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.

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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.

How do I choose a Snohomish County Lawyer?

Being accused and charged of crime in Snohomish County can be an intimidating situation. whether you are charged with a Mt. Vernon DUI, a Burlington Theft, or Snohomish County felony, you need a Snohomish County Lawyer to represent you from the beginning. But how do you choose a Lawyer? Where do you begin? What questions should you ask? A personal recommendation from someone you know is usually the best starting point, but do your own research as well. The Lawyer you choose is going to have an enormous impact on your case and its eventual impact on your future. Below are a few starting points to determine help you choose a lawyer to best represent you.

What kind of lawyer do you need?  The first step is to determine what kind of lawyer you need. If you have been charged with a crime in Snohomish County, you need a Snohomish County criminal defense lawyer. If it is an eviction, you need a landlord/tenant lawyer. If you want to sue someone for an injury or a harm done, you want either a personal injury lawyer or a civil attorney. There are numerous online resources to help you narrow your search down to the specific category of lawyer you need.

Compile a list of at least 3 lawyers: Utilizing Google, Avvo.com, personal recommendations, or other sources, compile a list of at least 3 lawyers that have the skill you  need. Then, contact them and set of a consultation. Most criminal defense attorneys like myself offer a free initial consultation. This does not mean that you need to set up 3 separate consultations, but at least call the offices and get a feel for how they do business. Is the lawyer willing to speak with you on the phone? How difficult is it get an appointment with the lawyer? Will they discuss fees over the phone or only in person? Trust and compatibility are both necessary for a productive attorney/client relationship. You should be able to get an initial feel for this by placing a phone call to the Law Firm.

Meet with you best candidates: After placing the phone calls, set up a consultation (I recommend in person, however an in depth consult over the phone or skype may accomplish this goal as well). Speak with them about your case, your history, your goals and get their feedback. Are they giving you honest and realistic feedback? Or are they just telling you what you want to hear? It is rare that a criminal charge will be defended without any difficult decisions to make (plea to a lesser charge vs. trial etc). You need a lawyer that is going to be honest and up front, and that starts with the consultation. You want a skilled lawyer, not just a skilled salesman.

Fully discuss fees: This is particularly important if you are paying hourly or based on a percentage if the case is won. Discuss the fees and get it all in writing. Since I am a criminal defense lawyer, I will touch on how we establish fees. The Washington State Bar Association does not allow criminal defense lawyers to base their fees on a contingent fee (meaning we are only paid if we win). So we must either charge hourly or a flat fee. A flat fee is established up front by the attorney making an assessment of the case and the time that will be involved. Some lawyers will also break up their services into flat fee categories. Meaning, this is the price for representation up to a certain established point, then this amount if you want to continue to fight, then this amount for trial. An example of this is that I charge a flat fee for all representation up to the determination to go to trial. The vast majority of cases in Washington State settle by plea agreement prior to trial. I do not believe in charging someone for a service they may not utilize, so I charge a flat affordable fee for representation, then an hourly fee for trial should the determination be made that trial is the way to go. No matter what, get the fee structure in writing and make sure you understand it.

Find an attorney that fits you financial means: If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided to you by the court. However, you do not get to choose your public defender, they are assigned. There are some great public defenders out there, but they are very typically overworked and underpaid. If you are able to retain a private lawyer, you get to choose someone you trust and they are typically mush more accessible. You do not need to be rich or have an immense savings to afford a lawyer. There is a wide range of lawyers that all charge different amounts, with different size retainers, and some, like myself, offer affordable payment plans as well. The cost of an attorney is not always reflective of their skill. Established attorneys that have been in practice for decades can often charge much more. However, laws change rapidly, case-law changes decisions, and Judges and prosecutors are replaced. What worked in criminal defense in 1985 may not be relevant anymore. Speak with the Lawyer to determine their skill, knowledge and expertise. Do not just rely on how long they have been a lawyer.

