Jon Fox Speaks to Attorneys About New DUI Breath Test Machine

Jon Fox spoke to an audience of over three hundred attorneys who attended the 2010 seminar “Defending DUIs” sponsored by the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice on December 10, 2010. Washington State has only recently approved a new breath testing device for deployment by law enforcement. Next year, the device will be used to test citizens who are arrested for DUI. The device, the Draeger 9510, is largely shrouded in mystery as, to date, no Washington State operator or maintenance manuals are available for release to the public. Mr. Fox’s research for the speech included examination of over 2,000 pages of records he obtained under Washington State’s Public Records Act and review of transcripts of testimony from landmark cases in other states involving the same technology used in the new machine. The new device will be the subject of a new chapter authored by Mr. Fox for the book, “Defending DUIs in Washington,” later this year.

Jon Fox Speaks to Judges on DUI Breath Testing

The Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts sponsors continuing education for judges and most years, includes “DUI Regional” training sessions. This year the DUI regional sessions are being held in four locations throughout Washington State — Lynnwood, Olympia, Kennewick, and Spokane. As of the date of this writing, the first session has been held in Lynnwood. Mr. Fox presented a comparison of the features of the current breath testing machine, the DataMaster, and the soon to be deployed machine — the Draeger 9510. There are a number of key differences between the two machines, some of which reveal potential deficiencies in the DataMaster as currently deployed. The presentation was interactive and used a “pen-enabled” PowerPoint presentation via a tablet PC, which turns such a presentation into a white-board interactive learning session.

A new DUI breath testing machine for Washington State?

Washington State is slowly moving forward with plans to deploy new DUI breath testing machines.  The state has already purchased a number of machines, the Draeger 9510, and is in the process of testing them before deploying them to be used in actual DUI arrests.  The state is buying new breath test machines because the machines currently in place (known as DataMasters) are old technology, out of warranty, and are wearing out.  As of the date of this blog, none of the new machines are in actual use in the field.  However, the latest evidence that the state is moving forward with these new DUI breath test machines was the quiet passage of HB 2465.  This new law, effective June 10, 2010, amends RCW 46.61.506 to permit the use of “dry gas” in the administration of a breath test to DUI suspects.  The term “dry gas” refers to a vapor which will be introduced into the breath testing machine pursuant to testing protocol and the purpose is to determine whether the machine is properly calibrated.  Prior law had only authorized the use of a liquid simulator solution in connection with the testing of DUI suspects.

Jon Fox Named Top Criminal Defense Attorney in King County

Jon Scott Fox has been named by Seattle Metropolitan Magazine as being one of the top criminal defense attorneys in King County. The result is based upon a survey of peer-review ratings administered by Martindale-Hubbell. According to Seattle Metropolitan, “Our list includes only those practitioners in King County who have been judged by their peers to be ‘AV Preeminent’—the highest peer-review rating available.”
Jon has consistently been recognized as one of the top criminal defense attorneys in Washington state. He has regularly been honored as a Super Lawyer by Washington Law and Politics, and has been named as one of the “Top 25” criminal defense attorneys in Washington by the magazine. Jon has been honored by Seattle Magazine as one of “Seattle’s Best Lawyers,” and Avvo gives him its very highest rating for Washington state DUI attorneys.

Politics, DUI and the new cell phone law

As of June 10, 2010, Washington State has a new cell phone law.  The publicity surrounding this law has mainly focused on the fact that the new law changes cell phone violations from a “secondary offense” for which a police officer may not stop you, to a “primary offense” for which a police officer may stop you and give you a ticket.   However, some of the details of this law have not received much publicity.  For instance, you can still make a call using your cell phone while driving so long as you don’t hold the phone to your ear.  Specifically, the law (RCW 46.61.667) states: “a person operating a motor vehicle while holding a wireless communication device to his or her ear is guilty of a traffic infraction.” Therefore, under the law it is legal to place your cell phone into speakerphone mode, hold it in front of your face, and make the call.  How is this less dangerous than holding the phone to your ear?

