Thursday, February 28, 2013

DUI Cop and Defense Attorney work together to get suspect's dog adopted

Earlier this week I wrote a blog about the embattled Utah DUI Trooper who has been fired and is facing several lawsuits for bogus DUI arrests.  As a DUI Defense Attorney I find her actions and behavior completely appalling.  However this type of Cop is on one side of the spectrum, there are plenty other officers who I respect and admire on the other end.  Here is a story about a Seattle Police Officer I know and respect going beyond his "official duties."

You can check out the article here.  But basically the DUI Officer here in Seattle arrested man accused of DUI earlier in the week.  The suspect had a German shepherd dog in his vehicle.  Normally this wouldn't be an issue I suspect.  I have represented several people who have been arrested with animals in their vehicle.  In those cases the arresting Officers allowed my clients to make arrangements to have their animals picked up.  Or in one case the arresting Officer took the dog with my client to the precinct.  Processed my client for DUI, and then released her and her dog afterwards.  

But in this particular case the suspect was getting booked into custody not only because of the DUI but also because of a warrant for his arrest out of California.  Unfortunately for his dog he not only was getting booked into custody, but it also appears he going to be extradited back to California to address this warrant.  So there was nowhere for this dog to go.  I guess the guy didnt have any family or friends here in Seattle, and nobody could be contacted in California.  I'm not sure if there is a policy in the Seattle Police Department on what to do in this type of situation.  But imagine there are some Officers who would just drop the dog off at the animal shelter and be done with it, and who can really blame them.  I mean it is probably not in their official duties to babysit animals of people they arrest. 

But not his particular Officer.  As the article describes he went way beyond his duties in this particular case.  After the suspect was arrested he allowed the dog to sit in the backseat with her owner.  After the suspect was arrested he took the dog to the Animal Shelter.  But he didn't stop there.  He posted a message on his own personal Facebook about the dog, and asked if anyone knew of any families wishing to adopt. Additionally he got in touch with the suspect's defense attorney to check in and try to find a new home for this lovely animal.

As both a dog lover, and a DUI defense Attorney this story really tugs at my heart strings.  I have a dog who my family loves dearly.  If anything were to happen to me or my family I would hope someone would have the heart to look after my dog, and try to find a new home for him.  The fact that this particular Officer did this after an arrest when he could have just went home and never thought twice about it shows the type of character and compassion he has. 

My law firm has had several cases with this particular Officer and I have always found his work to be very thorough and well prepared.  But what has always impressed me his the integrity he seems to have when dealing with these type of cases and with me.  Additionally of all the Officers I deal with on a regular basis he is one of the few who treats my clients with respect, and seems to understand that many of the people he arrests simply made a mistake and he doesn't crucify them or he isn't a jerk to them afterwards.  In my opinion he is a stand up guy and this story just reaffirms what I have always thought of him. 

You see not all stories I blog about are negative when he comes to law enforcement :)

Matthew A. Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses.  If you have been arrested contact my office immediately to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss your rights and options.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Utah Trooper faces lawsuit for making bogus DUI arrests

In case you don't follow my other blog dealing with National DUI news and Information, I want to post my thoughts here on Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Steed and some issues that are occurring back in the great State of Utah.  

If you don't know I'm originally from Salt Lake City, Utah (Go Utes!).  So I follow news from Utah pretty regularly.  As I noted above, I have posted updates about Trooper Steed on my other DUI blog, but want to discuss it here today.

In case you don't know Trooper Steed is a Trooper with the Utah Highway Patrol.  During her 10 years with that Department she built the reputation as the best DUI cop in Utah.  As of today she is out of work and facing a lawsuit.  So what happened to her?  Someone who was seen as a rising star in the law enforcement.  Someone who her supervisors described as having an "uncanny ability to detect drunk drivers."  Someone who in 2009 as a member of the DUI squad shattered the record for most DUI arrests in Utah, more than double the number made by another other Utah Highway Patrol member in the history of the department.  

