Tag Archives: Mount Vernon Criminal Defense Attorney

Pandemic Crisis Created a Blueprint to Courts in the Future

As Courts Restore Operations, COVID-19 Creates a New Normal | United States  Courts

According to a press release, Washington courts proved during the pandemic they can adapt quickly to new technologies and methods when the need is urgent. In doing so, they also opened a door to building a more accessible and responsive court system.

That is a key conclusion of the Board for Judicial Administration’s Court Recovery Task Force. The Task Force issued its final report after two years of work coordinating emergency actions to keep courts operating safely. The report, “Re-Imagining Our Courts: Pandemic Response and Recovery Lead Courts Into the Future,” compiles the information gathered, the lessons learned, and the task force’s recommendations to the judicial branch on how to maintain the responsiveness and expanded access it forged out of necessity.

“We commit to not going back to business as usual, but instead to incorporate the important lessons we learned together,” wrote Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven González in the report. Justice González served as co-chair of the Task Force with King County Superior Court Judge Judith Ramseyer and Olympia Municipal Court Judge Scott Ahlf.

Some common adaptations adopted during the pandemic included expanded electronic filing and use of electronic signatures, extensive use of remote video technology to conduct proceedings rather than requiring participants to appear in person, adjusting procedures to allow attorneys to take more actions for their clients, providing access to technology for those who lacked it, and much more. Many court rules permitting temporary measures are set to expire, but “a number of these emergency rules proved so effective they were recommended for permanent implementation,” according to the report.

The Task Force was convened in May 2020 by then-Chief Justice Debra Stephens to “share experiences and coordinate responses to the fluid and devastating situation we faced,” according to the report. Shortly after this, a racial justice movement surged nationwide in response to the killing of George Floyd, and Task Force members agreed that a racial justice lens should be used in considering responses and innovations. The Task Force also established Guiding Principles to guide their work and their recommendations.

Experts from throughout the courts, system partners, and community members were recruited to provide insight into needs and potential responses. These experts divided into 11 committees that created such tools as templates for virtual dependency proceedings, facility checklists for off-site safety, best practices for virtual discovery, alternative dispute resolution and pre-trial processes, a virtual court directory with online links to remote hearings, technology principles for the courts, best practices for court websites that are intuitive for users, and more.

In working together to transform court operations and services during the pandemic, “we used our experiences to overcome the daunting challenges we faced,” wrote the Task Force co-chairs in their introduction to the report. “Thankfully, this process also informed a blueprint for our courts to keep evolving into the most efficient, respectful, and just legal system we can become. As usual, from crisis comes opportunity.”

After sharing experiences, actions, and findings of the past two years, the Task Force recommended that courts of the future will:

  • Embrace positive change;
  • Communicate and collaborate with justice partners and local leaders, using the expanded input that led to many effective solutions during the pandemic;
  • Use technology to promote access and efficiency – “Unquestionably, technological advancements offer access to courts and efficiencies never imagined when many Washington courthouses were constructed.”
  • Gather feedback from court users, share findings, and use the information to adapt;
  • Implement new practices and procedures through a racial justice lens;
  • Prioritize the health, safety, and morale of the court work force;
  • Plan for emergencies;
  • Actively work with local and state governments to guarantee stable funding.

The Task Force also listed unfinished work that should be actively pursued such as addressing case backlogs, uniform access to technology for courts, universal broadband for court users, confronting and dismantling institutional racism, and gathering and disseminating meaningful data on use of essential court services.

My opinion? I’m proud that our Washington court systems pivoted so effectively. Still our access to justice is only as good as the means of access possessed by the people it serves. Zoom hearings were an excellent way to conduct court.  Most courts pivoted to conducting motion and evidentiary hearings via Zoom. This platform allowed attorneys to teleconference for meetings, mediations and depositions.

However,  actual court hearings via Zoom presented unique challenges. An estimated 42 million Americans live beyond the reach of broadband service. Also, older people may be unable or unwilling to master videoconferencing technology.  Many criminal defendants are impoverished. They don’t have access to the internet. And many other defendants are illiterate or non-English speakers and cannot navigate these platforms.

