “washout” provision, RCW 9.94A.535(2)(c), prior “Class C” felony convictions are excluded in a defendant’s offender score if, since the last date of release from confinement pursuant to a felony conviction or entry of the judgment and sentence, the offender spent five consecutive years “in the community” without committing any crime that subsequently results in a conviction.

In Gauthier’s case, he had five prior class C felony convictions. His last release date happened in June 2007. However, he did not remain crime free for five years. He was charged with the Rape Second Degree on March 13, 2009, and taken into custody to the King County Correctional Facility on July 23, 2010. There, he remained through his first trial on May 2011 which resulted in a conviction. He was subsequently sentenced on July 8, 2011. Consequently, the sentencing court properly calculated his offender score as a five (5) based on his five prior class C felony convictions.

Furthermore, at his sentencing on February 14, 2014, Gauthier argued that his five prior class C felonies should not be included in his offender score because he spent 43 months in custody before he was convicted again on the present offense. He claimed that under the “washout” statute, the “in the community” phrase includes the 43 months he spent in custody on this offense, thus his offender score is zero not five. The sentencing court rejected this argument, calculated his offender score as five, and sentenced him to 120 months with credit for all time served back to July 2010, the date he was first arrested.

Here, and similar to the trial court, the WA Court of Appeals rejected Gauthier’s arguments and also rejected Gauthier’s reliance on State v. Ervin, a somewhat recent case where the WA Supreme Court decided in favor of the defendant James Erwin’s arguments  that his 17 days of custody did not interrupt the requisite  5-year washout period:

“We have found no case, and Gauthier cites to none, where Ervin’s limited holding was applied to time spent in confinement while awaiting resolution of a felony charge. That is the precise circumstance present here. As the State correctly points out, Gauthier’s interpretation creates an absurd scenario—a defendant’s offender score will actually go down while he is in custody pending trial or pending sentencing. Indeed, that is an absurd result and a result we are confident the legislature did not intend.”

Simply put, if Gauthier had remained in the community for five years after June 2007 and remained crime free for those five years, his prior class C felony convictions would not count in his offender score after June 2012. It would have “washed out” under RCW 9.94A.535(2)(c). However, Gauthier’s 43 months in custody rendered hopeless any arguments that his priors would wash out.

The Court of Appeals upheld affirmed the trial court’s Judgment & Sentence and sentenced him to 120 months of prison.

State v. Afeworki: “Band It” Restraint Is Constitutional

In State v. Afeworki, the WA Court of Appeals Division I held, among other rulings, that a “Band It” prisoner restraint system worn by the Defendant during trial does not violate the Constitutional right to a fair trial or the presumption of innocence.

The Defendant Tomas Afeworki was charged with Murder in the First Degree. During pretrial proceedings, he experienced significant and ongoing conflict with each of his several attorneys. On the eve of trial, Afeworki repeatedly threatened his attorney, who was permitted to withdraw as a result. Afeworki was, thereafter, required to represent himself. He was found guilty.

On appeal, Afeworki contends that this deprived him of his right to counsel. After threatening his attorney, Afeworki was also required to wear a “Band It” physical security restraint, not visible to observers, while in the courtroom. Afeworki argues that wearing the “Band It” violated his right to a fair trial.

The court reasoned that under State v. Finch, a defendant in a criminal case is entitled to appear at trial free from all bonds or shackles except in extraordinary circumstances. This is to ensure that the defendant receives a fair and impartial trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution and the Washington State Constitution.”

In short, restraining a defendant during trial infringes upon this right to a fair trial for several reasons: (1)it violates a defendant’s presumption of innocence, (2) it restricts the defendant’s ability to assist his counsel during trial, (3) it interferes with the right to testify in one’s own behalf, and (4) it offends the dignity of the judicial process.

Washington case law also says that, given the constitutional implications of using restraints in a criminal trial, shackles or other restraining devices should only be used when necessary to prevent injury to those in the courtroom, to prevent disorderly conduct at trial, or to prevent an escape. That said, a trial court has broad discretion to determine which security measures are necessary to maintain decorum in the courtroom and to protect the safety of its occupants.

