Tacoma Municipal Court

Tac Muni CourtTacoma Municipal Court Judges hear criminal, criminal traffic, and infraction cases. A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. A simple misdemeanor carries penalties of up to 90 days in custody and a fine of up to $1,000.00. RCW 9A.20.021. A gross misdemeanor is a more serious offense and carries up to 364 days in custody and a $5,000.00 fine. Crimes like DUI have mandatory jail sentences and potential driver license suspension. RCW 46.61.5055. An infraction can include anything from speeding with a modest fine, to Negligent Driving 2 with a fine of $550.

Criminal and traffic cases heard in Tacoma Municipal Court begin with an investigation by a Tacoma Police Officer.  Once the investigation is done, the officer either issues a citation, or prepares and forwards to the Tacoma City Attorney a Tacoma Police report. An Assistant City Attorney then reviews the report and decides whether to charge a crime. Assistant City Attorneys in Tacoma Municipal also prosecute traffic infractions like speeding tickets, overweight violations, etc.

Tacoma Municipal Court Judges

Tacoma Municipal Court currently has three elected judges and 2 Commissioners. Their names and background information are as follows:

  • Judge David B. Ladenburg – Tacoma City Attorney/Prosecutor.
  • Judge Elizabeth E. Verhey – Presiding Judge, DUI/Criminal Traffic Judge.
  • Judge Drew Ann Henke – Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor.
  • Commissioner Dennis Ball – Currently Hears infractions and conducts some Arraignments.
  • Commissioner Randy Hanson – Currently Hears infractions.

Criminal Cases

  • Tacoma Reckless Endangerment – A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he or she recklessly engages in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.36.050. Frequently charged in driving cases.
  • Tacoma Brandishing – It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons. Any person violating the provisions of subsection (1) above shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If any person is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) of this section, the person shall lose his or her concealed pistol license, if any. There are exceptions for home and business, law enforcement, self-defense, and military service. RCW 9.41.270. Pocket knives and handguns are the most common weapons.
  • Tacoma Criminal Trespass – A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building. Criminal trespass in the first degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.52.070. A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another under circumstances not constituting criminal trespass in the first degree. Criminal trespass in the second degree is a misdemeanor. 9A.52.080. Defenses:  A building involved in an offense under RCW 9A.52.070 was abandoned; or The premises were at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises; or The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain; or The actor was attempting to serve legal process… 9A.52.090.
  • Tacoma Assault – A person is guilty of assault in the fourth degree if, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first, second, or third degree, or custodial assault, he or she assaults another. Assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.36.041. If the assault is against a family member, former spouse or significant other, or parent of child in common, the City will also add the Domestic Violence aggravator.
  • Tacoma Harassment – A person is guilty of harassment if: Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens: to cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or to cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or to subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. “Words or conduct” includes, in addition to any other form of communication or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication. A person who harasses another is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. 9A.46.020. If the Harassment is against a family member, former spouse or significant other, or parent of child in common, the City will also add the Domestic Violence aggravator.
  • Tacoma VPO/VNCO  Whenever an order is granted under this chapter, chapter, or there is a valid foreign protection order as defined in RCW 26.52.020, and the respondent or person to be restrained knows of the order, a violation of any of the following provisions of the order is a gross misdemeanor… RCW 26.50.110.
  • Tacoma Shoplifting/Theft 3 – A person is guilty of theft in the third degree if he or she commits theft of property or services which (a) does not exceed seven hundred fifty dollars in value, or (b) includes ten or more merchandise pallets, or ten or more beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more merchandise pallets and beverage crates. Theft in the third degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.56.050.
  • Tacoma Disorderly Conduct – A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person: Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault; Intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority; Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority; or Intentionally engages in fighting or in tumultuous conduct or makes unreasonable noise, within five hundred feet of…funeral activities.

Tacoma Traffic Matters

  • Tacoma Traffic Tickets – Speeding, Speed Unsafe for Conditions, Following Too Closely, Negligent Driving in the Second Degree, Red Light Tickets, CDL Matters, Overweight Tickets, Log Violations.
  • Tacoma DUI
  • Tacoma BUI
  • Tacoma Reckless Driving
  • Tacoma Negligent Driving
  • Tacoma Hit and Run

Tacoma Municipal Court matters are heard in the Municipal Courtrooms on the first and second floors of the City/County Building at 930 Tacoma Avenue South in downtown Tacoma. Domestic Violence offenses are handled in Room 235 while DUI and other criminal traffic cases are heard in room 234.