One word: Accountability, or I guess the lack thereof.  Lets be honest being a police officer has to be one heck of job.  Long hours.  In some cases low pay.  The general public has a certain disdain or distrust for you.  Defense Attorneys are always criticizing and challenging your work.  If you mess up it's on the front page of the news.  I know several officers here in Seattle, and although I'm a Defense Attorney I certainly can respect the work they do.  It seems to me to be like a thankless job for the most part.  

But I think the reason law enforcement has such a bad rap is because of what the general public views as a lack of accountability.  Think about it.  If a cop pulls someone over, makes an arrest, documents certain statements or observations of the suspect.  Who is to say this really happened?  I know cops sign an arrest report under penalty of perjury, and blah blah blah.  But many law enforcement agencies still do not have audio or video capabilities.  Even if the agency does have that capability, not all the officers use it.  Or the cameras are out of position.  Or the mic is not working, or in some cases left off.  Or some other excuse is made.

I can't tell you how many times I have represented someone who adamantly denies something the arresting officer is saying happened.  And how do you challenge that?  You can question the officer.  But if they made something up, or fabricated something, or even embellished it a little they are for the most part not going to deviate from that.  You can have the client testify, but in the end who is a Judge, or Jury going to find more reliable most times.  The cop.  So it is always a difficult position to address when it is one persons word against another.  And the other person happens to be a cop.

But every now and then a cop is caught in a lie, or an inconsistency and everything changes.  Such is the case with Trooper Steed.  As I wrote above she was a rising star with the DUI squad in the Utah Highway Patrol.  Shattering records for arrests, winning awards, etc.  But in the end what derailed her career is the lack of accountability that exists with such officers.  And probably her greed to become known as the Best DUI cop in Utah.  

And it all started with a routine motion to suppress evidence where she admitted on the stand that she left her mic off while on a DUI arrest.  To her credit she admitted to this.  I have had cases in the past where certain officers will swear up and down the mic was malfunctioning or the video was lost in magic land.  I never ceases to amaze me the elaborate tails these cops will weave just to avoid answering a simple question.  But when Steed did this her credibility instantly came under question.

You see there was a long standing rumor in Utah that Steed was fabricating observations she made on her DUI arrests.  Ridiculous things like flat out saying a person was impaired when a breath or blood test would show .000.  Making a DUI arrest when there was absolutely no evidence, and then just flat out making things up in the arrest report.  And nobody was ever the wiser, because there was no way to document what really happened, when it was just her word against the suspect.  

However like all things eventually the truth comes out and many of her DUI arrests were flat out dismissed or not filed due to her penchant for "stretching the truth."  In fact in 2010 a Prosecutor flat out told every Defense Attorney in Utah, and every news outlet that he would not prosecutor any cases where Steed was the primary officer, and the only evidence that existed were her observations.  But think about all the people she falsely arrested prior to this slip up in 2010.  

I can't fathom going through that.  Having the stigma of a DUI driver.  Hiring an attorney.  Going to court endless and stating your innocence and not having the Prosecutor, the Judge, or the very law enforcement agency who is supposed to protect you, believe your story.  That is why I do what I do.  So I can help people in these situations.  Thankfully to those attorneys in Utah, her truth stretching was uncovered and justice is being done.    

In case your interested here is the Steed article.  Read up.  

Matthew A. Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses.         

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How high is too high? Seattle KIRO tests pot smoking drivers for impairment

Now that Marijuana has been legalized in Seattle it was only a matter of time before someone decided to do a "wet lab" in Seattle with Marijuana and publicize the results and findings.  If you don't know what a "wet lab" is.  Its a training that police officers do to help with alcohol impairment detection.  Basically they go to a location, and some volunteers get drunk.  Then the Officers administer the field sobriety tests to the impaired individuals just to get an idea of what it is like investigating people out in the field.

