Tag Archives: Skagit County Criminal Defense

New Study Recommends Police Pursuits be Limited to Violent Crimes

New study recommends police pursuits be limited to violent crimes | KOMO

According to a new study, police pursuits should be rare and limited to violent criminals who pose an imminent threat.

The research by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a think tank on law enforcement standards, references Washington state and the pursuit law changes adopted here as part of its research. In its report, “Vehicular Pursuits: A Guide for Law Enforcement Executives on Managing the Associated Risks,” PERF recommends that a pursuit should only be initiated under two conditions: (1) If a violent crime has already occurred and (2) if there is an immediate risk that the suspect will commit another violent crime.

According to PERF, pursuits pose dangers to officers, unsuspecting bystanders, suspects, and the community at large. The latest national data on police vehicle pursuits revealed that for every 100 pursuits, there were two severe injuries and 10 minor injuries. Of these serious injuries, suspects accounted for 76%, non-involved persons accounted for 21%, and law enforcement officers made up 3%.

The report showed statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, revealing that in 2020, the number of fatal crashes related to police pursuits reached a peak of 455. This was the highest number since 2007 when the fatalities stood at 372. Several police departments have reported a significant increase in the number of individuals attempting to evade law enforcement during traffic stops.

The report is broken up into six sections:

  • Agency philosophy and policy standards
  • Initiating and discontinuing the pursuit – the role of a supervisor
  • Pursuit interventions/alternatives and technology for managing pursuits
  • Post-pursuit reporting
  • Vehicle pursuit training
  • Community engagement.

Under Washington law, police are allowed to chase suspects involved in violent offenses, sex offenses, vehicular assaults and domestic violence assaults. There is also a provision that would require officers engaging in pursuit to have emergency vehicle operator training and be certified in at least one pursuit intervention option, such as spike strips.

The study recommends that chasing a suspect should only be allowed if they are both a violent criminal and pose an imminent threat. Washington allows pursuits in some non-violent situations, such as DUI or to catch an escapee.

The PERF study also advises that pursuits should not be a routine part of law enforcement work. Researchers said the safety of fleeing suspects, their passengers, pursuing officers and community members is too important to risk on a regular basis.

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.

Let’s Not Forget – There’s Actually Less Crime

What the public thinks – and data shows – about violent crime in U.S. | Pew Research Center

Excellent article in USA Today from Adam Gelb, the President and CEO of the Council on Criminal Justice. According to crime and justice trends, there is positive news in the realm of crime and punishment.

VIOLENT CRIME

Even after three years of increases, the rate of reported violent crime in America is half what it was at its peak in 1991, while burglaries and other property crimes are 63% lower than its peak in 1980. And the most recent data shows murder and other trend lines bending back down.

ARRESTS & INCARCERATIONS

In the mid-1990s, police arrested more than 15 million people a year. By 2019, arrests had dropped by a third, to about 10 million, and they fell even further during the pandemic. The U.S. incarceration rate remains among the highest in the world, but it, too, has declined, falling from its peak of more than 1 in every 100 adults in 2008 to 1 in 147 in 2021, a decline of a third. That translates to about a half million fewer people behind bars on any given day.

RECIDIVISM

Recidivism is the rate at which people on parole are sent back to prison for committing new crimes or violating the rules of their release. According to Gelb, that has dropped as well. The three-year prison return rate – the most commonly used measure – fell from 50% among people released from state prisons in 2005 to 39% among those released in 2012. And in juvenile justice, the number of youth removed from their homes for delinquency has plummeted by two-thirds, from more than 100,000 in 2000 to fewer than 37,000 in 2019.

RACIAL DISPARITIES

While troubling racial disparities in imprisonment persist, we’ve also seen some progress here. From 2000 to 2020, the disparity between Black and white adults in state prisons fell by 40%, from 8-to-1 to 5-to-1, and for drug offenses, it shrank by 75%. Black women remain nearly twice as likely to be held in prison as white women. However, they were over five times more likely at the turn of the century.

