Friday, May 31, 2013

Why it's important to always get your alcohol assessment from an agency that does not offer treatment

If you have been arrested for a DUI in Washington State than one of the things that you should immediately do to help your case and your attorney is get an alcohol and drug assessment.  An alcohol and drug assessment is essentially interview you have with a counselor to try and determine whether you suffer from any alcohol or drug issues.  

You will answer questions about the DUI incident, your history of alcohol and drug use, your current usage, and you will provide a urinalysis test.  Based on how the interview goes and whether the counselor feels you suffer from any abuse or dependence issues treatment will be recommended.  This can range anywhere from a one day class up to two years of intensive treatment.  

So you're probably wondering where you get this assessment done.  Well like many things in their word you have many options.  A simply google search will reveal hundreds and hundreds of alcohol treatment agencies in Washington State that are State certified and can do this assessment.  But in my opinion as a Seattle DUI Attorney you must very cautious in deciding where to do the assessment.  Why?

Like all businesses these alcohol and drug treatment centers are in the business of making money.  And it is in their financial interests to make money off you.  Now I'm not saying they will make up issues you have in order to recommend treatment and charge you for it.  But I have seen it happen before and I'm leery of these places.  So in order to eliminate this issue what should you do?

Get an alcohol and drug assessment from an agency that does not offer treatment.  One that only does the assessment and therefore has no financial incentive to recommend treatment you don't need because they won't benefit from it financially.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently rated as one of the Best Seattle DUI lawyers by Avvo, and listed as a Rising Star in Seattle DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.    

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Why deferred sentences should not be eliminated on DUI cases

Recently I wrote a blog post giving an update on what is currently happening with the DUI bill that is in the Washington State legislature.  I wrote a few sentences about some of the major overhauls this bill contains when it comes to DUI cases in Washington State.  At the end of one of the descriptions of the bill I wrote that I was not in favor of eliminating deferred sentences on DUI cases (which is one of the proposals in this bill).

No sooner did I make the post I received the below comment concerning that section 

"Getting rid of deferred sentences for DUI cases is a fabulous idea. If you are stupid enough to drive drunk then you should be punished and not with just a tap on the wrist. DUI is nothing to take lightly. If you drive drunk and, heaven forbid, kill someone, then you deserve to die. Drunken driving is totally 100% preventable. I totally support Governor Inslee in his efforts to strengthen our DUI laws."
- Anonymous

In this blog I receive for the most part two kinds of comments.  One from other lawyers or business websites that leave a comment with a back link to their website.  Some believe this helps increase your organic search listing on search engines like google, and bing.  I will typically approve these comments if it appears the individual attempted to leave a legitimate comment concerning the particular post.  If it is just spam then I will usually delete it.  

The second type of comments I receive are from individuals who left the comment above.  They typically write something negative about my post, or my profession.  Some attack what I do, question why I do it, etc.  Most of the time I just delete these comments.  Even though everyone is entitled to their own opinion, I do not want that kind of negative feedback on my blog.  Not surprisingly these individuals are always anonymous.

But the reason I'm writing about the comment above is because I believe individual who posted the comment doesn't have all the information when it comes to deferred sentences and is a bit misinformed about the severity of DUI penalties in Washington State compared to other States.   

First of all  those charged with a DUI do not just get a slap on the wrist.  I'm a DUI Attorney so I guess sometimes I forget that lay people are not familiar with the laws.  I can tell you unequivocally that Washington State currently has some of the toughest DUI laws right now.  Did you know that first time offenders in Washington State are required to have an ignition interlock device for 1-2 yeas.  A requirement that very few states make.  Additionally there is mandatory jail, mandatory fines, and mandatory insurance requirements that other States do not have.  So when this individual says there shouldn't be a slap on the wrist.  Believe me these penalties are anything but soft.

Secondly I wouldn't characterize someone who gets a DUI as "stupid."  Yes it is a mistake, and everyone makes mistakes.  But not everyone that gets a DUI is your typical drunk driver.  One time I represented a client who went out drinking the night before.  She got pretty drunk, and knew she shouldn't drive home.  So she did the responsible thing and spent the night at her friends.  When she woke up she felt fine and drove home.  On the way home she got stopped and arrested for DUI.  Her breath test was a 0.03 and she got charged with a DUI.  Now was this girl "stupid?"  Absolutely not.  And I'm sure the anonymous comment above would agree.  