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.

WA State Cracks Down on Organized Retail Theft

What is Organized Retail Crime

King5 News reports that the Organized Retail Crime Theft Task Force was recently formed. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says the Task Force will focus on sophisticated, organized crime rings and work to stop them.

According to the Retail Industry Leaders Association, organized theft cost Washington’s retailers around $2.7 billion last year.

Given the magnitude of losses, State Attorney General Bob Ferguson says it’s vital that multiple agencies and retailers work together because organized retail theft is simply too big for one organization to take on alone.

“No one retail store, no one prosecutor, no one attorney general, no one US Attorney can solve the problem. It’s just way too big. I found in my experience, from working with other task forces and other contexts, that sharing of information helps with enforcement, helps with prevention, raises the profile of the issue, and gets folks in the room to make sure we go after the bad guys, hold them accountable, and the provide the resources we need to help retailers and small businesses who’re dealing with these challenges.” ~State Attorney General Bob Ferguson

Organized crime could look like three men coordinating an early morning break-in, or it could occur on a smaller scale, like at the downtown Seattle Target, where police arrested a man after he stole alcohol 22 times over the course of a few days.

However, one of the biggest concerns of the task force is stolen baby formula, which is then resold on secondary sites like Amazon and becomes a risk for parents.

“That means that parents who unwittingly buy stolen formula on the secondary market may be putting their babies at significant risk if the thieves, for example, fail to store the product at the appropriate temperatures, or if the thieves manipulated the packaging, such as exchanging the expiration date,” Ferguson said.

He said the task force hopes to have an immediate impact statewide.

“We’re all stepping up to address what really is a true crisis in our state (and) … has significant implications for businesses and for the people of our state,” said Ferguson.

In Washington, Organized Retail Theft is a Class C Felony. Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with Theft or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Lawsuit: Washington State Patrol Misused Breathalyzer Tests, Misconstrued Readings

Datto Lawsuit: Ex-Employee Took Trade Secrets to ConnectWise

A recently filed lawsuit claims that the Washington State Patrol official responsible for ensuring the consistency and reliability of breath-test machines violated the rights of drunk driving suspects who later had their licenses revoked.

I discussed this in an earlier blog where a panel of District Court judges had already found breath machine results inadmissible in all Kitsap County cases. The four District Court judges tossed the breath machine results in all drunken-driving cases before the court. The judges also found that Fiona Couper, the WA State Patrol Forensics Lab, “submitted false or misleading testimony by declaration in tens of thousands of cases.” About 81,000 people were tested over the past decade.

THE LAWSUIT

The lawsuit was filed by David LaCross on behalf of plaintiff Nicholas Kori Solis, 29, of Bremerton. The respondent is Ms. Couper. The lawsuit claims that Ms. Couper filed false statements vouching for the legality of the machines and “deprived the plaintiff of due process.”

The lawsuit specifically criticizes Washington’s procedures for revoking drunk driving suspects’ licenses. This process is administrative, not criminal, and the breath test results are admitted to prove the driver was impaired to allow the state to revoke their driver’s license. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money for damages, among other remedies.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Solis was arrested March 19 by a State Patrol trooper who observed him driving 88 mph on Highway 3. In addition to signs of impairment, the trooper tested Solis using the Dräger breath test machine. The machine found Solis had a blood alcohol content reading of about .10. Solis was charged with DUI in Kitsap County District Court. He pleaded not guilty and entered a diversion agreement with prosecutors.

LEGAL ISSUE

The legal issue is whether Washington’s BAC machine accurately processed the results of breath tests. The state limit for blood alcohol content is .08. As the machines perform the required calculations, however, they produce results that contain more than two digits.

State law says the numbers are to be “rounded” but instead the software had been “truncating” them, or cutting off the numbers at a certain decimal point, a fact the judges found Couper knew or should have known.