Taken together, the overall “footprint” of the justice system has shrunk substantially. In 2008, The Pew Charitable Trusts found that a whopping 1 out of every 31 American adults was in prison or jail or on probation or parole. According to new data from the Justice Department, that rate of correctional control had dropped to 1 in 48 by the end of 2021, a decline of a third.

Crime remains a serious and urgent concern. During the early days of the pandemic, as protests against police killings spread and gun sales spiked, homicide and other violent crimes rose. But as troubling as these recent increases are, it’s important to recognize that they occurred in the wake of significant improvements in safety.

STUDY THE GOOD NEWS AS WELL AS THE BAD ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE.

Gelb emphasizes that despite positive gains, the shrinking criminal justice footprint is rarely acknowledged or discussed. This leaves everyday Americans to conclude that nothing is improving.

“That’s understandable, but we ignore progress at our peril,” writes Gelb. Furthermore, pessimism leads to defeatist attitudes and clouds sober analysis of what is and isn’t working. It chases away elected officials, candidates and philanthropists who don’t want to hitch their wagons to perpetually losing causes. It burns out talented leaders and staff. And it feeds a cycle of cynicism that sows deeper and deeper distrust of the criminal justice system, of American institutions and of democracy itself.

“It’s crucial to face our ugly history. Justice demands that we identify and fix our problems. But to accelerate America’s march toward a safer and more just society, we also must recognize, examine and learn from what’s gone right.” ~Adam Gelb, the President and CEO of the Council on Criminal 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.

It’s Time To Apply New & Better Standards for Public Defense Workloads

The State Of Public Defenders Workload: Can AI Fix The People Gap?

With publication of a milestone national study 50 years in the making, the Council on Public Defense (CPD) is immediately beginning to examine how the new research about public-defense caseloads should be applied to Washington’s criminal courts.

“The accused are entitled to an effective advocate and that means a lawyer with time and resources to help. This study underlines what public defenders are experiencing every day, which is a staggering increase in the number and complexity of cases, especially compared to 50 years ago when the national standards were first written. The CPD understands that overworked public defenders impact legal outcomes for the accused and the fairness of the criminal legal system. The CPD has already begun the work of adapting this study to Washington law.” ~Jason Schwarz, Esq., CPD Chair and Director of the Snohomish County Office of Public Defense.

The CPD is a committee of the Washington State Bar Association, established in 2004 to address challenges that impact the state’s public defense system. The Washington Supreme Court tasks the state bar, through the CPD, to make recommendations regarding public defense caseloads and performance guidelines. The Court puts those recommendations into practice in courts via Superior Court Criminal Rule (CrR) 3.1 (Standards for Indigent Defense).

Since its inception, the CPD has regularly recommended updates to CrR 3.1, but the underlying standards are based on a 1973 study from the National Advisory Commission. The new study is the product of a partnership among the Rand Corporation, the National Center for State Courts, and the American Bar Association; it was released on Sept. 12 with comprehensive research that suggests public defenders are working far too many cases and their cases continue to grow more complex. These standards are not binding on any jurisdiction but act as a model.

“The state bar is uniquely situated to convene stakeholders in the legal community to make sure our court rules support actual justice. The Council on Public Defense exemplifies that work and oversees a process that is critically important: Fleshing out standards that will support the state’s constitutional obligation to provide ‘adequate’ legal counsel to anyone facing a criminal charge. What we are talking about here is how long a person might have to wait to get their day in court, and the quality of their defense. Those are among the foundations of criminal justice.” ~Washington State Bar Association President Hunter Abell.

The CPD expects to shepherd the new model standards to present a recommendation for rule changes to the Washington Supreme Court for consideration and adoption. The CPD aims to have draft recommendations by the end of the year.

