Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Over celebration following Seahawks awesome win

The Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Superbowl.  Let me repeat that.  The Superbowl.  How awesome is that.  Unfortunately lost in the awesomeness that was the dramatic win.  King County Troopers were hard at work doing their best to stop possible DUI drivers in the Seattle area.  Were they successful?  Well the numbers are in and I would say yes there were successful.

After the Seahawks game King County Troopers arrested 16 DUIs.  Keep in mind this is just King County and mostly in the Seattle area.  I couldn't find the numbers for Snohomish and Pierce county DUI arrests.  Before you say that doesn't seem like a lot.  To put things in perspective.  The previous two Sundays had 7 DUI arrests in King County total.  

Clearly the game played a major factor in the increase of DUI arrests.  In fact I was watching the news and one local Seattle bar, who I won't name closed early due to the patrons having "too much."  Both the Seattle Police and the Washington State Patrol advertised there would be an increase in DUI patrols.  In fact they post it on twitter, facebook, and the overhead signs in both Hwy 99 and I-5.  So it shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone they were out in full force.  

If you have found yourself in the unfortunate position of being one of these unlucky 16 keep in mind things could have been much worse.  No vehicular homicide or vehicular assaults were reported.  

If you were arrested in King County for a DUI the first thing you need to do is find a DUI lawyer who can help you during this time.  Even speaking with one a good one will help put your mind at ease and explain some of the process to you.  This is especially important if you have never been in trouble before.  A DUI arrest in King County can be a daunting process but if handled correctly there can be relatively little blow back in the end.  

About the author:  Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in Seattle.  He has been voted as a Rising Star in DUI defense by his peers according to the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.  Additionally he is rated as a 10/10 and "Superb" by Avvo.com when it comes to Seattle DUI lawyers.    

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Suspected DUI driver on I-5 attracts 15 separate DUI calls

On New Years Day a driver who was weaving on I-5 in Pierce County caused 14 separate 911 calls from other drivers.  It appears the driver was driving pretty erratically on the freeway including traveling on the shoulder, crossing lanes without signaling, and traveling at inconsistent speeds.  Now even though Im a DUI lawyer in Seattle, I'm all for making the streets safer in our State.  And despite what I do Im not in favor of drinking and driving.  However lately I have been seeing an increase in these types of phone calls from citizens and it has me concerned.  

In fact I recently blogged about this on my website and how a 911 caller reported a suspected drunk driver in Seattle that turned out to be a Seahawk football player.  The football player was followed all the way into downtown by the 911 caller and was eventually stopped and arrested for DUI by the Washington State Patrol.  

As stated above lately I have been seeing this more and more.  I think it is in large part due to the negative publicity that DUIs have been getting in King County since the beginning of last year.  Remember we had two separate vehicular homicide cases in a matter of weeks.  Both of these drivers have prior DUIs and were in violation of court ordered ignition interlock devices.  In response to those incidents as well as some others the media, the general public, and the State Legislature demanded change in the DUI laws.  It seemed like every time I turned on the news or read the paper there was something DUI related and how we needed to toughen our laws to prevent these types of incidents from occuring.

The laws were changed, so Im not going to rehash that.  But what has also been a direct correlation to the media frenzy is the rise in 911 callers.  These "vigilantes" are in some cases following suspected drunk drivers, and conducting citizen arrests.  Most of the time however they are reporting the driver to the police based on nothing more than some weaving within the lane.  

In fact in the past year I have had several former clients involved in these kind of fact patterns.  And the concern I have when these "vigilantes" decide to report a drunk driver in the hopes of getting them arrested is the fact they have no idea what they are talking about.  For ever 911 call that was like the one I described in my first paragraph there are probably 50 more where the alleged drunk driver is not actually drunk.  In fact every case I have ever represented where there was a 911 caller the breath test ended up showing the driver was not over the legal limit.  And in most cases the driving was due to something else like playing with the radio, making a phone call, or fiddling with GPS.  

