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Contested Hearing Confusion

What to Expect at a Contested Hearing for a Traffic Ticket

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As we continue in our series focusing on the various ways you can respond to a traffic ticket in Washington state, we wanted to address some common questions related to choosing a contested hearing for a traffic ticket. If you decide to fight your infraction there can be a lot of things to consider, and the process can often be a bit confusing, especially if you are not familiar with general court procedures. Take a look at some of our recommendations and responses to frequently asked questions related to a contested hearing for your traffic ticket below.

What is a contested hearing for a traffic ticket?

First things first, what is a contested hearing and what does that mean? If you choose to challenge the traffic infraction you were cited for, you are choosing to fight the charges, and you are trying to prove to the court that you were not guilty of committing the infraction as it was charged. Selecting a contested hearing is the way to go if you are trying to keep the infraction from becoming part of your driving record or driving abstract and also subsequently affecting your insurance rates.

As we mentioned in our previous post, choosing a mitigation hearing does not provide the correct hearing for you to contest or fight the ticket. If you select a mitigation hearing, you agree that you committed the infraction, but you are requesting an opportunity to explain the circumstances to the court. Only a contested hearing will provide the proper setting for you to fight against the charges you were cited for in a traffic infraction.

I sent in my ticket requesting a contested hearing, now what?

After you send the ticket to request a contested hearing, the court will schedule a hearing date. Every court is different regarding how quickly they will schedule the hearing for your case. Some courts such as Pierce County District Court will schedule your hearing very quickly – typically within 30-45 days. However, other courts such as Thurston County District Court often schedule court hearings at a much slower rate – usually within 90 days.

It is important to note that you are entitled to a speedy trial, which means that the court is required to set your hearing within 120 days of the infraction. This is required by IRLJ 2.6(a)(1) The court will mail a notice of the hearing date to you at the address you wrote on the ticket when you mailed into them, so keep an eye out for it. You do not want to miss your court hearing date!

I received my Court date back in the mail, but I can’t make it. Can I reschedule?

Yes, it is usually possible to request a one-time continuance of the court hearing date. Most courts are willing to reschedule the date if you ask them within a reasonable time frame. You can call, go to the court, or mail a request to get a new date. We suggest requesting a new court date as soon as you find out you are unavailable. If you wait until the last minute such as the day of the hearing, it is possible that your request will not be granted.

Some courts such as Seattle Municipal Court require that a request is made at least two weeks before the hearing date. The earlier you can contact the court to request a new date, the better! Typically, most courts will only allow a continuance of the hearing date one time. If you have to continuously request a new hearing date more than once, the court may choose not to accommodate your requests.

What happens if I miss my scheduled court date?

If you miss your scheduled court date the court will impose some additional consequences. First, most courts will add a late fee of $52 to your ticket fine. Second, the infraction will be found committed. Third, the court will issue an FTA/FTR, which stands for Failure to Appear/Failure to Respond. When an FTA/FTR is issued, the court sends a notification to the Department of Licensing and a process to suspend the driver’s license will be started.

Also, if the FTA/FTR is not addressed within a few days of the missed court hearing, the court will also send the balance due (the ticket fine + the late fee) to collections. The Department of Licensing will send a letter to the address that you have registered with them (typically the address that is listed on your driver’s license, unless you have updated it) informing you of the date of the pending license suspension. Usually, the pending license suspension date with be 30-60 days from the date of the missed court hearing.

What should I wear to my hearing?

You want to dress in professional attire when attending your court hearing. For men, a suit or dress slacks and a nice, clean button down shirt with a tie is a good choice. For women, business professional or business casual attire is preferred. If you do not have a suit or business casual attire that is okay but try to avoid wearing shorts, jeans, tank tops, or clothing with logos or graphics. A plain shirt and dress pants is a good choice for men or women if you do not have a suit to wear to court.

What will happen when I arrive for my hearing?

