Friday, November 30, 2012

Des Moines couple sue Police for shooting family dog

I know, I know this is supposed to be a DUI blog.  However I read this article earlier from the Seattle Times and have kind of been a little obsessed about it lately.  I have googled all the articles involving this incident, read the federal lawsuit, watched the videos from the Des Moines PD, and been following any social media that mentions this incident.

In case you're not familiar with this.  Basically what happened is a family was out of town.  Their Newfoundland Dog was left home in their fenced back yard.  The American Kennel Club describes Newfoundlands as having a sweet disposition and the perfect family dog.  Although they were bred to be a workhorse and they are a large breed that needs daily exercise, they are the perfect companion dog and are not ill tempered.

So while the family is gone the Des Moines Police Department gets a call that a dog is running loose in the neighborhood.  It was a Sunday so Animal Control was not working, so these thugs with a badge showed up.  According to witnesses and the 911 callers the call was made because the dog was running around, and the neighbors were concerned for its safety.  Not because it was acting violent or anything.

When the police showed up the dog was in the family's driveway barking.  From the video you can hear snide remarks from the Police.  They are saying, "he doesn't want me to get close," and within 10 minutes of arrival they are actually discussing with one another whether they should "just shoot the dog."

According to witnesses what happens next will shock all animal lovers, especially dog lovers.  The police in their enlightened wisdom decided to try and use a Taser to subdue the dog, Rosie.  To no surprise this was ineffective and sent the dog running away.  I'm sure frightened and scared out of her mind.  The Officers can be heard on the video laughing and saying, "oh he doesn't want to play."  Then a few minutes later one of these idiot cops says, "I'll shoot him, lets go shoot him."

Meanwhile another Officer got close to Rosie to use a Taser a second time.  Of course to no avail and the dog eventually found her way into the back yard of Lora Perry.  According to Ms. Perry, Rosie had slipped into her back yard and was just sniffing around back there.  Not doing anything else, certainly not threatening or violent.  In fact Ms. Perry has said the dog wasn't doing anything and just could have stayed back there.

When the Police arrived and asked Ms. Perry if the dog was back there, she replied yes, and they told her to get in the house. An Officer then arrived with a high powered rifle and just walked into the back yard, past the No Trespassing sign.  The first shot shattered Rosie's leg, an autopsy later revealed.  On the video you can hear one of these idiots shout, "Nice."  Three more shots were fired and Rosie was killed on the backyard of Perry family.

Now the kicker is the Wright family, owners of the dog arrived home later that day.  They couldn't find their beloved pet and frantically starting calling friends, and neighbors.  Imagine this the Des Moines Police Department didn't even have the decency to contact the family of the dog they just murdered.  It wasn't until the family found the Taser darts in the driveway the Police were contacted.  Eventually they informed the family of what they did, offered some bullshit reason on why, and left it at that.

I couldn't imagine what the family of this dog must have been feeling when they found out what happened.  Probably denial, anger, frustration.  All of the above.  Even though I'm a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, and not a civil rights lawyer something like this still pulls my heart strings.  You see I'm a dog lover.  I have been raised with dogs my entire life, my family now has a small Shi Tzu dog named Meso that we cherish.

I couldn't imagine anything ever happening to him, let alone imagine him being killed by the Police Department.  The dog lover in me would want to make whoever did this pay.  But the lawyer in me what want to sue the Des Moines Police Department and show everyone what kind of police officers they employ.  Nothing can bring back this family pet, but I hope the Des Moines PD have to seriously end up paying big time for their horrific and stupid actions.

Matthew A. Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why I charge a trial fee

As everyone should know by now I'm a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  A big part of practice is litigating jury trials.  In fact in my career I have litigated over 100 jury trials to verdict which is a fair amount for someone my age.  There are two reasons why I have done so many.  First in a DUI case if the Prosecutor is not willing to offer a deal and they just want a client to plead guilty as charged.  Well we know what will already happen if the client is found guilty, so they have nothing to lose if they go to trial because 99% of the time they will get the exact sentence the Prosecutor wanted in the first place.  The second reason is because I actually enjoy trial work.  A big part of my job is driving to different courts, sitting in court for hours waiting for a case to be called, negotiating with Prosecutors, and doing DOL hearings.  In all honestly that is pretty mind numbing work, so litigating a jury trial is a welcome break, and it is kind of fun.  

So when I first opened my practice I used to charge a flat fee on a DUI case because I didn't want to discourage my clients from going to trial.  In other words my fee covered every step of the legal process except for appeals.  I'm not an appellate attorney, and that style of law does not appeal to me (no pun intended).  So my fee would cover the arraignment, pretrial hearings, negotiating with the Prosecutor, motion hearings, and the jury or bench trial.

After two years I stopped charging a flat fee for everything, and I started to charge a fee for everything up to the point of a jury trial.  Then if the case were to go that far I would charge an additional "trial fee" for the litigation of the jury trial.

The reason I bring this up is because lately I have read a few blogs by some other DUI Lawyers that imply this particular fee structure is a bad thing.  And the Seattle DUI Lawyers that do this do not want to litigate a jury trial and by charging an extra fee that are effectively holding their client hostage, and if the client cannot pay then they would be forced to plead guilty.  These blogs then go on to say that a flat fee is the way to go because the client will not be forced to decide whether to pay more for exercising a constitutional right they have.

To be honest I used to feel that way.  When I first opening my practice I didn't want my clients thinking this exact same way.  I didn't want them to feel like they had to choose between paying me more or pleading guilty.  But like I said after two years I stopped doing this.  Why do you ask?

