Pullman WA Criminal Defense Attorney

Defending charges of DUI, MIP, drug possession, assaults, felonies, etc.


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Out-of-State Traffic Infractions

Whether you are away at college, or headed to spring break with classmates, an out-of-state speeding ticket is frustrating. You cannot fight it without another road trip on your court date, and you wonder what happens to your driver’s license when they occur. Sometimes, you even question whether you can just forget the whole thing. Ignore the temptation to move on, and take care of your ticket. That information probably made it to your home state. However, whether or not your license incurred points depends on your state’s policies and on which database delivered the unwelcome information to the department of motor vehicles.Pullman WA driver

There are three databases that cover moving violations: the Driver’s License Compact (DLC), the Non-Resident Violator Compact (NRVC) and the National Driver Register (NDR). Because states are independent entities, not all states are members of all the databases, and different states process the information differently. As a general rule, you can expect certain consequences from each database’s report.

The Driver’s License Compact

If the DLC reports your violation, it makes the violation an equivalent violation in your home state. If your license gets suspended at spring break, it is also now suspended at home. If you incur points in Daytona, you now have those points at home.

The Non-Resident Violator Compact

If the NRVC reports your violation, you are expected to resolve the matter in the state that issued the ticket. If you do not, then you may find your license suspended. However, no points will go onto your record, and your license will be restored as soon as you attend to the matter.

The National Driver Register

This database is also called the Problem Driver Pointer System. Its original purpose was to keep a record of problem commercial drivers. However, anyone who has been ticketed for driving under the influence (DUI) or has had his or her license revoked or suspended is probably on this list. States routinely check the NDR registry before renewing licenses. However, having one’s name on the list does not mean an automatic rejection. Employers, especially those who hire drivers or pilots, can also check the NDR registry before hiring.

The Future of Reporting

The future of reporting is through a database called the Driver’s License Agreement (DLA), although only three states, Arkansas, Connecticut and Massachusetts, are currently members. The DLA is supposed to close loopholes in the other agreements. To this end, states that become members agree to let DLA’s regulations supersede state law. In fact, DLA requires that a member state take action and assess penalties even if it has no law prohibiting the violation that occurred out of state. Even though only three states are members of the DLA, lobbying efforts indicate that this agreement is the future of reporting.
The bottom line is that big brother is watching. Out-of-state violations are every bit as serious as in-state violations, and drivers would be wise to resolve them as quickly as possible.

By Attorney Greg Tsioros. Visit his site here.


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Pullman Minor in Possession of Alcohol – Prosecuting Attorney Diversion Program

Let’s talk a little about the Whitman County Misdemeanor Pre-Charging Diversion Program. Over a year ago, we discussed a possible MIP diversion program, so let’s revisit that topic and see how that new program now works for WSU students.  Here is how it compares with how things used to work:

A diversion program in Whitman County may allow first time offenders avoid court for MIP.

A diversion program in Whitman County may allow first time offenders avoid court for MIP.

Old Program: You are formally charged with the crime of M.I.P.  You appear in court, hire a criminal defense lawyer or get an attorney appointed at public expense, and hopefully work a deal. You would try to get an agreement so the case is dismissed after a year if: 1) you keep out of trouble, 2) do some community service hours, 3) pay court costs, and 4) go to an Alcohol Drug Information School (ADIS).

New Program: You aren’t formally charged with M.I.P. but your receive a letter from the prosecutor inviting you to participate in a diversion program.  You then agree to pay $350 dollars, go to an Alcohol Drug Information School (ADIS) class, do four community service hours, and stay out of trouble for a year.  Minor in Possession of Alcohol, and Minor in Possession of Marijuana qualify.  Charges of DUI, Fake ID, assaults, possession of ecstasy, etc do not qualify for this program.