The practical results of truncation vs. rounding can actually benefit defendants – as rounding a number could result in it increasing and showing a person was perhaps more intoxicated, something that cannot happen when the numbers are simply cut off.

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.

Where You Live May Determine Whether You Get Stuck in Jail Before Trial

Plunge in Pretrial Jail Detention Follows Bail Reforms in New Jersey

Excellent article by discusses a recent movement by legal professionals to release more defendants from jail while they await trial. These advocates, judges and public defenders in Washington pushing argue that alternative measures such as drug and alcohol testing, electronic home monitoring, and referrals to behavioral health treatment can help lift those accused of crimes out of the legal system.

Law enforcement and prosecutors are slow to embrace the idea. They fear that people released from jail while awaiting trial will commit more crimes in the community.

According to the article, the availability and cost of these pretrial services in Washington depends heavily on where an alleged crime occurs.

Many rural counties in Eastern Washington and along the Olympic Peninsula don’t have a pretrial services program at all, filling their jails with defendants awaiting trial. Among those that do have such programs, most jurisdictions contacted by InvestigateWest require the accused to pay fees associated with their pretrial release — a barrier that disproportionately punishes poorer defendants and prevents some from being released from jail.

It’s what Ali Hohman, director of legal services for the nonprofit Washington Defender Association (WDA), calls “justice by geography.”

“Where you’re at in the state will dictate your bail amount, and it will dictate your ability to access pretrial services.” ~Ali Hohman, Director of WDA

Right now, Washington gives local control to jurisdictions to attempt their own reforms. Yakima County in 2016 began releasing low-risk offenders while providing pretrial services, and a study on the program found similar results to what New Jersey found: More people were released, there was less racial disparity in those kept in jail, and most did not go on to commit new crimes.

Other jurisdictions don’t have the resources to create those programs. Several years ago, the Legislature commissioned a task force to examine the issue. It released a report in 2019 that found gaps in the availability of pretrial services, most notably that 21 counties had no pretrial service programs at all.

Even where pretrial services existed, jails were still filled with people awaiting trial. Nationwide, two-thirds of all local jail inmates were awaiting trial, according to federal statistics, and Black and Native American people were jailed at much higher rates than white people. But in Washington’s largest counties, pretrial defendants in 2019 made up an even larger portion of the jail population. More than three-quarters of people in jails in King, Pierce and Spokane counties were there for a crime they hadn’t been convicted of, indicating pretrial reform efforts were still in early stages.

Those figures have been dramatically altered during the pandemic, with jails releasing defendants to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. King County, for instance, has mostly stopped jailing people accused of misdemeanors. Seattle and King County have since seen a small increase in crime, particularly violent crime, but those are trends in line with the rest of the country.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Making bail and hiring a 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.

Jail: A Good Place to Die

Wrongful Deaths in Prison

 A new report by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics finds more than 200 people have died by suicide in Washington and Oregon jails since 2000. This puts the Northwest states above the national average for jail suicides, according to

From 2000 to 2019, the average rate of suicide in jails nationally was 43 per 100,000 inmates. By contrast, Oregon’s jail suicide rate during that same time period was 48 per 100,000. In Washington it was 57 per 100,000.

In Oregon, the study found, the jail suicide rate leapt up to 70 per 100,000 from 2015 to 2019. Washington logged its highest rate, 79 per 100,000, during the 2010 to 2014 timeframe.

Among Western states, Arizona and California reported the lowest rates of jail suicides during the same time period.

Nationally, suicide accounted for 24 percent to 35 percent of deaths in local jails between 2001 and 2019, the report said. In 2019, nearly 30 percent of U.S. jail deaths were due to suicide. The peak came in 2015 when the suicide rate in U.S. jails reached 52 per 100,000 inmates. But overall, the national rate of suicide in jails was mostly unchanged in 2019 as compared to 2000.

