Tag Archives: Mount Vernon Criminal Defense

Cannabis Advocates: Biden is Missing an Opportunity Legalize Marijuana

Why Joe Biden's Marijuana Move Is a Midterm 'No Brainer'

The Hill reports that President Biden is missing an opportunity to sway young voters with his reluctance to take bigger steps to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

While campaigning for the White House in 2020, Biden said, “No one should be in jail because of marijuana. As President, I will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions.”

Cannabis advocates say the Biden administration has opened several avenues for marijuana reform. These include issuing federal pardons for simple possession and starting the process of potentially rescheduling marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act from Schedule I to Schedule III.

But those measures have failed to excite advocates. They now say Biden is falling short of his 2020 campaign promises and failing to address the disparate overcriminalization of the drug that has unduly impacted minority communities. Progressive lawmakers in the Senate are urging the administration to go further and completely deschedule the drug. Legalization it would effectively decriminalize it at the federal level, as opposed to rescheduling it.

“Marijuana’s placement in the Controlled Substances Act] has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion,” 12 Democratic lawmakers wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last month.

IS THERE POLITICAL WILL TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA?

Public opinion is strongly in favor of marijuana legalization. A Gallup poll from November found a record 70 percent of Americans believed marijuana should be legal.

More recent polling from Lake Research Partners backs up public support for federal marijuana reform, with 58 percent supporting a rescheduling to Schedule III, compared to 19 percent who opposed the move.

“It’s a really strong issue with some constituencies that Democrats really need to increase their support and enthusiasm, specifically young people, African Americans, Democratic base voters, people of color, young men of color,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist who serves as president of Lake Research Partners.

Hayley Matz Meadvin, Executive Vice President of Communications at Precision Strategies and a former Biden administration staffer, noted the “supermajority of support” behind marijuana legalization could help Biden lure in voters across the political spectrum.

“This is a popular issue that motivates voters, and it doesn’t just motivate — it clearly just doesn’t motivate exclusively Democrats. And that will be critical this fall.” ~Hayley Matz Meadvin, Executive Vice President of Communications at Precision Strategies

THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

Biden and Trump, his likely 2024 rival, are polling neck and neck both nationally and in key swing states. The election could come down to a few thousand voters in those states, potentially giving niche issues such marijuana added importance.

Advocates say his actions so far fall short of that promise. And they said he may struggle to clearly communicate any progress on marijuana reform, especially as some actions are left unfinished; the DEA has yet to issue its decision on rescheduling marijuana, and the federal pardons issued last year could not apply to state-level convictions, though Biden has encouraged governors to follow his lead.

While marijuana reform may not be among the issues expected to dominate the 2024 elections, strategists note that smaller issues frequently break through the noise during election cycles.  Perhaps substantial marijuana reform action from Biden would signal to voters he is a “modern president” and could make a difference in states including Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. As of now, possessing marijuana is still a federal crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Animal Cruelty Bill Heads to the Senate

Craven County homeowners charged with animal cruelty after 42 dogs removed, two euthanized | WNCT

On Monday, the Washington House of Representatives passed a proposed bill that would increase penalties for animal cruelty cases. The bill would elevate the punishment for first-degree animal cruelty. The bill passed 95 to 1. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration. State Representative Sam Low, a Republican representing the 39th legislative district, is sponsoring the bill.

“Elevating to a ranked crime would add it to the sentencing guidelines grid, creating consistency for the judges and prosecuting attorneys,” Low said.

“Inconsistency in sentencing only benefits abusers. House Bill 1961 would establish a clear legal framework for these horrific cases, ensuring those who inflict suffering on defenseless animals face consequences that reflect the severity of their crimes . . . Washington state should always stand for justice and compassion for all living beings. Through this bill, we have an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless and deter future acts of cruelty. I am grateful for today’s vote and look forward to seeing the same outcome in the Senate.” ~State Representative Sam Low

The proposed legislation would enhance first-degree animal cruelty to a ranked felony. Ranked felony offenses have a seriousness level assigned to them. In short, higher-ranked offenses bring more serious consequences. These levels range from Level 1 (lowest level) to Level 16 (highest level). For a Level 1 offense, for someone with an offender score of zero, their standard range is 0-2 months, if convicted of the offense. By comparison, a Level 7 felony offense for someone with an offender score of zero, is facing a standard sentencing range of 15-20 months.