When you arrive, you will enter the courtroom with all other defendants that are scheduled on the docket (legal word for calendar) that day. All hearings for that particular courtroom and judge are scheduled for the same time, and the judge calls each case in the order he/she sees fit. That means that if your hearing is scheduled for 9:00 AM you may not be called at 9:00 AM. It just depends on where you fall in the order of the docket.

Typically, the judge or the judicial assistant present will do a roll call before any cases are heard. When your name is called simply indicate that you are present so the court can make a note of that. When the judge calls your case you will make your way to the front of the courtroom. If you are not the first case called, you will have to wait in the courtroom until the judge calls your name.

If the docket is short on the day or your hearing, you may not have to wait long. However, if there are a large number of cases on the docket, you may have to wait quite a while. Some of the smaller municipal courts tend to only host hearings on 1 or 2 days of the month, so there may be a large number of cases to address that day. Be prepared to wait for your turn – it is unlikely that you will be in and out of court within an hour or less. Plan the rest of your day’s schedule accordingly, so you are not rushed.

Will the officer be there?

Unless the prosecutor or you have specifically requested that the officer be present at the hearing by issuing a subpoena, it is unlikely that he/she will be there. If you would like the officer to be present at the hearing, an official subpoena must be issued to him/her at least seven days in advance of the hearing. In some cases, the prosecutor may choose to subpoena the officer without notifying you. This is usually because it will benefit their side of the argument in court. However, for most minor infractions with no extenuating circumstances, it is unlikely that the officer will be present.

If the officer does not show do I get my ticket dismissed?

This is something that a lot of people often get confused about. There are two possible scenarios here, and with one of them, yes, there is a good chance that your ticket will be dismissed. If you properly subpoena the officer and he/she does not attend the hearing, AND he/she does not have a reasonable excuse for not making it, then your case can be dismissed with a proper request to the court. Determining whether or not the officer’s excuse for missing the hearing is reasonable is up to the judge. If the officer is not able to make the hearing it is may be rescheduled to accommodate his/her schedule.

It is important to note that to get a dismissal based solely on the fact that the officer did not show (and had no reasonable excuse not to), an official and proper subpoena must have been served to him or her. As mentioned above, unless the officer is subpoenaed, he/she is not required to be present for the hearing. Therefore, if no subpoena was issued and the officer does not attend the hearing, then there would be no grounds for a dismissal based on that alone.

Will the prosecutor be there?

In the State of Washington, prosecutors are not required to be present at a contested hearing for a traffic ticket. Some prosecutors have chosen to be present at these hearings while others have not. Each court is different. In courts where there is no prosecutor, you would argue your case directly to the judge. However, most courts in the greater Puget Sound area do have a prosecutor for infraction cases. However, he/she may or may not be present depending on how the court handles their calendar.

Some courts only choose to schedule infraction cases to dates when a prosecutor will be present if the defendant has hired an attorney to represent them. If the defendant is handling the case on their own (pro se) the court may choose to schedule the hearing for a calendar date when the prosecutor will not be present. Still, for other courts, the prosecutor is present for all infraction cases regardless of whether an attorney will be representing the defendant or not.

The judge called my case, what do I do?

When the judge calls your case you will make your way to the front of the courtroom and take a seat at the table that is set up at the front of the room. Once the judge verifies your name and contact information you will have an opportunity to make any motions to suppress evidence and subsequently share your arguments against the traffic infraction charge against you.

One thing to keep in mind when you are making arguments is that the judge and the prosecutor are concerned with the facts of the case, not the background information or reasoning related to why you were doing what you were doing. For example, the judge and/or prosecutor are not going to be interested in hearing your statements about the fact that other cars in the fast lane were speeding as well and you were just keeping up with the flow of traffic. Try to keep your arguments related to the facts of the case and always be polite and courteous when speaking to the judge and/or prosecutor on the record.

The prosecutor is asking me questions at my contested hearing do I have to answer?

If the prosecutor has chosen to be present at your contested hearing for a traffic ticket, they may call you as a witness and ask you questions regarding your traffic infraction. Now you may be thinking why can’t I simply plead the Fifth? However, since this is a civil case, not a criminal case you do not have a 5th Amendment right to remain silent. This right can become available in limited circumstances but largely will not apply in the most traffic infraction cases.