Here are some other findings:

  • Nationwide, white inmates were five times more likely to die by suicide in jail than Black inmates, and 3.5 times more likely than Hispanic inmates.
  • Most jail suicides happened within the first 30 days of a person being behind bars.
  • Hanging or strangulation was the most common manner of death.
  • Nearly 77 percent of the people who died by suicide in U.S. jails had not been convicted. Jails are the entry point to the criminal justice system and often hold individuals who are awaiting trial.

The quality of health care in jails can also vary greatly despite the fact jails house some of the most complex and vulnerable people in society, including those with acute mental health and substance use disorders.

In Oregon, jails must adhere to a set of statewide standards and are subject to outside inspection. By contrast, Washington jails are required to develop their own standards to ensure the health, welfare and safety of inmates.

This year, Washington enacted a law that requires jail officials to conduct a fatality review anytime a person in custody dies unexpectedly. Those reviews must be completed within 120 days and be posted to a public website maintained by the state Department of Health.

My opinion? Jail is a dangerous place. Please read my Legal Guides titled, Quash Your Bench Warrant and Making Bail and  contact my office if your friends or family are jailed. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

LGBTQ Training for Police

No Cops at Pride”: How the Criminal Justice System Harms LGBTQ People | Urban Institute

Great article in NBC News by reporter Finbarr Toesland says police departments across the U.S. are mandating LGBTQ training. Some departments are doing so voluntarily, while others are being required to do so following lawsuits.

According to Toesland, there’s growing reports of police allegedly using excessive force against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. There have also been numerous incidents in which LGBTQ individuals said members of law enforcement made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to news reports, lawsuits and academic studies.

These incidents — along with the historically fraught relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community — have led a growing number of police departments across the country to introduce LGBTQ awareness and cultural competency training for their officers. With trainings found from Washington, D.C., to Palo Alto, California, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; rather, departments are crafting programs that take into consideration their specific communities.

Toesland explains that throughout much of modern U.S. history, police officers were bound to enforce explicitly anti-gay laws. They ranged from local measures outlawing men from “impersonating a female” to the widespread criminalization of same-sex sexual activity. In fact, it wasn’t until the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas that gay sex was decriminalized throughout the country.

THE REPORTS, SURVEYS & STUDIES

  • A 2015 report highlights the numerous surveys, court cases and academic studies that document the alleged discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people by law enforcement.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found 58 percent of trans respondents who said they interacted with police in the previous year alleged they had been harassed by law enforcement. The survey also found 57 percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable contacting police for help.
  • A study published in June in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found 43 percent of Black sexual minority men experienced police discrimination in the past year. This unequal treatment had a range of negative effects on this community, including high levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Another study published by the Williams Institute in May that found lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people are six times more likely than the general public to be stopped by police (data about transgender individuals were not available in the datasets analyzed).

THE NEED FOR TRAINING

Toesland explains that a number of law enforcement departments have proactively decided to add LGBTQ programs to their arsenal of training courses. In fact, the largest local police departments in the U.S. —  New York CityChicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and Washington, D.C. — all offer some form of LGBTQ training.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington — the sixth largest local police department in the U.S. — has been offering LGBTQ training since 2000, though it expanded its curriculum in 2015. Sgt. Nicole Brown, who has been a supervisor for the department’s LGBT liaison unit for the past three years, said her department was the first in the nation to offer such training.

California became the first state to introduce mandatory training on sexual orientation and gender identity for incoming police officers, after former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2504 into law in late 2018. The bill requires new recruits to undertake training in five unique areas, including understanding the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and how these aspects of identity intersect with race, culture and religion, as well as learning appropriate terminology around sexual orientation and gender identity.

My opinion? The increase in LGBTQ-specific police training is a positive step forward. Not only can training help the LGBTQ community, but it can help police departments do their job better, especially those that are really invested in community policing. These trainings can really help get to a place where LGBTQ communities feel comfortable working with law enforcement, and actually enable police to do their jobs better and more safely.

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

Has Crime Increased?