I hope this helps you on the first step to determining the best Snohomish County Lawyer for you. If you have any questions, please feel fee to leave them in the comment section. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime in Snohomish County, call the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy for a free consultation.

School resource officer had sex with Bothell teen

It is often easy for us to forget that behind a person’s chosen profession, is still a person. And people are flawed. Different professions give us different amounts of power, and responsibility. To quote Spider-man, with great power comes great responsibly. Just about any profession can offer temptation to bend or break the rules. Everything from taking pens from work to embezzling millions to endangering someones life. The more power you have over another, the more oversight must be provided and ultimately the harsher the punishment for the wrongdoing. As a Lynnwood Criminal Defense Attorney, there is legal oversight as well as the Bar Association the monitors attorneys conduct.

This is often my rationale for why police officers must be held to a higher standard then others. A police officer is imbued with the power of the State to act on behalf of the State. This includes the ability to deprive an individual of the property, privacy, liberty, and in the most extreme cases their life. I have a profound amount of respect for most Officers. They do a dangerous job that most of would not. But, the recent trend of poor police work, and in some cases outright criminal conduct, has put good put honest police officer in more danger and under more scrutiny.

Take the recent case of the school resource officer who had had sex with a Bothell Teenager. The Teenager was only 17 when she first had sexual contact with Officer Dione Thompson, then in her 40’s. According to the charging documents, the sexual contact first occurred in the Officer’s vehicle outside of the school library. Because of the age of the teenager and the position of the Officer, consent is not possible. If true, the Officer clearly abused her power and took sexual advantage of the teenager. Taking sexual advantage of a 17 year old is unacceptable, especially when the perpetrator is the Officer tasked with protecting them.

Behind the shield is person, and you do not always know what that person is capable of. Protect yourself by knowing your rights. Treat Officers with respect, many of them are there to protect you, do their job, and go home to their families. But for the ones that blur the line between lawful and unlawful conduct, protect yourself by knowing your rights. If you are the target of a criminal investigation or have already been accused of a crime, contact a Snohomish criminal defense attorney to stand by you. Just because you have been accused of a crime and the evidence paints a bleak picture, does not mean that you have to roll over. Contact the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy to receive a free consultation regarding you DUI, Assault 4, Theft or other criminal charge and find out how we can fight to preserve your future. 206-427-4901

The Seahawks DUI

What a great end to the regular season! We had our difficulties early on, but here we are in  the Playoffs again. It is a great time for our City, our State, and our fan base. Be there, be loud and support the team, but be safe as well.

Whenever there is a home Seahawks game, there are also increased DUI patrols. This can be seen throughout the year, and especially during a home playoff run. And the patrols are not limited to King County. There will also be an increased DUI patrol presence in Pierce County, Snohomish County, Skagit County, Whatcom County and Island County.

Many bars will be opening at 9am tomorrow to start the pregame celebration. If you are going join the celebration and alcohol is involved, have a plan. If you pick a designated driver, remember a designated driver means no alcohol. You do not have to be over the legal limit of 0.08 to be arrested and charged with DUI. I always recommend that people keep a cab company’s number saved in their phone.

If you are stopped for a DUI in Snohomish county (or any other county) and have consumed alcohol, be courteous, provide the requested documentation, and do not answer questions or engage in conversation with the Officer. Your entire interaction will be for the purpose of the Officer gathering evidence against you. If requested to perform field sobriety test, they are voluntary and I typically recommend people politely refuse. Same advice if offered a portable breath test at the roadside (which is distinctly different from the breath test at the station, which will have licensing consequences if refused). If arrested and asked to take a breath test at the station, ask to speak with an attorney to discuss your options and specific facts of you stop.