Therefore, depending on your case, be prepared to answer questions such as, How fast were you going that day? What color was the light when you entered the intersection?

The judge is about to make a decision. What is the burden of proof?

This is another area of confusion for most people. While you often hear that a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, that is not the case with traffic infractions. Instead, a preponderance of the evidence has to be established to find an infraction committed. That means that just 51% of the evidence indicates that the defendant was more likely than not to have committed the infraction for the Judge to rule against you.

In other words, the majority of the evidence provided (by you, the city, the prosecutor, the officer, and any other parties involved) supports the fact that the defendant did, in fact, commit the infraction. If you cannot provide enough evidence to support the fact that you did not commit the infraction as it was charged it is likely that the ticket will be found committed.

I lost my contested hearing for a traffic ticket…now what?

If you lose your hearing, you will be required to pay the fine for the ticket, and the infraction will be found committed. Typically, most courts give the defendant 30-60 days or more to take care of the fine payment. Also, some courts will allow you to set up a payment plan so that you can make payments over time until the balance is paid in full. Be sure to inquire about that at the time of the hearing if you do not think you will be able to pay the full amount within the allotted time frame given.

Once the infraction is found committed that information will be reported to the Department of Licensing and the ticket will become part of your driving abstract.

In addition, once an infraction gets reported to the Department of Licensing it becomes visible and available to insurance companies. Most insurance companies will raise your rates after a ticket is found committed or an accident is designated on your driving record. Even a minor speeding ticket of just five mph over the limit could result in a significant increase in your insurance premiums, especially given the fact that committed infractions stay on your driving record for three years in the state of Washington.

This is so confusing; can I hire a traffic ticket lawyer to do this for me?

Absolutely! Honestly, we feel that is the best option for most defendants dealing a traffic infraction. If you hire a local traffic ticket attorney, like us, you will not have to attend the court hearing for your case. The attorney will be present on your behalf, and your attendance will be waived in court. You won’t have to worry about taking off work or what you will say to the Judge when your case is called because you will not have to attend. We take the stress of the court appearance off of your plate so you can focus on more important things.

We have years of experience dealing with traffic ticket cases in dozens of courts all over Washington. We understand the procedures for all of the different courts that we practice in, and we know how to use that knowledge to your advantage in each case. We have long-standing, positive relationships with the prosecutors and judges in each court as well. This allows us to have a much higher level of success than those that choose to defend themselves in court.

Our overall success rate for keeping traffic tickets off of the driver’s record is over 98%, and our experience is unmatched to most in the surrounding area. If you have recently been cited for a Pierce, King, Kitsap, Thurston, Lewis or Snohomish traffic ticket and would prefer to have an attorney represent you instead of dealing with the case yourself, give us a call at (253) 201-2001. If you have other questions that we did not address in this article, feel free to contact us. We look forward to serving you soon!

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Should I request a Mitigation Hearing?

By | Traffic Infractions | No Comments

In Washington state, there are three ways in which an individual can respond to a traffic ticket. The three options include:

  1. Simply paying the ticket;
  2. Requesting a mitigation hearing; and
  3. Requesting a contested hearing.

Today we will delve into the details of option number two a mitigation hearing. We will discuss what a mitigation hearing is and also share our thoughts on why you should not go with a mitigation hearing except for special circumstances.

​​What is a Mitigation Hearing?

A mitigation hearing in Washington State is a hearing where the defendant (you) has a chance to explain the circumstances of the incident to the judge. At a mitigation hearing, you will not have the chance to dispute the charges of the traffic citation.

Typically, there is no prosecutor present and you will not see attorneys representing their clients there either. Instead, you will be there to agree that you committed the infraction with the understanding that the infraction will go on your driving record. However, you will have an opportunity to explain why you were driving that way.

What Will Happen at a Mitigation Hearing?