The reason I'm talking about this wet lab stuff is recently a local news station here in Seattle decided to run a little experiment on Green DUIs.  They got some volunteers together and had them drive in a closed obstacle course completely sober.  No alcohol, no marijuana.  Then they had these people smoke a little marijuana, drive some more, then smoke some, then drive again.  I don't know a lot about marijuana since I don't smoke it.  But the name of the strand was pretty cool.  It was called blueberry train wreck.  Each time after the volunteers drove, their blood was taken, and their results from the driving were noted.  Also the news station had a drug recognition expert there to determine in the field the level of impairment.

Some of the results and observations from the "study" were pretty interesting.  Remember the legal limit for Marijuana in your system in Washington State is 5 nanograms.  During the experiment there were three drivers.  They were tested before driving the course the first time.  They were then given marijuana and asked to drive the course a second time.  Their results were compared, along with the different levels of marijuana after a blood test.  In some cases they were given even more marijuana and asked to drive the course 3 to 4 times.

The first driver was a medical marijuana patient who smoked heavily before the experiment.  Before she even started the experiment she was at 16 nanograms from her daily smoking.  So FYI if you smoke a lot it takes a long time for you to get Marijuana out of your system and you're most likely operating at the legal driving limit on a daily basis.  I'm talking to you heavy pot users.  Surprisingly though the instructor said her driving was fine.  It was until she got to 1.6 grams that she started to show signs of trouble.

The second driver was a casual pot smoker who smoked on the weekends.  The initial test showed no marijuana in his system.  He was then given three tenths gram of marijuana to smoke.  His driving was actually pretty good, not revealing any significant decrease in motor skills.  He was then given nine tenths a gram and continued to drive.  At the end of the experiment he was 26 nanograms.  Towards the end of his driving he showed more and more problems driving.  At one point almost hitting a photographer.

The third driver was an occasional pot smoker.  He also showed no marijuana in his system during the initial test.  He was given the first batch of marijuana and again did not show any decrease in motor skills, although it was noted he was driving a little slow.  However like the second driver the more he was given, the more problems in the driving occurred.  At the end of the experiment his level was 21 nanograms.  

So what do I take from these results.  Well to be honest this just affirms the same opinions I had of this so called legal limit when the 502 was initially passed.  It is too low.

First if you're a daily pot smoker, you operate at the so called legal limit every day.  Meaning every time you drive chances are you're over the legal limit and subject to an arrest for a Green DUI.

Secondly based on the driving of the second and third drivers when you're at the so called legal limit there is not much of a decrease in motor skills.  It was not until those individuals were at 4 times the legal limit they showed obvious signs of impairment and difficulty driving.

Lastly, and probably the most interesting is the daily pot smoker, even at higher levels she did not show any signs of impairment from the driving.  In fact the instructor said her driving was fine, and she was borderline whether she would even get pulled over.

If you want to check out the article and see the footage then you can watch, Its titled, How High is Too High

Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other related offenses.  

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Why bring a DUI Attorney to your DUI Arraignment

The other day I was in Seattle Municipal Court and I had the chance to watch a couple of DUI arraignments while I was waiting for my clients case to be called.  In case you don't know the arraignment is the first court hearing that someone faces after their arrest.  So in Seattle Municipal Court generally the arraignment happens a few days after a DUI arrest in Seattle.  Obviously this is a quick turn around.  And most people that get arrested for a DUI in Seattle have never been in trouble before.  So they don't know how to go about getting a DUI Attorney or at least coming to court prepared.  

And that is exactly what happened on the few DUI arraignments I saw.  Particularly two individuals came to court without an attorney, and they left in a worse position then when they arrived.  One case this guy had an alleged BAC level of .15.  He didn't have any prior criminal history.  He wasn't involved in a car accident.  It sounds like he was relatively cooperative with the arresting officer.  The Prosecutor asked the court to impose $2500 bail and an ignition interlock device in his car while the case is going on.  Long story short, there was no bail imposed, but an ignition interlock device was.  The cost of an ignition interlock device is around $100 a month.  So assuming the case lasts 7-10 months.  That is easily could come to a $1000 fee on top of whatever other fees may occur.