Despite Crime Rate Decrease, Majority of Americans Think It Is Increasing

Very interesting article from freelance reporter Robert Cherry of The Hill.  It posits that although many individuals have benefitted from justifiable changes in bail and sentencing, crime has also increased.

Hill reports that in 2020, Philadelphia homicides totaled 499 — 40 percent above the previous year and just below a peak number of 500 in 1990, when the city’s population was virtually the same as today. And through July, Philadelphia is on pace to break its homicide record.

Also according to Hill, in January 2021 alone, there were 59 car-jackings, up from 18 at the same time last year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department — a more than threefold increase. There were 404 car-jackings in 2020, up from 225 in 2019 and 230 in 2018, according to the department.

A similar dynamic occurred in Chicago. As reported in 2018, Car-jackings have nearly tripled since 2015, with an increasing share committed by juveniles, thanks to a law exempting young carjackers from adult penalties.

Has crime increased?

Yes, according the U.S Department of Justice. It released a report stating that crime increased significantly in 2020. And according to an article from CNN, major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year. The reasons?  The Coronavirus Pandemic, protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsing are all factors.

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.

As Lumber Prices Increase, Theft May Follow

Deputies arrested a man on June 1 who they say tried to steal 32 pieces of lumber, worth more than $2,300, from a Shoreline lumber yard. (Courtesy of the King County Sheriff’s Office)

Interesting article by reporter of the Seattle Times reports that the increase in lumber prices have more than tripled over the past year. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before thieves took note, said the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Earlier this month, deputies arrested a man trying to get away with more than $2,300 worth of wood from a locked lumber yard, the sheriff’s office said Thursday in a Facebook post.

“We’ve seen this with copper prices a number of years ago,” King County sheriff Sgt. Tim Meyers told KING 5. “We saw this with catalytic converter thefts as those minerals spiked, and our concern is that lumber thefts are going to be the new catalytic converter thefts as thieves try to profit in this spike in cost.”

Catalytic converters, however, don’t usually require a truck to cart away.

According to the article, on June 1, an employee of Dunn Lumber on North 185th Street in Shoreline called dispatchers around 3:30 a.m. The employee was watching a live camera feed of the lumber yard, where a suspect could be seen taking 32 pieces of lumber from the locked space and stacking them up near an entry point where a Dodge Durango sat waiting, police said. The man was arrested and booked into the King County Jail for investigation of commercial burglary.

As lumber prices hit all-time highs, theft seems to be on the rise – and not just in Washington. In early May, a Texas man was arrested for stealing an amount of lumber greater than $500 but less than $20,000. In April, Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture warned landowners to secure their properties as lumber thefts are rising in the state. On May 21, 144 sheets of plywood – valued at over $10,000 – were stolen from a job site in Florida. 

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

U.S. Prison Trends

Mass Incarceration, Then and Now | The New Yorker

The Sentencing Project devised a fact sheet which provides a compilation of major developments in the criminal justice system over the past several decades. Some highlights are as follows:

  • Mass Incarceration – The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years.
  • Drug Policy – At the federal level, people incarcerated on a drug conviction make up nearly half the prison population. At the state level, the number of people in prison for drug offenses has increased nine-fold since 1980, although it has begun declining in recent years.
  • Racial Disparities – Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Latinos are 2.5 times as likely. For Black men in their thirties, about 1 in every 12 is in prison or jail on any given day.
  • Youth – Although youth detention populations are declining, youth of
    color enter the system much more frequently than white youth and are more likely to be sentenced to harsher terms of punishment. In addition, young people are transferred to the adult system each year and tried as if they were adults, and many are sent to adult prisons and jails to serve their sentences.
  • Felony Disenfranchisement – As of 2020, 5.2 million Americans were unable to vote due to state felony disenfranchisement policies.
  • Life Sentences – The number of people serving life sentences endures even while serious, violent crime has been declining for the past 20 years. This population has nearly quintupled since 1984. One in seven people in prison are serving life with parole, life without parole, or virtual life (50 years or more).

The Sentencing Project is a non-profit agency that promotes effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

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.