CPD has been raising the flag about excessive defender workloads for years, and the new study comes amid a flurry of state and national events highlighting the problem:

My opinion? This is excellent and refreshing news. Public defenders have been eagerly waiting for these new standards—for more than 50 years, in fact. The CPD is eager to get to work to bring them to bear in Washington courts. While public defenders are some of the most committed, compassionate, and passionate lawyers, excessive workloads have resulted in burnout and the loss of great advocates and colleagues. Applying this study to the Washington legal landscape will assist us in assuring that assigned counsel have the time to advocate for accused.

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.

National Public Defense Workload Study

With no public defender system, Maine's poor are often represented by private attorneys with criminal backgrounds

In a first of its kind report from the RAND Corporation, the National Public Defense Workload Study says that public defender caseloads are too heavy and unmanageable.

Also, today’s standards for the number of cases that public defenders handle are no longer working, with these caseloads leading to an exodus from the profession. The study recommends new standards be adopted to address the issue and protect the public’s fundamental right to effective legal representation in criminal court.

Researchers conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of 17 state-level public defense workload studies conducted between 2005 and 2022. The research then employed the Delphi method to facilitate the efforts of a panel of 33 expert criminal defense attorneys from across the country. The data quantified the average amount of time needed to provide constitutionally appropriate representation for adult criminal cases.

KEY FINDINGS

  • High-severity felony cases required the most time, on average: cases with a possible sentence of life without parole, 286 hours; murder cases, 248 hours; sex crimes cases, 167 hours; and other high-severity felony cases, 99 hours.
  • Mid- and low-severity felony cases required an average of 57 and 35 hours, respectively.
  • High- and low-severity cases for driving under the influence required 33 and 19 hours, respectively.
  • High- and low-severity misdemeanor cases required an average of 22.3 and 13.8 hours, respectively.
  • Probation or parole violation cases required an average of 13.5 hours.

EXISTING NATIONAL PUBLIC DEFENSE WORKLOAD STANDARDS ARE OUTDATED, NOT EMPIRICALLY BASED, AND INADEQUATE.

  • The 1973 National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals (NAC) standards fail to differentiate among types of felonies, giving equal weight to a burglary, a sexual assault, and a homicide.
  • Using the 1973 NAC standards creates a risk of excessive workloads.

NEW NATIONAL WORKLOAD STANDARDS BETTER REFLECT MODERN CRIMINAL DEFENSE PRACTICE AND PROFESSIONAL AND ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES.

  • The new standards reflect expert attorneys’ experiences with current criminal defense practice, including digital discovery and forensic evidence, as well as the expanded scope of a criminal defense lawyer’s obligations, including advising clients on collateral consequences.
  • The new workload standards can be used to assist public defense agencies, policymakers, and other stakeholders in evaluating defender workloads.

My opinion? Excellent study by the Rand Corporation. Many of my colleagues are highly-trained and extremely capable public defenders. However, public defense attorneys with excessive caseloads cannot simply give appropriate time and attention to each client.

Excessive caseloads violate ethics rules and inevitably cause harm. Overburdened attorneys are forced to choose cases or activities to focus on, such that many cases are resolved without appropriate diligence. A justice system burdened by triage risks unreliability, denying all people who rely on it — victims, witnesses, defendants, and their families and communities — efficient, equal, and accurate 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.

Public Safety Beyond Extreme Sentencing

Long prison sentences are cruel and ineffective: here's the proof - The  Boston Globe

A policy brief from the Sentencing Project explores five social interventions that can improve public safety in the United States without increasing the reliance on mass incarceration.

According to the report, America’s criminal legal system has produced excessive levels of punishment and a diversion of resources from investments that would strengthen the capacity of communities to address the circumstances that contribute to crime.

After 50 years of mass incarceration, the United States faces a reckoning. While crime is far below its peak in the early 1990s, the country continues to struggle with an unacceptable amount of gun violence. Meanwhile, the drug war harms too many Americans and has failed to prevent fatal overdoses from reaching an all-time high.