You will be requesting that the judge reduce the fine of your ticket. However, the judge has no obligation to do so and there is no guarantee that the judge will agree to reduce the fine at a mitigation hearing. In most cases, the choice to reduce the fine is up to the judge. However, there are some traffic infractions the judge is prohibited from reducing by law. A common infraction that cannot be reduced is speeding in a school zone.

Once again, you will not have the chance to dispute the charges you are simply asking to explain the circumstances. If the judge does agree to reduce the fine on the ticket it will still be found committed and it will go on your driving record. A reduction in the fine is not the same as a reduction of the charges.

Do I Have to be Present in Court for a Mitigation Hearing?

For many courts, you can complete a mitigation hearing by mail or online. To complete a mitigation hearing by mail you would simply submit a written statement or letter to the court explaining the circumstances of the incident and request for a reduction in the ticket fine.

If you complete a mitigation hearing by mail you will not have to attend a court hearing in person. It is important to note that requesting a dismissal of the charges at a mitigation hearing (either in person or by mail) is ultimately going to be a waste of your time.

Should I Choose a Mitigation Hearing?

A mitigation hearing is not the hearing to try dispute the infraction or request a dismissal. If you are trying to fight the charges on the ticket you should request a contested hearing, rather than a mitigation hearing.

At a contested hearing you could have the chance of a dismissal or an amendment to a non-moving violation, which would keep the ticket off of your record. With either of those results could also come a lower court fine. Be sure to check out our next post for more on that and the ins and outs of a contested hearing!

Although a mitigation hearing is typically not what we recommend, there are a few limited situations where a mitigation hearing may be the best choice for you. If you are cited for a non-moving violation such as expired tabs or operating a motor vehicle without insurance, a mitigation hearing may be the best way to go.

Generally, non-moving violations do not affect your insurance rates. Therefore, it is often simpler for you to take care of the infraction with a mitigation hearing rather than contesting it or hiring a Washington State traffic ticket lawyer.

You may also have the option to defer the infraction if you have a non-moving deferral available. For more on deferrals and how to determine if you are eligible for one check out our last post here.

What if I Have Multiple Charges on the Same Ticket?

Keep in mind that if there are other charges on the ticket in addition to a non-moving violation choosing a mitigation hearing will not allow you to dispute the moving violation(s). For example, if you were cited for both speeding and no insurance on the same ticket and you opt for a mitigation hearing you will be admitting guilt to both charges.

Although the no insurance charge is a non-moving violation and unlikely to raise your insurance rates, the speeding charge will go on your driving record and most definitely raise your rates. In a mitigation hearing, the two violations will not be addressed separately. However, if you were to ask for a contested hearing, you could fight the speeding ticket and ask to reduce (mitigate) the no insurance infraction.

Can I Still Hire an Attorney if I Have Already Requested a Mitigation Hearing?

If you have already requested a mitigation hearing you can still hire an attorney on the case and it is probably the better option for you overall. If you have received a traffic ticket in Tacoma, WA or throughout the greater Puget Sound and have requested a mitigation hearing or thinking of requesting one give us a call first!  If you choose to hire our firm after the free consultation, we will contact the court to change your hearing to contested so that we can dispute the charges. Just make sure that you contact us before the mitigation hearing takes place and do your best not to miss any hearing you have scheduled with the court.

Once the hearing has been changed to a contested hearing, our firm will do everything possible to keep the infraction off of your driving record. Typically we achieve either a dismissal or an amendment to the original infraction which prevents the charge(s) from becoming part of your driving abstract.

If you have been cited with a moving violation like speeding or have a traffic ticket that contains both non-moving and moving violations, contact us today at our Tacoma office (253) 201-2001 so we can fight the ticket and keep it off of your driving record.