A trial court may consider the following factors in determining whether the use of restraints is justified: the seriousness of the present charge against the defendant, their temperament and character, age, physical attributes, past record, past escapes or attempted escapes, evidence of a present plan to escape, threats to harm others or cause a disturbance, self-destructive tendencies, the risk of mob violence or of attempted revenge by others, the possibility of rescue by other offenders still at large, the size and the mood of the audience, the nature and physical security of the courtroom and the adequacy and availability of alternative remedies.

The court described the “Band-It” restraint system as a device that essentially as a 50,000-volt taser contained in a band that is worn under a sleeve or pant leg. Unlike most restraints, which are either visible to jurors or readily perceived by jurors, the Band-It is not visible when the wearer is clothed. Also, unlike other restraints, the Band-It does not in any way directly constrain the wearer’s movements. In fact, the Band-It can cause a wearer’s movements to be constrained only when it is activated.

Here, reasoned the court, the Band-It restraint system does not implicate the presumption of innocence because it is not visible to observers. Moreover, it does not implicate the defendant’s right to the assistance of counsel because it does not physically constrain a defendant’s movements. Finally, the defendant’s antics, aggressive behavior and threats to his defense counsel justified the trail judge’s reasons for making the defendant wear the device:

“The court thereby fashioned a comprehensive order that protected both Afeworki’s constitutional rights and the safety of the people present in the courtroom for his trial. The trial court’s decision was reasonable. There was no error.”

“Drive Sober Or Get Pulled Over” DUI Campaign

Annual 'Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over' National Law Enforcement Crackdown on Drunk Driving from August 21 – September 7, 2015

Today, the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission (NHTSA) launched its annual “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” law enforcement crackdown on drunk driving. The crackdown involves more than 10,000 law enforcement agencies across the country that will be out in force through Labor Day zeroing in on drunk drivers, with zero tolerance for drivers caught with a BAC of .08 or higher – the legal limit.

The crackdown runs from August 21 to September 7, 2015, and is supported by $13.5 million in national advertising funds from NHTSA.

“Drunk driving is deadly, it’s against the law, and despite years of progress, it’s still a problem,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “With the help of law enforcement around the country, we’re getting the word out– if you’ve been drinking, don’t drive, because if you do, you will be stopped, you will be arrested and you will be prosecuted.”

While the number of drunk drivers on the road has been sharply reduced, motorists are still at risk for encountering someone driving drunk at any time of day. That risk rises exponentially between the hours of 6 p.m. and 5:59 a.m. During the Labor Day period in 2013, half of all the fatalities at night involved drunk drivers, as compared to 14 percent during the day.

“Targeted enforcement campaigns are an essential element in our strategy to save lives and reduce crashes, and they have helped sharply reduce the number of drunk drivers on our roads,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind. “But too many drivers continue to risk their lives and the lives of others by getting behind the wheel drunk. Our message is clear: drive sober, or get pulled over.”

Most Strict & Most Lenient States For DUIs

Here’s a new and interesting study: Which states are the toughest on DUI? WalletHub compared the enforcement rules in all 50 states and D.C. to find out.

Most Strict Most Lenient
1-      Arizona 1-      South Dakota
2-      Alaska 2-      District of Columbia
3-      Connecticut 3-      Pennsylvania
4-      West Virginia 4-      North Dakota
5-      Kansas 5-      Maryland
6-      Nebraska 6-      Montana
7-      Utah 7-      Wisconsin
8-      Virginia 8-      Kentucky
9-      Washington 9-      Vermont
9-      Georgia 10-   Ohio
9-      Delaware 10-   New Jersey

Here’s more raw data:

