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Probation allows DUI offenders to avoid jail

Washington residents who are convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can face a range of penalties. While those with several prior DUI convictions may face felony drunk driving charges, first-time offenders are generally treated more leniently. In these situations, judges forgo custodial sentences in favor of community service, probation and substance abuse counseling. Many DUI offenders must also have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles.

Individuals who are placed on probation will generally be required to report to their probation officer on a weekly, biweekly or monthly basis. Drunk driving offenders are usually expected to refrain from drinking or taking drugs while on probation, and judges may impose additional conditions based on the facts of the case. Probation offers offenders the opportunity to avoid incarceration, but it can be terminated quickly if offenders do not follow the rules.

DUI offenders who are on probation should understand that probation officers also work in the field and make home visits. During such visits, officers may check to ensure that the information provided by offenders, such as their living and working arrangements, are true. They may also ask for a breath sample to check for alcohol consumption. Probation is often ordered for a year or longer to reduce the chances of recidivism, but it may be cut short when offenders do what is asked of them.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys may support measures that are designed to rehabilitate offenders rather than punish them. Furthermore, they could urge prosecutors to consider alternatives to incarceration in misdemeanor drunk driving cases. Attorneys may add weight to these arguments by pointing out mitigating factors such as a previously unblemished record, gainful employment and sincere remorse.

License suspensions after a DUI charge or conviction

Washington motorists who are taken into custody for a DUI could be subject to a drivers license suspension. However, an individual may ask for a hearing within 20 days of the incident. If the hearing examiner upholds the appeal, the driver will keep his or her license. If the appeal is denied, the license suspension will last from 90 days to two years, and it will start 60 days after a person is taken into custody.

It is worth noting that a person who is convicted of DUI in court could still be subject to a license suspension. A suspension will last anywhere from 90 days to four years, and the length will be based on the driver’s prior record as well as the severity of the crime. Drivers will receive credit for any time that their license was suspended after being taken into custody.

If a driver’s motor vehicle license is suspended for a DUI conviction, the penalty will start 45 days after the Department of Licensing (DOL) receives notice of the conviction. A driver may ask the DOL to ensure that the court has provided it with accurate information. However, there is no way to ask that the conviction or suspension be reduced or overturned.

driver’s license suspension is just one of many penalties a driver could receive after a DUI conviction. Other punishments include fines, community service and jail time. However, an attorney may be able to review a case and help create a defense. For instance, an attorney might argue that a client was not over the legal blood alcohol limit when charged. Other defenses could include casting doubt on physical evidence or witness testimony.

Lab backlog delays DUI cases

There is a significant backlog of DUI cases in Washington due to thousands of requests for blood tests for drivers accused of using drugs before driving. In 2017, the state toxicology lab, run by the Washington State Patrol, handled 15,945 cases. This figure signifies an increase of 9 percent over 2016. The number of such cases has grown by 45 percent in the previous five years.

The laboratory tests blood samples taken in DUI cases as well as handle the testing following autopsies as requested by medical examiners and coroners. While the number of cases has risen dramatically, the number of employees at the facility has not. This means that cases are delayed as testing time increases. In 2017, the median time to receive results from the lab was 45 days, and it was only 20 days in 2016.

While the lab is seeing more death investigations, the largest number of samples leading to the backlog at the lab is generally attributed to an increasing number of DUI blood tests following the legalization of marijuana in the state. Breathalyzer tests used to detect the presence of alcohol cannot be used to test for marijuana or other drugs. The number of DUI cases related to drunk driving in Washington has fallen in the past several years, but more cases have been attributed to driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs.

If someone is convicted of drunk driving or other DUI charges in Washington, he or she can face severe penalties, which can include costly fines and even jail time. A criminal defense attorney can help people who have been arrested for DUI challenge the evidence presented by the police and present a strong defense before and during the trial.

Man arrested for DUI after hitting 2 cars

On March 2, a Washington man was taken into custody on suspicion of drunk driving. The incident took place at approximately 12:23 a.m. in Parkland.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department received a report of a hit-and-run accident outside the Parkland Manor Apartments. Witnesses said that a man had smashed his car into a parked vehicle and then drove off. After allegedly driving down the wrong side of 106 Street, he headed down Sales Road, where he crashed into a second vehicle.

Once the defendant was apprehended, he allegedly admitted to deputies that he was drunk. He also offered one of the deputies money, but he was turned down. Two blood alcohol tests indicated that he had a blood alcohol content level of .255 and .262, respectively. The legal limit in Washington is .08. He was taken to a local hospital for observation and later booked into the county jail. He has been charged with driving under the influence, hit-and-run of an unattended vehicle, hit-and-run of an attended vehicle and driving with a suspended license.

