Monday, September 30, 2013

DUI arrest in the City of Seattle....What next

If you have been arrested for a DUI in the Seattle City limits then your DUI case will be filed in the Seattle Municipal Court.  Facing a DUI in Seattle Municipal Court is a bit different than other jurisdictions.  From the date of your arraignment to the Judges to the probation department everything is a little bit different than other Courts.  Here is everything you need to know about a DUI in Seattle Municipal Court.

First the arraignment.  Your arraignment will be a couple days following the DUI arrest.  It will be either in room 1002 if it falls on a weekday or it will be in the King County Jail if it is on a Saturday.  In most cases regardless of the breath test and the number of offenses the Prosecutor is going to ask the Judge to impose several conditions.  Abstain from alcohol, bail, and an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive.  That's right pretty tough conditions on a first offense, but that is one of the quirks of Seattle Municipal Court.  Obviously you want to object to these conditions.

Second negotiating with the Prosecutors is a little unique.  Like most Prosecutor offices a schedule will come out a few weeks prior to a pretrial hearing.  However in Seattle Municipal Court there are two Prosecutors at a pretrial hearing.  A "talking head" who just speaks on the record, and a "negotiating" Prosecutor who is in one of the attorney conference rooms outside the Court room.  

Third there are two readiness hearings.  That's right the hearing you appear before you announce ready for a trial is called the readiness hearing.  In Seattle Municipal Court there is a first and a second readiness.  Although this is not as common as it used to be.  It still occurs.  The DUI lawyer needs to appear at both.  At the first readiness hearing you can ask for a second readiness hearing if you need additional time to negotiate or there are outstanding issues and either party is not ready for trial.

Fourth is the master calendar.  This is actually pretty cool.  Every DUI case that gets set for trial on a particular week in Seattle Municipal Court appears Tues morning at 8:30.  There the Judge will go through every case.  The parties will either announce they are ready, ask to pass, or ask for a continuance or note a resolution has been reached.  After about 2-3 passes the Judge will start assigning cases to a particular trial Courtroom.  Then the Prosecutor and the DUI Attorney will go to that Courtroom and start the trial.  

The other big difference with Seattle Municipal Court is the requirement of probation on almost all DUI cases if the alcohol/drug evaluation and ADIS/VIP requirements are not done.  In other Court if you don't get the ADIS/VIP class done at the time of sentencing the Judge will give you 90 days or so to get it filed.  There is no probation requirement but simply a deadline.  In Seattle Municipal Court unless you can convince the Judge to go against the norm you will be required to check in with a Probation officer so they can monitor your compliance with the ADIS/VIP.  Why is this a big deal?  Other than the time commitment there is also an additional court fee to be monitored. 

Obviously every court is different, but in my opinion Seattle Municipal Court has some quirks that if you're not familiar with can seem quite odd.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle.  His practice focuses on representing those charged with DUI and all other traffic offenses.  Leyba Defense PLLC has offices in downtown Seattle and Bellevue, WA. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Matthew Cordle changes plea to guilty

A few weeks ago I blogged about Matthew Cordle and how there was this outcry from the public because he did not initially plead guilty to vehicular homicide at his arraignment.  

In case you're not familiar with who this guy is or you didn't read my blog.  Basically he was involved in a hit and run.  He posted a confession on YouTube and said he was going to turn himself and and plead guilty as soon as possible.  However at his first hearing, the arraignment, he entered a not guilty plea.  And the media, the general public, and even the Judge were upset and seemed to imply that he went back on his word.

Well I posted that nobody enters a guilty plea at the arraignment.  To suggest otherwise is just ridiculous.  Heck even Judges are reluctant to take a guilty plea on a theft of a candy bar at an arraignment let along a charge as serious as vehicular homicide.  A defendant gives up basically all their constitutional trial and appellate rights.  So it is kind of a big deal and to me it was no surprise his initial plea was one of not guilty.

However last week Matthew Cordle changed his plea from not guilty to one of guilty.  According to the Prosecutor he faces a maximum penalty of up to 8 1/2 years for the vehicular homicide charge.  His sentencing is set for the middle of October.

