Category Archives: DUI

WA Supreme Court Rules People Can Be Cited for DUI While Driving High

Driving While High | Time

In State v. Fraser, the WA Supreme Court held that people can be cited for DUI for driving while high. The decision upholds the state’s decade-old law regulating marijuana use behind the wheel of a car.

BACKGROUND FACTS

A Washington State Patrol trooper pulled Mr. Fraser after seeing him speeding alone in an HOV lane, changing lanes erratically and cutting off other drivers. When the trooper approached the car, he noticed Fraser was wearing an employee badge from a local cannabis dispensary. The trooper said Fraser was shaking, sweating and had dark circles under his eyes. According to the trooper, Fraser said he had smoked “half a day” earlier but that he no longer felt impaired. After performing several field tests, the trooper arrested Fraser on suspicion of DUI.

A blood test later showed Fraser had a THC blood concentration of 9.4 nanograms per milliliter, with a margin of error of 2.5. That put his THC blood concentration above the state’s 5 ng/ml limit.

Fraser went to trial. He was convicted of DUI.

On appeal, Fraser challenges the constitutionality of the DUI statute. He claimed that the THC limit was not correlated to any real measure of impairment. Therefore, it was arbitrary, vague and unconstitutional. He backed his opinion with testimony from a doctor who said the effect of a given level of THC can vary significantly from person to person.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSION

All nine justices rejected Douglas Fraser’s argument that his 2017 DUI was based on an arbitrary and vague standard for THC levels in the blood. The justices acknowledged that the correlation between THC levels and impairment is challenging to pinpoint. However, they found that blood measurements nevertheless provide a useful and constitutionally acceptable measurement.

“Although this limit may not be perfect in terms of identifying degree of impairment for all individuals, it is reasonably and substantially related to recent consumption, which is related to impairment.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice G. Helen Whitener

And while driving and cannabis use are both legal, neither is a right, the justices said. The impairment caused by 5 ng/ml of THC in the blood may vary. However, the limit serves its purpose by discouraging drivers from taking to the roads after using marijuana.

“The laws aim to deter people who have consumed cannabis from driving when there is a possibility they could be impaired, thus promoting some public interest of highway safety.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice G. Helen Whitener

It’s reasonable to assume the law will continue to do just that, Whitener wrote, and “the highways will be safer because of it.”

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

DUI Emphasis Patrols Start Again At WSU

The Costs Associated With A Houston DUI - Butler Law Firm

The WA State Patrol (WSP) just announced it will conduct DUI emphasis patrols starting March 10-20 as Washington State University (WSU) students travel across the state for Spring Break.  District 4 troopers in Spokane, Whitman and Adams counties and District 6 troopers in Grant and Kittitas counties, will be focusing on speeding to include driving too fast for conditions, distracted/impaired driving and other collision-causing violations during the emphasis.

The press release advises students traveling across the state should make sure to prepare for winter travel conditions.  A small emergency kit with water, food, blankets, winter clothing and emergency flares are a good idea. “Our primary mission is to ensure that everyone travels during Spring Break without incident,” said WSP District 4 Commander Captain Jeff Otis.

Motorists traveling to and from WSU will see an increased WSP presence on State Routes 26 & 195 as well as Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.

“We encourage travelers to pay close attention to posted speed limits and to be prepared for changing road and weather conditions.” ~WA State Patrol

The WSP, WSU, and other state and local officials will be working hard throughout the break to ensure everyone heading to and from Pullman has a safe and enjoyable vacation. WSP public information officers will be updating information throughout the emphasis using the hashtag #BeSafeCougs.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

2021: Deadly for Drivers

Excellent article by journalist David Kroman found that 2021 was the deadliest on Washington roads in 15 years.

Washington for the year saw 540 fatal crashes, which killed more than 600 people, according to data from the Washington State Department of Transportation. Not since 2006 have the numbers been that high. In 118 of the year’s fatal crashes, a bicyclist or pedestrian was killed. An additional 2,411 crashes in 2021 resulted in likely serious injury — also the most since 2006 and 16% more than in 2020.