The law states that it is illegal to send, read, or write a text message while driving.  However the term “text message” has no definition in the statute.  This term is generally understood to mean SMS messaging, as opposed to an e-mail message delivered via Blackberry or Microsoft Exchange messaging systems.  No Washington State court decision has interpreted this term to date.

The politicians have stated that this law is all about public safety, just like the Washington State DUI laws, but is this really the case?  The Washington State Department of Licensing states on its web site that a driver talking on a cell phone is as impaired as a drunk driver with a reading of 0.08 blood alcohol.  The DOL also says on its website that a driver who is texting poses the same danger as a drunk driver who is twice the legal limit -0.16 blood alcohol.  We all know that Washington State DUI laws are among the toughest in the nation, designed to address the danger posed to the public by drunk driving.  The penalty for a DUI conviction with a breath test reading of 0.08 will include license suspension, mandatory jail, mandatory fines, mandatory probation, and alcohol classes. A DUI conviction stays on the record for life and it is reported to the driver’s insurance companies via department of licensing records (resulting in “high risk” insurance for DUI drivers.)  In contrast, the new cell phone law specifically states that a cell phone ticket will not go on the driver’s record, and it will not be reported to insurance companies.  Moreover, the fine is $124.

If cell phone driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, then why is the penalty a mere $124?  Also, if cell phone drivers are more dangerous than other drivers, then why is a cell phone ticket not reported to the driver’s insurance company?  The end result is that safe drivers will wind up bearing the increased insurance cost brought about by the risky conduct of cell phone law violators, if the danger posed by cell phone use is truly equivalent to drunk driving.

The ultimate question is this: Is the new cell phone law really about public safety, or is it actually about revenue collection?

The new cell phone law will undoubtedly result in drivers in Seattle and other places in Washington state being stopped by police and if alcohol is smelled, a DUI investigation and arrest.  The validity of the initial detention is always a key issue in a DUI case. Fox Bowman Duarte can be reached at (425) 451-1995.

DUI arrest leads to loss of custody of kids?

Every year, Washington State legislature amends the DUI laws in an effort to make the DUI laws even tougher or to “tune up ” the laws. This year’s legislative session resulted in the passage of HB 3124, a law that went into effect June 10, 2010. The law requires that a police officer who makes a DUI arrest must “promptly notify Child Protective Services” whenever a child under the age of thirteen is present in the vehicle. The details are in the full text of the law, presented below.

There are already a number of “automatic” consequences that accompany a DUI arrest. For instance, if the breath test reading is over 0.08, expect mandatory license suspension, mandatory jail, mandatory fines, mandatory ignition interlock, mandatory conditions of probation, and now, mandatory reporting of the parent’s name to child protective services. It is worth noting that this law applies not only in DUI arrests, but to an arrest for any “drug or alcohol related driving offense.” Also, the law applies only when the vehicle is being driven by a parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the child. As a side note, Washington’s DUI laws also require an increased penalty of sorts in the case of an individual who is convicted of DUI and who had a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle: an additional 60 days of driving only with an ignition interlock will be required beyond whatever other licensing penalties may be imposed. See RCW 46.61.5055(6).

The full text of the law is set forth below.

A law enforcement officer shall promptly notify child protective services whenever a child is present in a vehicle being driven by his or her parent, guardian, or legal custodian and that person is being arrested for a drug or alcohol-related driving offense. This section does not require law enforcement to take custody of the child unless there is no other responsible person, or an agency having the right to physical custody of the child that can be contacted, or the officer has reasonable grounds to believe the child should be taken into custody pursuant to RCW 13.34.050 or 26.44.050. For purposes of this section, “child” means any person under thirteen years of age.

Any Washington State DUI arrest is a serious matter. The lawyers at Fox Bowman Duarte are available 24/7 to help.  Call (425) 451-1995 to reach us.

Jon Scott Fox Named 2010 Super Lawyer

Jon Scott Fox has been named a 2010 Super Lawyer by Washington Law & Politics magazine. Each year the magazine honors the top attorneys in Washington state based on extensive surveys and independent research. Fewer than five percent of the state’s attorneys from 70 practice areas were recognized this year.

