City of Seattle May Be Liable In Schulte DUI Case

Seattle DUI case

Image from Seattle Times

It’s not every day that a DUI case involves the city where the defendant lives, but the City of Seattle is learning that it does happen, and it could be liable for an alcohol-related crash that killed two people and injured two others.

Back in March of 2013, Dennis and Judy Schulte were walking with their daughter-in-law Karina and their newborn grandson Elias. A pickup truck, driven by Mark, W. Mullan, crashed into and killed the couple and critically injured their daughter-in-law and grandson.

This wasn’t Mullan’s first drunk driving arrest. He was on his fifth DUI case when he crashed into the family, and shortly after the family launched a lawsuit that included the City of Seattle. The reason? After his last DUI in December of 2012, Mullan was on probation and supervised by a probation officer working for the Seattle Municipal Court.

He was required to install an ignition interlock and should have been checked on at home by the probation officer. The department failed to visit his home within ten days of his release from jail and they didn’t visit him for the two in-person contacts per month that were also required.

According to the family, those visits would have been enough to notify the probation officer and the court that Mullan wasn’t following through on his rehab, he hadn’t installed his ignition interlock, and he was violating the terms of his probation by drinking alcohol. They allege that if he’d been forced to install the ignition interlock, he wouldn’t have been able to drive drunk and they wouldn’t have been torn apart by this tragedy.

The City of Seattle has attempted to remove itself from the lawsuit several times, but after losing appeals, they are now facing judgement from a King County jury. For his part Mullan was sentenced to 18 years in prison in November 2013 after he made the decision to plead guilty to two counts of vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault, and violating the Washington ignition interlock law.

Washington State has since changed its DUI laws to require an offender to install their required ignition interlock within 5 days of conviction, and a judge has to set a follow up date to ensure it’s installed.

There’s going to be a lot of people following this DUI case, and if the City of Seattle is found responsible for the deaths and injury of the Schulte family, it could set an important precedent for other drunk driving crashes.

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Here’s What You Need To Know About Drunk Driving Laws In Washington

drunk driving laws in Washington stateThere have been a lot of changes over the past few years as far as drunk driving laws in Washington state go. In 2009 the state passed an all-offender ignition interlock law, and during every legislative session since that time, lawmakers have focused on making improvements and enhancements to this law. To strengthen penalties even more, lawmakers have passed House Bill 2280. A law that strengthens felony-level driving under influence (DUI) penalties, it’s cracking down on another area of drunk driving law that needed improvement.

House Bill 2280 began its journey to law back in June of 2015 and was just signed by Governor Jay Inslee. The new law ups the penalties for a felony DUI conviction, and before the law was signed, a repeat offender guilty of four DUI offenses would only received misdemeanor charges. The fifth DUI charge would be considered a Class C felony, but the maximum the offender would receive is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Now that House Bill 2280 has been signed, anyone receiving a felony DUI charge will be guilty of a Class B felony, and that charge has a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $20,000.

Govenor Inslee also signed House Bill 2700 recently, and it was also designed to further improve drunk driving laws in Washington state. Sponsored by Rep. Roger Goodman, it put the spotlight on a few ignition interlock loopholes that offenders were using to get out of using the device. Goodman was quoted as saying that DUI offenders were ‘gaming the system’ when it comes to their required ignition interlock device program. These offenders were only required to be monitored during the last four months of their interlock program, and that resulted in some people only installing the device during those last four months.

Now DUI offenders will be monitored the entire time they are required to have an ignition interlock, whether that period be one year for a first offender or 10 years for a repeat offender. The law also shortens the time period before an offender’s driver’s license is suspended. Prior to the new law it was 60 days after arrest, and now it’s 30 days.

Washington has long had a goal of zero drunk driving deaths. Closing these ignition interlock loopholes and tightening up drunk driving laws in Washington state is a good step to finally achieving that goal.

 

Say Goodbye To the Crown When You’re Stopped For Drunk Driving

Beauty pagaent winner stopped for drunk driving

Image from pagaentnews.com

Anyone can be stopped for drunk driving, and thousands of people from Florida to Minnesota and everywhere in between are pulled over and arrested after they made the mistake of getting behind the wheel drunk. Just read the news every day and you’ll see that getting stopped for drunk driving isn’t something that just happens to teenagers or middle age men. It happens to moms, grandparents, and beauty queens too.