Alcohol- and drug-influenced serious and fatal crashes remained high in 2021, sustaining a harrowing 25% jump from 2019 to 2020. Speed, too, continued to play an outsized role after climbing nearly 18% in 2020.

Kroman reports that in Seattle, 31 people were killed in car crashes in 2021, according to preliminary data from the Seattle Department of Transportation. That, too, is the most since 2006. Jim Curtain, project development director at SDOT, said 19 of those deaths were pedestrians, and nearly half involved hit-and-runs. The city has also seen a jump in impaired driving, Curtain said.

INTERPRETING THE DATA

Kroman reports that early in the pandemic, reports from state troopers suggested behavior behind the wheel had become more extreme. There was a rise of speed-related crashes and so-called “aggressive drivers.” As the roads emptied, drivers could more easily hit triple digits on their speedometers. Combined with a rise in alcohol and drug use, collisions that may have been moderate in 2019 became serious or deadly in 2020.

As traffic returns, 2021’s picture is less obvious. Speed and distraction are almost certainly at the trend’s core, said Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center at the University of Washington. But there’s another, more nebulous cause that’s even more difficult to track.

“We have a pissed-off society . . . When you are in your big metal box of a car, you have an awful lot of ability to act out your frustrations both with accelerator and brake.” ~Mark Hallenbeck, director of the Washington State Transportation Center

HOW WASHINGTON COMPARES

Washington’s 6% rise in serious and fatal crashes from 2019 to 2020 was close to average for the country that year, which saw a national 7% spike, according to the National Safety Council. Maine, Arkansas and Washington, D.C., experienced the sharpest jumps, each over 30%. Rhode Island saw a 24% increase.

My opinion? The stressors of 2020-21 — isolation, uncertainty, fear — remain. And with them comes an environment still conducive to risk, substance abuse and high speeds. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a DUI, Reckless Driving or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Racial Disparities & Traffic Stops

Black and Latino drivers are searched based on less evidence and are more  likely to be arrested, Stanford researchers find - Los Angeles Times

Excellent article by Nick Bowman of MyNorthwest.com reports on a new study regarding racial disparities in traffic stops. Apparently, the study provides five years of data on traffic stops made by Washington State Patrol. Ultimately, it gives mixed results.

According to Bowman, the study comes courtesy of researchers at Washington State University. It analyzed over 3.4 million traffic stops, 47,000 calls for service, and 175,000 collisions between January of 2015 and December of 2019.

While it says that it found “no evidence for intentional, agency-level racial bias,” it also showed some disparities in racial demographics most likely to be pulled over, cited, and searched. Over the five-year period it pulled data from, 5.7% of all traffic stops involved a Black driver, despite that demographic making up roughly 4.4% of the state’s population.

The highest rate of racial disparities involving Black drivers was seen in Pierce County, comprising 12.7% of traffic stops despite making up 7.7% of the county’s population. That was followed by King County, where Black motorists — comprising 7% of the county’s population — made up 11.5% of traffic stops.

White drivers made up 74.4% of traffic stops statewide, while comprising 78.5% of Washington’s population. Native American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic drivers were stopped by troopers at lower rates compared to their population.

Disproportionate practices were seen among the racial groups most likely to be searched. While Native American, Hispanic, and Black drivers were more likely to be searched than white drivers, so-called “hit rates” — the rate at which searches turned up contraband — were lower among the former group compared to searches of the latter.

“Particularly for Black and Hispanic motorists, searches were less productive (10% difference in contraband found) which may indicate that probable cause standards are lower for searches of these groups,” the study notes.

In terms of traffic citations, “white motorists received the most, but their overall proportion of total citations fell over the five-year period.” Native American and Black drivers were found to be less likely to be cited compared to white drivers, while Asian/Pacific Island and Hispanic drivers were more likely to be cited.

