A Ticket when the Officer never saw the Collision?

Recently I have spoken with a number of people that have received citation after they have been in a collision. The odd part is that the vast majority of these collisions did not happen in the presence of the Officer. Common citations for these circumstances are: Following Too Closely, Speed Too Fast for Conditions, and Following Too Closely. So how does the Officer cite someone for a traffic violation when they did not witness any violation occur?

RCW 46.63.030 allows the officer investigating the scene of a collision to issue an infraction if they have reason to believe the driver committed a traffic infraction. This is typically done by the Officer filling out a collision report that utilizes techniques of accident reconstruction. Based on what the Officer determines, they issue an infraction to one of the drivers involved in the collision. There seems to be a policy in place in most departments that require the Officer to cite someone with an infraction. The citations listed above (Following Too Closely, Speed Too Fast for Conditions, and Following Too Closely) are the ones typically cited by the Officers because they way the statute is written, they are pretty easy for the prosecutor to win.

So how do you fight a ticket when the Officer is alleging a violation that they did not witness? As a Snohomish Count Traffic Attorney, my first line of attack is to exclude as much of the evidence as possible. There are rules to infraction law that, if not followed, allow me to exclude certain evidence from be considered by the Judge. Officer have to be very specific with their reports when they are listing conclusions based on an incident that they did not witness. In Snohomish County Traffic Court there is typically a prosecutor present and ready to argue for the admissibility of the evidence. Being prepared and knowing the law and the case law is how you fight these tickets.

Arguing the facts of the ticket can be a loosing battle in most circumstances. For example, imagine a circumstance where vehicle one rear-ended vehicle two and vehicle one was cited for following too closely (Officer did not witness the accident). A fact based defense may be telling the judge that you were not following too closely, but rather the person merged right in front of you, then slammed on their brakes, and you ran into them. The Judge could find that you just admitted to the infraction because you did not immediately break when the other vehicle merged and immediately allow enough room between your vehicles. I have actually heard a judge rule that if you rear ended another vehicle, it is obvious that at some point your were following too close or you would not have collided with the other vehicle. Fact based defenses are difficult to win and rarely do. The key to winning is excluding evidence so the Judge has little to consider and not admitting a violation by testifying. This is another area where having an attorney represent you can help; you will likely not testify (or even need to be present) and accidentally admit to the violation.

If you have already been in a collision, the last thing you need is a traffic ticket on top of that. You need an experience Snohomish County Traffic Attorney on your side. Contact the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy to discuss your ticket and options for getting it dismissed.

DV Assault and the No Contact Order

Getting arrested for Assault in the fourth degree is a scary circumstance. There is the fact that you have just been arrested, the question of whether or not the police will hold you in jail, and whether or not this allegation will have a domestic violence (DV) qualifier added to it. If the alleged Assault occurred against a family member, someone you live with, or someone you have had an intimate relationship with, the answer is yes, it will have a DV tag on it. The DV tag can be added to a number of charges including Assault, Malicious Mischief, Reckless Endangerment, Stalking, and much more listed in RCW 10.99.020 (5).

So what does it mean to you if the prosecutor files the Assault in the 4th degree with a Domestic Violence tag on it? Well, if you were arrested in Lynnwood, Washington for Assault 4 DV, this would mean that you were likely held in jail over night or until you could appear in front of the Lynnwood Municipal Court Judge. The Judge would then review the allegations and decide what conditions of release should be imposed, or if you should be held on bail. With the Domestic Violence tag, a no contact order will almost always be entered in against you. This means that upon your release, you may not be able to go home or have any contact with the alleged victim, even if the victim does not want this order. The order is entered in by the Judge, typically at the request of the prosecutor. Have an attorney there to assist you as early as possible is the best chance you have at avoiding no contact order.

The original intent of these no contact orders were to protect people that could not or would not protect themselves. People in a cycle of domestic violence that are so intertwined in the circumstances that they are not able to act in their own best interest. The no contact order allows the State to step in and protect that person while determining if the pending criminal charge is viable. Unfortunately, the use of the no contact order in the criminal realm has exceeding this original intent. It is now common for the court to enter these no contact orders on every Domestic Violence charge unless presented with convincing reason not to. The courts want to err on the side of caution (and avoid any liability). And while the courts are being cautions, families that want to reconcile and work through their difficulties are separated and endure significant financial difficulty (the expense of an attorney and sometimes a second residence for a significant period of time). These no contact orders typically last until the criminal allegations are settled. Violating a no contact order is an additional criminal violation that may carry jail time and revoke probation on the original charge.

What I am describing is a no contact order issued by the judge in a criminal proceeding. There are also no contact orders that can be issued by either the District Court or the Superior Court through a civil proceeding. These cases are typically originated by the victim and are completely different than what I describe above. But I will save the particulars of that for another blog.

If a no contact order has been entered in against you or a family member, sometimes the best way to get the no contact order lifted is to aggressively fight the underlying allegations. Getting a resolution and settling the underlying Assault IV DV will typically end the courts jurisdiction on imposing the no contact order (although there are ways for the court to impose a new one). It is important to your future to fight this allegation and at the very least get the DV tag dropped from the charge. Any criminal conviction with a DV tag can have serious consequences on you future.

If you or a family member of been accused of a Domestic Violence allegation, contact the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy to schedule your free case evaluation and consultation. Just because you have been accused of a crime does not mean you have to surrender your future. Call 206-427-4901 to discuss your case.