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What is a Deferral – 3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Defer Your Traffic Ticket

By | Traffic Infractions | No Comments

Today we are discussing traffic ticket deferral’s. This is our first post in our new series that focuses on the different ways you can respond to a traffic ticket in Washington State.  If you are pulled over and given a traffic infraction you have several options for how to handle it. In our last post, we shared our recommendations for what to do when you are stopped for committing a traffic violation. For more information, you can take a look at that post here. But, if you are short on time, here’s the Cliff Notes version — ultimately our best recommendation for handling a traffic infraction is to contest the citation if at all possible.

However, you may have heard of another option out there called a deferral or deferred finding. A lot of folks think that this is an easy way to get out of their ticket with minimal effort, but there is a lot more to it than that. In this post, we wanted to pass along a few key points to keep in mind regarding a deferred finding for a traffic ticket and share our thoughts on why you should use a deferral as your last resort.


Deferring a traffic infraction in Washington State — What does a Deferral mean?

A deferred finding is a way for you to potentially keep a traffic infraction from becoming part of your driving record. If you are eligible, you can request a deferral from the court once every 7 years. Essentially, it’s your one get out of jail free card for a traffic ticket. Most drivers are eligible for 1 moving violation deferral and 1 non-moving violation deferral every 7 years. If you are granted a deferral by the court, your original traffic infraction will be dismissed following the completion of a 6 to 12 month driving period with no additional traffic violations.
However, if you do receive another traffic citation within the 6 to 12 month period, the original infraction will be found committed and will be reported to the Department of Licensing and added to your driving abstract. In order to enter into a deferred finding with the court, an administrative fee must be paid as well. Also, if your deferral is revoked due to a 2nd infraction in many Courts throughout Washington State you will be expected to pay the original fine associated with the ticket too.


Key Points to Keep in Mind Regarding a Deferral


Remember that a deferred finding is essentially a contract you entered into with the court.

  • With this contract, you have agreed not to commit any additional traffic infractions for a set amount of time (usually 6 to 12 months from the date that the deferral was granted, depending on the Judge).
  • In turn, the court has agreed to dismiss your original citation if follow through with those conditions.


Getting a 2nd ticket while you are still on a deferred finding can result in a committed finding for the original ticket.

  • If you do get a 2nd ticket before your deferral period ends, the court may enter a committed finding on the original ticket.
  • It doesn’t matter if the 2nd ticket occurred in a different jurisdiction than the original ticket.
  • Even if you decide to contest the 2nd ticket and it gets dismissed or amended, the original ticket may still be found committed. For some courts, the mere fact that you were charged for a 2nd infraction is enough for them to revoke your deferred finding, regardless of the result of a contested hearing.


You only get to use a deferred finding once every 7 years.

  • Whether you successfully complete a deferred finding or not, once you choose to enter into this agreement you cannot do so again for 7 years.
  • In the state of Washington, you have the privilege of 1 deferred finding for a moving violation, such as a speeding ticket, and 1 deferred finding for a non-moving violation, such as an expired registration ticket, every 7 years.


You still have to pay a fee to the court.

  • Every court’s costs are different but for most, a $150 fee will need to be paid within 30-60 days of entering the deferred finding.
  • Failure to pay the deferral fee within the allotted time frame can result in a revocation of the deferral option.
  • This deferral fee is non-refundable. Whether you successfully complete the deferral or not, you will not receive a refund of the fee amount.
  • If you get a 2nd ticket before your deferral period ends and the court decides to revoke your deferred finding, you may have to pay an additional amount to the court to take care of the fine for the original ticket.


Not everyone is eligible for a deferral.

  • CDL holders are not eligible for a deferral. Since they drive for a living, they are held to a higher standard. It’s not always fair, but it’s just the way it is.
  • The choice to grant a deferral is ultimately up the judge and the court. Every judge sees every case differently. Some judges will not grant a deferral if there is an accident involved in the case. Some judges will not allow a driver with an intermediate license to enter into a deferred finding.

Now, you may be thinking: “Okay, I don’t have a CDL and I can afford to pay a $150 fee — that’s lower than the cost of my ticket anyway. Using my deferral seems like a pretty good choice, so why not?” In my experience, using your deferral is likely not your best option. While in some cases it may seem like it’s the easier way to handle your ticket, rather than contesting it yourself or hiring an attorney to help but I promise you, it is not!


