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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?       
 
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About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice of 10 years emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and is Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by Avvo.com

Yet another DUI dismissal! Not only DUI, but Hit and Run, and Reckless Driving!

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.
 
 
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About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice of 10 years emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and is Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by Avvo.com

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.



 


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About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice of 10 years emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and is Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by Avvo.com

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Somedays you are the windshield and sometimes (a lot of times) you are the bug in DUI Defense, but today it went our way!!!

A cliché but some days you are the windshield and sometimes you are the bug.  Today my client was the windshield as her DUI charge was dismissed with prejudice after an evidentiary hearing. 

Last Monday I argued to a judge in King County District Court that my client's right to have a private conversation was denied and that, additionally, due to the police department's policy of "purging" (i.e., destroying) video after 60 days it was impossible for her to have a fair trial because it would be her word about that denial of a private conversation with her attorney prior to submitting to a breath test against that of a Washington State Patrol trooper of 24 years.  After hearing testimony from my client after the Trooper, the judge took the argument under advisement, then issued a written ruling declaring, among other things, that my client's testimony lent credence to her account the trooper could overhear her conversation and that she was unable to ask the attorney the questions she needed to in order to make an informed decision.

I will tell you from experience, dismissals of DUIs don't often occur but this was the correct call by the judge.  Regardless of how someone might feel about the result, justice was served because the court essentially put the onus on the State to show the defendant wasn't prejudiced after she testified.  This is precisely why I fight the fight folks!  I have a very satisfied client today.   

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About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice of 10 years emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and is Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by Avvo.com

Advertising for DUI attorneys.

With the increased use of social media, it is imperative attorneys utilize those services to ensure a web presence.  Facebook and Twitter are of course, integral to a firm's web presence but more importantly a web presence on search engines is a necessity.  There are several well-known search engines but lesser services where the client is able to further evaluate potential attorneys more closely are popping up.  Thumbtack is just one that comes to mind.  It is a service wherein a potential client can search a specific location, specific area of law and search through numerous profiles of potential attorneys for their review. 

I have utilized many avenues to display my services, but potential clients must be mindful of the skill of the attorney in the courtroom NOT their advertising prowess.  It is irrelevant to an attorney's skill level if they have the number one position on a search engine all that says is that (a) they are either great at marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or (b) they have hired someone who is.  It says nothing about their abilities as an attorney.  Yes placement helps with potential client's abilities to research, but the better mode is to compare and then ask around for personal references.  You can check out my thoughts on "Who To Hire" on my website.  That article will give you many decision making ideas when you begin your research for your next DUI attorney.  If you ever have questions about a DUI arrest, call Nate Webb at (425) 398-4323 for your always free consultation. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Do I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car if I enter into a Mental Health Deferred Prosecution?

Now many of the attorneys practicing law in Washington state may shout out, NO! Absolutely not!  However, the short answer is yes, according to DOL.

Now all Seattle DUI attorneys know that in any alcohol dependency case the petitioner is required under the applicable statute (RCW 10.05.140) to drive only a motor vehicle with a functioning ignition interlock device (IID) for a minimum period of a year.  Many of my colleagues and I believe the imposition of a IID is not required on a Mental Health or Drug problem petition for a Deferred Prosecution.
The applicable statute is as follows:
RCW 10.05.140
As a condition of granting a deferred prosecution petition, the court shall order that the petitioner shall not operate a motor vehicle upon the public highways without a valid operator's license and proof of liability insurance. The amount of liability insurance shall be established by the court at not less than that established by RCW 46.29.490. As a condition of granting a deferred prosecution petitionon any alcohol-dependency based case, the court shall also order the installation of an ignition interlock under RCW 46.20.720. The required periods of use of the interlock shall be not less than the periods provided for in RCW 46.20.720(3). As a condition of granting a deferred prosecution petition, the court may order the petitioner to make restitution and to pay costs as defined in RCW 10.01.160. To help ensure continued sobriety and reduce the likelihood of reoffense, the court may order reasonable conditions during the period of the deferred prosecution including, but not limited to, attendance at self-help recovery support groups for alcoholism or drugs, complete abstinence from alcohol and all nonprescribed mind-altering drugs, periodic urinalysis or breath analysis, and maintaining law-abiding behavior. The court may terminate the deferred prosecution program upon violation of the deferred prosecution order.
Recently, the Department of Licensing has implemented its' own "policy" to require the imposition of an IID on ANY deferred prosecution case, even if it is solely based upon Mental Health issues or Drug problems if it was originally charged as a DUI (RCW 46.61.502) or Physical Control (RCW 46.61.504).

Here is the policy:


Policy


 


Effective immediately ( January 29, 2013) all Deferred Prosecutions: Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health will require the appropriate 1, 5, or 10 year IID requirement as established under RCW 46.20.720.



RCW 46.20.720 holds:


(1)  The court may order that after a period of suspension, revocation, or denial of driving privileges, and for up to as long as the court has jurisdiction, any person convicted of any offense involving the use, consumption, or possession of alcohol while operating a motor vehicle may drive only a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock. The court shall establish a specific calibration setting at which the interlock will prevent the vehicle from being started. The court shall also establish the period of time for which interlock use will be required.  (2) Under RCW 46.61.5055 and subject to the exceptions listed in that statute, the court shall order any person convicted of a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 or an equivalent local ordinance to comply with the rules and requirements of the department regarding the installation and use of a functioning ignition interlock device installed on all motor vehicles operated by the person. The court shall order any person participating in a deferred prosecution program under RCW 10.05.020 for a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 or an equivalent local ordinance to have a functioning ignition interlock device installed on all motor vehicles operated by the person.


