New Distracted Driving Law

Governor Inslee recently signed into law the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act. This act targets drivers distracted by the use of electronic handheld devices used while driving. This act was originally slated to take effect January 1, 2019, however Governor Inslee vetoed the portion of the bill that delayed its enactment, and the bill now becomes enforceable in late July of 2017.

Here is what you need to know about the new DUIE laws.

  • They are a primary offense, meaning the officer needs no additional violations to stop and cite you.
    • The second offense will double the fine.
  • This is a moving violation, meaning it is reported to your insurance company on your driving record and will influence your insurance rates.
  • DUIE includes any use of a personal electronic device that is not specifically exempted.
    • Exemptions include calling 911, transit system employees (for certain purposes), CDL drivers (for certain purposes permitted under the federal code), and emergency vehicles.
    • The statue also appears to allow the use of one finger to activate the device if the device is docked hands free. For example, to initiate GPS, music, Bluetooth activation, or other hands-free enabled mode.
      • The one finger exemption does not allow for sending or reading texts, viewing video, or any other reason that would take your eyes off the road (the use of GPS will likely be an area of the statute the causes some difficulty in its application).
  • As of late July you can no longer use your phone on speaker phone while holding the phone. The simple act of holding the phone is defined as “use” and is prohibited (even if the phone is off apparently).
  • There is also a secondary offense of driving dangerously distracted.
    • A secondary offense means you cannot be pulled over only for that reason, but it can be added to a primary offense.
    • This infraction will add a base fine of $30 to the ticket (likely to be more once costs are added to the base fine).
    • This too appears to be reportable to your insurance company.
  • The definition of driving dangerously distracted is quite vague and can be applied to many different actions.
    • “‘dangerously distracted’ means a person who engages in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such motor vehicle.”
    • This definition could be applied to any act that is not directly related to driving (such as eating, changing the radio station, attending to a child, putting on make-up etc.)

Once the law is enacted and enforced we will learn more about its implementation and enforcement. With Governor Inslee drastically speeding up the time frame, I would expect the State to be heavily enforcing this when it rolls out in July. Be aware and be prepared now. There are significant statistics that link distracted driving to collisions and I would expect insurance companies to adjust rates once these tickets start getting reported. If you get cited with a traffic violation, DUIE or other, call the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy at 206-427-4901 to discuss your options to keep that ticket off your record and away from your insurance.

See the actual text of the Statute here.

3 Tips for if you get pulled over

The most common interaction that most people have with a police officer is getting stopped for a traffic ticket. Most of the time these interactions are fairly routine, but occasionally there can be friction between the driver and the Officer that leads to issues. Being a Snohomish County Traffic Lawyer, I have seen the most mundane traffic stops turn into criminal charges. Here are 3 ways to help the interaction go as smooth as possible. dd

  1. Be prepared:  Most traffic stops begin the same way, with a request to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance. Having these items easily accessible and located in the proper place will streamline your interaction with the police officer. Many people keep their registration in the glove box, however do to officer safety concerns, you do not want to be leaned over and going through your glove box as the officer approaches. My advice is to keep a copy of your insurance card and registration clipped together and secured to either your car’s sun visor or placed at the forefront of your glove box to be retrieved after the officer makes contact.
  2. Be respectful, but not talkative:  Remember that most of the time the officer is just following orders and doing their job. Whether those orders are to keep the highway safe or fill quota is another blog, but either way being respectful will help the stop goes as smoothly as possible. However, being respectful does not mean admitting to anything. Any admissions you make will make their way into the officer’s report. Gone are the days of warnings and talking yourself out of a ticket. When asked if you know why you were stopped, the best answer is no, I’m sorry officer. Even if you have a pretty good idea, there is no way to no for sure what the officer saw. So don’t admit to anything. There have been many tickets that I have seen as a traffic attorney where there are good issues to get the ticket dismissed, however the driver admits to knowing they were speeding and complicates the case.
  3. Be knowledgeable: Just because you were cited for an infraction does not mean that you committed it nor that it will end up on your record. Know that you have a right to make the State or City prove their charges. Do not argue with the officer about the validity of the ticket. If the officer has written out the ticket, it is done. The fight takes place in the courts. Ending the interaction with the officer after you have received the ticket is the best course of action. There are virtually no positive outcome to prolonging the interaction after the ticket has been issued. Instead call a lawyer to fight the ticket and keep it off your record. And remember, you only have 15 days to respond to the traffic ticket, so know your options.

I have fought traffic tickets in virtually every court in King, Skagit, Whatcom, Island, and Snohomish county. One thing they all have in common, the less time the officer spends with you and the less you say, the better the chances at keeping the ticket off your record. If you have been cited with a traffic ticket contact The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy at 206-427-4901 or visit www.tickets-dismissed.com .

Felony DUI Laws

There is often an outcry for harsher DUI laws. These outcries usually come right after a well publicized accident, a celebrity arrest (Justin Bieber …), or an otherwise public demonstration of the perils of driving under the influence. While these feelings are understandable, the reality is that Washington State has some of the strictest DUI laws in the nation.  For example, DUI is one of the only misdemeanors in Washington State that has a mandatory jail sentence. This means that even if you have a completely clean criminal history, never even been arrested before, but are convicted of a first offense DUI, you will be sentence do jail time. As opposed to Assault in the fourth degree which has no mandatory jail time. There are many additional penalties for a DUI conviction  that can significantly impact your life, school, and work.