DUI and DWI charges can lead to harsh consequences in Washington. If convicted, typical penalties for drunk driving often include heavy fines, incarceration and the loss of driving privileges. However, many defendants avoid such outcomes by retaining the services of a criminal defense attorney. In some situations, an attorney may be able to dispute the results of any blood alcohol or field sobriety tests a defendant submitted to. In other circumstances, an attorney may argue that the authorities did not have the requisite reasonable suspicion to conduct the traffic stop.

Source: Puyallup Patch, “‘I’m Drunk’ Driver Tells Pierce County Deputies After Crash“, Hoa Quach, March 5, 2018

Drunk drivers could face harsh consequences

Motorists who are detained on suspicion of DUI in Washington and other states may want to know more about the potential charges that could follow. Drunk driving charges may be connected to the use of alcohol, illegal substances or prescription drugs. In some situations, DUI charges are combined with manslaughter.

Many allegedly drunk drivers who are taken into custody by law enforcement officials will be charged with a felony or misdemeanor DUI. Others will find themselves facing charges of juvenile or commercial driver DUI.

Following a first, second or third alleged DUI offense, drivers are most likely to be charged with a misdemeanor. Charged individuals may face life-altering consequences upon conviction. In some cases, conviction of a first offense may lead to as many as six months of jail time, a hefty fine, loss of license and other potential penalties. A subsequent DUI conviction could lead to additional fines and jail time as well as probation and a loss of driving privileges for an extended period of time. Some drivers may also be required to install vehicle interlock devices in their cars.

Felony charges are more serious and could lead to even harsher consequences. The severity of the penalties associated with alcohol-related charges reflects the position that it is extremely dangerous to drive while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Drivers who find themselves facing drunk driving charges in the state of Washington may want to seek legal counsel from a criminal defense lawyer. In some situations, the attorney may be able to identify a deficiency in the prosecution’s evidence, which could lead to a dismissal of the case. The attorney could also work to negotiate lesser charges and penalties outside of the courtroom when doing so supports the best interests of the client.

Man facing felony drunk driving charges after fatal crash

A 27-year-old professional skateboarder has been charged with vehicular assault and vehicular homicide in connection with an August 2017 car accident in Washington state. The crash claimed the life of one of the man’s passengers and left the other severely injured. Police say that the man was traveling at highway speeds in an area with a posted speed limit of 15 mph when he lost control of his vehicle on a curve.

According to official reports, deputies from the King County Sheriff’s Office were detached to the vicinity of Thorson Road and Southwest Bank Road on Vashon Island at approximately 10:14 p.m. on August 30 after a resident called 911 to report an accident. Reports suggest that the man’s vehicle came to a rest after striking two trees. A 46-year-old man who had been sitting in the front-passenger seat of the car was pronounced dead at the scene. A 26-year-old man who had been sitting in the rear of the vehicle was transported by helicopter to a trauma center in Seattle.

Deputies say that they began to suspect that alcohol may have played a role when they noticed several empty beer cans on the back seat of the man’s badly damaged vehicle. Deputies obtained a search warrant to draw blood from the man after a roadside breath test allegedly revealed his blood alcohol level to be .10 percent. The legal driving limit in Washington is .08 percent. The man is said to have admitted to deputies that he was speeding and had consumed one beer earlier in the day.

Felony drunk driving charges can have severe consequences in Washington, and prosecutors may be hesitant to show leniency when lives have been lost. However, arguing cases before juries always involves at least some risk, and this is especially true in criminal cases when guilt must be established beyond any reasonable doubt. Experienced criminal defense attorneys may bring these points up during plea discussions and encourage prosecutors to mitigate their risks by entering into a plea agreement.

Source: KOMO News, “Skateboarding star charged with vehicular homicide in deadly Vashon Is. crash”, KOMO staff, Feb. 9, 2018

Senior Washington lawmaker charged with DUI

Washington lawmaker Timm Ormsby has apologized to voters for his ‘very poor choice” after being charged with driving while under the influence. The Democrat, who has served in the legislature since 2003 and chairs the influential House Appropriations Committee, was taken into custody on Feb. 10 after being involved in a one-car accident on 58th Avenue NW about three miles west of the Olympia city limits. Reports indicate that Ormsby lost control of his Jeep Cherokee as he made a turn.

Officers say that they arrived at the scene to find Ormsby receiving medical treatment in a fire department aid vehicle. The legislator is said to have admitted drinking two 12-ounce beers earlier in the day and two 16-ounce beers while working on budget issues when officers questioned him about the strong smell of alcohol that was allegedly emanating from his overturned vehicle. According to reports, Ormsby was taken into custody after failing to complete a series of standardized field sobriety tests.

A subsequent breath test is said to have measured Ormsby’s blood alcohol level at .10 percent. Infrared scanning equipment was then used to provide more accurate figures. The scan produced a blood alcohol reading of .09 percent, and Ormsby was charged with driving with a blood-alcohol level of at least .09 percent when he appeared before a Thurston County District Court on Feb. 12.

