Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Court's Role in hearing DUI cases

I recently came across this website that was posted on another DUI blog that follow.  It is called The Courts Role in Reducing the Incidence of Impaired Driving.  This website asks a great question.  But in my opinion the answer given by the website is completely off.

Essentially this website was created as a guide for Judges who don't hear DUI cases that often.  This website was created by the National Center for State Courts.  Which is an organization designed to offer resources to Judicial leaders, Court administrators, staff, etc.  The mission of this organization is to improve the administration of justice through leadership and service to state courts and courts around the world.  So the best I could tell this organization sounds somewhat legit, which makes me more alarmed that this website would be put out under the guidance of this organization.  

Now back to this website.  It is a pretty thorough website describing the role Courts should take in hearing DUI cases.  Sounds innocent enough, huh?  Well it is not.  Reading through the website the entire tone is anti-DUI.  Now a majority of the site offers concerns for public safety, decreasing the number of DUI related deaths, accidents, etc.  Which I'm all for.  

But portions of the website seem to be suggesting a tougher stance should be taken personally with individuals charged with DUI as opposed to other crimes.  For example it states, 

"In DWI cases the Court can have a much broader role than many other types of cases.  Through it's interaction . . . the Court establishes a tone towards DUI cases in the community.  This is evident when the Court addresses a defendant at sentencing to stress the severity of the DWI case, invites school groups to attend DWI trials, or explains to law enforcement procedural shortcomings following unsuccessfully prosecuted cases."  
Now this is just a small snippet of this organizations views towards DUIs.  Now don't get me wrong above all else I'm a husband and a father.  Even before a Seattle DUI Attorney.  My family is the most important thing in the world to me, and protecting them obviously speaks for itself.  The last thing I would ever wish on anybody is to be injured by someone who was driving impaired.  If that can be prevented then of course I'm in favor of it.

But at the same time if an individual makes a mistake and is charged with a DUI in Seattle, or any other places in our Country.  Then they must be afforded the same rights as everyone else.  This is why our legal system works.  Every defendant in a criminal case has certain rights that are automatically attached.  Including the right to be heard by an impartial Judge or Jury, and the right to be presumed innocent.

What upsets me with the tone of this website, and the National Center for State Courts is the biased view it puts on individuals charged with DUI.  To suggest a Court has an obligation to set the tone for how DUI cases are to be handled is wrong.  That is not their job.  It is the State Legislature and the Prosecutors job to do that.  A Judge is to sit impartially and handle every criminal case the same.  Meaning they must afford each defendant regardless of what they are charged with the same rights.  Additionally the Court does not have an obligation and should not take part in helping Prosecutors obtain convictions by telling the Cops and Prosecutors what they did wrong during an unsuccessful prosecution.  That is not the Courts role.

Obviously DUI offenses are a serious offense.  Especially considering the recent tragedies we have had Seattle involving DUI related deaths.  However those defendants, and ever other person charged with a DUI must be afforded the same rights.  There is a balance between weighing the community safety concerns with those individual rights of the defendants.  The Court's job is not to tip the scales in favor of the law enforcement or the Prosecution but to weigh the concerns and rights evenly.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle.  His is currently rated as 10 out of 10 by Avvo and listed as a Top Seattle DUI Attorney.  Additionally he has been named a Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by several publications including the Super Lawyers Magazine and the Seattle Met Magazine.  This is an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys in Washington State receive.  


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