Please review my Search and Seizure Legal Guide. And please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other driving-related crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

 

New Car Tech May Stop DUI

Infrastructure law mandates new technology to prevent drunk driving — here's how it would work - MarketWatch

According to an article in US News, President Biden will sign legislation which has new cars monitor and stop intoxicated drivers. It’s an auto safety mandate aimed at stopping road fatalities included within the $1 trillion infrastructure package.

The technology would roll out in all new vehicles as early as 2026. The Transportation Department must assesses the best form of technology to install in vehicles and give automakers time to comply. For now, the legislation doesn’t specify the technology. It must merely “monitor the performance of a driver of a vehicle to accurately identify whether that driver is impaired.”

In all, about $17 billion is allotted to road safety programs, the biggest increase in such funding in decades.

“It’s monumental,” said Alex Otte, national president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Otte called the package the single most important legislation in the group’s history that marks the beginning of the end of drunk driving. “It will virtually eliminate the No. 1 killer on America’s roads,” she said.

Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported an estimated 20,160 people died in traffic collisions in the first half of 2021, the highest first-half total since 2006. The agency has pointed to speeding, impaired driving and not wearing seatbelts during the coronavirus pandemic as factors behind the spike. Each year, around 10,000 people are killed due to alcohol-related crashes in the U.S., making up nearly 30% of all traffic fatalities, according to NHTSA.

THE NEW TECHNOLOGY

According to the article,  the most likely system to prevent drunken driving is infrared cameras that monitor driver behavior. That technology is already being installed by automakers such as General Motors, BMW and Nissan to track driver attentiveness while using partially automated driver-assist systems.

The cameras make sure a driver is watching the road, and they look for signs of drowsiness, loss of consciousness or impairment. If signs are spotted, the cars will warn the driver.  If the behavior persists, the car would turn on its hazard lights, slow down and pull over.

The voluminous bill also requires automakers to install rear-seat reminders to alert parents if a child is left inadvertently in the back seat, a mandate that could begin by 2025 after NHTSA completes its rulemaking on the issue. Since 1990, about 1,000 children have died from vehicular heatstroke after the highest total in a single year was 54 in 2018, according to Kidsandcars.org.

My opinion? This is an interesting development. is the technology reliable? There’s certainly good argument  over whether the technology could backfire, or prove ineffective in detecting impairment. Is your car searching you by passively monitoring your physical condition? Clearly, there’s Fourth Amendment Search and Seizure issues, involved in this too.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Thanksgiving DUI Patrols

Hosting Thanksgiving? Grocery bill could have you counting your pennies |  WNCT

Thanksgiving Weekend DUI Patrols

The Washington State Patrol (WSP)  issued a press release stating that DUI emphasis patrols are now happening in Pullman as WSU students travel this Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the press release, troopers in Spokane, Whitman, Adams, Grant and Kittitas counties will be focusing on speeding to include driving too fast for conditions, distracted/impaired driving and other collision-causing violations during the emphasis. Motorists traveling to and from WSU will see an increased WSP presence on State Routes 26 & 195 as well as Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.

“We encourage travelers to pay close attention to posted speed limits and to be prepared for changing road and weather/winter driving conditions,” said the press release. “You can find current road and weather conditions on all state highways by going to the website or mobile apps provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).”

Thanksgiving Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2021

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 515 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period. If this estimate holds true, Thanksgiving 2021 will experience the most deaths since 2007. Holidays are traditionally a time of travel for families across the United States. Many choose car travel, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Holidays are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes. Because of the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on social activities, the uncertainty of this year’s estimate is increased. 

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Mapped: Countries by Alcohol Consumption Per Capita

Beautiful Maps on Twitter: "This fascinating map reveals exactly how much # alcohol is consumed in each #country around the #world  https://t.co/5Htqs5p6H4 @TheSun https://t.co/VnABzAmZ6s" / Twitter

Great article in Visual Capitalist by Omri Wallach describes the phenomenon of world-wide alcohol consumption. Alcohol might be one of the oldest and most frequently used recreational substances in the world, but examining countries by alcohol consumption shows that usage is not equal.

