Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tests Are In!

In 2008 a panel of King County, Washington judges (the “Panel”) ruled that breath test results were not admissible in DUI cases filed in King County District Courts because there were so many pervasive problems with the Washington State breath-testing procedures and protocols. An audit of the Washington State Toxicology Lab (the “Lab”) found at least 150 errors, including, but not limited to, machine calibration errors, the recording of incorrect data and a failure to test an ethanol-water based solution used to ensure correct readings by certified Washington State breath test machines. The Panel noted that the Lab had so many ethical lapses, systematic inaccuracies, violations of scientific principles and blatant negligence that the Lab was essentially condoning and/or otherwise accepting a “culture of compromise”.

As a result of the Panel’s ruling, breath tests were not an acceptable form of evidence to prove one guilty of DUI in our King County District Courts. On Tuesday, the Panel reversed course. The Panel ruled that changes in leadership, protocol and quality control checks at the Lab over the last two years have greatly improved the ability of the Lab to eliminate errors, and thus breath tests can again be used as evidence in DUI cases prosecuted in King County District Courts. The Panel did mandate, however, that each breath test must include a calculated “principle of uncertainty” or “margin of error”. The uncertainty calculation is based on a mathematical formula that takes into account operator error and instrument error, as well as other variables such as the breathing pattern and even temperature of the individual being breath tested. Currently Washington State certified breath test machines do not perform these types of calculations. As a result, the Panel’s ruling will require Lab personnel to do the mathematical equation by hand.

It appears that DUI cases in King County, Washington just got a lot trickier to defend. A person charged with DUI in Western Washington would be well served in retaining a reputable and qualified Seattle DUI Lawyer. A person charged with a King County DUI should retain a qualified Seattle DUI attorney so as to not only best minimize the myriad of legal consequences he/she faces, but also to protect his/her rights and liberty interests. The Seattle criminal attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified Seattle DUI lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those charged with DUI in Western Washington. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the DUI allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Commit a Crime, PAY the Time!

The cost of a hiring a Seattle criminal defense lawyer or a Seattle DUI attorney can vary significantly depending upon the jurisdiction, and the nature of the charges which have been filed against the defendant. A Washington criminal defense lawyer will typically require a greater retainer fee for a complex and/or more serious case than for a simple case. It is possible for a Seattle criminal defense attorney to require a higher retainer fee for a minor charge, where the attorney expects to have to engage in extensive motion practice, or where it will be necessary to utilize expert witnesses, or whether travel is involved to other counties.

As previously stated, in a misdemeanor case, typical fee will vary significantly between cities, counties, and states, it is not unusual for a Seattle DUI lawyer to request a retainer of several thousand dollars. For felony cases, retainers often start at $10,000 - $15,000, and can be $25,000 or more for serious violent felonies, such as sexual assault cases or a serious violent felony. The anticipated cost of expert witnesses can also significantly increase the retainer.

Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial. It is important the Washington criminal defense attorney discusses all of the costs with you prior to being retained on the case. If you do decide to enter into an agreement with a Seattle criminal lawyer whereby you will pay an additional retainer if your case goes to trial, make sure that it is an amount you can afford.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What is Domestic Violence??

Domestic violence is a pervasive and extremely serious criminal allegation in Washington State. The sheer seriousness of domestic violence related crimes in Washington State often results in voluminous probationary conditions being imposed on those convicted of domestic violence. One such condition that is routinely imposed by Washington State courts is a No Contact Order. A No Contact Order, among other things, prohibits the convicted person from having any contact whatsoever with the alleged victim, and can last up to the total duration of probation, or in other words, however long the convicted person is under the guise of the court.

Often folks ask me about how the government would ever know a No Contact Order was being violated, especially if no one affirmatively disclosed the contact to the court, probation or even law enforcement. Does the government do random checks at their home or work? Are there police officers that are specifically dedicated to following up and/or watching? Is “Big Brother” spying on them? In short – “no”. Law Enforcement has neither the funds nor the man power to conduct such auspicious and far reaching maneuvers. But below following are but just two examples that I personally have heard of that have lead to the government becoming aware that someone is violating a No Contact Order, which, by the way, is not only a violation of probationary conditions but also a crime in and of itself – one in which the government will file a criminal complaint and seek a jail sentence against the offender.

First, a police officer is cruising the streets during day-light hours. Not much happening on his “beat”. Thus, he decides to drive by hotels and conduct random license plate checks on the vehicles parked in the hotel parking lots (a common and lawful practice of law enforcement). As he does this, he notes that the registered owner of one of the vehicles at hotel “A” has a No Contact Order imposed against him. This person is not to have contact with a specific person. The police officer continues running the random license plate checks of all the vehicles at hotel “A”. In short order the police officer determines that a registered owner of one of the other vehicles parked in the parking lot of hotel “A” is the beneficiary of the No Contact Order that is in place. The officer determines what room these folks are in and thereafter proceeds to contact and arrest the person who he deems is violating the terms of court probation, and the conditions of the No Contact Order that is in place.

Second, a police officer is traveling the streets late at night. He knows that it is lawful to conduct random license plate checks. He also knows that people at night often drive after consuming alcohol. He conducts a random license plate check on a vehicle that is stopped directly in front of him at a red light, waiting for the light to turn green. The registered owner of the vehicle has a suspended license, a crime in Washington State. The officer initiates a traffic stop of the vehicle. There is a passenger in the vehicle. The officer obtains names and after a background check determines that there is a No Contact Order in place that prohibits the passenger from having contact with the registered owner of the vehicle, which happens to be the driver. End result – both folks are arrested and put in jail for committing crimes in Washington State.

Because of the significant implications that a Washington State domestic violence and/or a No Contact Order related conviction carries, it is imperative that when a person is facing single or even multiple criminal charges arising out of an argument that got out of hand, a person cannot simply entrust his life, his future, his reputation or even his profession to an inexperienced and untested Washington State criminal lawyer. He must seek – he must demand – only the very best criminal defense representation available. Anyone charged with domestic violence in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle domestic violence defense lawyer.