3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Defer Your Traffic Ticket

  1. When it rains, it pours.
    You may be thinking: “Hey, I haven’t gotten a ticket in years! This was just a fluke. I can easily go 6 or 12 months without getting another one. I hardly ever speed anyway.”Okay, I know you’ve probably heard that statement before, but I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it come true for folks that decide to go with a deferred finding on their ticket.The harsh reality is that many folks who use their deferral end up getting a 2nd ticket before their deferral period ends. Even the most careful drivers have gotten their deferral revoked because they received a 2nd ticket. Let’s be real here, even if you are a very cautious driver yourself you can’t control how other drivers behave on the roads. Even getting a ticket that wasn’t necessarily your fault can result in the revocation of your deferral.
  2. It is not always easy to get a deferral.As we mentioned before, the decision of whether to grant you a deferral or not is ultimately up to the judge of the court. Every judge chooses to handle cases differently, and their policies vary from court to court. For example, some judges will require you to attend a defensive driving class before allowing a deferral.In addition, you may be required to appear in court to request the deferral. There are a few courts that will accept a request for deferral by mail or online, but most require that you attend a court hearing to ask for a deferred finding at a mitigation hearing. You will have to rearrange your schedule and possibly take time off of work just to attend the hearing in court. That can be a huge inconvenience for some and can also mean losing out on pay too.
  3. You have a better option.You may not think so, but you do have a better option than choosing a deferral for your traffic infraction. You can (and should) contest the infraction if possible. While choosing to fight the ticket might be a bit intimidating for some, contesting the infraction doesn’t mean you have to study all of Washington’s traffic laws and memorize court procedures. You can hire a local traffic ticket lawyer (like us) to help you fight the ticket and keep the infraction from becoming part of your driving record without even going to court yourself.Our firm’s success rate for keeping traffic infractions off of the driver’s record is over 98%. We don’t mean to brag, but there are very few (if any) other firms that can boast that kind of success rate with their clients. Simply put, we know what we are doing. If you are cited with a traffic infraction in Tacoma, WA or throughout the greater Puget Sound don’t just use your deferral — call us instead. We have an unmatched level of experience handling traffic ticket cases specifically, and our customer service is top notch.If you use your deferral, you are choosing to take a big risk. I don’t know about you, but as much as I would like to, I can’t predict the future. Sometimes things happen and even if you haven’t gotten a ticket in years you could get another ticket after entering into a deferred finding and then your 1 “get out of jail free” card is gone for 7 years. Don’t roll the dice with your driving record! Give us a call instead, and you can be confident that you’ll have the best traffic ticket attorney in the area fighting your infraction in court.

In Closing …

We hope that we’ve clarified some of the frequently asked questions related to deferrals but if you’ve still got a question feel free to give us a call at (253) 201-2001 or enter your information below. We’ll explain your options and clarify the process of successfully handling your traffic infraction.

Stay tuned for our next installment in our Ways to Respond to a Traffic Ticket blog post series where we’ll discuss the ins and outs of a mitigation hearing.

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Speeding ticket fine

How Much Does a Speeding Ticket Cost in Washington State and What Should I Do if I Get One?

By | Traffic Infractions | No Comments

It seems reasonable to say that we have all sped at some point or another while driving, and some may even speed more regularly than others, but how much is a speeding ticket fine in the state of Washington? In this post, we take a closer look at the price of speeding ticket fines and also provide a step-by-step guide for what to do if you get pulled over for a traffic ticket.

