Recently the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS) ruled in Naverette v. California that an uncorroborated 911 call alleging a "drunk driver" was sufficient in and of itself to allow law enforcement to stop the suspected driver.
This ruling effectively strips away the Fourth Amendment rights of every US citizen. Can you imagine a scorn lover, an envious neighbor or some other person who has some sort of beef with another being able to simply call 911 alleging drunk driving and have law enforcement then stop someone. The Court in Navarette v. California held that the tip alone was sufficient to allow a stop for suspected drunk driving. The court reasoned the anonymous caller's description was essentially credible because a 911 tipster would not have done so with ill-will, that no one would falsely call 911! Are they freaking serious??? Without getting into a Fourth Amendment diatribe the Court here has given law enforcement carte blanche to stop anyone based upon BS 911 calls. Just think of all the hypotheticals you could come up with!
In Washington state however, it will be interesting how this case will be implemented as under Article I Section 7 of the Washington State Constitution citizens are afforded more protection than what is provided under the Fourth Amendment. One such case I can reference is Campbell v. DOL wherein a similar fact pattern was argued and the court held the anonymous tipster's description of a driver (without some law enforcement corroboration of bad driving) was not sufficient to stop someone for alleged drunk driving.
We will see how all of this plays out, but it is a really really bad decision by SCOTUS and I believe anyone with a brain would agree.
Friday, April 25, 2014
Supreme Court of the United States allows for scorn ex-lovers, jealous neighbors, problem co-workers to call police anonymously and have you stopped for drunk driving!!!! SERIOUSLY!!!!
Friday, April 11, 2014
Is your cut-rate attorney really doing their job? How did that pricing structure work out for you when all they did was plead you guilty?
I commonly post my successes but I do have cases in which a client is found guilty of the original offense by a jury and I readily admit that, but I simply don't plead people guilty (I can only remember doing this once in the past 5 years because that is what my client requested and it is their choice but I always try and at least put it to a jury). That being said, I have noticed a strange, scary trend amongst some attorneys/firms. It is the practice of offering a "pricing structure" or "cut-rate" (for example $1500 for any DUI charge). Essentially I see these attorneys in court pleading their clients guilty as charged. I never ever see them at a readiness hearing, the hearing wherein you are telling the court you are ready to go to trial or even at an evidentiary hearing (hearing where you actually cross-exam a cop and argue your case to a judge).
What these attorneys/firms are "offering" under this pricing structure is to review the client's case and basically give up or tell them, "well this is gonna be a tough case and let's just plead guilty or the prosecutor is going to ask for jail above the minimum penalty." That is done in an effort to quickly dispose of the case and make an easy buck without actually doing any work. This is utterly despicable in my opinion. I wonder if they even really review the case in its entirety to truly look for issues or do they just look at the breath test and tell the client they are screwed?
When I post a victory or dismissal this may seem like I am patting myself on the back, but it is really a notice to those attorneys out there afraid of a challenge. If you are practicing DUI defense in King County and have not had an evidentiary hearing or trial in the last month, then you are not doing your job! Attorneys offering "cut-rate" pricing structures to essentially plead people guilty and ask for mercy from the court because they are too chicken s$#t to try a case are cowards only out for money. That is a disservice to anyone charged with a Seattle DUI and utterly reprehensible in my opinion. If you don't want to stand up in front of a judge and cross examine cops or to speak to a jury or put forth a defense, then get out of this area of law, you are no good to anyone. For example, I had a recent case wherein my client was charged with three crimes (DUI, Hit and Run, and Reckless Driving) with an alleged breath test of .211 and .217. I cross-examined two cops, argued my strongest issues to a judge and they judge found in my client's favor, dismissing all the charge. Now I know a ton of attorneys who would have done exactly what I did and I respect them and consider them my peers but I also can think of a few that are simply unable to articulate an effective argument to a judge and/or jury and who are basically timid court adverse cowardly attorneys who shouldn't be in this area of law. Seem harsh? Not one bit when you consider they sell out clients for monetary gain when the client's liberty could have been saved. Imagine the client I just mentioned, if that client had hired one of these cut-rate attorneys and they plead him out then he found out he actually had a legitimate challenge to his case, they committed malpractice in my opinion.
If you are looking for a Seattle DUI Attorney, don't be fooled by these cheap prices being quoted. The cheap prices are quoted for cheap work. You deserve a Pit-bull not a Chihuahua, don't be suckered in with clever marketing and high search engine rankings, those mean nothing. If your Seattle DUI Attorney has never had a DUI dismissed after they argued the case in front of a judge then they are inexperienced and you would be better off representing yourself. If your Seattle DUI lawyer has never won a DUI jury trial, then why would you even hire them, to let them train on your dime?
Please don't be fooled by clever websites and videos of the so-called experienced attorneys waxing on about DUI defense and the process of hearings, etc. when they wouldn't know the first thing to do in front of a jury and are too afraid to actually be an attorney! Some attorneys are great at marketing but horrible in the courtroom (or too afraid to actually get into one and do work), which one do you want?
Today I have a very happy client. He was alleged to have driven his truck into an electrical box, some bushes, then back up and run over a stop sign while 8 people witnessed the incident. One of the witnesses called 911 and when police arrived, that witness rode with them to the area the truck was last seen. The officers found the truck with debris from the bushes and matched the tire tread to the marks left at the scene. Additionally, the truck's hood was warm to the touch, indicating to them that it had recently been driven.
The officers were able to ascertain who the registered owner of the vehilce was by running the plate through dispatch. They then confronted my client at his home and although he admitted to driving earlier, he was never asked about the incident. The officers just assumed he had to have been the driver. The witness was unable to identify who the driver was at the time because it was very dark. My client was arrested and charged with DUI, Hit and Run of Property, and Reckless Driving. He was also alleged to have blown a .211 and .217 after his arrest at the station.