Toxicology test results may be challenged by criminal defense attorneys when their clients suffer from certain medical conditions or questions arise about the equipment used or the way that samples were handled. However, lawyers may seek to settle drunk driving cases at the negotiating table when the evidence against their clients is compelling. When no bystanders have been injured, and their clients have not been in trouble with the law before, attorneys could urge prosecutors to reduce DUI charges or penalties in return for a speedy resolution.

Source: Komo News, State legislator from Spokane cited for DUI, Komo staff, Feb. 13, 2018

Source: The Spokesman-Review, Rep. Timm Ormsby rolls Jeep, charged with DUI, Jim Camden, Feb. 13, 2018

Washington looks at law around urine testing after DUI charge

According to Washington state’s highest court, random urine tests for drugs and alcohol for people charged with but not yet convicted of DUI are unconstitutional because they are too invasive. The court, which reached its decision with a 5-4 majority, also said that based on state law, urine testing at the pretrial stage could only be done for people who had prior DUI convictions or who were facing felony charges.

Under current law, a judge can order a person facing charges to refrain from drugs and alcohol until the case is resolved. How or whether that can be monitored is under review. State Sen. Mike Padden has introduced a bill that would allow judges to order random urine tests. However, according to the public defender who argued the case before the Supreme Court, a legislature cannot overturn a Supreme Court decision with a bill.

The public defender also says that an alternative might be a transdermal bracelet that would detect whether a person was drinking alcohol. However, it is not yet certain how far-reaching the court’s decision will be. Of the three DUI cases involved, two had no convictions and the third was for driving under the influence of marijuana. Therefore, it appeared that in at least two of the cases, there was no basis for assuming the person charged would not comply.

Observing a person’s civil rights during an investigation and when taking a person into custody is critical. If those rights are violated, the evidence or even the entire case could be thrown out. A person who is facing drunk driving charges may want to talk to an attorney about how to respond, since a conviction could lead to fines and incarceration in some cases.

How pretrial detention may affect a person’s case

Some Washington defendants might be pressured to plead guilty to charges because they are unable to afford bail. A study that appeared in the American Economic Review found that people who are released before a trial are 14 percentage points less likely to be found guilty. This is mostly because people who remain in jail have a weaker bargaining position and are more likely to plead guilty.

According to the study, which was conducted by researchers at Harvard, Stanford and Princeton, poorer defendants are less able to make bail. The study found most of them earned under $7,000 in the year leading up to being taken into custody, making a bail of even a few thousand dollars out of reach for them.

Furthermore, the study also found that people who were released before the trial had a higher chance of getting a job three to four years later. This indicates that the system of pretrial detention can be part of a cycle of poverty that it can be difficult to break. On any given day, according to the study, there are around 500,000 people in pretrial detention around the United States. Worldwide, this is the highest rate, and it points to the scope of the problem.

A plea bargain might also be offered to a person who is taken into custody on drunk drivingcharges. People might think pleading guilty is not serious and that it will be easier to put the incident behind them. However, charges of driving under the influence can lead to license suspension and other penalties. It may affect a person’s job in some career fields. Furthermore, if the person is ever charged with drunk driving again, the previous incident on the person’s record could make penalties more severe. An attorney may be able to work with a person to discuss how best to handle these types of charges.

Report supports a reduced BAC limit

Currently, the legal blood alcohol limit in Washington state is .08 percent. This is also true in every other state in America until Dec. 30 when a Utah law lowering its legal limit to .05 percent takes effect. A report issued by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine suggests that all states should adopt the .05 percent threshold. Doing so may reduce or eliminate the 10,000 alcohol-related traffic deaths in the United States each year.

The report also asserts that 28 percent of traffic deaths are caused by drivers impaired by alcohol. That translates to 29 people who die each day in crashes where alcohol played a role. To combat impaired driving, the report suggests that alcohol taxes be doubled, which could reduce crash deaths by 11 percent. Another recommendation is to limit the ability for bars, restaurants and stores to sell alcohol to customers.

How much alcohol it would take to reach a BAC of .05 percent would depend on a person’s makeup. Men who over 180 pounds would be able to consume up to three drinks before hitting that threshold. Women who are more than 120 pounds would hit that threshold after two drinks. Whether or not a person had eaten prior to consuming alcohol could also determine how quickly that individual would reach the proposed new limit.

People who have been charged with drunk driving could jail time, a fine and a license suspension, even if it is a first offense. The penalties could be harsher for succeeding offenses or if the DUI caused an accident that resulted in serious harm to others. As a result, those who are in this type of a situation might find it advisable to have a lawyer’s assistance when defending against the allegations.