Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Why did Seattle DUI defendant Mark Mullen plead not guilty at his Arraignment?

Several non lawyer friends of mine have asked me some questions about this case.  In case you're not familiar with the facts.  Mark Mullen is the defendant in a vehicular homicide case where he had multiple DUI convictions, had two pending DUI cases one in Seattle Municipal Court and the other Snohomish County District Court and he killed several innocent pedestrians and critically injured another.  There has been a lot of questions why this guy was on the street, why he didn't have the court ordered ignition interlock device in his vehicle, and how something like this could have been prevented.  

Recently he had his first court date on the new vehicular homicide charges and he entered a not guilty plea.  Some of my friends were wondering how he could do this when the evidence was so stacked against him already based on the news accounts they had heard.  My answer to them is pretty simple this is how the criminal justice runs.

Despite how you feel about Mr. Mullen he is entitled to have representation.  He will be given an attorney if he cannot afford one.  Certain rights attach to him now that criminal charges have been filed.  Things like the right to counsel, the right to a jury of his peers, the right to remain silent, the right to have the Prosecution prove beyond a reasonable doubt these charges, and the most important the presumption of innocence. 

By entering a plea of Not Guilty at his arraignment does not necessarily mean he won't take responsibility for this later on, or he won't be found guilty in the end.  The arraignment is not the place to dispute charges, challenge evidence, or really plead guilty.  It is an informal hearing where the charge will be read in open court.  The defendant or the accused will enter a formal not guilty plea, and the Judge will determine whether there is probable case to hold, and then determine what conditions if any the defendant must follow while the case is going on.  In Mr. Mullen's case that is $2.5 million in bail. So he is not going anywhere anytime soon.

So before you get up in arms that this man plead not guilty.  Remember we are all afforded these rights.  Whether you have never been in trouble before, or whether you have a lengthy criminal history.  As a Seattle DUI lawyer this is just something I understand, and second nature to me.  So it is completely understandable how a non lawyer may question what is going on.  But this is how it works, and this is why our criminal justice system works. 

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DU Lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently rated as a Top DUI lawyer by Avvo, and was named a 2013 Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine, and Seattle Metropolitan. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DUI laws about to get a whole lot tougher in Washington State

Some new legislation is being pushed through the State Capital this before the legislative session ends.  Proponents of these bills are hoping to capitalize on some horrific incidents involving drunk driving recently here in the Seattle area.  The chief proponent behind this legislation is Governor Inslee who calls these proposed bills "the most aggressive, the most ambitious change to State laws ever."  Keep in mind this is also the same guy who compared a first time DUI offender as a terrorist with a ticking time bomb in their trunk.

Here are some of the highlights of this bill

  • Automatic booking into custody after DUI arrest
  • Requirement of ignition interlock device to get vehicle out of impound after DUI arrest
  • Second offense DUI penalty is 6 months in jail
  • Third offense DUI penalty is 1 year in jail.
  • Individual accused of third DUI would be required to have special license that would not allow any alcohol to be purchased or served for 10 years
  • DUI charges to be filed within 48 hours
In case you don't know I'm a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  My practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other driving related offenses.  But at the same time I am not deaf to the horrific accidents that recently took place, and I in no way condone killing or injuring another person by drinking and driving.  

But some of these charges are over the top excessive.  As it stands right now if you have never been in trouble before and for the most part cooperate with the arresting officer you will not get booked into custody.  Generally you will be released at the station or I have ever had some Seattle DUI arrest cases where my client was taken back home.  Under this legislation regardless if you have never been in trouble before you will have to spend the night in jail.  

The other proposal that I think is excessive is requiring somebody to get an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle to get it out of impound.  First of all in King County it takes 3-6 months and in some cases up to 2 years to get a DUI charge filed.  So the person is supposed to have the ignition interlock on their vehicle the entire time.  If it is not important to the Prosecutors office to file the charge, and they don't deem the individual a community safety risk then why the ignition interlock.  There area already measures in place to prevent a person from getting behind their wheel of their vehicle after a DUI arrest, and that is Hailey's law which mandates a 12 hour hold after a DUI arrest.

