Sullivan Law Group Attorney Jason Lantz testifies in Olympia on Safely Off the Roadway Defense

Jason Lantz, Attorney with the Sullivan Law Group, PLLC, recently testified in the Washington House of Representatives Public Safety Committee on a DUI and impaired driving bill. The proposed bill would have eliminated the safely off the roadway defense in physical control cases which have the same consequences as DUI cases.

Physical control is basically a DUI where the driver is found by the officer behind the wheel but the vehicle is parked or on the shoulder and not moving. For years, people accused of physical control have been able to explain to a jury, that although they were in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, they were safely off the roadway. If the jury believed that the person was safely off the roadway, the jury would have to say not guilty.

The purpose of the safely off the roadway defense is to encourage DUI drivers to get off the road and park their vehicle. Although drivers in physical control, but safely off the roadway, can be arrested and charged, the safely off the roadway defense allows drivers to show a jury that they did the right thing. If the jury agrees, then they would say not guilty.

By eliminating the safely off the roadway defense, drivers would have lost the opportunity to show a jury that they did a right thing. Jason testified that this would eliminate the incentive for DUI drivers to do the right thing and get off the road. Legislators agreed and removed this language from the bill which saved the safely off the roadway defense.

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Sullivan Law Group Attorneys Grill Breath Test Machine Designers

Brian Sullivan, managing partner, and Jason Lantz, attorney, Sullivan Law Group, PLLC, recently had the rare opportunity to cross-examine one of the designers of the Draeger Alcotest 9510, Washington’s new breath test machine.  Attorneys Brian Sullivan, Melissa Sullivan, and Jason Lantz have been leading a group of attorneys representing dozens of consolidated defendants charged with DUI in Snohomish County to challenge the Draeger in DUI cases.  Many counties in Washington, such as Snohomish, Skagit, Whatcom, and Island counties, have implemented the Draeger for DUI cases.

The attorneys at Sullivan Law Group have spent hundreds of hours researching the Draeger’s design and source code and came prepared to grill one of the primary designers of the instrument.  Very few attorneys can say that they had the opportunity to grill the designer of a breath test machine used in a DUI case on the stand.

And the results were outstanding.  Draeger and WSP both know how important breath temperature is to a valid test.  It is one of only three critical variables in breath testing.  Yet, WSP chose to not implement the temperature functionality of the Draeger machine.  The testimony has paved the foundation for future motions to suppress and closing arguments to a jury.

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Sullivan Law Group Attorney Jason Lantz Testifies on DUI Bill in Olympia

Attorney Jason Lantz with the Sullivan Law Group, PLLC, represents the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers on impaired driving issues in the Washington legislature. Every year, Jason attends a meeting convened by a Washington legislator to discuss impaired driving laws. Jason monitors all bills involving DUI cases and advocates for law changes that will protect Washington citizens’ constitutional rights and ensure a fair process. Through his work with the Washington legislature, Sullivan Law Group is ahead of the curve as far as the current state of the Washington law in DUI and impaired driving cases.

Most lawyers learn about law changes after they happen or become effective. Thanks to Jason’s work, Sullivan Law Group attorneys not only help change Washington law to protect Washington citizens’ rights, but also know when law changes are coming well before they happen. This benefits Sullivan Law Group clients because DUI and impaired driving laws change on a regular basis. By being on the cutting edge of the law, Sullivan Law Group attorneys are positioned to take advantage of helpful changes in DUI law and by planning for negative changes in law.

For example, Jason testified in support of an upcoming law change that would allow a person convicted with a second DUI within seven years to serve home detention instead of a significant amount of jail. This will allow people to keep their jobs which is to the benefit of people charged with DUI. It is also to the benefit of the community so that people convicted of DUI can continue to support themselves and their families. Of course, Sullivan Law Group attorneys always look for a way to dismiss cases or get the best possible deal; however, Jason recognized an opportunity to support a law change that would benefit certain clients. By knowing of this pending law change, Sullivan Law Group attorneys are able to plan cases to take advantage of helpful law changes.

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New lower Drunk Driving limit proposed for Washington State DUI laws.

NTSB Recommends All States Adopt .05 BAC Limit

Driving While Under the Influence” (DUI) to become “Driving After Consuming Alcohol” (DACA)?

On May 14, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states lower the per se BAC limit for DUI to .05 from its current level at .08. his change would have a substantial impact on our State and would likely criminalize the responsible driving behavior of many currently law abiding citizens. In order to understand the proposed change, you need to know how the current law works.