Case in point? Miss Washington USA, Stormy Keffeler, has recently resigned her crown after pageant officials found out she was convicted of drunk driving one month before she won the title. The night she was stopped by police she had two flat tires, was slurring her speech and, when asked to submit to a breathalyzer, had a blood alcohol concentration of .22.

When organizers found out about the arrest and that she didn’t disclose it, she made the decision to step down. Although some people on social media are calling the decision unfair, the bottom line is that a pageant winner is a representative and a role model, and with a DUI on record, she’s not setting a great example for anyone.

Miss Washington isn’t the first person to resign a crown over DUI. Miss Nevada USA, Emelina Adams, also has a DUI on her record. She received her misdemeanor DUI in Las Vegas after she was parked in a hotel garage during a pool party. After deciding to sleep in her car with the air conditioning on instead of driving home, she found out that act is illegal in Nevada. You can’t be in a parked vehicle with the keys in the ignition because it shows the intent to drive. Unlike Miss Washington, because Miss Nevada’s DUI happened years before she received her crown, it has no affect on her ability to keep it.

Two different beauty pageant winners and two different DUIs, but the message is the same: with so much at stake, once you make the mistake of drinking and driving, it can have long term impact on your life. No matter who you are, if you drink, don’t drive.

 

 

 

Want To Know How To Stop Drugged Drivers? Ask Washington State

marijuana-drugged-driving-washington-stateWith a Canadian election just complete and a new Prime Minister ushered in who is promising legalized marijuana, it’s safe to say pot has been making news a lot lately. Although this would be a new thing for our neighbors to the north, Washington State has had legalized marijuana for a year and a half now. If there is one thing lawmakers and law enforcement might share with a country considering legalization, it’s that dealing with the outcomes is a learning process.

Driving under the influence (DUI) rates in Washington haven’t seen a significant increase since the state legalized marijuana, but that doesn’t meant law enforcement aren’t having a hard time cracking down on drugged drivers. To stop people who get behind the wheel while stoned, lawmakers created a law in 2013 that limits the amount of active THC in a driver’s blood to a maximum of 5 nanograms per millilitre. According to state officials, that 5 nanograms is equivalent to someone having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08.

But accurately assessing an individual’s blood to determine drugged driving requires a blood test, and because asking for a blood test isn’t as simple as asking a driver to submit to a breathalyzer, officers have been trained to look for other signs of drug impairment.

When it comes to drugged driving, officers are looking for impaired motor skills, body tremors, dilated pupils, and the smell of marijuana in the vehicle. If the driver is arrested for DUI in Washington State, they will receive 24 hours in jail, a 90-day drivers license suspension for a first time offender, and the driver must install an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle.

If Washington State is any indication, Canadian law enforcement are going to need to make an extra effort to weed out drugged drivers and lawmakers will have to stiffen impaired driving laws. Just like in Washington, it needs to become very unappealing to smoke marijuana and or drink and drive.

Legalized Marijuana In Washington Hasn’t Upped DUI Rates

no-increased-dui-washington-stateAll you have to do is drive down a street in Washington State and you can find legal cannabis facility. Since Washington passed Initiative 502 in November of 2012, they have been popping up everywhere. Since marijuana is so easily found and legally consumed, people have voiced concern about stoned drivers causing a jump in DUI rates. If you talk to Washington State police about it, they’ll tell you that’s just not true.

According to the Washington State Patrol, driving under the influence (DUI) rates have not increased since Initiative 502 was passed. John Schochet, Deputy City Attorney for Policy and Constituent Affairs from the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, was quoted in the Huffington Post as saying that legalization hasn’t increased DUI, but more people could be substituting cannabis for alcohol.

He’d also like to make it clear that cannabis legalization doesn’t mean that impaired driving was legalized in Washington State, and Initiative 502 actually made it easier to convict people who are driving stoned. That’s because it created a standard for determining cannabis impairment with regards to concentration of active THC in the blood stream, and having that regulation means prosecutor have a measuring stick they can use to charge drugged drivers. This change also helps law enforcement investigate someone they suspect of drugged driving, and they no longer have to prove a person was under the influence of drugs based on observations or field sobriety tests alone.

Just like with drinking and driving, people who decide to drive while under the influence of marijuana feel like they’re perfectly OK to get behind the wheel. Although Washington State hasn’t seen a huge jump in DUI since cannabis was legalized, to keep roads safe public perception needs to change. It might be legal in Washington to use cannabis, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive while under the influence of anything.