  • First time offenders should expect to spend, on average, a minimum 1 day in jail, while those who are at their second offense should expect at least 21 days in jail.
  • Arizona has the longest minimum jail term for first time offenders (a minimum of 10 days), while West Virginia has the longest minimum sentence for second time offenders (180 days).
  • In 37 states, alcohol abuse assessment and/or treatment is mandatory, and in 39, local law enforcement regularly sets up sobriety checkpoints.
  • On average expect to have your license suspended for at least 3 months after being stopped for a DUI – even before trial – as most states “administratively” suspend licenses after arrest. Georgia will suspend a license for the longest period (up to 12 months), while 7 states do not have administrative license suspensions.
  • After a first arrest with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or more, an “ignition Interlock device” is mandatory in 24 states. In another 14 states, this device is mandatory after a first offense only if BAC is above .15. In 7 states, these devices are mandatory only after a second offense, and in 6 states the device is never required.
  • Red states are stricter on DUIs, with an average ranking of 23.0, compared to 28.2 for blue states (1 = Strictest).

Washington State ranked #9 among the Top 10.

The Methodology used was interesting. WalletHub examined 15 key metrics to evaluate which states are strictest and which are most lenient for DUI offenses. Each variable is weighted so that the toughest ones, like jail sentences, and those shown to have the biggest impact on repeat offenders, like ignition interlock devices, are weighted more heavily. The metrics used and the weight given to them are detailed below:

Criminal Penalties:

  1. A) Minimum jail time (for 1st offense, minimum sentence only)
  • 10 days and over (10 points)
  • 8 – 9 days (8 points)
  • 6 -7 days (6 points)
  • 4 – 5 days (4 points)
  • 2 – 3 days (2 points)
  • 0 – 1 day (0 points)

              B) Minimum jail time (for 2nd offense, minimum sentence only)

  • 60 days and over (7 points)
  • 50 – 59 days (6 points)
  • 40 – 49 days (5 points)
  • 30 – 39 days (4 points)
  • 20 – 29 days (3 points)
  • 10 – 19 days (1 point)
  • Under 10 days (0 points)

2. When is DUI automatically considered a felony?

  • 2nd offense (5 points)
  • 3rd offense (4 points)
  • 4th offense (2 points)
  • 5th offense (1 point)
  • Never (0 points)

3. How long does a previous DUI factor into penalties for a new DUI?

  • More than 12 years (4 points)
  • 12 years (3 points)
  • 10 years (2 points)
  • 7 years (1 point)
  • Under 7 years (0 points)

4. Are there additional penalties for high BAC?

  • Over 0.10 (3 points)
  • Over 0.15 (2 points)
  • Over 0.16 or higher (1 point)
  • No (0 points)

5. A) Minimum fine (for 1st offense, minimum sentence only)

  • $1000 and over (3 points)
  • $600 – $999 (2 points)
  • $200 – $599 (1 point)
  • Under $200 (0 points)

      B) Minimum fine (for 2nd offense, minimum sentence only)

  • $2000 and over (2 points)
  • $1200 – $1999 (1 point)
  • $400 – $1199 (0.5 points)
  • Under $400 (0 points)

6. Protection against child endangerment

  • Yes (1 point)
  • No (0 points)

         Prevention:

7. When is an ignition interlock mandatory?

  • 1st conviction with 0.08 BAC (5 points)
  • 1st conviction with 0.15 BAC (4 points)
  • 2nd conviction (2 points)
  • Not mandatory (0 points)

8. Is there an “administrative” license suspension after arrest (and before conviction)?

  • 6 months or more (4 points)
  • 3-6 months (3 points)
  • Less than 3 months (1 point)
  • No (0 points)

9. How long is ignition interlock mandatory?

  • 6 months or more (3 points)
  • 3-6 months (2 points)
  • Ignition Interlock period determined by court (1 point)

10. Is alcohol abuse assessment and/or treatment mandatory?

  • Yes (2 points)
  • No (0 points)

11. Vehicle Impound After Arrest

  • Yes (2 points)
  • No (0 points)

12. Average insurance rate increase after DUI.

  • 100% or more increased cost (1 point)
  • Above 75% increase in cost (0.75 points)
  • Above 50% increase in cost (0.50 points)
  • Above 25% increase in cost (0.25 points)
  • Under 25% increase in cost (0 points)

13. “No-refusal” initiative for rapid search warrants for sobriety testing

  • Yes (1 point)
  • No (0 points)

14. Sobriety checkpoints?

Yes (1 point) No (0 points)

15. Other penalties

  • If a state has any other penalties (1 point)
  • No other penalties (0 points)

Total: 55 points.