In case you're not familiar with my blog, I'm a DUI lawyer in Seattle.  So I see people all the time charged with these types of offenses.  Alcohol related offenses, mostly DUI cases.  Most people I see in Court (not my clients of course) they are only looking for one thing.  How to get out of this mess they got themselves into.  

Heck I remember I met with a prospective client once and that was the first thing she asked.  How I was going to get her off.  So it is very surprising when someone in such a public manner just pleads guilty as charged and really takes all the responsibility for their actions.  

I know what this guy did was horrible and somebody lost their life because of a poor decision he made.  But hey you have to hand it to him.  He confessed, he turned himself in, and he followed through with his promise to plead guilty.  To me that shows a lot of character and I respect his decision.  Now don't get me wrong I realize somebody lost their life, but I'm simply saying Mr. Cordle showed a lot of accountability by doing what he believed was right, and I think even the most ardent anti-DUI crusader would agree.  I certainly do. 

About the author: Matthew Leyba is the owner of Leyba Defense PLLC.  A DUI Law Firm located in the Seattle Bellevue area of Western Washington.  He focuses on representing those charged with DUI and other traffic offenses.  He has been named a Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive, and he is also rated a Top DUI Attorney by Avvo.   

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Life in prison for a DUI? You betcha in Texas!

I recently saw an article about a woman who received a life sentence in prison for her 6th DUI conviction.  That's right life in prison.  You may be surprised by that, especially considering it wasn't a vehicular homicide or vehicular assault case, but a run of the mill DUI.  But I'm here to tell you these types of sentences are becoming more and more common recently.  So what happened you ask?

Rose Ann Davidson, 44, was arrested by a Kyle police officer in the early morning hours of July 27, 2012, on Interstate 35 after he observed her driving erratically. The officer concluded she was intoxicated and found an open container of beer in her vehicle.  Davidson had five prior convictions for driving while intoxicated dating back to 1996 and had only recently been released from prison, Hays County officials said.

As a DUI Lawyer in Seattle this type of a sentence does not surprise me.  Especially considering the shift in public and media perception of DUI offenses.  If you have been following my blog about Seattle DUI Defense you will know that these types of sentences are going to become more common as the years go by.  Repeat DUI offenders are not being tolerated, and this case in Texas is just another example.

A few days ago I stumbled across a blog where the author said people charged with DUI's do not need an attorney.  That DUI Attorneys are only in the business of scaring people so they can charge an exorbitant fee and prey on their fears.  I almost spit up my coffee when I saw this "so called advice."  By hey to each their own.  

Im a DUI Lawyer and I do this for a living.  I have never seen a case where a defendant appeared pro se and they were better off.  I've seen people think they were smart and they could represent themselves.  But it almost always ends up badly for them, and it is definitely not something one should consider.  Especially considering the increase in more zealous prosecutions for even first time offenses.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba the owner of Leyba Defense PLLC, a Seattle DUI based law firm, focuses exclusively on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic offenses.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What else can affect a drivers ability to operate a motor vehicle similar to a DUI

I recently saw this article from the Chicago Tribune titled, "Push to lower legal limit of intoxication to 0.05 stirs debate."  I initially thought it was another article discussing the National Traffic Safety Board's suggestion to lower the blood alcohol level in DUI cases from 0.08 to 0.05.  But when I dove into the article there was actually some interesting information that I wanted to share on my blog.

Interesting enough many opponents of DUI and other safe driving advocates remain silent on the issue of lowering the BAC level to 0.05.  Many believe it is due to the difficulty of actually proving someone is impaired at 0.05.  Others believe it is due to the reality that so many more non criminal acts can affect a person's ability to drive more than an alcohol level at 0.05.   

The gist of the article begins a discussion of what actually constitutes dangerous driving.  And I was quite surprised at some of the examples they provided.