Fight a Traffic Ticket – By a Traffic Ticket Attorney

Traffic lawyer

Fight your ticket.

Are you one of the 35 million people who receive a traffic ticket each year? Would you like to know how ot fight a traffic ticket? Read on.

Of the 35 million drivers issued tickets each year only 5% are actually contested. About half are dismissed and half see reduced fines or deferred findings or reduced charges that don’t get reported to DOL or insurance companies. Because you’re reading this, you probably got a ticket, and you’re wondering what to do.

My advice is to always demand a court hearing to either fight your ticket/infraction, or at least mitigate it. Your worst case is that you end up paying the same fine indicated on your ticket. Best case is you get your ticket kicked out. Either way you’ll only be out your time. The important thing is that if you win, your insurance will not increase. If you simply pay your ticket, there’s no telling what will happen to your insurance rates.

Any experienced Puget Sound Traffic Attorney will get good results in about 98% of their cases. Most of the time that means keeping an infraction off your record. The rest of the time it means that you pay less money for your ticket. As you can see, just by going to court and contesting your ticket, the odds are swinging in your favor.

Here’s how to do things from the beginning…

When the officer approaches your vehicle he will likely ask you one of two standard questions:

  • Do you know why I stopped you?— Your response should be a polite, “No officer, I do not.”
  • Do you know how fast you were going?– The safest response is simply “I’m not really sure.” As you probably have not had your speedometer calibrated, this is a true and honest answer.

The key element here is to admit anything. Do not minimize your speed while admitting breaking the speed limit. For example, if the cop says that you were doing 60 in a 35, don’t tell him that you were going faster than 35. This is called an admission. The judge will use it against you later.

Have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready when the cop comes up to your window. This way the officer isn’t worried about you reaching in a glove box for an illegal weapon while he is writing your citation.

At this point, some officers will ask to search your car. You can, and should, simply say no. If he threatens to get a search warrant, politely tell him to get one. If he really has a legitimate reason to search your car, then he will do it without asking. Don’t let him bully you with threats of impounding your car, taking your kids, cavity searches, etc. Cops only ask permission when they can’t act without it.

It is also important to remember that you’re not going to talk your way out of a ticket. Cops issue tickets for a living. It’s their job. As soon as a cop’s pen hits the ticket book he is committed to issuing a ticket. There’s no going back.

While the cop is writing your citation, you should start making notes about what happened and where. Try to record the following:

  • Make, model, license plate number and unit number of the cop’s car.
  • Note your location and try to determine the distance between the alleged violation and where you stopped.
  • Even though your citation will list the basic weather conditions, make note of all the weather conditions such as temperature, wind, cloud cover, etc.
  • Who were your passengers? Make sure that they remain totally silent during the entire stop unless they are asked a specific question.
  • Record shirt or jacket color.
  • Record distinctive characteristics about your car such as dents, paint color(s), wheels, etc.
  • Make notes about everything the cop said during the stop. Sometimes the cop who stops you will not be the officer who clocked you with the Speed Measuring Device (SMD).
  • Make notes about the traffic conditions when you were pulled over.

The cop is probably going to give you your ticket to sign. Your signature is not an admission that you broke the law, but simply notice of the infraction and instructions on either paying the ticket, or arranging your day in court. Refusing to sign will not benefit you in any way, so go ahead and sign if asked to.

Some traffic lawyers advise that you ask to see the radar read out. You can if you want, but these cases are won on technicalities and not on the display on a radar after a stop. My sense is that asking to see the display will suggest to the cop that you plan on fighting the ticket, so he might actually do what he’s supposed to, which makes the ticket harder to fight.

Pull away from the scene calmly and safely and use your signal before merging back into traffic. Do not accelerate quickly enough to shoot gravel/debris onto the hood of the cop’s car. That makes them very, very unhappy.

Fight or Pay

Now that you have your traffic citation it’s time to decide whether to Fight or Pay. Remember, even if you go to court to fight and you end up losing, your fine is not going to increase, so there’s no real downside other than your time. You also need to consider the fact that you might be paying the fine plus the added insurance premiums if you don’t beat that ticket. Here are some of the more common reasons for Contesting a Ticket/Infraction:

  • I can’t afford the fine, or I or don’t want to pay it.
  • I don’t want an infraction on my record.
  • I didn’t do it.
  • OK, I did do it but everyone else was too.
  • The cop/trooper was mean to me.