The report offers five recommendations for policymakers and community members to potentially improve safety without deepening our reliance on extreme sentencing:

  • Implement community safety solutions – Community-based interventions such as violence interruption programs and changes to the built environment are a promising approach to decreasing violence without incarceration.
  • Transform crisis response – Shifting responses to people in crisis away from police toward trained community-based responders has the potential to reduce police shootings, improve safety, and decrease incarceration.
  • Reduce unnecessary justice involvement – Ending unnecessary police contact and court involvement by decriminalizing and diverting many offenses can improve safety.
  • End the drug war – Shifting away from criminalizing people who use drugs toward public health solutions can improve public health and safety.
  • Strengthen opportunities for youth – Interventions like summer employment opportunities and training youth in effective decision-making skills are a promising means of reducing criminal legal involvement.

“A growing evidence-base for all of these interventions demonstrates that policymakers can think beyond police and incarceration to create safety in their communities and should invest in bringing innovative alternatives to scale.” ~The Sentencing Project

Research demonstrates that many social interventions have the potential to be more cost-effective and equitable than criminal legal responses. The highlighted interventions below in violence prevention, crisis response, early childhood education, harm reduction, and therapeutic support for youth are ways to reduce unnecessary contact with the criminal legal system while protecting public safety.

The report emphasizes our opportunity to expand on programs that improve safety while scaling back incarceration.

“By combining social interventions that address some of the root causes of crime and legislative reforms that reduce the harm of the criminal legal system, policymakers can create safer, fairer, and more equitable communities.” ~The Sentencing Project

Excellent research by authors Liz Komar and Nicole D. Porter.

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

“I’m On The Fence . . .”

Buyers and Sellers: Time to Get Off the Fence | Framingham, MA Patch

In State v. Smith, No. 83187-9-I (August 21, 2023), the WA Court of Appeals held that a juror who says, “I’m on the fence” during jury selection should have been excused. If the juror is “on the fence” then the Prosecutor has not carried its burden.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Mr. Smith Nathan was charged with rape of a child in the first degree. During jury selection, Juror #27 was unable to commit to applying the presumption of innocence. When asked whether, if she disagreed with everyone else in the jury, she would be tempted to “change her vote to whatever the rest of the group thinks, even if she personally didn’t feel that way,” Juror #27 answered she would not:

“If I was a 100 percent very confident, then no. But if I was like, I believe this evidence, or whatever, but I am kind of like, on the fence, then I may agree with everyone.” ~Juror #27 (emphasis supplied)

Because Smith had exhausted his peremptories, Juror #27 was empaneled after the court denied his for-cause challenge. Later, Smith was convicted as charged. He appealed his conviction on arguments that the trial judge seated a biased juror.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals began by saying the accused has a federal and state constitutional right to be tried by a fair and impartial jury. Trial judges have an independent duty to protect that right by excusing jurors who have actual or implied bias. “Actual bias” is defined by statute as “the existence of a state of mind on the part of the juror in reference to the action, or to either party, which satisfies the court that the challenged person cannot try the issue impartially and without prejudice to the substantial rights of the party challenging.” RCW 4.44.170(2). 

The Court reasoned that being “on the fence” directly implicates proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If a juror is on the fence, the State has necessarily failed to satisfy its burden to prove the elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply agreeing with everyone when “on the fence,” means that the State has failed to meet its burden. This result contradicts the instructions on the law and deliberation process.

“There is nothing neutral about the presumption of innocence. Even after correction from the trial court, Juror #27 did not understand her duty as a juror and demonstrated an inability to serve as the law requires. Jurors who exhibit prejudice by being unwilling or unable to follow the law or participate in deliberations are unfit to serve on the jury. A jury should be composed of jurors who will consider and decide the facts impartially and conscientiously apply the law as charged by the court. Jurors who cannot apply the law, including those who cannot apply the burden of proof because they fail to understand it, are not impartial.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

With that, the Court of Appeals reversed Mr. Smith’scriminal conviction.

My opinion? Excellent work by the defense in exhausting their peremptory challenges, moving to excuse Juror #27 for cause and preserving the record for appeal when the judge denied the motion for cause. Constitutional law requires that jurors be impartial. They must fairly evaluate evidence and wait until the end of the trial to decide on a defendant’s guilt in a criminal case.