Each year there is typically a bill that circulates the house and senate that aims to increase the penalty for DUI’s. This year, House Bill 2280 aims to increase the penalties of a felony DUI from a class C felony to a class B felony. This increase would effect prison time, offender score, and the fine amount able to be assessed. While it may be difficult to find any compassion for an individual that has been charged with a 5th DUI in 10 years, it is important to remember a few things. First, alcoholism (or other possible drug use) is a disease.  Putting someone in prison for the symptom and not addressing the disease does not better the person nor society. Second, there is no requirement that any of the DUI convictions be for the same substance (alcohol, drug, or prescription) or have involved any aggravating factors (accident, passengers, high breath or blood test, etc.). We do not see this sort of escalation for similar misdemeanors such as assault 4, theft 3, or driving while license suspended. At this point in time, HB 2280 has passed both the house and the senate and is awaiting the Governors signature.

DUI’s have been singled out from the rest of our States misdemeanors for a number of reasons. The most often given is because someone could have been injured. Which is true. It is never a good idea, practice, or decision to drive while under the influence. However, my issues is with punishing someone for what could have, but did not, happen. Especially when there are strict laws that specifically address what could have happened (vehicular assault, vehicular homicide etc.). It becomes a discussion of the whether you should be punished for what could have happened rather than what actually happened. Current DUI law has acceleration clauses that make each additional DUI more penalized, has aggravating factors specifically addressed in the statute, and has mandatory jail and license suspensions. Perhaps the laws are strict enough and it is time to start focusing on the underlying issues for repeat DUI’s rather than just increasing the penalties.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a DUI (first offense or multiple offense), you need an experience DUI lawyer that knows the issues and is there to fight for you. Call the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy at 206-427-4901 to set up a free consultation. Serving those accused of criminal offenses in King county, Snohomish County, Skagit County, Island County, Pierce County and Whatcom County.

Traffic Ticket Quota?

Do police officers have a quota for traffic tickets that must be issued each month? The average person would likely say yes. The average police officer would say no. The reality likely is somewhere in between. A quota is a very specific term, and as it is used, most police agencies will absolutely deny that their department has a quota for traffic tickets that must be issued. However, are there other incentives tied to the issuing of citations? As a traffic ticket lawyer in Snohomish, Skagit, and King county, I believe there is a distinct pressure on Officers to issue tickets when they otherwise would not.

A South Carolina lawmaker has proposed a bill that would address the quota system in all its forms. The allegation in South Carolina is that Officers are either required to, or otherwise encouraged to, cite a predetermined amount of people per day. This allegation is denied by the Sheriff, however a portion of the cities budget is based on predicted revenue from citation that have not yet been written. So in reality, there is a budgetary dependence on a predetermined amount of citations being issued. The new proposed bill would address the specific quota system and require that the budget only take into account money already collected, rather than predicted. This would in essence create a current hole in the budget for one year to determine that actual amount  received prior to spending it. You can see the full article hear: http://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/article54185675.html

Similar allegations can be made here in Washington. Predicted income is often used to balance a budget. This nothing new. However, the difficulty comes when there is pressure for State agencies to meet their predicted income thresholds. Agency budgets get based on it, staffing is based on it, and sometimes there is federal money that is received based on its use toward a specific goal. If less infractions are written, staffing and budgets decrease as well. When more infractions are written we see increased patrols, more staffing, acknowledgement within the department for a job well done, and in some case it may be reflecting in performance evaluations. So while there may not be a specific Quota system that requires X amount of tickets be written per shift, there is certainly incentive to issues the tickets.

With the budget crisis still in full effect for many cities and counties, don’t expect to be let off with a warning. Have your insurance, registration and Driver’s License easily accessible and politely hand it to the Officer when requested. Do not admit to anything, speed relate or otherwise. A common questions an Officer will ask is, “do you know how fast you were going?” My suggestion is to either politely decline to answer or simply say that you are not aware. Anything you say can be used against you at an infraction hearing and often your own words can be the worst evidence against you. If you have been cited for a speeding ticket in Snohomish County, King County, Lynnwood, Everett, Monroe or another area in Western Washington, call the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy for a free consultation with a skilled traffic ticket lawyer. Or for more information visit my website at www.tickets-dismissed.com.

Drake Bell Arrested for DUI

Best known for his role on Nickelodeon’s “Drake and Josh,” Drake Bell was arrested on suspicion of DUI in Glendale on Monday night. After being stopped for alleged speeding and swerving, Drake Bell was arrested for DUI and posted $20,000 bail for his release.

Drake Bell is at the start of the criminal process that has entangled celebrities, politicians,  athletes, and the not so famous alike. Often the difference is the ability to immediately contact the best criminal defense lawyer. DUI law is both complex and confusing. When arrested for DUI you immediately find yourself caught up in the criminal justice system, often for the first time. Additionally, you may have a civil case pending against your license. The key to getting the best result is to have the help of a Lynnwood DUI Lawyer. I assist my clients in determining the best steps to move forward; including challenging the DOL, scheduling court dates, in depth case assessment, and aggressive DUI defense.

Had Drake Bell’s arrest been in a first offense DUI in Washington State, he would be looking at a mandatory minimum sentence of 1 to 2 days in jail (depending on his breath test), a 90 day to 1 year license suspension, a 1 year ignition interlock requirement,  and an alcohol and drug evaluation including compliance with any treatment recommendations. While Drake is innocent until proven guilty, there are often strict conditions of release placed on individuals accused of DUI. You should never appear in court with a criminal defense lawyer to represent you.

If you or a loved one has been accused of DUI or other criminal offense, contact the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy for a free consultation at 206-427-4901.