If you fit into one of the above categories, you want your day in court.

Contested Hearing or Mitigation Hearing?

You can either simply pay the ticket, or there are two types of court hearings for a traffic citation:

Pay The Ticket – I’m a law breaker and here’s my money. Please raise my insurance.

Guilty with an explanation – I’m naughty, but let me tell the court why before I pay my money and you raise my insurance.

Contest the Ticket – This is how you get your day in court to challenge the ticket, avoid a fine, and protect your insurance rate.

It is important to remember that Contesting the Ticket, by law, does not necessarily mean you didn’t commit the alleged offense. What it means is that the prosecutor or State now has to prove more probably than not that you did commit the offense. The burden of proof is now on the State and not you. There are a lot of defenses someone can use to beat a traffic infraction.

Should you hire a lawyer?

Yes, you probably should. I’ve watched pretty experienced attorneys in court who don’t understand the case law, judicial personalities and issues unique to traffic infraction defense, and they really botch things up. Different courts interpret case law different, so what works in one court won’t work in some others. It’s important to know what works where. Unfortunately, that knowledge is really only gained by appearing in traffic court every day.

Setting the Court Date

Regardless of how you choose to proceed, you need to return your infraction to the issuing court within 15 days, or the court can find that you have failed to respond. They can then send your case to collections, which makes things a lot more expensive.

If you want to challenge your ticket, you need check the “Contested Hearing” box on your infraction, make a photocopy of the infraction, and envelope with appropriate postage and address. Put the original infraction in the envelope, seal it, and drop it in the mail within 15 days of receiving the ticket. The court will send you a court date.

If you are planning on representing yourself, then you need to also request “Discovery” from both the Court where your hearing will occur, and also from the prosecutor for that Court. This request has to be made at least two weeks before your hearing. Discovery has to be provided to you at least one week before the hearing.

Here is a link to various traffic infraction defenses. You should hire an experienced traffic attorney who will always do a more thorough job than a non-professional, but if you can’t afford the $200 to hire our firm, do your homework, and you’ll have a better chance at prevailing than just about any other person without an attorney.

You can trust the attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates to protect you, your wallet and your insurance rates. Call us today to for your free consultation so that we can discuss all of your options and how best to fight a traffic ticket.

Call Us 253-683-4180

Durflinger Oliver & Associates PS

711 St. Helens Ave.
Suite 209

Tacoma, WA 98402

Fax: 253-683-4184

Email: jim@durflingeroliver.com

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Traffic Ticket Lawyer

 

 

 

 

Warrantless Record Searches

Warrantless Search

Prosecutors can snoop even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

Your private records aren’t so private. A Washington law adopted in 1971 allows investigator’s to get a suspect’s bank, phone, email and other records without a search warrant. Prosecutors have been able to get those records without even showing probable cause that a crime has occurred, the standard that applies to search warrants.  Instead, law enforcement can get the information with a subpoena issued under a lesser standard in a secret hearing called a special inquiry. But some judges and justices are having problems with these warrantless searches.

Justices on Washington’s Supreme Court heard arguments over whether that’s a violation of privacy protections in the state constitution. A King County senior deputy prosecutor argued that while a warrant is required to search someone’s home or their actual phone, probable cause should not be required to obtain records a person voluntarily turns over to third parties, such as phone records. Some justices questioned that analysis noting that in many cases phone companies or cloud computing firms maintain virtually everything that’s stored on a phone, making a records search very similar to a physical search. Justice Mary Yu stated,”The distinction you’re drawing between something that exists in the phone and what’s stored offsite is a reality that doesn’t exist anymore.” Defense counsel told the justices that such a vast intrusion into someone’s private affairs must require a more stringent showing by prosecutors than that required under the special inquiry law.

The Legislature created the special inquiry proceedings following a wide-ranging public corruption investigation in Seattle. They were designed to be a more efficient alternative to the grand jury system, which prosecutors found to be expensive and cumbersome. The procedure allows the judge to issue subpoenas for evidence, such as bank or phone records, at the request of a prosecutor who has ‘reason to suspect’ crime. Reasonable suspicion is a lesser standard than probable cause and that’s the problem. Under Washington’s Constitution, people can’t be disturbed in their private affairs without ‘authority of law’. The high court has never ruled on whether a special inquiry judge subpoena meets that standard. Under the federal constitution, such third-party records are not generally protected but Washington’s Constitution is considered more protective of people’s privacy.