The Overall Rank was determined by how many points each state accumulated. The highest score – for the strictest state, which was Arizona – was ranked 1.

The data is interesting to interpret. The study said that since the 1980s, when states first began to crack down on drunk driving, the rate of impaired driving and the number of accidents caused by drunk drivers has dropped considerably. This has meant many saved lives, as drunk driving fatalities declined 52 percent from 1982 to 2013.

The study also mentioned some of this change was attributed to evolving social attitudes. Also, new, tougher penalties for those caught driving under the influence have also had an impact, especially in reducing the number of repeat violators. For example, almost half the states now require all convicted DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicles they will be driving. These devices analyze the driver’s breath and won’t permit the car to start if alcohol is detected. The study mentioned that the federal government estimates that these devices have reduced re-arrest rates of DUI offenders by 67 percent.

My opinion? The constant lobbying from groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Highway Traffic Safety Institute have driven legislators to enact tougher laws of the the years.

State v. Rhoden: Illegal 2-Step Confession Violates Miranda

In State v. Rhoden, the WA Court of Appeals Division II held that the trial court failed to suppress Mr. Rhoden’s statements made to police during an improper two- step interrogation procedure.

The facts were such that on February 26, 2013, the Pierce County Sheriff’ s Department served a search warrant on a residence in Puyallup. Five occupants of the residence, including Rhoden, were handcuffed.

Two interrogations happened. The first interview happened when Deputy Olesen questioned the handcuffed occupants in the living room of the home. Importantly, he failed to advise the suspects of their constitutional rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 ( 1966).

For those who don’t know Miranda warnings (often abbreviated to “Miranda“, or “Mirandizing” a suspect) is the name of the formal warning that is required to be given by police in the United States to criminal suspects in police custody (or in a custodial situation) before they are interrogated, in accordance with the Miranda ruling. Its purpose is to ensure the accused are aware of, and reminded of, various rights under the U.S. Constitution, and that they know they can invoke them at any time during the interview.

At any rate, Mr. Rhoden told Deputy Olesen there were drugs and a gun in the bedroom.  At that point, Deputy Olesen then escorted Rhoden to the kitchen and questioned him a second time and after finally advising Rhoden of his Miranda rights.

During the post –Miranda second interview, Deputy Olesen asked Rhoden the same questions that he had asked Rhoden in the living room before giving the Miranda warnings.

Mr. Rhoden said there was about a gram of methamphetamine located in the dresser on the left side of his bed and that he had been smoking methamphetamine for approximately the last two to three months. During a search, officers found several items in a dresser, including ( 1) small baggies containing a substance later tested and confirmed to contain methamphetamine, (2) an electronic scale, ( 3) glass smoking devices, and (4) documents containing Rhoden’ s name and the address of the residence being searched.

 

Rhoden was charged with one count of Unlawful Possession of a Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine) under RCW 69.50.401. Before trial, the trial court conducted a CrR 3. 5 hearing to determine the admissibility of Rhoden’ s statements to police.

The trial court held that Rhoden’ s pre-Miranda statements to police were not admissible at trial and that his post -Miranda statements to police were admissible at trial. At trial, the jury found Rhoden guilty of the charges. Mr. Rhoden appealed his conviction.

The Legal Issue

 

On appeal, the legal issue was whether the Miranda warnings given to Rhoden during the second interrogation were effective to inform Mr. Rhoden of his Fifth Amendment right to keep silent when he had just provided the same incriminating information in the first interrogation for which he was not given Miranda warnings.