For example the "National Sleep Foundation states that drowsiness is very similar to alcohol impairment and “can impair driving performance as much or more so than alcohol,” according to a report on the topic. Being sleepy can slow reaction times, limit vision and create lapses in judgment and delays in processing information, the foundation states."

Additionally "A 2003 study by University of Utah showed that motorists who talk on cellphones — hands-free or not — are as impaired as drivers at a 0.08 BAC. Study participants drove slower and hit the brakes and accelerated later than those driving un-distracted. Drunken drivers drove slower than cellphone users and un-distracted drivers but more aggressively. They also followed more closely and hit their brakes more erratically, the research showed."

Lastly the article mentions some studies that establish lane deviations and attention lapses occur at a BAC as low as 0.001.

Now don't get me wrong.  Even though I'm a DUI Attorney in Seattle, I am not advocating drinking and driving.  In fact in my family I have a strict policy of absolutely no alcohol if you're driving.  This is in part due to the danger of driving while impaired, but mostly it has to do with all the DUI's I have defended where the blood alcohol level was significantly less than the legal limit.  FYI - there is no such thing as a legal limit.  

So for all those proponents of lowering the legal limit to 0.05.  There are many more things that are as dangerous if not more when it comes to driving.  Should we criminalize texting while driving.  Should criminalize those that have only had an hour or two of sleep while driving.  Absolutely not.  The legal limit is fine where it is.  That's just my opinion.

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic related offenses. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Can a federal law enforcement agent detain for a DUI?

Imagine you're driving close to the Canadian border.  You maybe had a glass of wine or two at dinner.  A border agent traveling to work happens to come across your vehicle.  Decides you're a suspected drunk and driver and decides to try and pull you over.  The border agent is in full uniform, and is driving a department of homeland security vehicle.  Because Washington State borders Canada any citizen of our State could be in this position.  What would happen?

Well this issue arose in Vermont involving a similar set of facts.  The case began on June 7, when a uniformed Customs and Border Protection officer on his way to work at the border noticed a car parked by the side of the road in Newport with the driver apparently asleep inside. The driver told the agent she was not in distress and didn’t need help.  Yet the agent took her keys and demanded identification. The officer then called a Border Patrol agent, who arrived a short time later. The two agents kept Leary there until a state trooper arrived and arrested her on a DUI charge.  Ultimately the DUI charge was dismissed the charge because the agents did not have the grounds to detain the driver and there was no suspicion the driver had committed a federal crime.

As a DUI lawyer in Seattle this issue can arise at any time.  So it is interesting to think about.  If I was a Prosecutor and I was arguing a detention was lawful involving a border agent.  I would probably try and argue the agent wasn't acting as a state actor or anything and it was a citizens arrest.  To arrest someone as a citizen the State only needs to establish there was some kind of breach of the peace.  You see this often in citizens who exercise this authority for suspected DUI cases.  Usually the problem overcoming this is establishing what a breach of the peace is.  Typically the driving amounts to little more than a traffic infraction, so it is often difficult to do.  

The other issue is some border agent or federal agents are given broad state powers to exercise state law.  Customs and border agents regularly enforce state laws along the border.  And in remote areas since they are often the first to arrive or assist then they have the authority to act under State laws.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in Seattle.  His practice focuses on representing those charged with DUI and other traffic related offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI in Seattle or anywhere in Western Washington contact him immediately to ensure your constitutional rights are protected 


Monday, September 9, 2013

North Carolina Court decides whether a Firefighter can pull someone over for DUI

I recently saw an article discussing a case in North Carolina.  Since I found it interesting, and I had a similar about 7 years ago I thought I would discuss it here on the blog.  It asks two questions whether a firefighter can stop and detain someone for a DUI and whether by doing so are they acting as a state agent which would subject them to 4th amendment restrictions.

Basically in North Carolina a firefighter was on his way to a fire alarm in his fire engine when he passed a motorist who did not have her headlights on, and the window was down in pouring rain.  The firefighter thought this was weird, but he continued on.  When he finally got to the fire alarm another engine was already there so he left and searched out the vehicle he previously saw.  He found the vehicle, observed it weaving in traffic and almost cause a collision.  He then called 911, activated his fire engine lights and pulled the driver over.