Prosecutors have used the special inquiry judge subpoenas as substitutes for warrants. The justices noted that subpoenas are used to obtain records in a variety of legal proceedings, including civil business disputes and divorces, however, the key difference is that the records aren’t obtained by police. Furthermore, the party whose records are being sought has an opportunity to contest the subpoena or narrow the scope. No such opportunity is afforded under the special inquiry law; the person whose records are being searched may not ever learn about it. If the court rules that probable cause is needed to obtain records in criminal investigations, it should also clarify that subpoenas based on less than probable cause are still valid in other settings. The Seattle attorney who challenged the use of special inquiry proceedings stated, “Sometimes you want things to be more difficult and more expensive for the government, to discourage them from sifting through all our records.”



Criminal Attorney

DUI Investigation

DUI Drunk Driving

DUI Investigation

If a cop thinks you’ve broken the law, he can pull you over. Once he pulls you over, he can demand your license, registration, and proof of insurance. He can also run your name to find any outstanding warrants, and to see if your license is current. If, however, he wants to do much more than write you a ticket and send you on your way, then he needs reasonable suspicion that you were involved in criminal behavior.

So how does a cop get to pull you out of your car? The answer is found in State v. Allen, 138 Wn.App. 463,471 (2007). The Allen Court held that an officer can remove a driver from a vehicle stopped for an infraction for two different reasons: (1) Removal is within in the scope of the original traffic stop, or (2) the officer has acquired a lawful, reasonable suspicion that justifies further investigation. Id. At 471. The Allen Court held that an officer’s removal of a driver from a vehicle was not within the scope of traffic stop for a license plate violation, when the driver was questioned regarding the passenger’s identity. The court called the officer’s interrogation of the driver a “fishing expedition”. Id. at 471 (citing State v. Reding, 199 Wn.2d 685 (1992)).

Once the traffic-related purpose of the stop was fulfilled, further detention without a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity was improper. State v. Armenta, 134 Wn.2d 1, 15-16 (1997). If the officer isn’t justified in taking you out of your car, then your attorney might be able to convince a court to suppress any negative evidence that the officer discovered after you got out of the car. See State v. O’Neill, 148 Wa.2d 564, 583 (2003). When “an unconstitutional search or seizure occurs, all subsequently uncovered evidence becomes fruit of the poisonous tree and must be suppressed.” State v. Kennedy, 107 Wn.2d 1 (1986).

You can trust the former prosecutors and experienced defense attorneys at Durflinger Oliver & Associates to do everything possible to defend you and protect your future. Call today to schedule your free consultation, and ask us about a military discount and easy payment plans.



James E. Oliver, Esq.

James E. Oliver, Esq.

 

James Edmund Oliver, Jr. is a criminal attorney with over 15 years of experience representing defendants in serious criminal cases. Some of the more common charges he defends against are drugs, firearms, assault, and theft. James completed his legal studies at Seattle University School of Law where he graduated in 1998 with a Juris Doctor degree. Jim has established himself as respected and zealous advocate for a wide variety of clients.

Weed DUI Breath Test On The Horizon

Weed Preliminary Breath Test

Researchers are close to fielding a new breath tester for Marijuana – The new device is not shown above.

Research at WSU has led to the development of a portable breath test to detect marijuana DUI. Drivers under the influence of marijuana have become an increased concern since Washington voters legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012. A quarter of blood samples taken from drivers in 2013, the first full year the initiative was in effect, came back positive for marijuana.

WSU chemistry professor Herbert Hill and WSU doctoral student Jessica Tufariello are working on a handheld device that uses a technique called ion mobility spectrometry to detect THC, the psychoactive component of marijuana, on a person’s breath. Currently, officers and prosecutors rely on a blood test to determine the amount of THC present in a driver’s blood. These blood results are not immediately available to patrol officers who suspect a person of driving while impaired. An experienced Tacoma DUI Attorney can attack weed dui breath tests when they become available.

Initiative 502 set 5 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood as the legal limit at which a driver is automatically determined to be impaired. Initially, the marijuana breath test under development at WSU probably won’t be able to pinpoint the level of THC in the body; it will only tell officers that some THC is present. It is believed that this would be a helpful tool to officers as they decide whether to arrest a suspected impaired driver. However, since no numerical value is obtained with this test, a positive result is sure to result in an arrest.