 

Ignition Interlock Program Violations In Washington State

washingtonWashington State has been focused on cracking down on drunk drivers, and since their driving under the influence (DUI) laws have changed to require first time DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock device, the roads are safer for everyone on them.

Although ignition interlock devices allow a convicted drunk driver to get their license back and on the road faster than if they were to just have a drivers license suspension, not everyone wants to get on or stick with the program. Some offenders will attempt to violate or cheat their ignition interlock device by asking a friend to blow into it or try ideas they found on the Internet to bypass their ignition interlock, but they just don’t work. That’s when the offender finds out what happens if you violate your ignition interlock program.

In Washington State, DUI laws require a first time offender who is convicted of DUI or was in physical control of a motor vehicle while drunk to install an ignition interlock device for at least one year. The ignition interlock device must be installed on all vehicles you drive, so even if you drive a commercial vehicle for work, it must have an ignition interlock unless you are eligible for an employer exemption.

If you attempt to bypass or remove your ignition interlock device before your 1-year requirement program is up, your driving privileges will be suspended. If your drivers license has already been reinstated, your license will be suspended again. For offenders with a restricted license, it will be suspended again as well.

In a nutshell, if you violate or remove your ignition interlock before your term is up in Washington State, you’ll be back at square one. If your goal is to work through the penalties of your DUI and move on with your life, it can’t seem very appealing to remove your interlock device or violate your ignition interlock terms. Blowing before you go to prove your sobriety is a small price to pay for the freedom of driving.

Finally, Some DUI Statistics That May Help Improve Arrests

states-most-DUI-arrestsWith public service announcements, campaigns to promote safe driving, and checkpoints on most nights, it’s absolutely astounding that people still make the decision to drink and drive. But drinking and driving they must be, because the latest statistics compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that across the entire United States there were 1,166,824 driving under the influence (DUI) arrests in 2013 alone.

Although it’s obvious people are getting arrested for DUI, it’s not as obvious exactly where most of these arrests are happening. That’s why a drug addiction resource center called Project Know decided to compile some statistics on state-wide DUI and which state you’re more likely to get arrested. Here’s a few highlights of what they found:

The Dakotas top the list

Out of all 50 states, North Dakota and South Dakota rank highest for DUI arrests in 2013—North Dakota had 87.3 arrests per 10,000 people and South Dakota had 63.1, well above the national average of 37.4. At the bottom of the list is Alabama, with only 0.5 arrests per 10,000.

Why is no one getting arrested in Boston?

Boston only had 792 arrests for DUI between 2011 and 2014, making it one of the few major cities with a dismal arrest record. Some have speculated that it was due to a lack of effort by local law enforcement.

Checkpoints not allowed in Washington State

There were 5,439 DUI arrests in Seattle, Washington between January 2013 to November 2014, and incredibly, Washington State does not allow checkpoints. That means that law enforcement is out there stopping drunk drivers one by one, and that’s good news for people who live in Seattle.

Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that over 10,000 people were killed in alcohol-related crashes in 2013, so statistics like these from Project Know can be put to good use to stop DUI across the country. Maybe this study will motivate hot spots like Alabama and Boston to step up their DUI game and improve their arrest records.

Life After A DUI In Washington State

Shot glass with car keys and handcuffs

Shot glass with car keys and handcuffs

From oceans to the mountains, big cities to small towns, Washington State has it all. It’s a great place to live, but you don’t want to be a drunk driver there. Washington has really strict driving under the influence (DUI) laws, and if you’ve just been stopped or convicted of DUI in the state, you’re going to be wondering how it will affect your day-to-day life. Here’s a look at life after a DUI in Washington State.

If you’re a first offender

How do you feel about going to jail? It’s possible when you receive a DUI in Washington State. You’ll get a minimum of 1 day up to 1 year in jail for a first offense, but you could be offered 15 days of home electronic monitoring instead of jail time.

We all know that being convicted of DUI is expensive, but getting a DUI in Washington state will really empty out your bank account. For a first offense you’ll have to pay a minimum of $350. That might not seem so bad, but you could be asked to pay the maximum, and that will cost you $5,000.

It’s a given your driver’s license will be suspended, and you’ll lose your license for a minimum of 90 days up to 1 year if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .15 or more. To have your driver’s license reinstated, you’ll have to install and use an ignition interlock device for one year.

