Thursday, August 23, 2012

Learn where extra DUI patrols will be in Seattle

Beginning Friday there will be extra DUI patrols in Seattle, and King County as part of the State's "Drive hammered, Get nailed."  As a Seattle DUI Attorney, I think this so called campaign has some merit to it.  Im all for protecting our community, and families.  But at the same time I believe these campaigns or extra patrols are just fronts for excessive 4th amendment violations, and excuses to conduct unlawful stops.

There was an article in the PI this week that provided statistics for last years campaign, including the number of DUI arrests.  I was pretty surprised by the number of DUI arrests last year during this campaign in King County.  Believe it or not the number exceeded 10,000.

The article also went on to say that "Drunks" drive a certain and the police encourage people to call 911 if they suspect a drunken driver.  Now I have previously written my opinion on this idea of overzealous good samaritans calling police and following suspected DUI drivers.

To me this is completely ridiculous the police are encouraging citizens to do this.  Can you imagine being on your cell phone, accidentally cross a lane of traffic, and have some pyscho follow you to your house and try and detain you by conducting a citizens arrest.  And believe me as a Seattle DUI Attorney I have had cases where these crazies have actually done that.

Now don't get me wrong, as I said before Im all for protecting our community, and encouraging people to make better decisions.  But at what costs should this be done.  I for one don't believe I should give up my constitutional right to be free from unlawful seizures just because the WSP is trying to justify their extra hires, and get more money from the government.

Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Lawyer who practices throughout Western Washington.  If you have been falsely arrested for a DUI contact our office immediately to ensure your constitutional rights are protected.  

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why it's important to become qualified to administer the FSTs

Representing those accused of DUI is a very complicated process. The competent Seattle DUI Attorney needs to be familiar with constitutional issues, scientific theories, trial techniques, and much much more. However in addition to those basis skills, the experienced Seattle DUI Lawyer should also be qualified and certified to administer the standardized field sobriety testing. In other words they need to take the same course the law enforcement does, and learn the proper procedures for administering the standardized field sobriety testing.  Why is this so important you ask?    

In order to accomplish this the attorney should know how to administer the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test. These are the field sobriety tests that have been standardized by the national highway safety administration. In my opinion this is important for several reasons and are well worth their weight in gold compared to the nominal cost and time frame.  

1.  Verify whether the arresting officer administered correctly: In many Seattle DUI arrest cases the arresting officer administers the standardized field sobriety tests to the defendant. And in all of those cases the officer will say they are trained to administer these tests, and they were done according to their training. In order to verify whether these tests were done correctly or not, the Seattle DUI Attorney needs to know who to administer the tests themselves. If they know exactly how to do it, and they took the same course as the arresting officer they will be in a better position to identify any issues with the administration of the tests.         

2.  Help to separate yourself from all the other DUI Attorneys: In every jurisdiction there are attorneys that say they exclusively practice in the area of DUI Defense. And like in all professions there are good ones and there are bad ones.  But what separates the good ones from the pretenders is the level of commitment to this area of law in addition to their experience and knowledge. By taking the time and expense to take this NHTSA course, and learn exactly how to administer the field sobriety tests it will show a level of commitment and experience that will help you get clients.           

3.  Know the instructors and use them as experts: Many of the instructors of these NHTSA courses are former law enforcement. Sometimes in a DUI case it is necessary to hire an expert to counter what the Prosecutions witnesses are saying. Having an ex-law enforcement officer who is also an instructor for the field sobriety testing and really helpful, and comes across very credible in the eyes of a jury. By taking the course, and getting to know the instructors you will be in a better position to ask them to help you out on a case.

Taking this course is extremely important to the practice of DUI defense.  If an attorney doesn't take the time to do this then they don't care about their practice, and in turn don't care about you.  

Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney located in downtown Seattle.  If you have been arrested for a DUI contact our office for a free consultation to learn what your options are, and what to expect during the DUI charge.  

Friday, August 3, 2012

Helpful hints to keep in mind during SeaFair weekend

With the annual seafair weekend upon us there will be an increased emphasis in DUI patrols.  Remember the best decision to make is to not drink and drive.  But if you do have a few and find yourself in the unfortunate position of being investigated by a DUI officer here are some helpful hints to keep in mind.