Consumption levels, and types of alcohol consumed, vary widely based on location. Furthermore, the availability of fruits and grains used in alcohol production impacts which drinks are more commonly consumed, as does the predominant culture. Some cultures see alcohol consumption as a pleasurable experience, while others see intoxication as a sin.

There’s also the question of economics and availability. It’s strange, but in some regions of the world, industrially mass-produced alcohol can flood markets and become cheaper than other beverages, including water.

When we map alcohol consumption by capita, and by different types of alcohol, these local and cultural stories come to light. The above maps use recorded consumption data from WHO for 2019, in liters of pure alcohol.

EUROPE LEADS IN PER CAPITA ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION

The top 10 countries by alcohol consumption highlight the prominence of alcoholic beverages in European culture.

Eight of the 10 countries with the top alcohol consumption per capita were in Europe. Primarily, they were Eastern and Central European countries, including #2 Latvia, #3 Czech Republic, #4 Lithuania, and #5 Austria.

But the crown of alcohol consumption per capita goes to the Cook Islands, which leads the world with an annual per capita consumption of 13L (3.4 gallons) of alcohol.

Per capita consumption of alcohol also highlights clear regional preferences in amount and type, or a lack of interest.

The biggest consumers of alcohol are countries in Central Europe, the South Pacific, and parts of the Caribbean. In Europe, beer and wine are kings, with most of the top consumers also being top producers such as France and Germany.

Spirits like rum, meanwhile, are dominant in the Cook Islands and much of the Caribbean, which has four of the 12 top spirit consumers. The others are mainly in Eastern Europe and Russia, which get most of their alcohol consumption from vodka.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Exigent Circumstance DUI

William's Wooden Garage (Essex) | Quick-garden.co.uk

In Lange v. California, the United States Supreme Court held that the pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor DUI suspect does not always qualify as an Exigent Circumstance justifying a warrantless entry into a person’s garage.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

One night, the Defendant Mr.  Lange drove by a California highway patrol officer while playing loud music. The officer followed Lange and soon after turned on his overhead lights to signal that Lange should pull over. Rather than stopping, Lange drove a short distance to his driveway and entered his attached garage.

The officer followed Lange into the garage. He questioned Lange and, after observing signs of intoxication, put him through field sobriety tests. A later blood test showed that Lange’s blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit. The State charged Lange with the misdemeanor of DUI.

Lange moved to suppress the evidence obtained after the officer entered his garage, arguing that the warrantless entry violated the Fourth Amendment. The Superior Court denied Lange’s motion, and its appellate division affirmed. The California Court of Appeal also affirmed. It reasoned that the pursuit of a suspected misdemeanant was always permissible under the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. The California Supreme Court denied review. The United States Supreme Court (USSC) granted it.

ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The USSC held that under the Fourth Amendment, pursuit of a fleeing misdemeanor suspect does not always—that is, categorically—justify a warrantless entry into a home.

The Court began by saying the Fourth Amendment ordinarily requires that a law enforcement officer obtain a judicial warrant before entering a home without permission. But an officer may make a warrantless entry when the exigencies of the situation, considered in a case-specific way, create a compelling need for official action and no time to secure a warrant. The Court has found that such exigent circumstances may exist when an officer must act to prevent imminent injury, the destruction of evidence, or a suspect’s escape.

The Court reasoned that misdemeanors run the gamut of seriousness, and they may be minor. States tend to apply the misdemeanor label to less violent and less dangerous crimes. Furthermore, it reasoned that when a minor offense (and no flight) is involved, police officers do not usually face the kind of emergency that can justify a warrantless home entry.