Jon has been honored as a Super Lawyer repeatedly over a distinguished legal career. He has also been named as one of the “Top 25” criminal defense attorneys in Washington state by Law & Politics, and been honored by Seattle Magazine as one of “Seattle’s Best Lawyers.” Avvo gives Jon its very highest ranking for Washington state DUI attorneys.

Talking on Cell Phone Leads to DUI arrest?

Experience has shown that many DUI arrests result from the police stopping a car for reasons that have nothing to do with driving under the influence. For instance, many DUI arrests in Washington State result from an investigation following an officer stopping a vehicle for speeding, failing to use a signal, or similar rather innocuous but justifiable reasons for the detention. Beginning June 10, 2010, the police will have yet another reason to stop a vehicle: Operating a motor vehicle while holding a wireless communication device to the ear. The new law will be in the books as RCW 46.61.667. The law does not require that the driver be talking on the phone. It states exactly that the police may stop the vehicle and if the driver is “holding a wireless communication device to his or her ear.” As of June 10, 2010, this becomes a primary offense which permits law enforcement to stop a vehicle even if no other traffic infractions have occurred.

“Bad” driving is not an element of a DUI charge, although it usually is expected that some driving errors will occur if a person is under the influence of alcohol. In practice, police officers patrolling late at night in search of DUI drivers will stop a vehicle for the most minor traffic infraction as a way to determine whether this particular driver has been drinking. The same traffic infraction likely would result in no police action if it occurred in the middle of the day. Officers have many tools under the law in their quest to apprehend the drinking driver and investigate that person as a possible DUI. Beginning June 10, illegal use of the cell phone will be added to the list of reasons that may justify a detention that results in a DUI arrest.

30 Days for Refusing a DUI Breath Test?

One of the relatively unknown aspects of Washington State DUI law is that the penalties for violations of certain mandatory requirements of probation will result in mandatory sentences that the judge must impose. Take the case of an individual for whom this is the first DUI conviction. Either one or two days of jail time would likely be imposed, along with other penalties, and the judge would “suspend” all of the remaining jail time (nearly a year of jail time) on condition of compliance with the terms of probation. If there is a violation of probation, the judge has the power to impose some or all of the remaining jail time. In certain circumstances, however, the judge is required to impose 30 days of confinement. The applicable statute, RCW 46.61.5055, is set forth below.

(11)(a) In addition to any nonsuspendable and nondeferrable jail sentence required by this section, whenever the court imposes less than one year in jail, the court shall also suspend but shall not defer a period of confinement for a period not exceeding five years. The court shall impose conditions of probation that include: (i) Not driving a motor vehicle within this state without a valid license to drive and proof of financial responsibility for the future; (ii) not driving a motor vehicle within this state while having an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within two hours after driving; and (iii) not refusing to submit to a test of his or her breath or blood to determine alcohol concentration upon request of a law enforcement officer who has reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving or was in actual physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor. The court may impose conditions of probation that include nonrepetition, installation of an ignition interlock device on the probationer’s motor vehicle, alcohol or drug treatment, supervised probation, or other conditions that may be appropriate. The sentence may be imposed in whole or in part upon violation of a condition of probation during the suspension period.

(b) For each violation of mandatory conditions of probation under (a)(i), (ii), or (iii) of this subsection, the court shall order the convicted person to be confined for thirty days, which shall not be suspended or deferred.

As you can see, section (b) states that upon a violation of the mandatory conditions of probation the court “shall order the convicted person to be confined for 30 days.” Therefore, an individual who is on DUI probation and who is stopped by police officer and asked to take a breath test, and who refuses to take that breath test, would be in violation of a mandatory condition of probation and therefore, the judge must order the person to be confined for 30 days. What does “confined for 30 days” mean? Although this term would appear to mean jail time, in fact, principles of statutory interpretation have been argued with some success that the use of the word “jail” in connection with other sections of the DUI penalty law implies that “confinement” as used in this section may or may not include jail. Therefore, some judges have been persuaded that an individual who has been found to be in violation of the mandatory condition of DUI probation could be sentenced to 30 days of “confinement” in the form of 30 days electronic home detention and in some cases, in the form of enrollment and participation in a 30 day inpatient alcohol treatment program. Other judges read the law quite literally to require jail (and only jail) as the sanction to be imposed upon a violation of any of the mandatory probation conditions.
In any event, an aggressive and a reasoned DUI defense may well avoid probation altogether. If probation is imposed and a violation of probation is alleged, the probationer would be well advised to retain the best lawyer he or she can find because, as we have seen, the penalty imposed for violating probation in many cases is jail time well in excess of that which was required to be served upon the conviction itself.