Surprisingly, animal cruelty is a complex phenomenon. It involves a multitude of different situational factors, motives, and other potential cause. The most frequently reported forms of animal cruelty are related to neglect. Denial of food, water, and veterinary care occurs in many cases. The most common forms of animal cruelty are the restriction of movement, insufficient food or water, abandonment, neglect, lack of veterinary care, and assault. There is no single type of companion animal cruelty offense, nor is there one typical type of companion animal cruelty offender.

There are, however, defenses to lower-level  charges. For example, it is a defense to a charge of second degree animal cruelty that the defendant’s failure was due to economic distress beyond the defendant’s control. This can happen if the animal’s owner is  indigent, impoverished and/or simply cannot afford to care for the animal.

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.

“Lustful Disposition” Evidence Held Inadmissible Under ER 404(b)

Inadmissible Evidence (Broadway, Sam S. Shubert Theatre, 1965) | Playbill

In State v. Bartch, the WA Court of Appeals reversed a defendant’s conviction for Indecent Liberties. The trial court mistakenly admitted evidence or prior advances made by the defendant towards the victim a year before the charged sexual assault under ER 404.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In 2018, the alleged victim S.P. and Mr. Bartch were among a group that socialized together several times during the summer. S.P. and Bartch privately communicated every now and then through Snapchat. On one occasion, S.P. sent Bartch a Snapchat of herself sunbathing in a swimsuit with a message asking if he was still with a mutual friend, with the intent of making plans for the evening.

On June 26, 2018, S.P. attended a gathering at Bartch’s house with common friends. Alcohol was involved. Sexual contact allegedly took place. With the assistance of friends, S.P. departed Bartch’s house and reported the alleged sexual assault to police.

Months later, on May 8, 2019, the State charged Bartch with one count of Indecent Liberties. This required the State to prove that S.P. was “incapable of consent by reason of being mentally incapacitated and physically helpless.” Bartch, on the other hand, argued S.P. consented to sexual contact both through flirtatious behavior leading up to the sexual contact in the bedroom, and by expressly consenting.

At trial, the State offered evidence of two prior instances in which Bartch made sexual advances towards S.P. First, the State put on evidence that Bartch made unwanted sexual advances during a party in 2017. Second, later the same night, when the party was “toning down,” Bartch asked S.P. if she wanted to “sleep with him.” S.P. again declined.

At trial, the judge admitted evidence of these other acts under Washington’s “lustful disposition” case law. The jury returned a guilty verdict. Bartch appealed his conviction on grounds that the trial court unlawfully allowed the lustful disposition evidence at trial.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals said that generally, ER 404(b) prohibits evidence of “other crimes, wrongs, or acts” to prove the character of a person to show the person acted in conformity with that character, that is, propensity.

“But the rule permits evidence of other acts for purposes other than propensity,” said the Court. “Historically, one such purpose was to show “lustful disposition” towards a specific person in sexual assault cases.”

The Court elaborated by saying that Washington decisions have permitted evidence of other acts by the defendant toward the same victim “to demonstrate ‘the lustful inclination of the defendant toward the victim. Apparently, this evidence makes it more probable that the defendant committed the offense charged because it evidences a sexual desire for the particular victim.

Ultimately, the Court of Appeals reasoned that Bartch’s prior advances were dissimilar to the charged conduct and too remote in time. “They are at most only minimally probative that the later conduct that was charged was for the purpose of gratifying sexual desire, and in the best case only cumulatively so,” said the Court.

“The history and nature of the relationship between S.P. and Bartch therefore had a reasonable probability of being of particular significance to the jury. Because the other acts evidence was inadmissible for the purpose for which it was admitted, the State does not show an other, permissible purpose, and there is a reasonable probability the outcome may have been affected, we reverse Bartch’s conviction.” ~WA Court of Appeals

With that, Mr. Bartch’s criminal conviction was reversed.

