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 .

The Skagit County DUI

One of the most common, and most misunderstood, criminal law violations is the DUI. Take a Skagit County DUI for example. Skagit County consists of many cities, including Mr. Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, Anacortes, Concrete and more. If stopped in one of these cities, or on the highways in between, for a suspected DUI you are likely to find yourself facing very serious consequences. Consequences that require a Skagit County DUI lawyer to navigate.

If stopped for a suspected Skagit County DUI: First and foremost know that everything from when the Officer first identified you as a potential DUI while driving until the end of the contact will be aimed at gathering evidence against you. You cannot talk your way out of a DUI, but you can talk yourself into one. The determination of whether or not to arrest you will be based on the observations the Officer makes prior to and during their contact with you. By the time the Officer has contacted you, they have already noted your driving (swerving, slow to start, quick to start, speeding etc.) and your stopping sequence (slow to stop, hit the curb, used blinker etc.). The Officer may even have already formed the opinion that you are likely driving under the influence (which is the lens that the rest of your interaction will be viewed through).  If contacted by a Skagit County Officer for a suspected DUI, hand them your license/registration/insurance (which the Officer will note your proficiency at finding and removing, so keep them in an easily accessible area) and politely refuse to answer any questions. If the Officer asks for you to exit your vehicle, you must comply (and the Officer will observe your balance and proficiency at exiting you vehicle) but you do not have to engage in conversation nor perform field sobriety tests. These will only provide more evidence.

The Myth of the Field Sobriety Test: The field sobriety tests, FSTs, are typically a set of 3 tests that have been approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be used to determine if an individual has a blood alcohol content, BAC, above the legal limit. The science behind these tests is quite debatable, but for our purposes it is important to know that the test will only tell an Officer if an individual likely has a BAC over the legal limit, not if the Officer should release the individual. The three tests (the walk and turn, the one leg stand, and the HGN eye test) all have numerous observations that the Officer makes while having you perform the test (performed only once, so no practice, and typically in the middle of the night on the side of a busy road). I will use the walk and turn to illustrate the skewed nature of these tests. Each observation category only requires one mistake to be completely missed. For example, one observation would be whether the subject touched heel to toe on all 18 steps. If even one out of 18 is missed, the entire observation is missed. Similarly with stepping on the straight line (one misstep out of 18 is a fail). If 2 categories within the observation are missed then the entire test is failed and is an indicator of being over the legal limit. There are a total of 8 categories. These tests are incredibly easy to fail. Which is why most Skagit County DUI Lawyer will tell you to refuse to perform them. And yes you can refuse the FSTs. They are a voluntary test that will be used against you as evidence of intoxication. Some courts have allowed the refusal to perform as evidence of a “guilty mind,” however the evidence gathered by the FSTs is almost always worse then a theoretical guilty mind.

The Portable Breath Test: At the end of the FSTs, or toward the end of the contact, most Officers will request that you blow into their handheld portable breath test (PBT) device. Some use this if they have yet to decide if there is enough evidence to arrest you, others will simply use to strengthen the case they have already developed. Either way, this test is voluntary. There are no consequences attached to not taking it. It will require the Officer to make the arrest decision based on the evidence he has gathered up to that point. The PBT is notoriously inaccurate. So much so that it is only admissible in court to help bolster the Officers probable cause to arrest. It is not allowed at trial. So unless you have had absolutely no alcohol to drink, politely refuse the PBT when offered.

Arrested: Even with refusing the FSTs and the PBT, the Officer may still believe they have developed probable cause to arrest you for suspected DUI. The validity of that decision will be reviewed by your criminal defense attorney and the courts later. But at the time, the Officer has you in custody, is reading you your rights, and taking you back to the station. Do not waive any of your constitutional rights. You have been arrested, there is no talking your way out of it, but you can make things a whole lot worse. You have the right to remain silent and you should do so. You also have the right to an attorney, but you must request an attorney.  The Officer will then put you in contact with one of your choosing or a public defender. There you can discuss whether or not to provide a breath sample at the station. This is the breath test that has ramification, such as a license suspension if you refuse the test or blow over the legal limit. The decision to blow or not is very fact specific and you should talk with an attorney prior to giving a sample to decide what to do. Utilize this right and the additional time it will provide you.