If you're being investigated for a DUI then it's important to remember as much as possible about the interaction with the arresting officer to relay to your Seattle DUI lawyer. Often times during the defense of a DUI case there are no cameras or recordings of what happened. Most of the evidence comes from the police report and the testimony of the arresting officer. To challenge that evidence it may be necessary to have the only other person who was present testify. That would be the defendant.  Therefore if you found yourself in the position of being investigated for a Seattle DUI Arrest then it's important to try and take mental notes on the following areas.

Did the officer explain the reason for the stop: Many jurisdictions have seen a crackdown on drunk driving. However with such an increased emphasis many Officers are simply pulling people over for minor infractions with the intent to conduct a DUI investigation. A tell tell sign of whether this in fact happened was if the Officer initially advised of the reason for the stop or did they just start asking questions about alcohol consumption.
How much time elapsed before you were asked to exit the vehicle: Being able to remember how much time elapsed before you were asked to exit the vehicle can demonstrate whether this was the type of stop where there was no intention to cite for an infraction, but to investigate for a DUI. In order to ask a driver to exit a vehicle to conduct a DUI investigation the arresting officer needs to point to specific and articulable facts the driver may be affected by alcohol. Usually if a driver is asked to exit immediately there is no way for an Officer to note the signs of impairment necessary to start a DUI investigation.
Did you understand the field sobriety tests were voluntary: In Washington State the field sobriety tests to be taken voluntarily before they are admissible in court. Often times in DUI arrests the arresting officer just asks the driver to start performing these tests. There is no mention that they are voluntary and the driver has a right to decline them.
The area where you performed the field sobriety tests: Generally the field sobriety tests should be performed in a well light area with a relatively level surface. It's important to remember the area where the tests were done in case it was not an ideal location.
Process prior to taking the breath test: Prior to taking a breath test a subject cannot burp or hiccup or put anything in the mouth that can affect the results of the test. If you were hiccupping or burping uncontrollably and the Officer still administered the test to you that may be an issue. Try and remember any abnormalities that may have happened prior to submitting to the breath test to inform your Seattle DUI lawyer
Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Lawyer focusing on DUI defense and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI in Western Washington contact our office immediately to set up a free consultation with an experienced Seattle DUI Attorney.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vigilantes and following suspected DUI drivers in Seattle

Interesting article in todays Seattle times about an ex-state patrol cadet (not an actual Washington State Patrol Trooper) mind you who followed a vehicle he suspected was a DUI while in 911.  This type of is actually pretty common here in Seattle.  I have had several cases over the course of my career where a vigilante citizen followed one of my clients suspecting they were a DUI driver, called 911, and actually made a Seattle DUI arrest.

Personally I think this behavior is a little questionable, but I realize there are people out there who have no problem calling 911 to report something they believe is illegal.  Personally I wouldn't do anything unless the suspected DUI driver was driving so recklessly or erratic it was a danger to myself, my family, and other innocent bystanders.

But often times these vigilantes go the extra step and actually try to make a citizens arrest.  Im not sure what happened in the DUI case that was in the Seattle Times about the ex-cadet stopping a council member.  But in every case that I have ever had this is what happened.  The vigilante sees what they suspect is a DUI, follow the vehicle and either call 911 or just go ahead and actually stop and detain the vehicle.  Going this extra step is what I have the problem with.

Obviously in this case that was an ex-cadet who probably didn't make the State Patrol but still wants to do that work.  Saw this as an opportunity and regardless of how unlawful it is decided to make a stop.  Now I don't know all the facts only what was in the article.  But in this Seattle DUI lawyers opinion this is unlawful behavior.

The actual case law in Washington State is pretty murky when it comes to citizen arrests.  In order for such a stop to be made the citizen needs to observe what is called a breach of the peace and it must be committed in their presence.  While Washington State has no actual law regarding DUI cases and citizen arrests it can be very ambiguous what constitutes a breach of the peace.  Is committing a traffic infraction enough of a breach of the peace for a citizen to call 911 on an individual?  The difficult thing in these cases is unless you can prove the citizen was acting as a state agency or in some capacity the 4th amendment would not apply regarding an unlawful seizure.

In case you're interested in the article here is the link.    

Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Lawyer focusing his practice in DUI defense, and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI feel free to call 206-357-8454 to set up a free consultation.