WA Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Sex Offenders

Taxpayers may be on the hook for an additional $22.5 million a year for experts and lawyers in civil-commitment trials, depending on what the Washington Supreme Court decides.

The case, State v. McCuistion, hinges on how easily sexually violent predators can obtain new trials seeking their freedom.

If the state loses, dozens of sexually violent offenders already committed to McNeil Island may be granted new trials each year.

Currently, state psychologists evaluate the sex offenders every year to see if they meet the criteria for continued confinement. Offenders have a right to hire their own evaluators. State law says an offender has to show progress in treatment or be physically incapacitated to get a new trial.

David McCuistion, a sex offender committed in 2003, sued the state, saying the law violated his constitutional rights because it denied him a hearing to show new evidence. Although he had neither taken treatment nor become physically disabled, McCuistion, armed with his psychologist’s report, argued that he no longer met the criteria for commitment.

In September 2010, the Supreme Court ruled 5-to-4 in McCuistion’s favor. State officials responded in panic.

The King County Prosecutor’s Office said that sex offenders now would be able “to obtain expensive annual recommitment trials for the price of an expert report, which is paid for at public expense.” Offenders would only need a psychologist to opine they no longer met criteria, for any reason.

Each new trial could cost from $300,000 to $450,000, according to the Office of Financial Management.

The Supreme Court granted a request by the Attorney General’s Office to reconsider its decision. The court withdrew its previous decision and heard arguments in May.

That action put on hold about 35 cases of sexually violent predators who were making arguments similar to McCuistion’s.

The Supreme Court’s decision is expected later this year.

Because of the significant consequences one faces when arrested for a crime in Seattle, it is imperative that one retain a qualified Seattle criminal attorney so as to not only best minimize the myriad of legal consequences he faces, but also to protect his rights and liberty interests. The Seattle criminal attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified Seattle criminal lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those charged with committing crime in and around Western Washington and the greater Puget Sound region. 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 criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible.

If you or a loved one is arrested for allegedly committing a crime in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, Thurston County or one of the following cities or towns: Algona, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Bonney Lake, Bothell, Burien, Des Moines, Duvall, Edmonds, Enumclaw, Everett, Federal Way, fife, Hunts Point, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Maple Valley, Marysville, Medina, Mercer Island, Milton, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, New Castle, Normandy Park, North Bend, Olympia, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Sea Tac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snohomish, Sumner, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, and/or Woodinville, or any other city or town in Western Washington, call The Criminal Defense Team of SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900 for an initial free consultation.

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Senators Defend Washington Traffic Camera Law

Seven years ago, Democratic Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen of Camano Island pushed for a bill that paved the way for use of red-light cameras in Washington.

And she doesn’t regret it, even as doubts about their effectiveness grow, cities’ dependence on the revenues they produce deepens and voters’ rejection of them spreads.

Voters in Mukilteo, Monroe, Bellingham and Longview apparently don’t share that view and lined up solidly against the cameras. Yet Haugen is working to clean up the 2005 law she authored, which laid out rules for cities and counties to deploy cameras that automatically snap photos of license plates of vehicles allegedly running red lights, speeding in school zones and hurrying through railroad crossings.

Under Senate Bill 5188, fines would be uniform and communities with cameras must prepare annual reports on how many crashes occur in intersections where they are deployed and how many infractions are issued per camera.

Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville, sponsored the bill, which also would standardize the length of yellow lights to ensure they aren’t so short in length that motorists get trapped and ticketed by a camera.

“You never pass anything that’s perfect the first time. I think this bill improves what was done originally,” Haugen said. “When you put something in place you should have the ability to fix it, and this goes a long ways to try and fix the problems that I think are legitimate.”

Not so says initiative promoter Tim Eyman of Mukilteo, the emergent voice of anti-red-light camera forces statewide.

Eyman didn’t attend last week’s hearing on the bill by the Senate Transportation Committee, which Haugen leads. He said he wasn’t aware of the meeting.

“Even if we had known about it, why go?” he asked. “Their clean-up bill is, `We’re going to uniformly shaft everyone in the state.’ “

He’s submitted language for an initiative requiring every enforcement camera to be removed unless, or until, voters approve their deployment. He said Monday he’s unsure whether he’ll pursue it this year.

He wants the Legislature to rewrite the 2005 law to include a requirement for voter approval and reduction in the amount of the fine to “remove the profit motive” of cities and red-light camera companies.

Haugen said she’d fight against language requiring a vote before cameras can be used.

“I don’t agree with that,” she said. “Elections cost a lot of money. This isn’t something that local elected officials do lightly. I have a hard time going to a vote of the people for every political decision. If that were the route that we were going to go, then we would just have committees to put things on ballots.”

As for the issue of money, she said, the bill makes the amount of the fine the same as it would be if the red-light ticket had been issued by a police officer – $124.

“We didn’t realize some cities would collect more” than that, she said. “I do know that some red-light camera people make a lot of money. That’s neither here nor there. I’m for free enterprise.”

Haugen stressed in an interview she’s motivated by her belief the presence of cameras enhance public safety.