I’ve chosen well over 40 juries in my career. Finding impartial jurors is extremely difficult. As this case shows, however, it is suitable for all parties – including the Judge and Prosecutor – to excuse impartial jurors as quickly as possible.

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.

Forensic Genetic Genealogy Is Admissible Evidence At Trial

How DNA was discovered and the cases it has helped solve

In State v. Hartman  the WA Court of Appeals held a defendant has no privacy interest in bodily fluids that he “abandons” at a crime scene. A defendant also lacks standing to challenge a search of the DNA of relatives that were voluntarily uploaded to a public database.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In 1986, MW, a 12-year-old girl, was raped and murdered in a Tacoma park. The killer left semen on MW’s body, but his DNA did not match that of any suspects or anyone in police databases for the next 30 years.

In 2018, police enlisted Parabon Nanolabs, a DNA technology company, to analyze the killer’s DNA and to upload it into GEDmatch, a consumer DNA database, looking for partial familial matches that would help identify the killer. Police did not secure a warrant to analyze the abandoned DNA or to compare it with DNA in the GEDmatch database.

Parabon learned that several of the killer’s cousins had DNA in the GEDmatch database. Parabon used information from the database and public records to construct family trees. Parabon then directed police to try to obtain a DNA sample from Gary Charles Hartman. Police obtained a discarded napkin containing Hartman’s DNA, and it matched the DNA from semen on MW’s body. The State charged Hartman with first degree felony murder.

Before trial, Hartman moved to suppress the DNA evidence, arguing that Parabon’s comparison of the DNA sample from the crime scene to the GEDmatch database was unconstitutional. He also asserted that the DNA later collected from the napkin directly linking him to the murder was inadmissible as fruit of the poisonous tree. Hartman did not argue below that he had any privacy interest in DNA left at the crime scene, nor did he challenge the collection and testing of DNA from the discarded napkin.

The trial court ruled that Hartman did not have legal standing to challenge the comparison of the DNA from the crime scene to DNA in the GEDmatch database because he did not have a privacy interest in his cousins’ DNA in the database. In addition, Hartman’s relatives had voluntarily uploaded their DNA into the GEDmatch database, and the DNA that Hartman left at the crime scene was abandoned and not private. The trial court denied the motion to suppress. After a bench trial on stipulated facts, the trial court convicted Hartman.

Hartman appealed his conviction. He argues that analyzing the DNA sample from the crime scene and comparing it with the GEDmatch database to look for his relatives’ DNA disturbed his private affairs in violation of article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution. Thus, he argues that he had standing to challenge the DNA comparison. In oral argument, he asserted for the first time that he has a privacy interest in the DNA from the semen abandoned at the crime scene.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The Court of Appeals held there is no privacy interest in commonly held DNA that a relative voluntarily uploads to a public database that openly allows law enforcement access.

“Hartman claims a privacy interest in the segments of his DNA that his relatives had in common with him. But all that police learned from the GEDmatch analysis was the killer’s familial relations, which brought them closer to learning the killer’s identity. And identifying unknown family members is the exact reason that users of consumer databases, like Hartman’s relatives, post their genetic material on those databases.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

The Court also ruled there is no privacy interest in DNA that one abandons at a crime scene.

“Voluntary exposure to the public is relevant to our inquiry and can negate an asserted privacy interest.

Consequently, the Court reasoned that Hartman lost any privacy interest in the semen he left behind or the DNA it contained. Therefore, Hartman’s attempt to challenge any DNA analysis of the semen he left behind on MW’s body fails.

With that, the Court of Appeals affirmed Hartman’s convictions.

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

Walmart Begins Adding Police Sub-Stations

Walmart is stealing police services from communities – People's World

Excellent article by journalist Jena Warburton reports that Walmart will soon add police substations to their stores.