What is the difference? Under the new program you are never charged with a crime, your name will not show up in the public court record database, and your legal fees are reduced. How do you know if you qualify?  You will receive a letter that says you are eligible.  Here is the letter template:

(Date)
(Defendant’s Name)
(Street Address)
(City, State, Zip)

RE:     Eligibility for Whitman County Pre-Charging Diversion Program
          Police Report #

          Charge: Minor in Possession / Possession of Marijuana

Dear Mr. or Ms. Defendant:
This office has received law enforcement reports concerning your commission of the crime of (Charge) (Name of arresting LE Agency) (Date of offense) Enclosed is a copy of the officer’s narrative report. Based on your lack of criminal history, we have determined that you are eligible for our Pre-Charging Diversion Program. The program is designed as an alternative to formal criminal charges and court proceedings, and gives offenders the opportunity to accept accountability for their actions by completing this program. If you successfully complete all aspects of the program, you will not be prosecuted for the crime. If you decide to participate in the Diversion Program, please complete and sign the enclosed Pre-Charging Diversion Agreement. It is a binding contract. You should consult your own attorney. Do not sign it unless you understand it and will comply with it, including all due dates. You will have to promptly pay $350, complete four hours of community service, attend an alcohol drug information school class, and stay out of trouble. If you decide to participate in this program, you must sign and return the Agreement within two weeks of the date of this letter to:
Whitman County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
Attn: Pre-Charging Diversion Program
PO Box 30
Colfax, WA

Failure to complete and return the Agreement within two weeks of the date of this letter may result in non-acceptance into the program. 

If you sign, date, fill out your mailing address / phone, and return the Agreement within the two week time frame, you will be sent a letter accepting you into the program. The letter will include reminders of what you have to do, along with the deadlines for completion of all obligations.

If you would like to enter this program, but cannot afford the $350 fee, you may contact a Pre-Charging Diversion staff person at 509-397-****, to see if you qualify for a waiver of the fee. If you can prove that you have insufficient assets and are unemployable (such as by proving that you receive social security payments due to a disability), you will qualify for a waiver of the fee. However, if you are voluntarily unemployed or under-employed, you will not qualify for a waiver of the fee. For instance, if you are a college student and going to school instead of working, you will not qualify for a waiver. Similarly, if you have budgeted your money for school-related expenses and would prefer to not spend that money on the fee for this program, you will not qualify for a waiver of the fee.
Prosecutor Office Hours:
Open 9am – 12pm
12pm-1pm CLOSED
Open 1pm – 4pm
If you have any questions, you may call a Diversion staff person at 509-397-****.
Sincerely,

How

Who qualifies for this program?  You have to have a squeaky clean record. Let’s take a look at the Whitman County policy that I obtained through a public records request.

Whitman County Diversion Program

A full copy of the policy is available here.  Once it is determined that you qualify, you will be invited to sign an agreement. As I first mentioned, the agreement explains that you will not be prosecuted if you agree to do community service hours, pay an administrative fee, attend an alcohol drug information school (ADIS) in Pullman, WA, and stay out of trouble. The full form is available here. It all seems pretty easy to do.  However students do manage to mess this up from time to time. Here are some tips to get through the program successfully:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute to do the Alcohol Drug Information School.  The classes are only offered every once in a while, and they fill up quick.  You may be stuck driving halfway across the state to find a class if you wait until the last minute.
  • Don’t try to do the ADIS at some online uncertified class.  There are a lot of websites that claim their classes are “court approved” and sound official, but are really just an online business.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute to sign up for community service hours.  They need to be prearranged.
  • Keep a copy of the agreement.  If you lose a copy go and ask for another copy rather than try to ignore the problem.
  • Don’t pay the fee late.
  • Don’t re-offend.  This might seem pretty obvious, but a lot of college students almost view it as their God-given right to drink alcohol. However a re-offense voids the agreement, and you can be prosecuted on both the old offense and new offense.

The benefit of successfully completing such an agreement is that you will never even be charged with MIP, and you will never need to come to court.


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Minor in Possession of Alcohol – Medical Amnesty & WSU – College “Good Samaritan” Laws

If you go to the hospital for an alcohol overdose will you be charged with M.I.P.?  What if you are under 21 and drunk and you call 911 for a friend who is overdosing?  Will a fraternity or sorority chapter get in trouble if 911 is called for an intoxicated minor who needs medical attention?  These are some of the questions that medical amnesty laws seek to address.Medical Immunity Minor Possession Alcohol

Medical Immunity laws vary from state to state, but a new Washington law, RCW 66.44.270(6), prohibits the prosecution of a minor who seeks medical attention for alcohol poisoning.  More importantly, RCW 66.44.270(6) also prohibits the prosecution of a minor who seeks medical attention for another minor who is experiencing alcohol poisoning.  What this means is that if your friend has overdosed on alcohol, you will not get him or her in trouble if you call an ambulance, or take him or her to the hospital.  This also means that you will not get in trouble if it becomes clear that you were also drinking while underage.  This law does not grant immunity to the person who furnished the alcohol to the minor.