My opinion? As I’ve said in past reviews of similar cases, it’s difficult to predict what path judges will take on admitting or denying evidence of “lustful disposition.” This term of art has all but been abandoned in recent years. In  State v. Crossgunsthe WA Supreme Court disapproved of the prosecution’s use of the term “lustful disposition” at trial.

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.

AI Facial Recognition Tech Leads to Mistaken Identity Arrests

Facial recognition fails on race, government study says - BBC News

Interesting article by Sudhin Thanawala and the Associated Press describes lawsuits filed on the misuse of facial recognition technology by law enforcement. The lawsuits come as Facial Recognition Technology and its potential risks are under scrutiny. Experts warn about Artificial Intelligence (AI’s) tendency toward errors and bias.

Numerous black plaintiffs claim they were misidentified by facial recognition technology and then wrongly arrested. Three of those lawsuits, including one by a woman who was eight months pregnant and accused of a carjacking, are against Detroit police.

The lawsuits accuse law enforcement of false arrest, malicious prosecution and negligence. They also allege Detroit police engaged “in a pattern of racial discrimination of (Woodruff) and other Black citizens by using facial recognition technology practices proven to misidentify Black citizens at a higher rate than others in violation of the equal protection guaranteed by” Michigan’s 1976 civil rights act.

WHAT IS FACIAL RECOGNITION TECHNOLOGY?

The technology allows law enforcement agencies to feed images from video surveillance into software that can search government databases or social media for a possible match. Critics say it results in a higher rate of misidentification of people of color than of white people. Supporters say it has been vital in catching drug dealers, solving killings and missing persons cases and identifying and rescuing human trafficking victims. They also contend the vast majority of images that are scoured are criminal mugshots, not driver’s license photos or random pictures of individuals.

Still, some states and cities have limited its use.

“The use of this technology by law enforcement, even if standards and protocols are in place, has grave civil liberty and privacy concerns . . . And that’s to say nothing about the reliability of the technology itself.” ~Sam Starks, a senior attorney with The Cochran Firm in Atlanta.

FALSE ARRESTS BASED ON INACCURATE IDENTIFICATIONS FROM AI CAN SUPPORT A DEFENSE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

My opinion? AI should be abandoned if the technology incorrectly identifies perpetrators. As a matter of law, the prosecution must prove the identity of the perpetrator of an alleged crime.

According to the jury instructions on Mistaken Identity, in determining the weight to be given to eyewitness identification testimony, jurors may consider other factors that bear on the accuracy of the identification. These may include:

  • The witness’s capacity for observation, recall and identification;
  • The opportunity of the witness to observe the alleged criminal act and the perpetrator of that act;
  • The emotional state of the witness at the time of the observation;
  • The witness’s ability, following the observation, to provide a description of the perpetrator of the act;
  • The witness’s familiarity or lack of familiarity with people of the perceived race or ethnicity of the perpetrator of the act;
  • The period of time between the alleged criminal act and the witness’s identification;
  • The extent to which any outside influences or circumstances may have affected the witness’s impressions or recollection; and
  • Any other factor relevant to this question.

But what happens when the “eyewitness identifier” is, in fact, AI technology?

At trial, the defense should procure an expert witness who’d testify on the inaccuracies of AI technology. That’s an appropriate route to challenging the credibility of this “witness.”

Please review my Search & Seizure Legal Guide and contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime involving AI. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Organized Retail Theft On the Rise

Organized retail crime wave must be stopped | Fox News

Journalist Nathan Bomey for Axios.com wrote an article reporting that people aren’t paying retailers for merchandise. The data suggests that the scale and complexity of Organized Retail Theft schemes seems to be on the rise.

WHAT IS ORGANIZED RETAIL THEFT?

Organized retail crime (ORC) is the large-scale theft of retail merchandise with the intent to resell the items for financial gain. ORC typically involves a criminal enterprise employing a group of individuals who steal large quantities of merchandise from a number of stores and a fencing operation that converts the stolen goods into cash. Stolen items can be sold through online auction sites, at flea markets and even to other retailers.