The second case was more interesting.  This was a second offense DUI.  Meaning the guy hadn't gotten a DUI two years ago.  But in the recent case his BAC level was .05.  Which is extremely low.  In his case the Prosecutor asked for $5000 bail, and IID, and a scram bracelet.  The scram bracelet is something new in SMC, but it is like an home detention device that detects alcohol from your skin.  It is pretty expensive and a tremendous pain in the ass.  Now despite the extremely low BAC the Judge imposed both an IID, and the $5000 bail.  Needless to say he was not very happy about this, and went off a little on the Judge.  Bad move, but nothing happened.

So what would have happened if either one of these gentlemen had taken the time to hire an experienced DUI Attorney.  Well I cant say for sure.  But I would have argued to the Judge in the first case there was no basis to find the defendant was likely to commit another drinking and driving offense.  The City presented absolutely no evidence of this.  In fact they said if he was allowed to be free there would be a community safety risk.  Well under the rule that is not a factor the Judge is to consider.  There is always a presumption of release unless it can be shown the defendant will likely commit a violent offense in the future, or will not come back to court.  Since the guy had no warrant history, and there was no past behavior of DUI or alcohol related offenses.  I believe the Judge made a bad ruling, and this guy will now have to have an IID because of it.

The second guy is the more difficult case of the two.  Simply for the fact it was his second offense.  But what he had going for him was the allegations.  This was a really low breath test case.  Arguably he didn't violate any of the conditions of his sentence on the first DUI because he did not drive with an alcohol level over .08.  What I probably would have done is get him an alcohol and drug assessment.  He probably would have received a relapse prevent treatment program and I would have provided that to the court to show he is taking this seriously and currently involved in treatment.  Additionally at an arraignment if the Judge does find the defendant is likely to drink and drive again, the least restrictive means possible must be imposed.  In a DUI case that is to abstain from alcohol.  Thus it would be far more lawful, and reasonable to impose that condition instead of the bail and IID.  I would have made a case and really pushed that.

Now it is easy to second guess what happened, and play Monday morning QB.  But what probably isn't up for debate is both of these individuals were obviously worse off because they didn't take the time to meet and hire an attorney.

Matthew A. Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses.  He is currently rated a TOP DUI Attorney by Avvo, and a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine in the area of criminal defense.    

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Happenings in Court

Yesterday I was in a local municipal court here in the King County area.  I was there representing a client on a Bellevue DUI charge.  The calendar was a jury call calendar/readiness hearing.  Meaning it was the court date prior to a jury trial.  At this hearing both the Prosecutor and Defense Attorney get in front of the Judge and announce whether the case is going forward to trial, or whether there has been a plea deal reached, or whether either party will be asking to move the trial to another date.

Now this particular court is really unique on how they handle this jury call calendar.  In most jurisdictions there really isn't an order to how cases are called.  You just get up there, announce to the Judge what you're going to do and you're on your way.  But in this court the Judge makes any case that is either a plea or continuance request go first.  So if you're there to announce that ready for trial you have to wait until the end of the calendar.  And depending on how many cases there are you could be waiting for 2.5 - 3 hours. 

This is just one of the downsides to being in this court.  But there is nothing really you can do.  So I always advise my clients that were going to be there for awhile, so just plan on being there all morning. And I would think any decent attorney with common sense would tell their client the same thing.  Otherwise a client will show up there thinking its going to be a brief hearing, and next thing they know they are there for 3 years.  

Well yesterday I was announcing ready for a trial.  So my client and myself were just sitting there until about 11:00 am.  We got to court at 8:45.  And things are going like they normally do.  All the cases that are being continued, or resolved are being taken first.  The rest of the trial cases are waiting until the end of the calendar.  So I was just half paying attention to what was going on with the other cases, and half reading the Internet on my IPhone.   