Meteors, Cosmic Rays and DUI defense

Meteor DUI DefenseRecent happenings (March, 2010) reveal some unusual defenses to DUI charges. First, there was the decision of the Court of Appeals in State of Washington vs. Richard Charles Tracer, No. 37812-4-II. This was a Washington State DUI/Vehicular Assault case where the Court of Appeals discussed the propriety of the legal procedure employed by the trial court in appointing a special prosecutor to handle the case when the “regular” prosecutor failed to appear for a hearing. The case involved a Vehicular Assault charge where the defendant’s vehicle collided head-on with another vehicle. The defendant’s blood alcohol was .13 according to court records. One way a misdemeanor DUI becomes a felony Vehicular Assault is where the DUI driver causes substantial bodily harm to another person. The defense challenged whether the injury was “caused” by the defendant. If the swerve of the defendant’s vehicle was due to something beyond the defendant’s control, he did not “cause” the substantial bodily harm to the other driver. Enter the meteor. Literally. As the court put it:  “According to his defense attorney, on May 25, 2007, Richard Charles Tracer collided with another vehicle after the car he was driving was hit by a meteor. Tracer’s counsel told the Jefferson County Superior Court that because it was the meteor and not Tracer’s .13 blood alcohol level that caused the collision, the special deputy prosecutor appointed to handle the case had agreed to allow Tracer to plead guilty to driving while under the influence (DUI).” The published court record does not reveal whether there was physical evidence of a meteor striking the defendant’s vehicle or whether anyone saw the meteor enter the earth’s atmosphere, streaking towards the defendant’s vehicle to keep its date with destiny. However, according to some sources, the chances of a meteorite striking a human are such that it is expected to happen once every 186 years. A car presents a larger target but nonetheless, it might be a hundred years before the meteorite defense is seen again in a court of law.

One lesson from all this, that that “cosmic events” might well impact ordinary life, is reinforced by the recent Toyota Prius “unexplained acceleration” problems that we have heard so much about. It seems that some instances of unexplained acceleration remain unexplained. The company was unable to duplicate any aspect of the unexplained acceleration that a Los Angeles driver said occurred in his Prius in a widely publicized case recently. A few days after this incident, a news article entitled “Toyota mystery: Could cosmic rays be the culprit?” by reporter Justin Hyde was widely published. The article stated: “It may sound far-fetched, but federal regulators are studying whether sudden acceleration in Toyotas is linked to cosmic rays… Radiation from space long has affected airplanes and spacecraft, and is known for triggering errors in computer systems, but has received scant attention in the auto industry.” The article further states: “Electronics makers have known for decades about “single event upsets” (SEUs) — computer errors from radiation created when cosmic rays strike the atmosphere. Yet, the tipster last month told the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that “the automotive industry has yet to truly anticipate SEUs.”
All of which brings us to breath testing in Washington State DUI cases. Washington State’s DUI breath test machine is computer controlled, as is the Prius control system. Washington States’ DUI breath test machine is, however, based upon 1980’s computer technology. Your author is familiar with a number of cases where the alcohol that was reported as being consumed does not add up to a breath test reading over the legal limit. Could cosmic rays be the culprit? We’ll never know. The issue has never been studied. Although the potential impact of cosmic rays upon breath testing might seem farfetched, the same was said about the defense assertions, later substantiated, that radio frequency interference (such as from an officer’s handheld radio) could impact breath test results. Today, every state of the art breath DUI breath testing machine is protected in one way or another from the impact of radio frequency interference but there is no shielding for cosmic rays.