In addition to targeting stores, ORC gangs engage in cargo theft activities. They also commit other frauds such as using stolen or cloned credit cards to obtain merchandise, changing bar codes to pay lower prices, and returning stolen merchandise to obtain cash or gift cards. ORC is distinct from ordinary shoplifting committed by individuals seeking goods for personal use.

In April, the National Retail Federation reported that retailers experienced a 26.5% increase in organized retail theft incidents in 2021.

“Organized retail theft schemes typically involve careful planning and deliberate targeting, while perpetrators have specialized roles, including inventory management, marketing and sales fulfillment.” ~National Retail Federation

 Retailers are already grappling with an uncertain economy, a shift toward spending on services, and rising labor costs. Clearly, the last thing they need is another threat to the bottom line.

However, it’s also unjust to charge people for crimes they did not intentionally commit. Organized Retail Theft is a crime of dishonesty with the potential to cause major setbacks in people’s lives, careers and trajectories.

CAN A DEFENDANT RAISE A LEGAL DEFENSE?

Yes. A few common defenses include showing that you did not act with an accomplice or that the value of the property stolen was below the suggested amount. Defendants can also contest an organized theft charge by showing that the police violated one of their constitutional rights. For example, maybe the police arrested an offender without probable cause, or coerced a confession.

In both of these instances, a prosecutor may decide to reduce your charge or drop it altogether.

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.

Speed Cameras In Demand As Fatal Crashes Rise in WA State

Here's the really annoying thing about speed cameras: They work | CBC News

Informative article in the Olympian by journalist Martin Bilbao describes Governor Inslee’s efforts to acquire more traffic cameras in WA as traffic fatalities rose. The data showed a concerning lack of progress for Target Zero, a state safety plan that aims to eliminate fatal and serious injury collisions by 2030.

Traffic fatalities in Washington state increased about 39% from 538 in 2019 to 750 in 2022, according to data presented by Shelly Baldwin, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. However, she cautioned that 2022 data was preliminary.

“We have not seen such a rapid increase since back in the ‘70s . . . We want to keep in mind that these are not just numbers. These are families and friends and co-workers whose lives have been lost and left the people around them grieving.” ~Shelly Baldwin, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission

The data show eight counties account for about 60% of all fatalities. The top three are in the state’s population center — King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. Thurston County ranks seventh in fatalities, but is sixth in population. The state’s traffic fatality rate per 100 vehicle miles traveled reached 1.16 in 2021 compared to 1.37 at the national level, Baldwin shared. She said impaired driving, followed by speeding and distracted driving, were key risk factors in traffic fatalities.

Earlier this year, the state authorized the use of speed cameras in highway work zones with the passage of Senate Bill 5272. However, Inslee’s proposal would go further:

“The fact, we’re not doing that, frankly, is a little frustrating right now . . . I’m glad we’ve taken the first step in construction zones, but we can’t allow this carnage to continue when we have a technology that works.” ~Governor Jay Inslee

Inslee said he would direct the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to work with his staff to develop a plan for increasing the use of speed cameras. Additionally, Inslee said he supports recruiting more law enforcement personnel to enforce traffic laws.

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

Drivers Can’t Consent to Police Searching a Passenger’s Belongings

Should Cops Be Allowed to Rip Up Your Stuff While Looking for Drugs? | The  New Republic

In State v. Garner, No. 56861-6-II (2023), the WA Court of Appeals held that a driver’s consent to search their car does not extend to searching the contents of closed containers inside the car that do not belong to the driver.

BACKGROUND FACTS

A police officer arrested Mr. Garner on an outstanding warrant after stopping a car and encountering Garner as a passenger. Garner tried to flee on foot but the officer apprehended him. After placing Garner under arrest, the officer spoke with the car’s driver, who said Garner left three backpacks behind in her car. The officer asked the driver for permission to search the car and she granted it.

The officer then searched Garner’s backpacks without requesting his permission and found controlled substances. Later testing established that the controlled substances found in the backpacks were 86.9 grams of methamphetamine and 3.8 grams of heroin.

The State charged Garner with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Before trial, Garner moved to suppress evidence obtained from the warrantless search of his backpacks. The trial court denied Garner’s suppression motion. After a bench trial, the trial court found Garner guilty of both counts of possession with intent to deliver.