Sullivan Law FirmUnder current Washington DUI laws, there are two ways for a prosecutor to convict an adult for Driving While Under the Influence (DUI). The first way is for the prosecutor to prove to a jury of six people that the citizen was driving and within two hours after had a BAC of .08 or higher. This is called the “per se prong” because the prosecutor does not have to prove that the citizen was impaired but instead only that the BAC was .08 or higher.

The second way is for the prosecutor to prove that the citizen was driving while under the influence or affected by intoxicating liquor as shown by all of the evidence. This is called the “affected by prong” because the prosecutor has to actually prove that the citizen was impaired. The affected by prong is used when the person’s BAC is under .08, the person refused the breath or blood test, or a good defense attorney suppressed the breath test.

Washington has a zero tolerance limit for citizens under 21 when it comes to DUI. A minor can be convicted for “Minor Driving After Consuming Alcohol” for driving with a BAC of .02 or higher. It is clear that the NTSB would like Washington to move ever closer to zero tolerance for adult drivers. With the proposed new limit, you could be convicted for the very serious crime of DUI when you are not under the influence or affected by intoxicating liquor. You may not be impaired in anyway and totally safe on the road but, because your BAC was .05 or higher, find yourself convicted of DUI. Or, you may be under .05, but find yourself wrongfully arrested.

Increased Wrongful Arrests
Here’s how it might work: Let’s say you are on the golf course with a few of your friends. Let’s say you have always been responsible when it comes to alcohol and know that you can have a few beers over the course of the game and be perfectly fine to drive. You watch your drinks carefully and prepare to leave feeling absolutely no effects of alcohol.

Now let’s say that you have gotten a few speeding tickets in the past because you tend to drive 5 to 10 MPH over the speed limit and today you have some bad luck. A Washington State Patrol trooper pulls you over, not for driving over the road, but because you were going 7 MPH over the speed limit. As soon as you roll down the window, the Trooper smells a slight odor of intoxicants and asks “have you had anything to drink today?” Now, you haven’t been properly advised that your answer to that question should be “I am exercising my right to remain silent” so you make the mistake of saying “yes.”

In order for an officer to arrest a person for a crime, a police officer has to have probable cause to believe that the person is guilty of a crime. Under the current law for adults, there has to be evidence of something more than just an odor of alcohol and an admission of drinking. For example, the officer may offer field sobriety tests which the person fails. However, for minors, this is all the officer needs to arrest for DUI because of zero tolerance.

Under the proposed .05 BAC limit, some judges will likely reduce the standard for probable cause to something much closer to the current zero tolerance minor limit. That means merely having a slight odor of alcohol on your breath and admitting to having something to drink may be enough for you to be arrested and go to jail right then. Even if you are not subsequently charged with DUI, you will still suffer the humiliation of being handcuffed, maybe in front of friends and family, and being transported to jail. You will also have your vehicle impounded and have to pay around $500 to retrieve it.

Increased Convictions for Responsible Driving
Hopefully you remember to ask to speak to an attorney before you take the breath test which is your right. Regardless, let’s say you take the breath test and the two samples are .052 and .053. Now the officer may well book you into jail because you blew over the legal limit. Remember, you may not have felt any effects of the alcohol but the new .05 limit just got you a night in the Snohomish County jail.

The prosecutor would then be freed from having to prove you were affected by alcohol, which you weren’t, because of the new .05 limit. The prosecutor would just have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the test was accurate. Now, a good defense attorney will try to challenge the accuracy of the test, but our jobs are made that much more difficult when the prosecutor does not have to prove impairment.

If this new law is adopted in Washington, we will do everything in our power to defend people wrongfully accused for driving “under the influence” when the name has lost its meaning. In fact, under the new standard, they should change the name of the crime to: “driving after consuming alcohol.”

Washington Lawmakers reach new deal on DUI Laws Video

Law Office of Brian M. Sullivan, PLLC LogoThe Law Office of Brian M. Sullivan has offices in EverettLynnwood, and Kirkland, Washington with practice areas focussing on DUI Defense, Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law. Each case is unique, so contact us today for a free consultation. You can connect with Brian M. Sullivan on Google +.

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How accurate is the breath test?

The question, asked at a crucial time in DUI trial in Snohomish County by Attorney Brian Sullivan, expounded on the point the State had sought to obscure. The machine they alleged was so certainly accurate had a much larger margin of error – aka: confidence interval – then they were prepared to answer about. Was it plus or minus 6%? 10%? 25% or more?

Critical in any allegation of DUI is the allegation of BAC. But how accurate is the State’s evidence? Can it be flawed – both up and down? All experts seem to agree it can be. The key to success then in an over .08 breath test case then is explaining this critical fact to the jury.

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