The Rule: Missouri v. Seibert

The court looked to Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600, 604- 06, 124 S. Ct. 2601, 159 L. Ed. 2d 643 ( 2004) for guidance. In that case, the United States Supreme Court held that Miranda warnings were ineffective to inform the defendant of their right against self-incrimination in circumstances similar to these. As here, the warnings in Seibert were given only after the suspect had confessed during a custodial interrogation without Miranda warnings.

The Seibert Test

After reviewing Missouri v. Seibert, the court discussed the Seibert est. First, if a court determines that the use of the two- step interrogation procedure was deliberate, it then must ” determine, based on objective evidence, whether the midstream warning adequately and effectively apprised the suspect that he had a “genuine choice whether to follow up on his earlier admission.”

In making this determination, courts may consider whether any curative measures were taken to insure the suspect’ s understanding of his or her Miranda rights. Such curative measures may include a significant break in time and place between the pre- and post –Miranda questioning or an additional warning that the suspect’ s pre –Miranda statements could not be used against the suspect in a subsequent criminal prosecution.

The court compared the Missouri v. Seibert case to Mr. Rhoden’s facts. It reasoned that similar to Rhoden’s situation, the interrogating officers in Seibert questioned the defendant without Miranda warnings yet later gave Miranda warnings in a second interview before obtaining the suspect’ s confession without a significant break in time or place and without measures to assure the suspect that her non-Mirandized statements could not be used against her in a subsequent criminal prosecution.

Applying Seibert to the Facts

The Court then applied the two-part Seibert test the facts at hand. It reasoned that here, the police deliberately used the two- step interrogation procedure. During the initial interrogation in the living room before giving Miranda rights, Olesen asked the five handcuffed suspects whether there were any drugs in the home, and Rhoden admitted that he had a small quantity of methamphetamine in his bedroom. After completing his questioning of the group in the living room, Olesen escorted Rhoden to the kitchen, read Rhoden his Miranda rights, and repeated the same questions he had asked in the living room, to which Rhoden answered consistently with his responses given before receiving the Miranda warnings. Thus, reasoned the court, the objective evidence of “the timing, setting and completeness of the pre-warning interrogation, the continuity of police personnel and the overlapping content of the pre and postwarning statements” all support the conclusion that the two- step interrogation procedure used here was deliberate.

The court applied the second inquiry, which examined the effectiveness of the midstream Miranda warnings. In this inquiry, the question was whether any curative measures were present, such as a significant break in time and place between the pre- and post -Miranda questioning or an additional warning that the suspect’ s pre –Miranda statements could not be used against the suspect in a subsequent criminal prosecution.

Here, the evidence at the CrR 3. 5 hearing showed that there was not a significant break in time or place between the pre- and post -Miranda interrogation. Perhaps more importantly, the evidence also showed that Olesen did not take any additional measures to insure that Rhoden understood his Miranda rights, such as advising him that his pre –Miranda statements could not be used against him. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred by failing to suppress Rhoden’ s post –Miranda statements.

Failure to Suppress Rhoden’s Statements Was Not Harmless Error

Finally, the Court of Appeals decided that the trial court’s decision to not suppress Rhoden’s statements was not harmless error. It reasoned that constitutional error is harmless if the appellate court is convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that any reasonable jury would have reached the same result in the absence of the error. Here,  and under the circumstances, the Court of Appeals reasoned that it could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that any reasonable jury would have reached the same guilty finding absent evidence of Rhoden’ s challenged admissions.

My opinion? Excellent decision. The Court of Appeals acknowledged the subtle – and unlawful – “2-Part Inquiry” of the arresting officer in this case. This technique is commonly used by law enforcement to unlawfully obtain statements from defendants and simultaneously circumvent Miranda. Good work, Court of Appeals!

 

Distracted Driving Crashes Worse Than Previously Suspected

Other reports found that Smartphone technology increased the use of cellphones by drivers beyond basic calls and texts -- including Social Media and GPS applications.