Did those people that called the police on the driver prevent a DUI in Pierce County.  Perhaps.  But think of all the other times people get stopped, detained, and in some cases arrested when they have done nothing illegal by having a drink and then deciding to drive home.  As I stated in my blog on my website.  Nowadays you not only need to worry about law enforcement, but also the "vigilante" 911 caller.  Remember if you had a glass of wine at dinner or a single beer while watching a football game, you decide to drive home and on the way there you get a text message look down at your phone a cross the lane divider.  If one of these vigilantes is behind you, they will call 911.  You will eventually get stopped by the police and arrested for a King County DUI.  Regardless of what your alcohol level is.  

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI lawyer in the Bellevue Seattle area of Western WA.  He has been named a Rising Star in the field of DUI defense by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.  He also is rated a 10/10 by Avvo.com among Seattle DUI lawyers.   

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Can the outcome of a high profile DUI case affect future normal first time DUI cases

Last Friday a high profile vehicular homicide case was resolved in a favorable manner for the defense.  And unfortunately for anyone else who is facing a DUI in King County the favorable result of this vehicular homicide case is going to have a negative impact on any DUI case going forward.  Why and how will this occur?  First let me explain what happened last Friday.

So in 2012 a 21 year old man from Buckley struck and killed a 16 year old boy while under the combined influence of marijuana and oxycodine.  The boy was simply walking with his girlfriend on the side of the road when this horrific accident happened.  A blood test revealed the driver had nearly two times what is now the legal limit of marijuana in his system.  He also had the oxy which was probably had the most impact on his ability to drive.  

Seems like a pretty open and shut case for the Prosecution, huh?  I mean these are the cases people are all up in arms about in Washington State.  It's why the State Legislature went on a witch hunt last year by attempting to change the DUI laws in Washington State to make them the toughest in the nation.  It's why other high profile vehicular homicide cases have been in the news, and the public has rejoiced when the defendants in those cases were sentenced to prison.  

Well this case apparently has some legal issues and the King County Prosecutors office felt like there were some proof problems.  So they offered a sweet deal where the vehicular homicide charge would be reduced to three misdemeanors.  Guaranteeing the defendant will not serve any time in prison.  So I guess good for that guy.  He was able to beat his vehicular homicide charges.  He got lucky a US Supreme Court case nullified his blood test results.  On the other side the victims family doesn't feel like justice was served and there has been a public backlash because of this (just read the comments section in the Seattle Times).  

So to get back to my original question.  Would a high profile vehicular homicide case like this, where the defendant seemingly got off, affect the normal first time non accident, non felony DUI case?  In my opinion as a DUI lawyer in Seattle the answer is absolutely yes.  And here is why?

First as a DUI lawyer if you have ever done a jury trial you can attest to the negative feelings that most jurors have in jury selection towards DUIs.  Especially in King County with all the high profile cases we have seem to be getting in the past year.  People want to get tough on DUIs.  They want the defendants to pay.  And unfortunately they cannot separate the felony homicide DUI case, from the first time offender who happened to barely blow above the legal limit.  They are out for blood and it is the first time offender who is unfortunately going to pay.  

Secondly when it gets out that a major Prosecutors office is giving away deals like this.  It hurts every other DUI case in that jurisdiction.  You think when the Prosecutor is in the news and the headline implies they weren't tough enough on a high profile King County DUI.  You think the Prosecutors office is going to take that.  No they are going to be more tough on DUIs.  They are going to show the media, the general public, and anyone else that questions their stance on this type of case that they are not easy on these particular charges.  

Unfortunately because of that I believe when a first time offender walks into Court.  In a case where there was no accident, it was not a felony, they have no prior history, and they barely blew above the legal limit.  They are now going to be subject to a more overzealous prosecution that in all honesty is completely unfair.  I fear they will be made an example of all in an effort to show the media and the general public that this Prosecutors office is tough on DUI's.  We have already kind of seen this with the change in negotiating policies in the past year or so. 

Now I don't mean to paint a bleak picture if you're reading this and currently facing a DUI charge or if you have recently been arrested and you're doing some research.  But this is certainly a side issue that whether it's fair or not will impact your case.  Having a DUI lawyer who understands that and can build a defense around it will be worth their weight in gold.  IMHO.   

About the author: Matthew Leyba is a DUI Lawyer in the Seattle Bellevue area of Washington State.  He has been rated as a 10/10 by Avvo.com among Seattle DUI Lawyers, and was recently named a Rising Star in the field of DUI Defense by the Seattle Met Magazine, an honor less than 2.5% of all Attorneys receive.