Lastly deferred sentences aren't just given away like candy.  If you get charged with a vehicular assault or vehicular homicide or a high breath test, or any kind of accident case you're not getting one.  I think the anonymous comment above is under the impression that is the case.  No it is not and a deferred sentence is extremely rare on a DUI case.  

Typically when a deferred sentence is given it is when the defendant has a breath test under the legal limit or right at it.  They DUI charge is lowered to Negligent Driving 1 which is a simple misdemeanor.  A less severe crime than someone charged with stealing a candy bar from a grocery store.  Throughout the life of the case the Judge determines the defendant is  not at risk to re offend, and they have been proactive and completed all conditions of a sentence before they were even imposed.  The Judge feels they learned their lesson and taken the incident very seriously.  Additionally even if a deferred sentence is grated and the defendant gets another DUI.  The Judge still has the discretion to treat the second DUI as a second offense, even if the first one got dismissed.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently rated as a Top Seattle DUI Attorney by Avvo, and named a Rising Star in DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. 



Thursday, May 23, 2013

Washington State DUI bill clears Senate hurdle

Unless you have been living under a rock the past few months and you don't read this great blog.  Then you probably know that Governor Inslee and the Washington State Legislature are seeking to implement tougher DUI Laws in our fair State.  They didn't have enough time during the regular legislative session, so a special session was set to work on this bill as well as some other issues in our State.  

Well the first hurdle has been cleared in paving a path to Washington State having the Toughest DUI laws in the Nation.  The bipartisan bill proposing the changes passed the Senate last week and is on it's way to the chambers budget panel to deal with some of the fiscal issues it will cause. 

Among some of the provisions of SB 5912 there would be a 10 day increase to all minimum DUI jail sentences.  A fourth DUI conviction would now be considered a felony.  And ignition interlock devices will now be required on all repeat offenders when they are initially released from jail following their DUI arrest.  Additionally the bill would also prohibit deferred sentencing on DUI cases.  Something as a Seattle DUI Attorney I do not agree with.  

Assuming this bill passes it would make Washington State the Toughest State in the Nation when it comes to punishing DUI offenders.  And as tough as things may get they may get tougher next year.  Recently the National Traffic Safety Board recommended lowering the DUI blood alcohol limit to 0.05 from what it is currently at 0.08.  Now they have no legal authority to do this, essentially they are just a group who conducted a study and published their opinion.

However there are two key players in Washington State who are in favor of this and who have hinted they may push for this next year.  Governor Inslee is one and Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes is the other.  Inslee has already shown a propensity to not be afraid of making making major changes to existing laws.  And don't forget his initial proposal for the new bill to DUI laws was a lot tougher.  I mean it was ridiculous.  Things like everybody who gets a DUI arrest gets booked into custody and then in order to get released an ignition interlock device must be placed on a car. Things like that.

But first let's wait and see what the final bill looks like before we start worrying about lower DUI blood alcohol limits on DUI cases.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other related offenses.  He is currently rated as one of the Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Avvo, and listed as a Rising Star in DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine and the Seattle Met Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Ignition Interlock Device v. SCRAM bracelet. Which would you rather have?

If you recently have been arrested for a DUI in King County then you face the possibility of either an ignition interlock device or a SCRAM bracelet being imposed at your DUI arraignment.  Lately with the negative publicity DUI cases have been getting, along with the recent tragedies involving repeat drunk drivers more and more Judges are setting stricter conditions of release after a DUI arrest.  Sometimes involving both a SCRAM device and or an ignition interlock device. 

Obviously if you're at a DUI arraignment in King County and the Prosecutor is asking the Judge to impose either one of the above conditions an objection should be made under criminal rule 3.2.  However if it appears the Judge is going to grant the Prosecutors request.  Which condition is better to have?