In addition to the immunity from criminal prosecution, WSU also has guidelines that protect students from being disciplined by the university.  The WSU Good Samaritan Guidelines provides that when a student voluntarily summons professional assistance from police, medical professionals, university staff members or resident advisors for alcohol intoxication or a drug overdose, the Office of Student Standards and Accountability will refrain from imposing formal discipline for alcohol or drug use and possession under the Standards of Conduct for Students, on either the reporting student or the intoxicated individual.   Although the school will not discipline such individuals, WSU does reserve the right to make such students take a class or seek counseling.

It should be noted that the policy does not provide immunity to entire Greek chapters, and doesn’t provide immunity for hazing, or other related offenses.  Under Washington State University policy, a student can actually be disciplined for not seeking assistance for a student who is suffering from alcohol poisoning.  Each year, approximately 1,300 to 1,400 university students die from alcohol-related injuries, including alcohol poisoning and car accidents, according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

 


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Marijuana DUI – Pullman DUI Attorney Perspective

I was interviewed recently about the topic of “marijuana DUI” for the journal Elements at the University of Richmond, so I figured I this might be a good time to discuss the subject.  When I first started working as an attorney in King County in the 1990’s, marijuana DUI was practically unheard of.marijuana dui It is really only in the last decade that police and prosecuting attorneys have even tried to prove “marijuana DUI” cases. Unlike alcohol, marijuana just doesn’t affect a person’s coordination the same way.  We have all heard the expression “falling down drunk” but there really isn’t the equivalent of “falling down stoned.” Studies have shown that marijuana does not affect people in the same predictable manner that alcohol does.

Much of the enforcement that DUI attorneys see today is really a backlash against initiative I-502. Law enforcement arrests have increased since the decriminalization of marijuana in Washington state because the police have more time on their hands, and they are concerned about people abusing the new law. Initiative 502 sets a “per se” limit of 5 nanograms THC for a driver’s blood. Also, Initiative 502 really puts minors in a difficult position because the law sets a zero tolerance level for any THC in a minor’s blood. Such a charge can pose a real hardship for college students. A conviction for marijuana dui stays on a person’s record for life, and it is impossible to expunge or vacate the conviction. The 5 nanogram limit for THC within I-502 was controversial and there is no real scientific evidence proving that that is the level that necessarily impairs a person’s ability to drive. In Pullman, Washington, I have seen charges brought against minors with blood THC levels of only 1 nanogram of marijuana. There are many legal challenges that can be brought against a court case alleging such an offense. The field sobriety tests or “FST’s” on marijuana DUI cases have not been certified to the same extent as alcohol related DUI cases.


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Drug Dogs and Searches of College Dorm Rooms

I was interviewed last week for the college newspaper at Cal Poly about drug dog searches, so I figured I would discuss how that works here in Washington state.  Washington is a little different than California because Washington has a state constitution that gives more privacy rights to college students than the U.S. constitution.drug dog wsu In Washington, the courts have recognized that dormitory hallways are different than the hallways of apartment buildings. In college dorms, all the students live together and all attend class together, and unlike an apartment building, the rooms are merely living quarters, and all the residents share a bathroom. But while a student has some expectation of privacy in a dormitory hallway, our state schools have amended their policies to make it clear that campus police have the power to patrol the common or shared areas of residence halls. While the policies don’t explicitly authorize the police to bring drug dogs, other legal precedents suggest that generally a police dog is allowed anywhere the officer himself may be.

While it is generally legal to have drug dogs in dormitory hallways, there are practical problems that arise. One of the problems is that fewer and fewer drug dogs are being trained to alert on marijuana. On December 6th, 2012, Washington voters passed initiative I-502 decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Law enforcement agencies no longer can make arrests for marijuana possession unless the individual is under the age of 21. College police departments in Washington generally do not have their own drug canine. Additionally detecting marijuana in a college dorm can be daunting. Because of the drug’s prevalence, the scent can be overwhelming for a dog.  In a common living arrangement it can be hard for authorities to prove who the marijuana actually belonged to. College students have been known to sprinkle marijuana throughout a dormitory to try to fool the dog. As was the case with the students in California the biggest effect that the dog has is the deterrent factor, or psychological factor on the college students.