It’s no secret that it’s been really tough to be a retailer in a post-pandemic world. Inventory shrink, or a loss of goods due to shoplifting, fraud, and errors is at an industry-wide high. It’s getting harder to hire and keep retail workers, as low wages, demanding hours, difficult customers and workplace violence make roles wholly unappealing.

And crime and violence are on the rise. A recent Retail Workplace Survey by Loss Prevention Magazine indicates that 60% of retail workers saw some form of violence on the job over the past 12 months.

Of all of the retailers hit by a rising tide of crime, Walmart may be hit the hardest. The largest retailer in America has locations within 10 miles of 90% of the population. It’s a cheap and convenient place to shop. But that’s also what’s hindered it.

“Theft is an issue. It’s higher than what it has historically been. We’ve got safety measures, security measures that we’ve put in place by store location . . . I think local law enforcement being staffed and being a good partner is part of that equation, and that’s normally how we approach it. If that’s not corrected over time, prices will be higher, and/or stores will close.” ~Walmart CEO Doug McMillon

According to journalist Jena Warburton, that premonition proved to be true. Just halfway through 2023, 22 Walmart stores had closed as of June. Four of those stores were in Chicago alone (eight were in Illinois).

Some of those fundamental business challenges are violent and nonviolent crimes in more populous or urban areas. It’s also why two Atlanta-based Walmart locations closed, after suspected arson permanently shuttered both the Howell Mill Road and Vine City locations.

Walmart is now planning to reopen the Vine City location – with a major upgrade.

WALMART RE-OPENS ATLANTA STORE WITH POLICE SUBSTATION

While the Howell Mill Road Walmart will remain permanently closed, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said the former Vine City Supercenter will reopen with a pharmacy, grocery store, and police station to help combat crime and better serve the neighborhood.

Traffic-Related Deaths Are on the Rise

These States Have The Most Summer Driving Fatalities

This year is becoming an increasingly deadly year for traffic-related deaths on Washington roads, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) and Washington State Patrol (WSP).

The worsening traffic safety crisis is leading to more deaths at this point in 2023 than the year before, the agencies reported on Aug. 30.

As of July, Washington saw 417 traffic-related fatalities, compared to 413 fatalities in July 2022. According to WTSC, 2022 marked the deadliest year on Washington roads since 1990.

“We have seen more multi-fatality crashes in 2023, which is making this a historically deadly year . . . We are announcing these very preliminary figures because we need everyone’s help right now. Driving sober, driving focused, respecting speed limits, and buckling up are the four best ways to save a life.” ~Shelly Baldwin, Director of WTSC

Officials note the “fatal four” common causes of traffic crashes and deaths as impairment, distraction, speeding and not wearing seat belts. Among the 750 people who died on Washington roads in 2022, approximately 75% of those deaths (565 deaths) involved one or more of the fatal four behaviors, according to WTSC.

While more lives have been lost so far in 2023, WTSC says there have been fewer deadly crashes in total – which means crashes are resulting in more losses of life per crash.

“Saving lives on our highways involves everyone’s participation – and that includes passengers. Driver decisions are an obvious factor in fatal collisions, but passengers have a duty to ensure their own safety by always choosing to buckle up. We need this disheartening trend to turn around, and we cannot do that without everyone’s participation.” ~WSP Chief John R. Batiste

The 90 Dangerous Days of Summer, a campaign educating the public, has found that summer months often are the deadliest stretch of time for drivers in Washington. Throughout Labor Day Weekend, state and local law enforcement officials will increase their presence on the roadways as a safety reminder.

“The power to save lives is in the hands of every driver on our roads,” Baldwin said. “Going into Labor Day and the final four months of 2023, we still have time to change this trend. Please get a sober ride if you have used drugs or alcohol. Higher speeds endanger the lives of everyone, so please respect the speed limit. If we practice these simple safety behaviors each day, we can save hundreds of lives so that they will be here to enjoy the holidays with their family and friends.”

WSP also urges bicyclists to always wear helmets and protective gear while all motorists should always keep a cautionary eye out for pedestrians, bicyclists and other roadway users.

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