Monday, September 5, 2011

Judge Denies Rubber Stamping Motion to Dismiss

A judge Thursday declined to dismiss a drunken-driving case or suppress the arresting officer's testimony despite the officer's admission that he violated Seattle police policy when he falsely stated his sergeant had screened the arrest.

Seattle Municipal Judge Steve Rosen ruled, the legal wrangling is "much ado about nothing." Lawyers for Luis Negrete-Ramos asked Rosen to dismiss the case or suppress the testimony because of the officer's action. Assistant City Attorney Matthew York opposed the request.

Rosen said evidence showed the action stemmed from a longstanding practice in which officers were given preapproval from their sergeants for routine driving-under-the influence (DUI) arrests.

The officer, John Velliquette Jr., a member of the DUI Unit, did not act recklessly or negligently, nor show bad faith toward Negrete-Ramos, Rosen said, rejecting defense arguments.

Sergeants are supposed to briefly examine suspects for injuries, Velliquette testified during the hearing.

Rosen, who watched patrol-car video of the arrest in court Thursday, said Velliquette's testimony may be used at trial, subject to cross-examination by the defense about his false statement.

His ruling, the first to stem from the controversy, likely will dissuade other defense attorneys from bringing similar requests. If charged with a DUI contact your Seattle DUI Lawyers at SQ Attorneys.

The court hearing grew out of a Seattle police internal investigation, which found that DUI arrests were routinely rubber-stamped or falsely certified without approval by a supervisor.

The internal investigation was launched in March after an audit found the mishandling of dozens of DUI cases.

A sergeant who allegedly permitted the improper screening has been under investigation.

The department found that two members of the DUI Unit routinely used the sergeant's signature stamp without having him approve their arrests as policy requires, according to an internal-investigation report.

Witnesses indicated the sergeant told the officers he had preapproved their arrests and offered his signature stamp, according to the report.

The three officers were cleared of misconduct allegations involving honesty and arrest procedures after the department's Office of Professional Accountability (OPA) heard testimony that the practice had been going on for 20 to 25 years and that most law-enforcement agencies do not require DUI arrest screening because most suspects are released after processing.

According to the report, the OPA also considered DUI officers the department's "experts in the identification, arrest, processing and courtroom presentation of evidence" and that "it is unnecessary to have a [sometimes] less knowledgeable sergeant reviewing their reports."

Although the allegations were not upheld, all three officers were ordered to undergo supervisory counseling and training for violating department policy. They were put on desk duty when the investigation began but have been returned to DUI patrols.

In March, DUI cases involving the three officers were put on hold pending the outcome of the internal investigation. The hold was lifted a few weeks ago, allowing the officers to testify subject to cross-examination.

If you or a loved one is faced with a DUI charge in Western Washington, you deserve the assistance of a reputable and qualified Seattle DUI attorney who will relentlessly defend your case. You deserve a Seattle DUI lawyer who has an intimate understanding of Washington DUI laws and the legal issues that could win your case. You deserve a Seattle DUI attorney who is not afraid to stand up against the prosecution and aggressively fight for your rights and interests. SQ Attorneys is the right Western Washington DUI law firm for the job. Call for a free initial consultation – (206) 441.0900 (Seattle); (425) 998-8384 (Eastside) – it will be the best decision you make all day.

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