But then a defense attorney decided to take her case out of order and got in front of the Judge.  I didn't catch exactly what she was saying, but the gist of it was she didn't want to wait anymore and she wanted her case taken out of order.  And to be honest with you I didn't think there was anything wrong with that request.  Sometimes you have other hearings to get to, and it is pointless to wait 3 hours for a 15 second hearing.  But what was offensive about her request was her tone of voice.  She really seemed to be upset when the Judge said no.  She kept trying to talk over him.  And when she didn't get her way, she slammed down her brief case on the defense attorney desk making a loud sound.  Afterwards the Judge made her come back in front of him, and he pretty much scolded her behavior.  

I don't know this defense attorney, but I was pretty embarrassed for her.  We as attorneys often have a bad rap when it comes to the general public.  I think being an attorney is a privilege and an honorable profession, and we should hold ourselves to a certain decorum.  Especially when it comes to speaking with Judges and court staff.  I personally find it very offensive when I see attorneys talk disrespectfully to Judges or court staff.  And it doesn't take much to be polite and courteous.

I mean don't get me wrong there are Judges out there that I absolutely despise.  But I always treat them with respect regardless of how I personally feel.  Obviously this attorney does not hold herself to a higher level of professionalism, and her actions were pretty shameful.  And I bet her client was not too impressed with having her attorney get scolded like a 5 year old in front of the entire court.  

Matthew A. Leyba is a Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for a Seattle DUI contact our offices immediately to set up a consultation to discuss your rights, and options following an arrest.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One of the benefits of a deferred sentence on a DUI possibly ending?

If you read this DUI blog with any regularly then you know there are two types of sentences imposed when a person pleads guilty.  

There is a suspended sentence and there is a deferred sentence.  A suspended sentence means the charge imposes a sentence at the time of the sentencing, but suspends all or a portion of the jail and fines and hangs over the defendants head for the period of jurisdiction.  At the end of that period the case is closed, but the conviction still exists on the defendants criminal history.  

A deferred sentence on the other hand is a much better deal.  Essentially the a defendant will still plead guilty but a Judge will not impose a sentence at the time of sentencing, and instead will defer it for a period of time.  Then at the end of that period if the defendant has complied with whatever terms the Judge set at the time of the sentencing, the defendant can take back the guilty plea and the charge will be dismissed.  

Currently this is one of the best deals out there if arrested for a DUI and the charge gets reduced to the lesser offense of Negligent Driving 1.  Most Judges, and Courts do not offer such a deal, but there are some occasions when it can be obtained.  In fact in 2012 I had 10 clients who received such a deal where the original charge of DUI was reduced to Negligent Driving 1, and the Judge imposed a deferred sentence.  

Now in addition to the benefit of having the charge dismissed.  Receiving a deferred sentence on a Negligent Driving 1 does not count as a prior offense.  Well it is debatable I guess.  Prosecutors will argue it does.  Defense Attorneys argue it doesn't.  The RCW spelling out what is a prior offense does not include the language "deferred sentence."  So based on a plain reading of the statute it doesn't count as a prior offense.  Meaning if a defendant successfully completed a deferred sentence on a Neg 1, and then within 7 years received another DUI.  That subsequent DUI would be considered a first offense.  

However there is currently a bill in the House of the Washington State Legislature proposing a change to this little loophole.  HB 1482 proposes amending the language of a prior offense under RCW 46.61 to include deferred sentences.  This is an interesting development.  I tend to not agree with such a change.  

First a deferred sentence is pretty rare.  It generally is only granted when it is a first offense, no prior criminal history, low breath test, and the defendant has completed all the assessments, and classes.  Secondly even if a Judge grants a deferred sentence, and the defendant completes it, but then gets another DUI.  The Judge of the subsequent DUI still has the discretion to treat the subsequent DUI has a second offense, in fact they could impose whatever sentence they want.  And if I had a client who was in that boat, I would probably tell them there is a strong possibility the Judge would do that, considering they were already given a break the first time around.  

In my opinion the only reason for proposing such a change is purely punitive.  Not surprisingly the sponsors of this amendment seem to be very "Prosecutorial friendly" if you know what I mean.  Hopefully this bill does not go any further, but I guess we will see at the end of this legislative session.  