“Add a suspect’s flight and the calculus changes—but not enough to justify a categorical rule,” said the Court. It further reasoned that in many cases, flight creates a need for police to act swiftly. But no evidence suggests that every case of misdemeanor flight creates such a need.

“When the totality of circumstances shows an emergency—a need to act before it is possible to get a warrant—the police may act without waiting. Those circumstances include the flight itself. But pursuit of a misdemeanant does not trigger a categorical rule allowing a warrantless home entry.” ~United States Supreme Court.

The Court followed up by saying In short, the common law did not have — and does not support — a categorical rule allowing warrantless home entry when a suspected misdemeanant flees.  With that, the Court vacated Mr. Lange’s criminal conviction.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a DUI or any other crime involving search and seizure issues. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Women Are Reportedly Drinking More During COVID Pandemic

Doctors are seeing a rise in alcoholic liver disease in the last year, especially among people under 40 and especially women.

Excellent article by reporter Yuki Noguchi of NPR describes how cases of alcoholic liver disease — which includes milder fatty liver and the permanent scarring of cirrhosis, as well as alcoholic hepatitis — are up 30% over the last year at the University of Michigan’s health system, says Dr. Jessica Mellinger, a liver specialist there.

More startling, the increase disproportionally impacts young women.

Alcoholic liver disease often takes years to manifest. But it can become a threat for women more quickly because their bodies process alcohol somewhat differently than men’s.

So why the increased drinking? The reasons are clear.

Noguchi reports that women have borne the brunt of many new pressures of pandemic life, from virtual school and increased responsibilities at home, even as ads and pop culture have continued to validate the idea of drinking to cope: Mommy Juice, Rosé All Day, Wine Down Wednesdays. On top of that, eating disorders and underlying trauma from physical or sexual violence often add fuel to the fire, fanned by social isolation.

Just the sheer amount of trauma is really, really tragic,” said psychiatrist Dr. Scott Winder, a clinical associate professor at the University of Michigan who treats patients with alcoholic liver disease.

As stay-at-home orders began in some US states as a mitigation strategy for COVID-19 transmission, Nielsen IQ reported a 54% increase in national sales of alcohol for the week ending March 21, 2020, compared with 1 year before; online sales increased 262% from 2019.1 Three weeks later, the World Health Organization warned that alcohol use during the pandemic may potentially exacerbate health concerns and risk-taking behaviors.

Please contact my office if you a friend or family face alcohol related charges like DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

WA: Bad State to Drive

New Jersey - We Live In The 8th Worst State To Drive In

Apparently, Washington is one of the nation’s worst states to drive in, according to a new study released Tuesday.

The study, by personal finance website WalletHub, found that Washington ranks as the third-worst state for drivers, thanks mainly to steep gas prices, high rates of car theft, poor overall road quality, traffic congestion and other factors.

The only states with a worse rating than Washington are California and Hawaii, the report found. The best state for drivers is Texas, followed by Indiana at No. 2 and North Carolina at No. 3, according to the analysis.

The study arrived at the rankings by comparing all 50 states across 31 key metrics, such as traffic congestion, gas prices, auto maintenance costs, car theft rate and number of days with precipitation.

Specifically, the analysis found that Washington has the third-highest gas prices in the nation, the eighth-worst roads and ninth-highest car theft rate.

The only categories in which Washington was rated above average were its overall safety ranking, the number of car dealerships per capita and the number of auto repair shops per capita. The study also found that traffic congestion costs U.S. drivers $88 billion per year and wastes 99 hours of their time.

It’s also heartening to officials with Washington State Patrol and the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which are among the agencies working toward Target Zero, a statewide effort to eliminate all fatal and serious injury traffic incidents by 2030. Critics of strict enforcement of speed limits charge that the link between speed and safety is exaggerated because of biases embedded in data collection and inaccuracies found in some police reporting on accidents.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a driving-related crime like Distracted Driving, Reckless Driving, Vehicular Assault, DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.