As a criminal defense lawyer what I see most is school officials sniffing at the bottom of dorm room doors trying to smell marijuana.  Having a towel stuffed at the base of the door is usually a telltale sign too.


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Marijuana Stores in Pullman, WA? City Council Says Not Yet.

When will there be marijuana stores in Pullman, Washington? The stores were authorized on November 6th, 2012 by the passage of I-502. The State is creating implementing regulations, and the federal government has suggested that they will not oppose the stores as long as the drug is kept out of the hands of minors. However, the Pullman City Council has announced that they are planning a moratorium prohibiting the stores. See article.  The State of Washington announced that they plan on licensing three different marijuana stores in Pullman starting in June 2014.  Although the city is proposing a moratorium, they are not planning on trying to stop the stores all together.  This is in contrast with Pullman’s earlier position on marijuana dispensaries which they sought to prohibit entirely.marijuana

The City of Pullman is planning zoning regulations to spell out where the stores can be located in city limits.  While I-502 is a state law, most lawyers agree that zoning regulations are the prerogative of a local municipality.  When the Obama administration announced that they would not shut down licensed marijuana stores in Washington, they made it clear that keeping the drug out of the hands of minors was their top priority.  Since this announcement, many cities announced plans to keep the marijuana stores certain distances from schools and parks.  Keeping marijuana stores aways from “minors” might be a challenge in a city such as Pullman where half the population is under 21.  It will be interesting to see what influence WSU will seek to exert over this issue.  WSU has already announced that they intend to fight marijuana possession on campus irrespective of I-502.

Despite the decriminalization of marijuana possession under I-502 the drug will still be legally perilous for college students. Here is why:

    • If  you possess marijuana before you are 21 you will face criminal charges and a suspension of your driver’s license.
    • The police in Moscow are ready to pounce on anyone bringing the drug across the border.
    • If you are under 21, it is illegal to drive with any THC in your system.
    • The WSP stops a lot of college students traveling between Pullman and the Seattle area.
    • Sharing marijuana with a person under age 21 is a major felony, and is far more serious than furnishing alcohol to a minor.

Although I can see why the school might not be excited about an influx of legal marijuana, I can’t help by wonder if the drugs use might be an improvement over the mayhem that occurs every year as a result of alcohol abuse.  The binge drinking in Pullman has led to a lot of assaults, rape charges, alcohol poisonings, accidents, etc.  It would seem that the presence of marijuana couldn’t possibly add to these statistics.  It would seem that college hill would be quite a bit different if marijuana was the only drug used.  In the September 11th edition of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the story of the city’s moratorium was on the front page.  Below the story was another story about how an intoxicated student fell down a flight of stairs at the Delta Chi house and was in satisfactory condition at Pullman Regional Hospital with possible fractures.


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Underage Drinking and MIP Charges in Pullman: New Rules at WSU

You are 18.  You are an adult.  You can vote.  You signed yourself out of high school as a senior.  But if you violate WSU alcohol policies, the school can now notify your parents.

image of WSU parent notification alcohol

Starting August 2013, WSU will notify the parents of freshmen caught with alcohol or drugs.

In a widely publicized move last month, WSU announced new policies on alcohol.  These policies include:

  • Notification to the parents of freshmen caught drinking
  • More early classes Friday morning to discourage late night revelry on Thursdays
  • More alcohol free floors to residence halls
  • Requiring alcohol screening for students who are at-risk
  • Teaching students how to recognize the signs of alcohol overdose and how to seek help

The rule of parent notification has come as something of a surprise to WSU freshman who are accustomed to thinking of themselves as an adult.  Normally, under the Federal Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA) schools are prohibited from sharing school records.  However, schools may notify parents of violations of law pertaining to drug or alcohol use if the student is under 21 years old.  The school has started to implement a policy exercising this power beginning August, 2013.  The move on the part of the school seems to have been made largely as a response to certain high-profile drinking incidents, including the death of a WSU student in Pullman who fell from a balcony.

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