Car crashes are the leading cause of death for American teenagers, but a new study suggests a far bigger problem.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which released a 2012 study using statistics based on police reports, previously estimated that teen distracted driving constituted 14 percent of all collisions. That study showed that teen drivers were distracted almost a quarter of the time they were behind the wheel.  Electronic devices, such as texting, emails, and downloading music, were among the biggest distractions, accounting for 7% of the distractions identified on the study video.

However, a study released in March by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety which used live footage instead of police reports. Their latest study on distracted driving found a 400 percent increase and concluded that distraction was a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes. AAA analyzed the six seconds leading up to a crash in nearly 1,700 videos of teen drivers taken from in-vehicle cameras they knew were in their cars.

Teen Driver Distraction Crashes Infographic

My opinion? Eventually, “Distracted Driving” will be criminalized. It took decades for statistics on fatal drunken driving crashes to translate into tougher DWI laws. I’m sure that advocates for strict laws against cellphone use by drivers encounter the same detached attitude today.

Drunk Driving Data Rates By State

Drunk woman holding an alcoholic drink and sleeping with her head on the table

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a survey across people in the United States, asking how many times in the last 30 days they drove after admittedly consuming too much alcohol.

Apparently, people who live in Hawaii are the likeliest of those of any state to drive drunk. Mid-westerners also have high rates of drunk driving, according to a new report of drunk driving rates in the United States.

Age and gender played a role as well. Men were responsible for four out of five of the drunk driving incidents, based on the survey data, and people between ages 21 and 34 were much likelier than other age groups to drive while intoxicated, according to the survey data. In fact, men in that age group, who make up just 11 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for nearly a third of the drunk driving incidents.

People who reported driving drunk also reported other types of risky behaviors, such as Binge drinking and not always wearing seat belts. About 85 percent of those who drive drunk also binge drink, and those who didn’t always buckle up reported driving drunk three times as often as those who always wore their seat belts, according to the report.

For more information, see which States have the highest drunk-driving rates.

Bellingham Police Get Software to Map Crime Patterns

This screen-grab is a sample interactive map that shows criminal activity in the downtown Seattle area. Bellingham is buying similar Predictive Policing Software.

According to the Bellingham Herald, the Bellingham Police Department plans to buy “Predictive Policing Software” that will map crime patterns in the city and help officers decide where to patrol.

For those who don’t know, “Predictive Policing Software” is computer technology which uses advanced mathematics and algorithms to predict the times, locations and “types” of many crimes in any given jurisdiction. Police agencies can use this software to predict property crimes, drug incidents, gang activity, and gun violence, as well as traffic accidents.

The software, by Bair Analytics, will help compile reports currently put together by the department’s current crime analyst, who plans to retire soon.

According to the Bellingham Herald, officers currently use similarly compiled crime information to help detect criminal patterns and choose where they should focus their efforts. For example, if a series of home break-ins has been reported in a specific neighborhood, and officers see that similar methods were used to get into the homes, they start looking at what days and times those crimes happened to try to prevent another or catch the criminal in the act.

“A few years back we had a long series of rooftop burglaries and it took a while to catch the guys that were doing it,” Vander Yacht said. “We had to figure out the best times and places for them to do that.”

 

The software also allows interested citizens to sign up for alerts and view an interactive map of criminal activity in their area. The information included on the map is somewhat limited to protect the privacy of victims.

The map, which can be found at raidsonline.com, currently shows information for 15 Washington cities, including Seattle, Richland and Pasco. RAIDS stands for Regional Analysis and Information Data Sharing.

My opinion? Interesting technology. I don’t see if it violates people’s Constitutional Rights or infringes on their privacy. There shouldn’t be any problem with the implementation of this technology as long as the information does not target a particular individual.

Still, one gets a sense that Big Brother is getting better at watching us . . .

Bellingham is buying predictive policing software that will map crime patterns in the city and help officers decide where to patrol. The software, by Blair Analytics, will essentially replace the Bellingham Police Department’s current crime analyst.

State v. Strange: Was the Jury “Tainted” or Impartial?