Speeding Ticket Fine in Washington State

Below is a list of the fines associated with various speeding infractions in the state of Washington. If you are caught driving above the posted speed limit here’s what you could be looking at regarding ticket fines, according to the Washington State Patrol:

If the posted speed limit is 40 MPH or lower:

  • 1 to 5 mph over the speed limit: $125
  • 6 to 10 mph over the speed limit: $136
  • 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit: $166
  • 16 to 20 mph over the speed limit: $207
  • 21 to 25 mph over the speed limit: $259
  • 26 to 30 mph over the speed limit: $310
  • 31 to 35 mph over the speed limit: $361
  • More than 35 mph over the speed limit: $423

If the posted speed limit is higher than 40 MPH:

  • 1 to 5 mph over the speed limit: $105
  • 6 to 10 mph over the speed limit: $125
  • 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit: $156
  • 16 to 20 mph over the speed limit: $187
  • 21 to 25 mph over the speed limit: $218
  • 26 to 30 mph over the speed limit: $259
  • 31 to 35 mph over the speed limit: $310
  • 36 to 40 mph over the speed limit: $361
  • More than 40 mph over the speed limit: $423

These amounts only include the fine of the ticket itself. Assuming you choose to simply pay the ticket (not a good idea!), this is just the base amount you will have to shell out from your wallet. If you pay the fine without contesting the ticket in court, the infraction is found committed and then gets reported to the Department of Licensing. Once it is reported to the Department of Licensing, your insurance company will have access to information on the infraction and your insurance rates will likely increase dramatically.

Every insurance company handles speeding tickets differently, but you can probably bet that regardless of your agency’s policy, your rates will likely increase by between 10-15% or more for a single speeding ticket. Depending on the current price of your insurance that could translate to an increase of $800 or more over the course of 3 years, which is the amount of time that a committed traffic infraction stays on your driving record in the state of Washington.

Of course, if you get speeding tickets regularly the price increase in your insurance rates could be much higher. Also, other factors like how old you are, your gender, how long you have been a customer with the insurance agency, where you live, and your overall driving history can also affect how much a speeding ticket will impact your rates.

So, if you are cited for a speeding ticket, what can you do to avoid the high fines and increase your insurance rates? First and foremost, we recommend that you DO NOT just pay the ticket fine for the infraction! If you just pay the speeding ticket fine, the court will find the infraction committed, and the speeding ticket will go on your driving record, which could have further reaching consequences. If you get pulled over for a speeding ticket here’s how we recommend that you handle the situation.

What Should I do if I get Pulled Over for Speeding?

The Traffic Stop

First thing is first, stay calm and be polite. Try to keep your voice and tone respectful regardless of the circumstances of the stop or how the officer may be treating you in return. Remember that you are considered innocent until proven guilty. That means that if the officer asks you, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” you do not have to (and should not) admit guilt for breaking the law or speeding. In most cases, the officer is not interested in hearing the background story for why you were speeding because it has little bearing on the fact that you indeed did commit the infraction. In addition, he or she has likely already decided whether or not they are going to give you a ticket before they even speak to you. Therefore, it is best just to be polite and not admit guilt if you are stopped for a speeding.

The Citation

Usually, once you receive a speeding ticket, the officer is going to provide you with a copy of the ticket. Hopefully, the officer has provided you with an explanation of the violation you were cited for, but if that is not the case, you can use the statute code on the ticket to look up the infraction later. In some cases, you may not be provided with a copy of the citation. Oftentimes, if there is an accident involved the ticket may be mailed to you at a later date. However, for most regular speeding tickets you will be provided with a copy of the ticket during the traffic stop.

How to Respond to the Court 

First and foremost, make sure you respond to the court in a timely fashion. You only have 15 days following the date of the incident to respond to the ticket. If you miss this deadline, even by just a few days, you could face more serious consequences from the court. One of the most common actions of the court for not responding to a ticket in time is to issue an FTA/FTR (Failure to Appear/Respond) and start a process to suspend your license. Don’t let that happen!

Even if you feel that you are guilty of committing the infraction, it is best to request a contested hearing to keep your options open. It is extremely important that you DO NOT just pay the ticket fine to the court. I cannot stress this enough! Once you have paid the ticket fine, it is virtually impossible to go back and contest the infraction. To request a contested hearing all you have to do is check the “contested” box on the ticket itself and mail it back to the court.

