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.

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.

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.