In State v. Strange, the WA Court of Appeals Division II decided the defendant’s right to a fair and impartial jury was not violated by a prospective jurors’ statements concerning their own prior experiences with child molestation.

Here, defendant George Strange was accused of Child Molestation Second Degree and Voyeurism. from 2011 to 2013, Strange lived with his wife and his wife’ s children, who are juveniles. Here, juvenile J.M. was 12 years old when Strange allegedly fondled her breasts one night. He explained he was giving her a breast examination.

During jury selection, the court and attorneys asked the prospective jurors about their personal experiences with child molestation. Although most of the jurors had no personal experience with child molestation, almost one-third of the jurors knew someone who was either a victim or had been charged with child molestation. In response to the court’ s questioning, juror no. 54 stated,

JUROR: “Um — what I said before, like, I know people that I know. Like it’ s not an easy accusation to make. Like, it is hard for people (inaudible). It’ s like if accusations were made there’ s something behind that . . . I don’ t — like, I don’t have a ton of experience but it has just been my experience people don’ t make that accusation, you know, for no reason. Like, I feel like if an accusation was made there had to be something that had happened.”

Juror no. 54 was excused for unrelated hardship reasons.

During trial, other witnesses testified to Strange’s odd behavior around J.M. Additionally, the State played a recorded video of Strange being interviewed by a police detective who commented on Strange’s behavior during the interview. Finally, Strange did not call any witnesses nor did he testify. At the end of trial, Strange was found guilty on all counts.

On appeal, Strange argued that his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury was violated because of prospective jurors’ statements concerning their own prior experiences with child molestation, either in their families or among friends or acquaintances, which tainted the entire jury venire.

The court rejected Strange’s arguments. It reasoned that article I, § 22 of the Washington Constitution guarantees a criminal defendant the right to a fair trial by unbiased jurors.” Also, the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution also guarantees the right to a fair trial by impartial jurors. Here, no prospective juror professed any expertise about sexual abuse cases. Therefore, there is no concern about a prospective juror with more credible, authoritative knowledge tainting the rest of the jury pool.

Second, most jurors were merely questioned about their experiences with child molestation and asked if they could remain impartial. Some jurors admitted to a potential bias, most said they could apply the court’ s instructions impartially, and two prospective jurors asked for individual voir dire, preferring not to talk about their experiences in front of the rest of the jury pool. Consequently, the Court of Appeals decided that Strange received a fair trial by an impartial jury.

Finally, the court rejected Strange’s argument that his defense attorney was ineffective because he failed to object to the admission of Strange’s recorded interview with police. The court reasoned that because defense counsel’s failure to object was a legitimate trial tactic, it cannot be said that Strange’ s trial counsel’ s performance was deficient. Therefore, his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel fails. The decision of Strange’s attorney to not play the video was a legitimate trial tactic, and did not amount to ineffective assistance of counsel.

My opinion? Oftentimes, during jury selection, prospective jurors say things out loud which may appear to discredit the defendant, especially when the charges are particularly galvanizing. A defense attorney must be cautious in proceeding with these jurors. A good technique is to ask the juror to extrapolate “what they mean” if the juror says they have difficulty being objective, and/or if the juror says the defendant “must be guilty of something.” The attorney can strike the juror for cause because the juror could be biased against the defendant.

Still, it’s difficult to “unring the bell,” so to speak, when a prospective juror says controversial things which may hurt the defendant’s chances at trial if the rest of the jury pool believes that juror’s statements. This is the essence of “tainting the jury,” which is reversible error and should be avoided at all costs. In response, another good tactic is to inquire if other potential jurors feel the same as the juror who aired their grievances. Find someone shaking their head “No.” Ask them why. Chances are, they’ll say something about giving the defendant a fair trial, or presumption of innocence, or something like that. Test the waters. Guide the jurors back toward their oath that they MUST presume the defendant not guilty throughout trial. Remind them that if they serve as jurors, they’re under oath to withhold their personal biases and reserve judgment until after hearing all of the evidence.