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 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.        

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