On appeal, Mr. Garner argued that the trial court improperly denied his suppression motion.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

In short, the WA Court of Appeals held that the trial court should have granted Garner’s suppression motion. It reasoned that a person’s bag or closed container heightened protection under the federal and state constitutions. It emphasized that the Washington Supreme Court has also recognized an expectation of privacy in purses, briefcases, and other traditional containers of personal belongings.

Here, the defendant passenger had a legitimate expectation of privacy in the backpacks he left inside the car when he fled from the police during a traffic stop.  He did not abandon the backpacks or relinquish his privacy interest in them because he was in the vehicle with permission, and took steps to conceal the backpacks from the officer before fleeing.

The Court of Appeals also reasoned that that the driver’s consent to search her car did not extend to Garner’s backpacks.

“Garner had a reasonable expectation of privacy in his backpacks. And while Washington case law does not squarely address whether a passenger has a reasonable expectation of privacy in items left in another’s car, our cases point to the conclusion that Garner did not relinquish his expectation of privacy when he left his backpacks in the driver’s car. Unlike the defendant in Samalia, Garner did not leave his backpacks in a stolen car. He left them in a car he had occupied with the driver’s permission.”

“And unlike the defendant in Reynolds, he did not remove the backpacks from the car and leave them on the road. Rather, Garner, who lacked housing, left his belongings with a person he knew. Moreover, Garner never disclaimed ownership of the backpacks. He took the time to put two of the backpacks on the vehicle’s rear floorboard and tried stowing the third backpack under the driver’s seat. The circumstances lend themselves to the conclusion that he intended to safeguard the backpacks until he could recover them.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

With that, the Court of Appeals reversed Garner’s convictions because the trial court should have granted his motion to suppress.

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

Broad Coalition Launches to Restore the Constitutional Right to Trial

The Trial Penalty - Prison Professors

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) reports that numerous organizations have united to end the trial penalty. This coalition, called End the Trial Penalty, consists of twenty-four criminal justice organizations, impacted people, think tanks, academics, activists, and reform leaders from across the ideological spectrum have united to end the trial penalty.

What is a “Trial Penalty?”

A “trial penalty” refers to the substantial difference between the sentence offered in a plea offer prior to trial versus the sentence a defendant receives after trial. This penalty is now so severe and pervasive that it has virtually eliminated the constitutional right to a trial. To avoid the penalty, accused persons must surrender many other fundamental rights which are essential to a fair justice system.

The coercive and punitive effects of the trial penalty are so pervasive that they have virtually eliminated our constitutional right to trial. In fact, over 97% of cases ending in a conviction never go to trial, leading to a range of issues reverberating through our legal system, including the waiver of numerous constitutional freedoms and rights, overcriminalization, loss of public oversight, and racial injustice.

Fortunately, the End the Trial Penalty Coalition aims to restore the right to trial, helping right these wrongs to ensure a fair, rational, and humane criminal legal system.

Members of this new Coalition will work together to raise awareness of the adverse effects of a justice system without trials, advocate policy reform, and forge relationships with key policymakers. The Coalition will also serve as a resource for people interested in participating in an impactful criminal legal reform movement.

The Coalition has published a comprehensive Policy Overview which includes policy ideas to combat coercive practices in the plea bargaining process, to improve data collection and transparency, and to foster post-trial reform and accountability measures.

The Coalition plans to further partner with impacted people and their families, community leaders, criminal legal system stakeholders, and local organizers to ensure everyone has a seat at the table in the efforts to restore justice to our legal system.

About End the Trial Penalty

End the Trial Penalty is an ideologically diverse coalition of criminal justice organizations and leaders committed to ending the trial penalty to ensure a fair, rational, and humane criminal legal system. The coalition aims to eliminate the coercive elements of plea bargaining to restore our fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to a jury trial.

My opinion?

The Sixth Amendment enshrines the right to trial for anyone accused of a crime. Yet, in America today, less than 3% of criminal cases ever make it to trial. Many factors drive that statistic, including the trial penalty. Defendants are confronted with an impossible choice: either fighting for their innocence but often risking decades in prison or admitting to something they didn’t do but salvaging their family and future. It’s no wonder that innocent people can and do plead guilty.