If you’re a repeat offender

Choosing to repeatedly drink and drive in Washington is just the ticket to derailing your entire life. To start, you’ll have to spend a minimum of 30 days up to 1 year in jail AND be electronically monitored in your home for 120 days. Unfortunately you won’t be able to work from jail, so paying $1,000 to $5,000 in fines is going to be tough.

Repeat offenders with three offenses will kiss their driver’s license goodbye for 3 years, 4 if they were arrested with a BAC of .15 or more. If and when they do get their license back, they’ll have to drive with an ignition interlock for 10 years.

A DUI in Washington State is considered a misdemeanor until you’ve offended 4 or more times in 10 years, have a prior DUI-related vehicular homicide charge, or if you’ve ever been convicted of a felony in Washington. If you meet any of the above-mentioned criteria, your misdemeanor becomes a felony offense, and the penalties increase severely.

Washington State is a great place to live, but it’s definitely not a great place to drink and drive. Stay safe, drive sober, and hand the keys over to someone else if you’re drinking.

 

Washington State Police Target Zero Traffic Crashes By 2030

ignition interlock Alcohol-related crashes are on the news or in the newspapers everyday, and unless you know the person or people involved, it’s all too easy to write these crashes off as statistics and move on with your day. But the people involved in driving under the influence (DUI) related crashes aren’t statistics – they’re someone’s mother, wife, husband, father, son, or daughter, and the pain those families will feel at the loss of their loved one is all too real.

That’s why Washington State Police have launched Target Zero – a campaign with the goal of having zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Target Zero is important because each individual lost is one too many, and with that in mind the state has launched extra DUI patrols from now until January 1st, 2015.

Impaired driving crashes have claimed more than 1,000 people in Washington since 2009, and that includes impairment from both alcohol and/or drugs. Washington Police feel as though misinformation is one of the major reasons they’re still seeing these types of crashes. Take marijuana use for example – with recreational marijuana use legal in the state, a recent survey showed that 90% of drivers didn’t feel as though marijuana impacted their driving abilities, and 25 percent actually thought the drug made them better drivers.

But if you’re caught with alcohol or marijuana in your system and you’re driving in Washington, you’ll be on the hook for stiff penalties. A DUI will net you up to one year in jail, you’ll lose your driver’s license for 90 days to one year, pay fines up to $5,000, and even as a first offender, you’ll be required to install an ignition interlock device.

Don’t wait until someone you know becomes a victim of drinking and driving or you receive a DUI yourself – don’t drive after drinking and share with others that law enforcement from counties all across Washington state are working together to stop impaired drivers and reduce crashes this holiday season. They’ll continue to work together until there are zero traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030. You can learn more about Target Zero on their website at TargetZero.com.

Seattle Fire Fighters Skip Their Ignition Interlocks

ignition interlock You’ve received a driving under the influence (DUI) conviction and one of your penalties is an ignition interlock program, requiring you to use an ignition interlock device on every vehicle you drive.  This requirement includes any work related vehicle, even if that work vehicle is a fire truck.

The Dori Monson Show in Seattle did a 5-month investigation with KIRO TV News and found out that several Seattle firefighters were violating the terms and conditions of their ignition interlock programs. How exactly? The firefighters were driving Seattle Fire Department fire trucks without an ignition interlock device, even though they had a DUI conviction on record and were required to drive with an interlock in their personal vehicles.

One of the fill-in drivers, a firefighter by the name of Linda Wells, was convicted of two DUIs in 2010. Her blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was measured at .24 after one of her arrests. As per Washington State DUI laws, she was required to install an ignition interlock device in her vehicle. According to court papers, she is required to have it for 10 years starting in 2009, but she remained a driver for the fire department for at least 4 years and her driving privileges were only taken away in March of 2014.

In Washington State, a first DUI offense requires an ignition interlock program of at least one year.

A second and third conviction can require the offender to install an interlock device for 5 to 10 years, as was the case with Linda Wells.

Although the Fire Chief was interviewed and asked how such a lapse could have happened, he didn’t have any specific answers as to how the firefighters were allowed to remain behind the wheel. He did say the Seattle Fire Department policy is to check driver’s licenses for any restrictions twice per year, and any employee must inform their employer of a change in driving status.

Many people, including public servants, still make the choice to drink and drive. When they’re caught, an ignition interlock device will prevent them from driving drunk again, and they’re not allowed to skip the requirement on any type of vehicle, even one used for work.

For more information on Washington State ignition interlock requirements, please visit Guardian Interlock’s Washington State page.

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