Being arrested for Driving Under the Influence is a scary circumstance that carries severe penalties and licensing consequences. You need a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side from the beginning. A Snohomish County DUI Lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and prepare an aggressive defense that protects your rights. The State prosecutor will be utilizing all of their resources against you, you need someone there to fight for you future. If you are someone you know has been accused of a Snohomish County, or any other county, DUI, call The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy at 206-427-4901 to schedule your free consultation.

The Holiday DUI

With the holidays coming up, everybody’s schedule tends to get a little tighter. Juggling work, shopping, cooking, family and all the other obligations that accompany the holidays. While many people take time off this time of year, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) is not one of them. For a number of years now the WSP has increased their DUI patrols, and thus DUI arrests, during the holidays.

This holiday season will be no different. This is especially true because the WSP plans to roll out a new way of testing an individuals breath. The WSP currently uses a machine referred to as the DataMaster. This machine, and its operating system, was developed back in the 80’s and has undergone little advancement since that time. In 2010, the WSP received approval from the legislature to replace the DataMaster with the new Draeger Alcotest 9510 (Draeger for short). Long story short, this new machine requires less maintenance, is more automated, and takes less time to go through the procedures. So the Draeger will allow the Officer to stop, arrest, a process individuals accused of a DUI much quicker and allow the Officer to get back out on patrol. As a Snohomish County DUI Defense attorney, I have concerns about a machine specifically designed to cut time and be more automated (with no increase in accuracy noted), especially when that machine’s breath test reading will be used to convict someone of DUI (sometimes without much additional evidence).

So, with the holidays around the corner, and a new machine for the WSP to test out, be safe. If you are going to consume alcohol, have a designated driver or call a cab (they  are much cheaper than I am). If you are accused of DUI, call an experienced DUI attorney right away. With a DUI arrest, there are many collateral issues beyond just the criminal charge, you need a DUI lawyer that knows these issues and can get out in front of them. Call the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy at 206-427-4901 if you or someone you know is accused of a Snohomish County DUI or other Criminal Offense.

I Was Arrested For A DUI In Lynnwood, What Do I Do Now?

Getting arrested for a DUI is a scary situation. From the moment you see the red and blue lights behind you, the situation is largely dictated by the Officer. Every DUI is going to be slightly different depending on the situation. If you were arrested, the Officer believed he had gathered enough evidence (throughout the entire contact with you) to establish probable cause to arrest you for Driving Under the Influence. This blog is not intended to address the specific points of the Officer’s belief (which is best done during a consultation with an attorney), but rather what do after you are released.

For many people this may be the first time you have been arrested, and what to do next is not necessarily easy to figure out. If you were arrested for DUI and either bailed out of jail or were released, you likely received a court date to return to the Lynnwood Municipal Court to be arraigned for DUI. This is a mandatory appearance designed to allow the judge to determine if you are a flight risk or a danger to the community and to impose conditions of release. If you have a prior DUI (or really any criminal history) you need to contact an attorney prior to this hearing. This will allow you to discuss your case specifics with the attorney and determine the best course of action to take to keep you out of custody. Even if this is your first DUI and first criminal offense, it is advisable to contact an attorney to discuss your case. Having an attorney with you at the arraignment phase will also show the court that you are taking the situation seriously and that you are not a flight risk, as you have already paid to retain counsel.

So what is an arraignment? An arraignment is typically your first appearance before the judge. You will be informed of the charges against you, your rights as a defendant, be advised to get an attorney to represent you, and it allows the judge to impose conditions of release to either ensure you show up to court and/or for the safety of the community. Typically for a DUI, the conditions are to have no further criminal law violations, to not drive without a valid license and insurance, to show up at all court dates and to get an attorney (private or public). The judge may also impose an ignition interlock device (the blow and go on your car if you choose to drive), a SCRAM bracelet (a monitoring device that you wear 24/7 that detects alcohol consumption), or may take you into custody and place a bail amount (the amount typically depends on the facts of the case and the criminal history). The conditions of release are an area that having an attorney there advocating for you is essential because the city of Lynnwood will have a prosecutor there advocating for those conditions. After the arraignment, the court will set a pretrial date for you to return. At that return, the judge will expect you to have an attorney and for the case to be moving forward.