I’m pleased that organizations like End the Trial Penalty exists to uphold our constitutional right to trial. 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.

Lock Your Pet In Your Car?

Summer approaches! And with it, the hurry-up-and-have-fun approach to life. We have barbeques. Go to beaches. Play in the sun. In between fun time, we run errands. And when we run errands, we leave our pets in the car.

Unfortunately, without ventilation, the temperature inside your car will rise high and fast. Leaving pets in a hot car can cause heat stroke or death. Cracking a window open isn’t enough.

CIVIL INFRACTIONS & CRIMINAL CHARGES.

Washington state law makes it a civil infraction to leave any animal alone in a car. The law also applies to any other enclosed space, if they could be killed by excessive heat, excessive cold, lack of ventilation or lack of water. This civil infraction comes with a maximum fine of $125.

It is also possible to get slapped with an animal cruelty charge, depending on the severity of the situation, and other circumstances. In Washington, you can be convicted of animal cruelty if you don’t provide needed shelter, sanitation, space, or vet treatment. The law applies if you acted recklessly, purposefully, or with criminal negligence, and only if the animal suffers unjustified pain as a result.

HOW HOT CAN A CAR GET?

According to a 2005 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, outside temperatures of around 70 degrees can heat the inside of a car to over 115 degrees within minutes.

Dogs experience heat exhaustion when their body temperature hits 103 degrees, according to pet food company Hill’s Pet Nutrition. It’s typically safe to leave your dog in the car for no more than five minutes when the outside temperature is above freezing and below 70 degrees.

RESCUING PETS FROM HOT OR COLD CARS.

If you see a dog or pet in obvious distress inside a car, what can you do to help? Wherever you live, you should try to contact local animal control authorities or law enforcement. Authorities may be able to track down and contact the car owner. Many states also allow officers or emergency responders to use force, if needed, to save endangered animals.

CAN YOU BREAK A CAR WINDOW?

Some states have Good Samaritan laws that protect a rescuer from criminal or civil liability for breaking into a locked car to rescue an animal. But in order to be protected, rescuers must take certain steps—including calling 911 or law enforcement first. And usually, their actions—such as breaking a window—must be absolutely necessary or used only as a last resort. In states that don’t have Good Samaritan laws, the rescuer could face legal repercussions for their actions.

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

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

State of New Jersey

April is distracted Driving Awareness month. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) says that Distracted Driving has become a deadly epidemic on our roads.

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distractions can include anything from texting and talking on a mobile phone to eating and drinking. Other activities include putting on makeup, shaving, reading, programming a navigation system, watching a video, and even adjusting the radio.

“For the past decade, distracted driving has taken U.S. roadways by storm, endangering not only the distracted drivers, but their passengers, pedestrians and others using the road. When we’re behind the wheel, we must focus on one task: safe driving. Anytime you shift your attention from driving, you’re distracted.” ~NHTSA

According to its report, distracted driving killed 3,522 people in 2021. From April 3 through 10, you may see increased law enforcement on the roadways as part of the national paid media campaign U Drive. U Text. U Pay. This campaign reminds drivers of the deadly dangers and the legal consequences – including fines – of texting behind the wheel.

Clearly, Distracted Driving is one of the fastest growing safety issues on the roads today. It’s also one of the most litigous. Fortunately, there’s great advice on avoiding Distracted Driving.

“DO NOT DISTURB” WHILE DRIVING.

Program autoreplies to texts and calls so others know you are not responding because you are driving. Cell phones and providers have several apps and programming options to reduce the temptation to drive distracted. For example, Apple’s “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature stops notifications and sends a preprogrammed autoreply to anyone who texts the driver while the vehicle is in motion. There are also: AT&T DriveMode®, Verizon Safely Go®, and Sprint Drive First®.

Consider utilizing one of these options to stop notifications while you drive. A great message for a friend or a family member when they try to reach you when you are driving is: “Hi, I am driving right now, so it’s not safe to respond to your message. This is an autoreply to let you know that when I stop, I will get right back to you.” That way, you can tell others that you are not ignoring them. They may see how good the idea is and do the same on their phones.

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