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

Don't do what the "Adios girl" did

In case you have not seen or heard about the "Adios girl."  Here is what happened.  An 18 year old young woman was in custody in Florida on drug possession charges.  She must have been appearing at some kind of first appearance calendar where PC to hold is found, or a bail hearing.  Anyway there is a video of it, and it has become a viral sensation.

Basically the woman appears in front of a Judge.  She is laughing, playing with her hear, and kind of flirting with the Judge in her own weird way.  The Judge takes this as a sign of disrespect, and sets her bail at $5000.  He then says "bye-bye."  She responds by saying "Adios," as she is walking away.  The Judge then gets mad over this comment and calls her back in front and doubles her bail to $10K.  He then dismisses her and says, "Adios."  She gets outraged by this increase in bail, and says F- You to the Judge before flipping him off.  He then calls her back and immediately sentences her to 30 days in custody for contempt in court.  

Clearly this woman lacked any kind of manners, or common decency.  I mean I understand you're pissed off that your in jail.  But it is probably not a good idea to piss off the one person who is deciding whether to keep you in custody or not.  Below is a picture

This spectacle reminds me of case I once saw.  It was back in Seattle Municipal Court.  It must have been 6-7 years ago.  Anyway I remember it was in front of this Judge who was very similar to the one from this video.  Often times he would just go off on defendants.  Impose year long sentences from the stupidest things.  Frankly I don't know why it took him so long to get voted off the bench.  

But anyway I digress.  I remember this incident like it was yesterday.  It was the day before Christmas.  The afternoon calendar.  Nobody was really there, it was pretty light.  The case was where some defendant was trying to fire his public defender because he wanted his misdemeanor charge to be a felony so he could have a twelve person jury instead of six.  I know it sounds crazy, but this is what the defendant really wanted.  Anyway he started to argue with the Judge about the twelve person jury thing.  I remember the Judge took his fingers and put them in his ears and starting singing, "Nah Nah Nah I can't hear you."  It was really quite funny.  It was kind of like this Judge was saying, "nener-nener" like a little kid.  

The Judge then told the defendant to shut up and he was done talking about this hearing.  As the defendant was being hauled back into custody he said something to the Judge.  I want to say it was an F-bomb, but I cant exactly remember.  The Judge then calls the defendant back into custody and imposes a sentence of 1 year.  Even though the defendant hadn't plead guilty or anything.  This was still in the pretrial stage.  Both the defendant attorney and prosecutor told the Judge I don't think you can do that.  But he said I don't care and stormed off the bench.  It was really bizarre and as everyone in the courtroom was left wondering what the hell just happened.  

So what is the point in bringing all this up other than for the humor.  Well the moral of this story is very simple.   Don't piss off the Judge who is presiding in your case.  Whether you're at a bail hearing.  Whether you're at a motion hearing.  Or whether you're at a sentencing hearing.  Judge's are human too.  They let things get to them.  Their buttons can be pushed.  And like everyone else they can act irrationally.  

As a Criminal Defense Lawyer the first thing I always tell clients before they appear in front of a Judge is to act in a respectful manner.  Judge's eat that stuff up.  Particularly this is very important before we do a sentencing hearing.  I always tell my clients the same thing.  "After the Judge is done speaking with you about the plea form, they will ask you if you have anything to say regarding sentencing.  You can choose to say something or choose not to.  If you don't feel like you should be here, or this whole situation is BS.  Then it is probably best to keep those thoughts to yourself and not say anything.  Remember this is the person that can decide whether you stay out of jail or go to jail for a long time. It is best not to piss them off right before they sentence you."  

Someone should have told Ms. Soto this before she appeared in front of that Judge in Florida.  Poor girl now has to sit in custody for 30 days because she was acting like a brat.  

Matthew A. Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other serious traffic offenses.  If you have been arrested for DUI contact our office immediately for a free no hassle consultation.     

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Happenings in Court

I was in a local municipal court earlier this week.  In this particular courthouse there are generally two Prosecutors per courtroom.  There is a negotiating Prosecutor that is outside in a separate room, and there is a Prosecutor inside the courtroom that is in front of the Judge.