While it is easy to get focused on the criminal charge of DUI, it is not the only area you have to be aware of. If the DUI arrest was for alcohol and you either refused to provide a breath sample or your breath sample was over 0.08 (0.02 if under 21); or for marijuana and the blood test shows more than 5 nanograms of THC (0 if under 21), then you also have a civil case against you from the Department of Licensing (DOL). If the DOL shows that you refused to take the test, had a breath sample over .08 (.02 for a minor), or had more than 5 nanograms of THC (0 if under 21), then they will suspend you license for no less than 90 days (1 year if you refused the test or more if you have had any prior DUI license suspensions). To challenge this suspension, you must request a hearing from the DOL. The Officer should have provided you with the form entitled “Request a DUI Hearing.” If you did not received the form, it can be found on the DOL website: http://www.dol.wa.gov/driverslicense/hearingsrequest.html. If you do not send in the form (and the check) then the DOL will automatically proceed with the suspension of your license. Long story short, the only way to save your license is to send in the form and challenge the suspension. Also, be aware that if you have a public defender for the criminal matter, they will not represent you at this hearing (which is held over the phone). So you will need to be prepared to either hire a private attorney or manage a defense on your own. When hired for a DUI, I typically represent my clients on both matters.

You need to also be aware of any tickets that you received because of this incident (speeding, following too close, headlights out etc.). It is not uncommon for some to focus on the criminal matter and forget that they have a ticket pending. These tickets can suspend you license if not paid. If this happens and you are not aware of it, you could be arrested for Driving on a Suspended License in the second degree which would also violate you conditions of release (no criminal law violation) on the DUI. As you can see, things can quickly snowball out of hand if you do not have a good grasp on the situation from the beginning. This is why I like to group all of these matters together for my clients. I prefer to be retained for the DUI, DOL hearing, and the infraction so that we can work together to get the best resolution and there are no unforeseen complications.

It is also important to understand the system you are no intimately involved with. The Lynnwood Municipal Court serves only the city of Lynnwood. It is located at 19321 44th Ave W., Lynnwood WA. The court is located on the 2nd floor, above the police station. The City of Lynnwood has hired (it is not an elected position) Judge Stephen E Moore as the presiding Judge. The City of Lynnwood also does not have its own prosecutor, rather it contracts that service out to The Law Offices of Zachor & Thomas. Zachor & Thomas hold the contracts to prosecute in multiple cities in and around Snohomish County. It is important to know the Judge and Prosecutor because each courthouse has their own local rules and customs. Knowing these local rules and customs is essential to obtaining the best result for you. I regularly practice in the Lynnwood courts and can tell you that each one is distinctly different.

This is only the beginning of this complex and multifaceted process. There will be a lot of work done by both you and your attorney throughout this process. You will likely have to get a drug and alcohol assessment and comply with the treatment recommendations. This can be tricky since there are a lot of agencies out there and not all have your best interest in mind. For some, the evaluation should be done as soon as possible, for others, later in the process. It all depends on the specifics of you case. That is why it is so important to contact an attorney, like myself, and set up a consultation as soon as possible. I offer free consultations so that you can get the information and make an informed decision as to how to proceed.

So, you were arrested for DUI in Lynnwood, what do you do now:

  • Contact The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy and set up a free consultation
  • Mark your calendar to be present for you court date
  • Decide whether or not to challenge the DOL
  • Make sure you handle you infractions if you received them
    • Speak to an attorney first as they may be able to handle them along with the DUI
  • Attend you arraignment and plead not guilty (with your attorney)
  • If you have not yet spoken with an attorney, do so.

I offer free consultations and have a flexible schedule to meet your needs. If you have any questions regarding you recent DUI, do not hesitate to call the The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy at 206-427-4901.