In case you don't know an ignition interlock device is a contraption that is installed in your vehicle through your dashboard.  Before the driver starts their vehicle they have to blow into the interlock device and it tests for alcohol.  If the driver tests positive for alcohol and the level is higher than the programed level the vehicle will not start. Typically this level is a 0.02 or 0.04.  

A SCRAM bracelet is a device used to detect alcohol.  It stands for Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring.  It attaches to an individuals ankle and detects alcohol through sweat.  The bracelet will test every so often, usually every hour.  If alcohol is detected then the SCRAM bracelet reports the positive test to a regional monitoring center who then informs the Court.  

So back to my original question.  Which is better?  Well in my opinion as both a Seattle DUI Attorney and citizen concerned with the recent tragedies an ignition interlock device is the better of the two.  Why?

First an ignition interlock device is much less expensive.  A typical ignition interlock device costs about $75 a month.  The cost of a SCRAM bracelet costs around $12-$15 a day.  That equals about $360 a month.  

Secondly in my opinion an ignition interlock device is a much more effective tool to prevent drunk driving.  Why?  Well in order to start the vehicle a driver needs to be sober or the car will not start.  Most people I know only have 1 car.  They are not going to get drunk and go through the trouble of trying to find another car to drive.  Secondly a SCRAM bracelet in no ways deters drunk driving.  An individual can still drink, get drunk, get behind the wheel of their vehicle and drive.  It's not like if the bracelet detects alcohol the police are going to immediately find the individual and arrest them.  By the time the Court finds out it could be too late.

So why would a Court impose a SCRAM bracelet and not an ignition interlock device.  I don't know.  Perhaps it is a punitive measure.  Perhaps it is to drain an individual financially in an effort to teach them a lesson.  Clearly in my opinion it is in violation of Criminal Rule 3.2 which states the least restrictive means possible must be imposed.  And an IID is the least restrictive means possible other than a simple abstain condition. 

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Attorney in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other related offenses.  He is currently ranked as one of the Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Avvo, and listed as a Rising Star in Seattle DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Should State's lower the blood alcohol level in DUI cases to 0.05?

Recently the National Traffic Safety Board conducted a study and recently recommended that all State's reduce the blood alcohol level in DUI cases to 0.05.  Currently the level in all 50 states is 0.08.  Citing the need to reduce traffic fatalities, and drunk driving cases the NTSB looked at other countries that have this reduced blood alcohol level.  Specifically European countries, and Australia.  

In my opinion and this is not just because I'm a DUI Attorney in Seattle.  I believe reducing the current alcohol level to 0.05 would really not accomplish much.  First of all you still get charged with a DUI if your blood alcohol level is below a 0.08.  Secondly such a proposal would meet stiff opposition from many agencies.  Not such DUI Attorneys but the restaurant and tourism industry, beverage industry.  Heck even MADD has not endorsed such a proposal if though the NTSB recommendations have been out there for quite some time. 

So what is the point with this recommendation.  Well I really don't think there is one.  How much would lowering the legal limit really do.  I mean if you want to reduce traffic fatalities then there should be a zero tolerance level.  That is the only way to say traffic fatalities would be reduced.  

The difference between a .05 and a .08 is maybe 1 drink.  Will that 1 drink really affect someones ability to drive?  Probably not.  I'm not sure of any studies but I bet most traffic fatalities involving DUI cases the defendants probably have blood alcohol levels two or maybe three times the legal limit.  They are not below the current legal limit, and if they are then the defendant has to be under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs.

Now the thing to keep in mind is the NTSB has no legal authority regarding this change.  They are simply an agency that has made a recommendation.  It will not happen at least in my lifetime.  If it did I would be extremely surprised, and I probably would no longer be a practicing Seattle DUI Attorney.  So it wouldn't really bother me none because I wouldnt have any clients getting screwed over by it.  
About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Seattle DUI Attorney.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently rated as one of the Best Seattle DUI Attorneys by Avvo, and listed as a Rising Star in DUI Defense by Super Lawyers Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Governor Inslee signs alcohol amnesty law for minors

Governor Inslee signed a bill into law this last week that would essentially give minors immunity against a minor in possession criminal charge if they seek medical help for an overdose.  I guess the theory behind the bill is the following.  A couple minors are having a few beers.  One of the minors gets so intoxicated that the friends believe the minor is suffering from alcohol poisoning.  They choose not to call the police or 911 because they are worried they will get in trouble because they have been drinking too.  Without emergency medical help the minor with the alcohol poisoning either dies or is severely injured.