Now the statement that the court "shall order" an ignition interlock infers the court must impose the ignition interlock for any person participating in a deferred prosecution.

Now here is where it gets tricky, RCW 46.61.5055 5(a) holds:

The court shall require any person convicted of a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504 or an equivalent local ordinance to comply with the rules and requirements of the department regarding the installation and use of a functioning ignition interlock device installed on all motor vehicles operated by the person.
In the particular case I was referencing with the DOL, the court actually did order the imposition for a IID but only for 3 months, not one year as is required for any alcohol dependency based DP under RCW 46.20.720 (3) and RCW 10.05.140.  However, the DOL's reliance upon RCW 46.20.720 I believe is misplaced RCW 10.05.060 indicates that when a person is granted a Deferred Prosecution, the entry is not a conviction under RCW 46.61.5055.



RCW 10.05.060
Procedure Upon Approval of Plan

If the report recommends treatment, the court shall examine the treatment plan. If it approves the plan and the petitioner agrees to comply with its terms and conditions and agrees to pay the cost thereof, if able to do so, or arrange for the treatment, an entry shall be made upon the person's court docket showing that the person has been accepted for deferred prosecution. A copy of the treatment plan shall be filed with the court. If the charge be one that an abstract of the docket showing the charge, the date of the violation for which the charge was made, and the date of petitioner's acceptance is required to be sent to the department of licensing, an abstract shall be sent, and the department of licensing shall make an entry of the charge and of the petitioner's acceptance for deferred prosecution on the department's driving record of the petitioner. The entry is not a conviction for purposes of Title 46 RCW. Upon receipt of the abstract of the docket, the department shall issue the petitioner a probationary license in accordance with RCW 46.20.355, and the petitioner's driver's license shall be on probationary status for five years from the date of the violation that gave rise to the charge. The department shall maintain the record for ten years from date of entry of the order granting deferred prosecution.

Well, where does this leave us?  The only way to address this issue is to take the Department of Licensing up on a Writ to Superior Court.  Be aware when considering a Mental Health or Drug Deferred Prosecution petition, because accordingly the DOL will require an IID for one year.
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About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice of 10 years emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and is Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by Avvo.com
 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Denial of right to counsel - suppression, dismissal or neither?


Today I appeared in King County District Court to address an issue in a client's case wherein the client was denied the right to speak to an attorney.  The gist of the case involved a DUI wherein my client was arrested and after being read his constitutional rights and presented with a waiver of those rights he invoked his right to speak with an attorney.  The problem is, he was never afforded the right to speak to an attorney prior to the administration of the breath test.  In our case today the court held the proper remedy was suppression of the evidence, i.e., inadmissibility of the breath test results.

Each denial of counsel case can have different scenarios ranging from outright denial to counsel to a reasonable effort made by law enforcement to put someone in touch with counsel to a lack of reasonable effort to get in touch with counsel.  In our case, the trooper did make a reasonable effort to put my client into touch with counsel, but her efforts were in vain as both public defender agencies failed to respond to her inquiries.  These calls to the public defender’s office (attorney's on-call) went unanswered and put the trooper in a predicament not normally found.  That is, she then had to wait 45 minutes until making up her mind to present the client with the opportunity to blow or decline.  Ultimately the court held the court also had a responsibility to make counsel available as the public defender agencies were contracted through the court and had an obligation to respond.  Since no one did, the proper remedy, due to no fault of the trooper or my client was suppression of the "tainted" evidence, the breath test.  

In other scenarios, for example, when a trooper fails to provide the defendant with requested counsel the court's have discretion to dismiss a case.  See, State v. Myhre, State v. Pierce, City of Spokane v. Kruger and CrRLJ 3.1  All of these address the right to counsel.  Now, other times a defendant may be the cause of the "denial of right to counsel" by actions, such as being obstinate and not picking up the phone, fighting with officers, etc. and very likely those cases will have no action taken by the court (via dismissal or suppression).  

All that being said, it is always best to ask to speak to an attorney and not to waive your right to remain silent. On a side note, when presented with a document titled "constitutional rights" be aware the Washington State Patrol has authored this form and has purposefully made the "waiver" portion of the form ambiguous, so much that the word "waiver" is intentionally left out, even though officers testify all the time "when I presented him with waiver portion, he agreed" etc.  This is because they want you to inadvertently waive your right and the courts have held the language utilized in the form is sufficient for a proper waiver.  Here is the form's "waiver":

I understand my constitutional rights. I have decided not to exercise these rights at this time. Any statements made by me are made freely, voluntarily, and without threats or promises of any kind.

See how the word "waiver" is conspicuously absent, that is intentional!

The best advice is to just always say as soon as you are arrested, I would like to speak with my attorney!   
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About the author:
Nathan Webb, is a seasoned Seattle DUI Lawyer.  His practice of 10 years emphasizes DUI defense.  He has been repeatedly recognized as one of Seattle's Best Attorneys! He was recognized as a Top Seattle DUI Attorneys by Seattle Met Magazine, Repeatedly named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in the area of DUI Defense by Washington Law and Politics Magazine, and is Rated Superb for DUI Defense (perfect 10.0 out of 10.0) by Avvo.com.