The law has changed following passage of House Bill 1041, sponsored by Representative Drew Hansen, so that more people can apply to have their criminal records vacated and expunged than ever before.
The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten is celebrating our 150th criminal case dimissed! We’re proud of our record and we want to help you with your criminal case.
This Washington Supreme Court ruling says Police don’t need a search warrant to make you blow – drivers have no constitutional right to refuse a breath test.
The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten has served as counsel to clients who seem to represent every cross-section of our community. Chris has represented: professional athletes; politicians and elected officials; the homeless and the addicted; business owners and working class heroes; soldiers who serve our country, and immigrants – documented or otherwise – who seek to join it; high school drop-outs, college students, university professors and fellow attorneys; people as young as 10 and as old as 81; residents of countless communities; the famous, the infamous and a lot of people who wish to remain unknown; the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Many lawyers employ an assembly-line-strategy for representing the accused, particularly those charged with petty crimes like Assault 4, DUI, or even high volume felonies like unlawful possession of a controlled substance. By contrast, Chris Van Vechten strives to provide a defense which is both powerful AND personalized to meet the individual goals/needs of each client.
This, along with a willingness to go to trial and to win, has kept Chris’s service in demand across the South Sound.
The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten has a new location in down-town Tacoma, conveniently located just a few blocks away from the Pierce County Court House.
Our new address is 306 S 7th St, Suite 208, Tacoma, WA, 98402.
Look forward to seeing you soon.
The collateral consequences of a DUI conviction are numerous and harsh. But often my client’s primary concern is preventing their driving license from being suspended or restoring it upon resolving their matter. Because many DUI defendants struggle to understand the following important facts about DOL suspensions, and consequently make decisions in court that do not necessarily reflect their best long-term interests, it is worth publishing answers to the following common questions.
Why has my driver’s license been suspended if I have not been convicted of anything yet? Aren’t I innocent until proven guilty?
The short answer is that you have a right to drive until your license has formerly been suspended by the Department of Licensing. But the Department of Licensing does not have to wait to suspend your license until you have actually been convicted of DUI.
This is because of the implied consent law, originally passed by initiative in 1968 and codified in 1969 as RCW 46.20.308. This law applies to those who refuse a breath test, as well as those who submit to a test but apparently do not pass it. In 2012, following the passage of Measure No 502 (decriminalizing Marijuana possession for those under the age of 21) the law was amended to require those suspected of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of cannabis had also implicitly consented to a test.
The policy behind the law has been described as:
- To discourage persons from driving motor vehicles while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- To remove the driving privileges of those persons disposed to driving while intoxicated; and
- To provide an efficient means of gathering reliable evidence of intoxication or nonintoxication.
The implied consent law provides that a person who drives in this State is considered to have consented to a test to determine the alcohol content of that person’s blood or breath if arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drugs. After arrest, if a driver refuses a breath test or submits to a test with results indicating an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more, or 0.02 or above for persons under age 21, the arresting officer is directed to serve notice in writing on the person of the intent of DOL to suspend, revoke, or deny the person’s license, permit, or driving privileges. The officer is also required to inform the driver of the driver’s right to an administrative hearing and the steps necessary to obtain such a hearing.
After a driver is arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor, the arresting officer must notify the DOL of the arrest and transmit a sworn report or declaration authorized by RCW 9A.72.085 within 72 hours except as may be delayed because of administration of a blood test. Upon receipt of the officer’s sworn report, the DOL will notify the person that that person’s driving privilege is revoked, suspended, or denied and will afford the driver an opportunity to request a hearing to contest the suspension, revocation, or denial.
A driver’s license suspension or revocation hearing is an administrative proceeding governed by chapter 46.20 RCW. If a hearing is requested, the scope of the hearing covers, among other issues, whether the law enforcement officer had reasonable grounds to believe the arrested person drove a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug and whether the requirements of the implied consent statute were satisfied before a breath test was administered.
A hearing officer conducts the formal departmental hearing and may issue subpoenas for attendance of witnesses and production of documents. At the hearing, the law enforcement officer’s sworn report is prima facie evidence of a valid arrest and compliance with the requirements of the implied consent statute.
The sworn report and any other evidence accompanying it, as well as certifications authorized by the criminal rules for courts of limited jurisdiction, are admissible at the hearing without further evidentiary foundation.
If they’re going to have a hearing to terminate my right to drive, don’t I have the right to have an attorney represent me to preserve my right to drive?
You have the right to be represented by an attorney at your own expense during this hearing, but because you don’t not have a personal liberty interest at stake, you do not have the right to be represented at public expense.