This law approved by the Legislature last month is meant to prevent something like that from happening.  As a Seattle DUI Lawyer it is an interesting idea.  As a parent I think it is a wonderful idea.  As a parent if my daughter (when she is old enough) was with some friends and they were too afraid to call 911 because they didn't want to get in trouble, I would think this type of law would make it so they would call 911.  But my hesitation with it is I think it is kind of irrelevant.  

I have represented many individuals charged with a Seattle Minor in Possession charge.  Not once has it ever been because there was alcohol in my clients system.  It usually occurs when a minor is at a house party, or at a park and they are drinking in public.  A police officers comes and gives them citations because the alcohol is in plain view.  I would think there would be some legal issues if a MIP was charged when there was no evidence of actual alcohol other than on the persons breath or in their system.  

So I don't know how helpful this law would be.  I suspect it is more about appeasing the public and like all bills it is probably 99% political.  But from a recent Seattle Times article about it there are 12 other States doing this, or have similar types of laws.  And it is a problem in college with students drinking too much to the point where they get alcohol poisoning.  But like I said I have never heard of someone getting charged with a MIP without the actual physical possession of the alcohol.  This is an interesting bill, and given the negative reaction some of the other alcohol related bills recently received for being unfeasible and too expensive this seems like a genuine way to help those in need.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  He is rated as one of the best Seattle DUI lawyers by Avvo, and listed as Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine and the Seattle Met Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Meet the man behind Washington States move towards stiffer DUI penalties

State Rep. Roger Goodman a democrat from Kirkland is the man behind the push towards toughening up Washington State's DUI laws.  Recently an article from the Seattle Times sat down with Rep. Goodman and did a profile on him.  He sounds like a pretty interesting guy.  He is a 52 year old lawyer who admits to smoking marijuana as recently as last fall, and he received over $40,000 from the marijuana community for his campaign.  But at the same time he is known as one of the bigger anti-DUI leaders.  Put it this way, even though he sounds like a cool guy, you don't want him sitting on any DUI trials.

He is the leader of the impaired driving working group, as well as the chairman of the House Public Safety committee which oversees DUI policy.  In other words this guy is the public face behind the push to make Washington State have the toughest DUI laws in the nation.

Admittedly I do not follow politics.  So I was not very familiar with this guy prior to all this push for tougher DUI laws in the past few months.  But from the article it sounds like this is not the first time he has attempted to toughen up DUI laws through proposed legislation.  It sounds like this is his MO or personal goal when it comes to DUIs.  For example this session he was also a sponsor of a bill that would restrict deferred sentencing on DUI cases, and the imposition of a DUI court.

In my opinion the proposed legislation to restrict the deferred sentencing speaks more towards trying to make a statement than any sort of public policy issue.  For those that don't know a deferred sentence occurs typically when a Judge will not sentence an individual, but hold off.  If they comply with certain conditions, they take back their guilty plea and the charge gets dismissed.  In a DUI case this is very rare for it to happen.  When it does usually the charge has been lowered to Negligent Driving 1, the person has no priors, they are not likely going to get in trouble again, they have completed all conditions of a sentence prior to the plea.  The benefit is the charge will get dismissed.  But it is not like it gets vacated from the record.

Currently a deferred sentence does not count as prior offense if the individual got another DUI, but a Judge has the discretion to treat a subsequent DUI as a prior even with a deferred sentence.  The fact that he would want to eliminate this benefit has nothing to do with public policy, but trying to come off as some sort of crusader against people charge with DUIs.  I don't agree with that as a Seattle DUI Attorney, or a resident of Washington State.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle, WA.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.  He is currently ranked as Top Seattle DUI Lawyer by Avvo, and was named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers Magazine and Seattle Metropolitan Magazine.  An honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.