We had an evidentiary hearing last week to address the issue of corpus delicti (proof of driving) and many other issues (probable cause, admissibility of the BAC, etc.). Prior to the hearing I attempted to negotiate the case with the prosecutor who flat out laughed at me stating there was no problems with their case.
After a two hour heairng and testimony from two officers the judge (at the King County District Court) advised the matter would be taken under consideration and a written order issued subsequently. Yesterday I arrived at my office and found that order. The judge concluded that since no one witnessed my client drive, that his admission to driving was insufficient to place him behind the wheel at the time of driving and dismissed the matter.
This goes to show you that you never know what will happen once you get in there and litigate.
Tuesday, April 1, 2014
A first time murderer is afforded a better opportunity for a plea bargain than a DUI suspect in King County!
Recently a defendant charged with First Degree Murder pled guilty to Second Degree Murder in King County. See story here: Former JBLM soldier pleads guilty to second degree murder.
Now you might think that for an awful crime the defendant doesn't deserve any break whatsoever but the King County Prosecuting Attorney thinks this plea was justified.
Now this was a murder charge, so you would think that a first time offender charged with a misdemeanor DUI might have a similar opportunity, nope, think again! These first time DUI offenders are worse in the eyes of the King County Prosecutor's Office. The King County Prosecutor's Office has a no negotiation policy on first time DUIs, first time murder yes, but not on first time DUIs!
Over the 10 years I have been practicing in King County I have handled hundreds upon hundreds of DUIs. The majority of these first time offenders found themselves in the position simply because they misjudged their ability to drive after consuming alcohol. The vast majority were not involved in an accident and no one was injured. No one is condoning driving while drunk but when a prosecutor's office takes it upon itself to treat first time DUI offenders worse than first time murderers and rapists, there is certainly something rotten in Denmark.
People charged with DUI are not all bad people; consider this - a former Washington State Supreme Court Justice was charged with DUI, numerous State Representatives and Congressmen, judges, police officers, firefighters, professional athletes, Microsoft Employees, NBA executives, Professional singers, etc. have found themselves charged with DUI when they made a judgment to drive when they honestly believed they were capable.
The King County Prosecutor's Office has taken it upon itself to penalize all DUI offenders and not negotiate any first time cases even though the legislature intended for negotiations to take place. This is why RCW 46.61.5055 specifically outlines "prior offenses." The legislature intended that reduced charges such as Reckless Driving and Negligent Driving in the First Degree, reduced from an original DUI would be "prior offenses" for sentencing purposes (meaning on a second offense the penalties start at 30 days in jail and go up for third and fourth offenses) if an individual were charged and convicted of a new DUI within 7 years from the date of the original arrest for DUI. Why did the legislature articulate prior offenses this way, it is because the overwhelming number of persons charged with a DUI don't re-offend and it doesn't necessarily believe that someone charged with a DUI has to be convicted and have a permanent offense on their record (a DUI can NEVER be removed from your record in Washington State if convicted or a plea of guilty is entered).
Now it is the King County Prosecutor's prerogative to do so but is it really the role of a prosecutor to only get convictions or is it to get justice? Think about it, if a first time felon is afforded the opportunity to plea to some lesser offense or to an amount of jail less than what is typical (I'm talking murderers, drug dealers, rapists, sex offenders, etc.) then why do misdemeanor offenders for DUI get treated worse? For example, a Reckless Driving offense has a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 days of license suspension, 3 years of high risk (SR-22) insurance, and it will have conditions similar to those of a DUI conviction (everything except the day in jail and permanent conviction that cannot be expunged).
There is no logic behind the position and I believe each attorney who adheres to this policy is a hypocrite. Why would I use such a harsh word? Because every single one of the prosecutor's abiding by this policy personally know someone who has either been charged with a DUI, who should have been charged with a DUI or has committed the offense of DUI themselves (whether they were caught or not). Would they honestly say to their grandmother who was arrested and blew a .081, tough s#@t grandma, you gotta plead guilty!
The major issue now has become that this "policy" is a huge burden on the taxpaying citizens of the State of Washington. How you say? Why shouldn't we prosecute everyone charged with a crime? There is a difference between prosecution and persecution. To give someone the opportunity to admit guilt by way of a lesser plea is not letting the individual off the hook. How taxpayers are being effected is this way: troopers are being paid an increasingly inordinate amount of overtime to appear to court for evidentiary hearings and then sent home when there is simply not enough time on the calendar to hear the case. This happens every single Friday in King County District Court! That is not even taking into consideration the "close call" cases that arguably could be won by either side. When the State takes the position of a no negotiation policy it effectively is telling everyone charged, "just try me!" Now when those defendants do and win, then the State has just wasted taxpayer money when it could have offered a reduced plea and had the individual on probation for a couple of years making money, but due to the bull-headed nature of this "philosophy" many, many cases are going to trial and some juries are reaching not guilty verdicts.
Also, courtrooms are so overloaded with trials that independent and expert witnesses are sitting around all day then getting bumped to the next day or week. State toxicology lab workers testifying on these cases are actually spending more time in the courtroom than in the lab performing work to try and catch murderers and rapists because apparently DUIs are of greater concern to the prosecutor's office. Who do you think pays the salaries of those persons.
To sum up, again it is the prerogative of the King County Prosecutor's office to prosecute cases as it sees fit, but when the stance taken is that DUI convictions are more important that murder convictions or rape convictions, the political nature of the policy is evident. When a potential candidate gets on tv or radio and espouses what a great DUI conviction rate they have, the question should be asked, well how many felony suspects were given reduced pleas? Politics should not dictate negotiations.