At the trial court level the Defendant argued this stop was impermissible, but the Judge disagreed and denied the motion to dismiss.  The Defendant was ultimately convicted of DUI.  The Defendant appealed to the appellate level where they found this issue did raise 4th amendment implications and therefore remanded back to the trial level to determine the issue of whether the firefighter acted as a private citizen or a state actor.  Not surprisingly the trial court followed their earlier decision and found the firefighter was acting as a private citizen and it was a lawful citizens arrest.  A new trial has been ordered.

This is a pretty interesting issue.  As I noted above I had a similar issue about 7 years ago.  I had a client who was driving through downtown Seattle on the 4th of July or New Years.  I can't recall.  There was lots of traffic and a meter maid was directing a four way intersection.  When my client approached the intersection he didn't go through for some reason, the meter maid approached him.  Observed the typical signs of impairment, ordered him to the side of the roadway and took away his keys and called the Seattle Police Department.  The client was eventually arrested for DUI.

I essentially raised the same issue as in the North Carolina case.  I argued first the meter maid did not have the requisite authority as an actor of the Seattle Police Department to conduct a seizure.  They are non-commissioned officers, despite being directed to enforce the traffic code.  Secondly I argued this was an unlawful citizens arrest because it did not constitute a breach of the peace.  At most not driving through the intersection amounted to a traffic violation, not a breach of the peace.

Fortunately for my client we never got the opportunity to argue the case in front of a Judge.  I remember the Prosecutor was brand new.  I was able to convince her she was going to lose and ultimately my client was offered a plea deal he couldn't turn down.  As a DUI Attorney in Seattle I was hoping to litigate it and create some precedent by appealing if we lost, but it wasn't meant to me.   

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Seattle.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic related offenses. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nearly 300 drivers arrested for DUI in King County during 3 week strech

I read an article this afternoon from the Seattle Times discussing the success of the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.  Slowly but surely it sounds like it is working, although not at a rate law enforcement or the general public might want.  The excerpt is below but in the same time frame last year there were more than 80 DUI arrests made.  So that is 80 less DUI arrests in King County due to this enforcement.  I for one think that is progress, but you can decide.  Here is the article

A total of 292 drivers were arrested on suspicion of impaired driving in King County during a DUI enforcement campaign that ran from Aug. 16 through Sept. 2.
Last year, during the same time period, officers on routine and extra patrols arrested 374 people for DUI in the county, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Statewide, the recent “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” enforcement campaign resulted in 1,420 arrests.
Participating law enforcement agencies in King County included police departments in Auburn, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Burien, Clyde Hill, Covington, Des Moines, Duvall, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Issaquah, Kent, Kirkland, Maple Valley, Mercer Island, Newcastle, North Bend, Port of Seattle, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, SeaTac, Seattle, Snoqualmie, Tukwila and Woodinville. The Washington State Patrol also participated.
One of the things to keep in mind about this campaign and the Target Zero Task Force which consists of law enforcement officers targeting drunk driving in King County is that it's all federally funded.  Meaning if there isn't a progress shown then that funding probably will be cut off.  

Personally as a Seattle Criminal DUI lawyer I have been seeing more and more drivers arrested and charged with DUI who were well under the legal limit.  I suspect it is due to funding as well as the State Patrol saying they are getting tough on DUIs and showing an "x" amount of DUI drivers arrested and therefore saying its a success.

Remember the phrase "Driver sober or get pulled over" is not just a campaign.  It's the truth there is absolutely no such think as a "legal limit" anymore.  If you have a drop of alcohol in your system then you're fair game to get arrested.  Believe me I have seen it.  Clients with literally a blood alcohol level barely above 0.00 getting arrested and charged for DUI.   

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle.  His practice focuses on representing those accused of DUI and other traffic related offenses.  If you have been arrested for a DUI call for a free 60 minute consultation to discuss your rights and how to protect them.