The real scary thing to come from these tragedies is not the toughening up in DUI laws (although that is scary) but the public backlash that has arisen.  Just take a look some of the comments in the Seattle Times.  Some of these remarks are completely nuts.  1 year in jail for a first DUI.  $30,000 fine for a first DUI.  No alcohol for life are just a few.  And that is not the scary thing, the scary thing is these are the people that compromise jury pools.  Imagine getting wrongly arrested for DUI.  Fighting your case all the way until a jury trial.  Then getting a bunch of these crazies judging your fate.  Unfortunately nowadays there is no way anyone can get a fair trial in King County on a DUI case.  Now that is scary!

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI lawyer in Washington State.  He is currently rated as a Top Seattle DUI lawyer by Avvo, and was recently named a 2013 Rising Star in the area of DUI defense by Super Lawyers Magazine.  This is an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys in Washington State receive.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

DUIs and Golf Carts

I literally posted a blog about DUIs and golf carts here in Washington State less than a week ago on my website blog.  Then somehow this gem of an article pops up in my twitter feed.  It is about a small town in Georgia where 15% of all DUI arrests involved golf carts.  Yes you heard that right.  Golf carts.  I was being pretty factious when I blogged about this on my website.  But I guess it really happens.  

As both a Seattle DUI lawyer and a golfer this really surprises me.  Arresting someone who is driving a golf cart on a cart path is just odd to me.  I mean how much damage can a person do in a golf cart on a cart path.  Growing up playing golf, and working at golf courses I can't tell you how many people I have seen driving a golf cart impaired.  It is just kind of what happens when you mix beautiful summer weather, some beers, and people that don't play that often.  But not once did I ever think someone would get arrested for that.

Now this article discusses this town a little bit.  And I guess there are over 100 miles of cart paths.  So its not like the police are out arresting golfers on the course.  And it sounds like the cart paths are shared by pedestrians, bicyclists, etc.  So I can see how a golf cart can cause injuries and/or damage.  But for it to be 15% of all DUI arrests is just alarming to me.  In my opinion perhaps these law enforcement officials should be spending some more time trying to solve other crimes, or enforcing the traffic code where violations are actually occurring on the street with actual vehicles.

Anyway if you want to read the article here it is.  It is titled, "Peachtree City cracking down on drunken golf cart drivers." 

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  He is currently rated as  Top DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA by Avvo website and is also named a Rising Star in the field of DUI defense by Superlawyers Magazine.  This is an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys in Washington State receive.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Are Washington State's DUI laws tough enough?

Amid the controversy over Mark Mullen and why he was still on the street another article has come out chiming in on this issue.  This one from the Seattle Times basically asks the question, Are Washington State's DUI laws tough enough?  

In case you have been living under a rock this all stems from Mark Mullen.  The guy who had several previous DUI convictions, and how two pending DUI matters in Seattle Municipal Court, and Snohomish County District Court.  Yet despite that and having an order from both Courts to not drive unless his vehicle was equipped with an ignition interlock device killed two people, and seriously injured a mother and child a couple of weeks ago.

So that brings us to the question at hand. Are the DUI laws in Washington State tough enough?  In my opinion yes they are.  Here are a few reasons why?

  • 4 or more prior DUIs in a period of 10 years are now felonies
  • Required ignition interlock devices for first time offenders in Washington State
  • Last year alone law makers doubled the penalties for vehicular homicide cases
  • Additionally the max amount of jail a first time offender faces is 364 days
  • 5 years probation for first time offenders

Now some are wondering despite all of this how can people like Mark Mullen still be on the road.  In my opinion the bottom line is while this was a horrific and tragic incident, Mr. Mullen was going to drive no matter what.  At his arraignment the Court did everything within its power including imposing bail, setting conditions of release, etc. 

Remember Criminal 3.2 which states there is a presumption of release in a court case unless it can be shown the individual is not likely to appear at their next hearing, or there is a substantial likelihood they will commit a violent offense in the future.  In this case the Judge found there was a substantial likelihood he would drink and drive again and imposed bail.  Mr. Mullen just happened to have money and posted it.  Additionally if conditions of release are imposed those conditions must be reasonable.  

Don't get me wrong I'm still a Seattle DUI lawyer but with that being said my heart goes out the families of the victims in this case.  I walk those streets every day with my family and it easily could have been us.  But to suggest there was anything that could have been done within reason to prevent this is a stretch.  I believe Washington State has some of the more tougher DUI laws in the Country, and unless the Judge imposed a $100 million dollar bail (which would not happen for any case) he was going to post.  The problem here is not the system, but Mr. Mullen's choices.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI lawyer.  He is rated a Top DUI Lawyer by Avvo, and currently is a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine in the field of DUI defense.