Post Arrest: Depending on the severity of the DUI, your criminal history, arresting agency, and specific Officer, you may have been placed in Jail pending bail or released. Either way you will have a court hearing coming up very quickly, maybe even the next day. If you have any prior DUIs on your record (including priors that have been reduced to a lesser offense), the Skagit County District court will order that you place an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. The prosecutor may also be asking for additional penalties such as a sobriety testing device or bail. While these conditions are typically more severe when the offense is either extreme or there is a criminal history, I have seen very strict conditions placed on first time DUI charges. Having an DUI lawyer present at these hearings is essential to protecting your rights. The conditions may also be more specific depending on if this is charged as a Marijuana DUI, Alcohol DUI, Minor DUI, Physical Control DUI, or Drug DUI.

This is just a brief overview of the complexities of a Skagit County DUI charge. There are many other areas to navigate such as the department of licensing (which will separately suspend your license if not contested within 20 days of the arrest date), probation, treatment and more. If you or a loved one has been accused of a Skagit County DUI, misdemeanor, or felony, call The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy for a free consultation.

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.

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.

Should I Really Hire An Attorney To Fight My Traffic Ticket?

It’s inevitable. At one point or another we have all looked in our rear view mirror and seen those ominous red and blue flashing lights. Sometimes they pass us by and other times we’re not so lucky. Now you have a traffic citation and you have to decide what to do with it. Should you just pay the fine, ask to mitigate or should you contest the ticket? And what do each of these options mean? Can a lawyer really help you out, and is it financially worth it?

YOUR OPTIONS are to pay, mitigate or contest. If you pay the fine, you admit the violation and it is reported to the Department of Licensing (DOL). The infraction will likely be on your record for three years and effect your insurance rates for the next three years (if not longer). If you mitigate, you admit the violation but are asking for the judge to reduce the fine because of extenuating circumstances. If your driving record is decent you have a good chance of having the fine reduce, however the violation is still entered as committed, reported to the DOL and effecting your insurance for the next three years. Choosing to contest the ticket is the only option that can keep the ticket off your record and away from you insurance.

CONTESTING your infraction does not mean that you have to stand up and say you were not speeding (or driving in the HOV lane etc.). What it means is that you are not admitting to anything and you are asking for the State or City to prove their case. The State or City then must present enough evidence to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (50.1%) that you indeed violated the traffic code. In reality, this is a very low burden for the State or City to reach. When it boils down to the Officer saying you violated the traffic code and you saying you did not, the Judges typically side with the Officers that they see everyday. This is where having a skilled traffic attorney handle your case can make all the difference.

AN ATTORNEY is trained to first look for procedural errors that may result in keeping evidence out; so it never boils down to your word against the Officer’s. With little or no evidence to present, the City or State’s job is much more difficult. There are many errors that can be found in an Officer’s report that can be used to obtain a beneficial result for you. Some issues may result in a dismissal while other may result in the prosecutor offering to amend you ticket to a non-moving violation (such as inattentive driving). These non-moving violations allow the City or State to still collect revenue, but since they are categorized as non-moving violations, they do not end up effecting your insurance.  The cost of an attorney up front is typically less than the amount you will pay in increased premiums for insurance over the next three years. This is especially important for CDL holders, intermediary license holders, or anyone the drives for work.

Every county, city, Judge, and prosecutor is different. Because of the low burden of proof that is required for the State or City to show a violation, judicial discretion plays a big role. It is not uncommon to have issues result in dismissals in one court, amendments in another, and no consideration in yet another. Having a working knowledge of the courts, prosecutors, and judges is essential to obtaining the very best outcome. I have defended people accused of traffic infraction in King County, Snohomish County, Skagit County and Whatcom county and each court has its own differentiating characteristics. It is the same way with the Cities, from Bothell to Lynnwood to Mill Creek to Mukilteo, all of them have their own distinct set of guidelines and procedures.

Your best chance at having your ticket dismissed is to hire a skilled traffic attorney. If you would like to discuss the specifics of your infraction, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy, LLC at 206-427-4901.