Well it is pretty simple.  I found that I was constantly refunding my clients money.  There were times where I would charge a flat fee, but then I would only go to court 2-3 times.  I would be able to negotiate a deal with the Prosecutor that my client was happy with and I didn't spend a lot of time on the case.  In those situations I didn't feel comfortable taking all the money the client paid me, so I would refund them a few thousand dollars.  I didn't think it was fair to charge them the same amount as a client that I spent 80 hours, litigated a trial through verdict, and went to court two dozen times on their behalf.

You can imagine not only the confusion but the issues this created.  Constantly trying to figure out what would be fair and then cut my client a check based on that.  So I decided that I would charge less in those cases that didn't go to trial, and charge a little more if they went.

I'm sure there are many DUI Attorneys out there that probably tell potential clients that myself and other attorneys that do this are ripping them off, afraid to go to trial, or just want the client to plead guilty and then move on.  This couldn't be further from the truth.  In fact I would venture to say that any attorney that says that probably doesn't have the trial experience I do, so it is kind of ironic they would say such a thing when my entire practice is devoted 100% to litigation and I think my track record of jury trials speak for itself.

In addition to that my fee has not risen from what I originally charged.  I simply took the original flat fee and subtracted the trial fee.  Now when I enter into a fee agreement there are two fees.  The first is the flat fee for representation on the criminal matter up to the point of a jury trial.  The second is the trial fee that is only collected if a jury trial is litigated.  If say for example the case is set for trial, and then the Prosecutor offers a plea deal at the last minute then no trial fee will be collected.

All of my fees are always completely spelled out in the fee agreement.  I would never try and deceive a client or nickel and dime them for money.  Every potential client that I speak with about proposed fees I tell them about the trial fee and the reasons for it.  And I'm willing to bet my fee including a trial fee is the same as those DUI Attorneys that are putting down the use of a trial fee.

So my question is why should a client who only has to go to court 2 or 3 times before getting offered a plea deal they are happy with be charged the same as a client that goes to court 2 dozen times and has to sit through a 3 day DUI jury trial.  If you have any thoughts feel free to leave a comment.  Remember I'm not bagging on this type of fee structure, I used to structure my contracts like that.  But I found for my practice the additional trial fee works best, and I have never had a client say otherwise or express any issues with it.

Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI in the Seattle area, or Western WA contact our offices for a free 60 minute consultation.  

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Happenings in Court

A few weeks back I was in a local municipal court.  It is a Court that is known to have tough negotiating prosecutors, especially as of late for some reasons.  It also has a pretty interesting negotiating system.  Although you can negotiate prior to your court date by finding out who the Prosecutor assigned to the case is.  I would say that many attorneys choose not to do this, and instead negotiate the day of court.  So often times when you're in line to speak with the Prosecutors, you will over hear a discussion between a prosecutor and a DUI attorney.

So as I said before I was in court waiting to chat with the Prosecutor about a continuance request.  I happened to be right behind another attorney who was trying to negotiate with the Prosecutor.  And from what I gather they had spoken before, so the defense attorney had made their pitch to the prosecutor.  But I found it interesting nonetheless, especially the prosecutors response.

I guess the client of the other defense attorney was charged with a DUI.  This client was some kind of ship captain.  I'm not sure what exactly his job was, or who the employer was, but he was a shipping captain.  For those that don't know an individual charged with a DUI who has such a profession can face very severe consequences including but not limited to a loss of their job.  This particular defense attorney obviously was well aware of this.

From what I gather this was a pretty run of the mill DUI.  It was a relative low BAC at .13, there was no accident, the client was cooperative with the arresting officers, and he didn't have any prior criminal history.  What the defense attorney was proposing was an amendment down to reckless endangerment, and the kicker was the client was willing to do 90 days in jail.  Let me repeat that.  90 days in jail.

To me this seemed more than reasonable.  In fact it was astonishing.  How many people would be willing to go to jail for 90 days on a first offense DUI.  Heck even if the guy went to trial and was convicted he would only get 1 day.  In addition to that he was willing to do the ignition interlock requirement of 1 year, he was willing to pay the fine that comes with the DUI.  He basically was willing to do all the penalties and consequences that come with a DUI,  He just could not have a DUI on his record.

So what was the Prosecutors response.  No, we want the DUI conviction on the record.  And their sentence recommendation was for a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 day in jail.  I'm sorry when I heard this response on was completely floored.  There was a perfect example of why prosecutors just don't get it.  Especially at the misdemeanor level where often times this is their first job and they generally are younger with little to no life experience.  Rather than give the guy a break on the conviction, and have him do 90 days for a first offense DUI as a penalty.  In my opinion they would rather be spiteful and ruin this man's life.  As a Seattle DUI Attorney I just do not understand this line of thinking.

I just figure if I was a prosecutor and some defense attorney came to me for negotiation.  I would be probably pretty fair but stern.  In exchange for plea deal reductions I would negotiate jail or a significant amount of community service hours, or a hefty fine on a first offense.  Give the person the benefit of the doubt without screwing up their entire life.  Then if they came back on another charge they you can put the hammer down.

But far too often as a Seattle DUI Lawyer, the majority of prosecutors I see do not do this.  It really is a shame because it bogs down the judicial system with needless trials, but at the same time ruins peoples lives that don't need to be ruined.  Everyone makes a mistake.  If it is not too serious, there was no accident, not a high breath test, and the person was polite and cooperative with the arresting officer then why not.  I really feel bad for this particular guy, because he really was taking responsibility for his actions and was trying to be accountable.  It's a shame he will most likely lose his job, and ruin his life because of the decision of this prosecutor.

Matthew A. Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney in Western WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI contact our office for a free consultation.