Rubber Stamping Battle Continues

Seattle police have found that drunken-driving arrests were routinely rubber-stamped or falsely certified without approval by a supervisor, prompting one defendant to ask a judge to dismiss his case or suppress the arresting officer’s testimony.

The department launched an internal investigation in March after an audit revealed the mishandling of dozens of driving-under-the-influence (DUI) cases.

A sergeant who allegedly permitted the improper screening remains under investigation

But the department has found that two members of the DUI Unit, Jonathon Huber and Jonathan Young Jr., routinely used the sergeant’s signature stamp without having their arrests approved by him as required by policy, according to an internal-investigation report obtained by The Seattle Times.

A third officer, John Velliquette Jr., put written statements in his reports indicating his sergeant had screened his arrests, even though the sergeant had not actually reviewed the cases, the June 22 report said.

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.

Witnesses also said the stamp was used to satisfy data requirements and not to deceive.

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 the department’s arrest-screening policy. They were put on desk duty when the investigation began, but they have been returned to DUI patrols.

The OPA originally found Velliquette had been dishonest and gone further than the other officers by submitting written information that was false. But Deputy Chief Nick Metz determined supervisory intervention was more appropriate. OPA Director Kathryn Olson concurred.

Supervisory intervention means that while there may have been a violation of policy, it was not a willful violation that amounted to misconduct, according to the department.

Seattle police declined to disclose the names of the officers or details of the internal investigation under a public-disclosure request filed by The Times, citing its policy of not releasing that information in cases where officers have been cleared of wrongdoing. If charged with a DUI, contact you Seattle DUI Lawyers at SQ Attorneys immediately.

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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License Suspended? Re-Licensing Program to the Rescue

Nearly 300,000 Washington drivers have had their licenses suspended for not paying multiple traffic tickets, and if they want to get them back, they have to run a gauntlet that includes collection agents and a patchwork system of courts.

Many have now turned to King County re-licensing court to begin to dig out of the mess they find themselves in. Like drug court, it’s a diversion program for people who have been stopped by an officer while driving on a license that was suspended for failure to pay traffic tickets. If charged with Driving While License Suspended, contact your Seattle Criminal Lawyers at SQ Attorneys immediately.

Maggie Nave, head of the District Court unit of the King County Prosecutor’s office, said re-licensing court frees up prosecutors for more serious cases. But it also gives a suspended driver a way to get their license back sooner.

After a driver makes a few payments, the court lifts the hold on his license, which means he can get it back while he continues to pay off his tickets.

Court administrators in King and Pierce counties say that in any year, up to 25 percent of traffic tickets end up in collections. Re-licensing court is a cheaper alternative, but it’s only available in a few counties.

Judge Mark Eide presides over King County re-licensing court, but he has no authority to reduce and consolidate fines from most of the county’s 39 cities, much less another county.

“It is rather inefficient to have people go to multiple different courts to try to take care of getting their license back,” Eide said.

Suspended license cases consume a lot of court resources. One-third of misdemeanor court filings in Washington are for driving with a suspended license for failure to pay citations, according to a 2008 study by Washington’s Office of Public Defense.

“It’s a victimless crime and it’s a crime of poverty,” says Bob Boruchowitz, a former longtime public defender turned law professor at Seattle University.

He said there’s evidence that minorities are more likely to have their licenses suspended for not paying their traffic fines.

Options include working off the ticket through community service, or getting on a payment plan.

Don Pierce, who heads the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, supports diversion programs, but not decriminalization. He said some scofflaws need the threat of jail.

“If we totally decriminalize they can simply tear the ticket up right in front of the officer’s face and drive away and there’s nothing we can do about it and I don’t think that serves the general public,” he said.

If you or a loved one is faced with a criminal charge in Western Washington, you deserve the assistance of a reputable and qualified Seattle criminal attorney who will relentlessly defend your case. You deserve a Seattle criminal defense lawyer who has an intimate understanding of Washington’s criminal laws and the legal issues that could win your case. You deserve a Seattle criminal lawyer 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 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.

Arrested for DUI? Get your Car Impounded!

Those arrested for drunken driving will see their cars impounded in a new law that went into effect last Friday. If arrested for a DUI contact your Seattle DUI Lawyer at SQ Attorneys immediately.

There also is a mandatory 12-hour hold at towing companies before a vehicle can be released. It’s all part of a new law passed by the Washington Legislature this year.

The 2011 Legislature passed the law after realizing that people released after being arrested for driving under the influence could quickly end up behind the wheel again, said the Washington State Patrol.

Because of limited jail space, when someone is arrested for suspicion of drunken driving they typically have been released to another adult or allowed to take a taxi home. But sometimes the driver would return to his or her car and drive away.

The State Patrol points to a 2007 incident where a jury awarded $5.5 million to a woman injured in a crash with a drunken driver. The judgment was against Whatcom County and the State Patrol.

The jury found the State Patrol negligent because the woman took a cab back to her car after being arrested for drunken driving. Then she was involved in an accident, seriously injuring another driver.

Under the new law, there are three exceptions to the 12-hour requirement: If the car is owned by someone other than the person arrested, the owner can reclaim the car at the impound lot; a registered co-owner can claim the car; and commercial and farm vehicles can be reclaimed by the legal owner if it’s not the person arrested.

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.

WSP Named Top Agency for DUI Arrests

The Washington State Patrol has been named by its peers as the top agency in North America when it comes to getting drunk drivers off the road, WSP announced on Friday.

The award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police recognizes an agency’s “year-round efforts to detect and apprehend impaired drivers and to address impaired driving through policies, officer training, and public information and education.”

“We consider every DUI arrest a potential life saved,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste in a press release. “We never know which drunks will kill, but we know with certainty that some of them will.”

State troopers arrest about 20,000 impaired drivers each, which is about half the number police agencies arrest statewide, according to WSP. If arrested for a DUI, contact the Seattle DUI Lawyers at SQ Attorneys immediately.

Troopers got some help Friday with the enactment of Hailey’s Law, which requires the vehicles of people arrested for DUI be towed away and held for at least 12 hours.

The bill is named for Hailey Huntley, who was severely injured after her car was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Janine Parker, the arrested driver, had already been stopped once that night for DUI. A trooper had taken her home, where Parker had called a cab to take her back to her car. It was after she got behind the wheel again that she crashed into Huntley.

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.

Seafair Emphasis Patrol Begins!

Numerous agencies will once again use Mercer Island as their base for the annual emphasis DUI patrols on the roads and in the water for the Seafair hydroplane races and air show next weekend.

A temporary 60-foot dock is being installed at Proctor Landing as part of the facilities set up for the weekend. Also to be part of the complex are the Washington State Patrol’s Mobile Impaired Driving Unit, fenced-off areas for detention of those under the influence or for other crimes, a prisoner support vehicle to transport the worst offenders and a command center coordinating the patrols. Members of the King County Prosecutor’s Office will also be on scene to help with any legal issues and for case preparation. If you are arrested for a DUI in Seattle, contact the Seattle DUI Lawyer at SQ Attorneys immediately.

The efforts seem to be working. In 2010, There were 59 boating under the influence arrests (down from 148 in 2007 and 110 in 2009). But DUI numbers stayed steady, with 54 arrests in 2010 (there were 56 in 2007 and 53 in 2009).

Along with Mercer Island Police and Marine Patrol, other agencies that are part of the emphasis this year on Lake Washington are King County Sheriff’s Marine Patrol, Seattle Police and Harbor Patrol, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Washington State Patrol.

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.