Driving is a privilege, not a right.
The Court ordered that my license be suspended for only 30 days, but DOL has ordered it for the full two years. How is that allowed?
In short, there are two separate charges here and two separate standards of proof. If you refused the BAC test, you’re license is going to be suspended for 2 years even if you are found not guilty of DUI. The Court is determining whether to strip you of your liberty via a factual determination of whether you were DUI.
The DOL hearing is only looking for a factual determination of whether or not you refused your BAC.
- All DUI’s are tough. The public is rarely on the driver’s side, and the Government’s formulaic narrative is always backed by experts, and designed to frame their too often subjective conclusions in an extremely objective light. Additionally, the law requires a finding of guilt based on arbitrary blood alcohol and THC ratings which reflect the political climate in which the law was drafted. Finally, the collateral consequences of a DUI conviction are extensive and exceptional. The Court can, and does, sentence individuals convicted of DUI to a maximum of 364 days in jail. In select circumstances, a DUI can be a felony. (See the most recent DUI Sentencing Grid)
- The mandatory minimum’s for DUI are also exceptional, and include: jail time; fines; expensive counseling, monitoring and assessments; suspensions of driving privileges and more.
- Then there are wide-ranging professional ramifications – especially for those serving in the military; those with commercial driving licenses; and those seeking professional licenses and degrees. Your ability to freely travel between international borders can also be jeopardized by DUI conviction. Additionally, a DUI can have grave consequences for your family – potentially affecting everything from a child-custody dispute to an application for US Citizenship.
Defending a DUI requires technical understanding and courtroom experience. Chris Van Vechten has both prosecuted and defended DUI cases. He knows what you face and how best to face it.
Chris embraces a multi-prong defense, encouraging clients to get involved and framing solution tailored to their goals.
Most importantly, If you were recently pulled over, you need to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible, even if you haven’t been formally charged yet. Why? Because the government can and does legally destroy video and audio evidence that is not requested within a narrow time frame.
For example, the City of Puyallup currently has a policy of destroying 911 recordings 90 days after recorded, and jail video is destroyed every 60 days. Meanwhile, the law allows Puyallup to file charges against you up to two years after you were arrested.
Waiting and hoping that the government will forget about you is too much of a risk, so get proactive early and get good counsel!
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Summer is a great time to be outside and to socialize….and law enforcement knows it. Summer bears witness to a noticeable uptick in all crimes and misdemeanors – especially alcohol related. DUI and MIP are the obvious ones – but some alcohol crimes are more esoteric.
Recently the Law Office of Chris Van Vechten was asked to defend a client charged with violation of Keg Registration. If you’ve never heard of this gross misdemeanor before, don’t be embarrassed – neither had Chris.
The gist of it is that people who rent or buy a keg – defined as a four gallon container or greater of malt liquor – must:
- Sign a declaration and receipt for the keg;
- Provide one piece of identification;
- Be of legal age to purchase, possess, or use malt liquor;
- Not allow any person under the age of twenty-one to consume the beverage;
- Not remove, obliterate, or allow to be removed or obliterated, the identification;
- Not move, keep, or store the keg or its contents, except for transporting to and from the distributor, at any place other than that particular address declared on the receipt and declaration; and
- Maintain a copy of the declaration and receipt next to or adjacent to the keg or other container, in no event a distance greater than five feet, and visible without a physical barrier from the keg, during the time that the keg or other container is in the purchaser’s possession or control.
Part 6 is likely where most people are going to be tripped up. After all, if you’re planning on taking the keg to a party and drinking the remains at home, which address are you supposed to put on the label? There’s no requirement that bars and taverns who lease these kegs fully apprise renters that this is not merely a tavern policy, this is the law – and failure to obey may result in 364 days in jail and/or a $5000 fine.
This is a particularly cheap charge for prosecutors to hurl at defendants. Law abiding citizens have never heard of this crime. Most lawyers have never heard of this crime. The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten has yet to find a single published opinion in the history of Washington State concerning this law. Yet the fact is that in some jurisdictions prosecutors are likely to throw this charge in with more noteworthy offenses – like public intoxication or supplying alcohol to minors – in order to strengthen their hand and force you into a plea deal that results in a criminal record.
The best defense is not to be charged. So if you plan on celebrating summer with beer: don’t rent a keg, or if you do, only take it to where you plan to drink it. Better yet, opt for bottled beer instead. The Law Office of Chris Van Vechten is particularly partial to Alaska, Deschutes and 21st Amendment Brewery. Also, growlers from local breweries are a nice substitute to kegs.