So I was waiting to speak with the negotiating Prosecutor in the little attorney conference room with other defense attorneys.  The defense attorney in front of me was someone I had never seen before, nor heard of.  So it was probably a newer attorney, or someone who doesn't practice in the area of DUI Defense.  Typically when there is a long line of defense attorneys waiting to speak with the Prosecutor I try to give the defense attorney in front of me some privacy.  I have had situations before where I'm trying to negotiate a case with a Prosecutor and some defense attorney is right up on my business completely violating my personal space.  So I don't do that.

But due to the tight quarters I couldn't help but overhear.  I guess the defense attorney was asking for some plea deal on a Seattle DUI charge, but the Prosecutor said they wouldn't consider it until the defendant got an alcohol and drug assessment.  Which is typically inquiry from the Prosecutor so I didn't think it was any big deal.  The Defense attorney moved on, and I moved up in line.

After I was done speaking with the Prosecutor I walked out of the attorney conference room, and I started to look for my client to discuss with them what I had negotiated.  As I was looking for my client I saw the defense attorney that was in front of me getting yelled at by his client.  All I heard was the client saying how he has been in court four times, and the attorney has never told him to get an alcohol and drug assessment, and how upset he was for not hearing about this sooner.

Usually the first thing I do when I met with a client is tell them they need to get an alcohol and drug assessment.  In fact I have written about the importance of getting an alcohol assessment previously on this blog for this very reason.  

In my experience it is important to get an assessment done for two reasons.  First often times it can help with negotiation especially when a Prosecutor wants to know whether there will be any lengthy treatment obligations.  Additionally unless the DUI gets completely dismissed, any plea deal that gets offered and accepted will require the assessment.  So you might as well get it done ahead of time so you have all the information in front of you before you make a decision.  Obviously this defense attorney did not know what the assessment was, or didn't place a great emphasis on its importance.  Either way he pretty much wasted his clients time, but not knowing one of the essentially items to do in representing someone accused of a DUI.  

Matthew A. Leyba is an experienced DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses.  

Washington Toxicologist: No spike yet in Marijuana DUI cases

The Washington State Toxicologist spoke at a legislative hearing on Olympia this week.  One of the topics she spoke about was the recently new Marijuana DUI laws here in Washington State and whether there has been an increase in blood samples submitted from law enforcement to analyze for Marijuana.  

Surprisingly she testified that there hasn't been an increase in work.  She estimated every year the Washington State Patrol receives about 6000 blood samples from drivers.  Of those 6000, she estimated about 1100 typically are for Marijuana related alcohol offenses.  DUI cases, vehicular assaults, felony DUIs, vehicular homicide cases, etc.  

She said that since the law took effect on 12/6/12 the lab has finished analyzing all the blood samples submitted from December.  Per a previous blog post, stats show this was about 300 cases and now that they have been analyzed, DUI charges are coming down the pipeline.  

She was quite to point out however that this a relatively new law, that the lab has already started analyzing blood samples from February.  With the legal limit at 5 nanograms of active THC, I also suspect this number will increase.  

It is this Seattle DUI Lawyers opinion this is an extremely low level, and everything I have read suggests it is not on par with the alcohol level of .08.  But the push to legalize marijuana by some was so important that they would have agreed anything, including an extremely low legal level.  Yet despite this law I don't believe Washington State will see a dramatic increase in Marijuana DUIs or Green DUIs as they have been coined.  

Unless an individual smokes an extreme amount, most studies suggest the legal limit currently in law here does not show significant coordination issues, or decrease in fine motor skills.  So really the only way for an individual to get arrested for a Green DUI is when there is an accident.  Or an officer just happens to stop someone and smells the odor of Marijuana.  I don't think we will be seeing too many cases where Officers pull someone over for weaving or crossing lanes of traffic.  Which happen to be the most common reasons an individual gets stopped for a DUI. 

Matthew A. Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other alcohol related offenses.  If you have been charged with a DUI contact our office immediately to set up a free 60 minute consultation.