“Truly red-light cameras save lives,” she said. “Yes, there are more fender benders. The truth of the matter is there are fewer people killed and fewer serious accidents.”

When told a preponderance of studies reviewed by The Herald didn’t reach those same conclusions, Haugen said: “I’ve seen your stuff, and I don’t necessarily agree with it.”

Becker said she used to think cash was a reason cities wanted cameras.

“I thought it was all about the money. I thought it was all about the greed of the cities wanting additional revenue,” she said.

She said her views changed after state transportation officials showed her studies that they said showed declines in severe accidents at intersections with cameras.

In 2011, she set about to put “sideboards” on the existing law to ensure consistency in rules from city to city. She focused on standardizing the interval of yellow lights and adding the new reporting requirements.

“If those annual reports show they are actually reducing accidents then that’s a good thing,” she said. “If they don’t and they are just a money generator than we need to revisit it.”

Because of the significant consequences one faces when arrested for a crime inhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif Seattle, it is imperative that one retain a qualified Seattle criminal attorney so as to not only best minimize the myriad of legal consequences he faces, but also to protect his rights and liberty interests. The Seattle criminal attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified Seattle criminal lawyers that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those charged with committing crime in and around Western Washington and the greater Puget Sound region. 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 criminal allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible.

If you or a loved one is arrested for allegedly committing a crime or a traffic infraction in King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County, Kitsap County, Thurston County or one of the following cities or towns: Algona, Bellevue, Black Diamond, Bonney Lake, Bothell, Burien, Des Moines, Duvall, Edmonds, Enumclaw, Everett, Federal Way, fife, Hunts Point, Issaquah, Kenmore, Kent, Kirkland, Lake Forest Park, Lake Stevens, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Maple Valley, Marysville, Medina, Mercer Island, Milton, Monroe, Mountlake Terrace, New Castle, Normandy Park, North Bend, Olympia, Puyallup, Redmond, Renton, Sammamish, Sea Tac, Seattle, Shoreline, Snohomish, Sumner, Tacoma, Tukwila, University Place, and/or Woodinville, or any other city or town in Western Washington, call The Criminal Defense Team of SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900 for an initial free consultation.

Officer Charged With DUI

The Lakewood Police Department has launched an internal investigation after one of its officers was charged in October with drunken driving.

The Tacoma News Tribune reports that 30-year-old Shawn Noble has pleaded not guilty in a Thurston County court to drunken driving charges.

The department says Noble, a seven-year veteran, was pulled over in his personal car by a Washington State Patrol trooper after being spotted speeding and making an improper lane change.

The trooper arrested Noble on suspicion of drunken driving. He submitted to a breath test and reportedly blew 0.099 and 0.098. The legal driving limit is 0.08.

No restrictions were placed on Noble’s police duties or his driving status. His trial is set for March 1.

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.

Stiffer Penalties for Vehicular Homicide

Current penalties for drivers who kill — due to alcohol or drug impairment, reckless driving, or driving with disregard for the safety of others — aren’t sufficient given that the loss of life is both predictable and preventable, said King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg.

He noted that with time off for good behavior, most defendants convicted of vehicular homicide see their prison sentences reduced by a third.

At a Wednesday news conference to announce proposed changes to state law that would increase the punishments for vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, Satterberg was joined by Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Lindquist; state Rep. Christopher Hurst, D-Enumclaw; Nabila Lacey; and other families who’ve lost loved ones to drunken and impaired drivers.

The public officials and grieving relatives timed their announcement to precede New Year’s Eve, which Satterberg called “an alcohol-themed holiday.”

Noting that 170 people were killed by impaired drivers in 2010, compared with 154 slaying victims, Satterberg said: “We know by Monday, more Washington state residents will join that statistic.”

Hurst, a retired police officer and the chairman of the House public-safety and emergency-preparedness committee, is sponsoring legislation in the upcoming legislative session that would make the punishment for driving drunk and killing someone equal to the punishment for manslaughter.

Under the proposed law, those convicted of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence would face prison terms of 6 to 8 ½ years, more than double the current penalties of 2 ½ to almost 3 ½ years.

He recalled rolling up on his first fatal DUI crash as a young patrol officer in Ravensdale in 1981. A woman, her daughter, and her sister were killed by a drunken driver. The woman’s husband, worried because his wife and daughter were late returning home, came across the crash scene before police arrived.

“I will never forget the screams, the terror, the trauma, of this father who came across his wife and daughter in that car,” said Hurst.

He said at the time that local politicians and community leaders warned that Hurst would end up dead in a ditch if he continued going after drunken drivers.

Busting drunks “was not popular in 1981,” and while laws and attitudes have undergone a sea change, Hurst said, stiffer penalties represent “one of the last chapters in something that started several decades ago.”

“A couple years in jail is not appropriate for the devastation that you cause,” Hurst said.

Lindquist, who hopes the tougher penalties will serve as a deterrent, said the toughest thing prosecutors have to do “is explain to a family why a sentence doesn’t feel like justice. … It feels like a slap on the wrist.”

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.