While there is another option on the ticket as well, requesting a contested hearing is better than requesting a mitigation hearing. If you proceed with a mitigation hearing the speeding infraction will still be found committed, and it will go on your driving record; however, the judge may decide to lower the ticket fine that you have to pay to the court. While this may seem like a win, you will still likely be looking at increased insurance rates over the long-term timeline that the ticket stays on your record.

Undoubtedly the best advice I can give you if you receive a speeding ticket is to hire a traffic ticket lawyer to help you fight the infraction. Our firm has one of the best reputations in the area for successfully fighting speeding tickets and keeping them off of the driver’s record. You can hire us immediately following the citation, even before you have responded to the court. Alternatively, if you have already requested a mitigation hearing or contested hearing on your own we can still get added to your case as long as you contact us before the hearing date.

The Bottom Line …

We know being cited and receiving a speeding ticket fine can be frustrating. Speeding tickets can cost you a lot and not just in the fine itself but also in the time away from work and time spent worrying about what to do. But don’t worry, if you were recently cited with a speeding ticket in Tacoma, WA or throughout the greater Puget Sound we can help!

Contact us at (253) 201-2001 for a free consultation. We can walk you through the court process and help you make the right decision for what to do. If you choose to hire us for your speeding ticket case, we take on the burden of dealing with the court, so you don’t have to. Don’t let a speeding ticket stress you out, give us a call today and let us handle it for you!

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Blackout Wednesday and Impaired Driving: How to Prevent a DUI Charge this Holiday Season

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As the holidays approach, we often get the chance to spend time with family, reconnect with old friends, and travel home to celebrate the joys of the season. Thanksgiving is this week and the Christmas holiday is fast approaching as well. There is is a lot too look forward to in the coming weeks, but it may not all be celebrations and joy.

With the onset of the holiday season comes the inevitable increase in the number of drivers out on the roadways. Some of the busiest travel days occur during the winter holiday season, one of the biggest being around Thanksgiving. Also, many people add alcohol to their holiday celebrations, and some tend to overindulge before getting behind the wheel.

The combination of more drivers on the roadways and more people consuming alcohol during the holiday season can potentially set up a dangerous situation. More accidents occur during this time of year and more DUI’s are charged too. So as a driver, what should you look out for and what should you be aware of as we head into the holiday season?

In this post, we delve into the growth of one of the busiest drinking nights of the year known as Blackout Wednesday and also share some tips on how to avoid a DUI charge this holiday season. If you plan to be a driver out on the roads in the next few months, we recommend reading on to gain some insight on what to expect.

Blackout Wednesday – What is it and why should I be concerned?

In the last five years or so the Wednesday night just before Thanksgiving has come to be known as an unofficial pre-Thanksgiving holiday for many. You may hear it called Blackout Wednesday. The name stems from the fact that this night tends to be one of the busiest nights of the year in bars across the country.

On this particular day, alcohol sales spike significantly across the board. According to data analyzed by Upserve, a restaurant management platform, overall beer sales increased by 270% and liquor sales increased by 114% just last year. So what causes the spike in sales?

There are many factors that contribute to the increase in alcohol sales, but it is likely due to the number of large groups that venture out to the bars on that night. If you think about it, nearly all Americans have Thursday off for the Thanksgiving holiday, and if you are in charge of cooking the next day, you probably don’t want to try and entertain the night before as well.

Pair that with the fact that a lot of people come home for the holidays, and you get the perfect recipe for an evening out to grab a few drinks with friends or family that you don’t get to see on a regular basis and if you’re worried about a hangover the next day, at least a Thanksgiving feast makes for a good remedy.

Hey, it sounds like having a night out to relax with a few drinks doesn’t sound like a bad idea before heading into the Thanksgiving holiday. So, what is the big deal? Why should you be worried about Blackout Wednesday when it just sounds like a lot of fun?

This biggest reason to be concerned with the increasing popularity of Blackout Wednesday is the increase in drinking and driving that comes with it. The days just before Thanksgiving are considered to be some of the busiest travel days of the year. Just last year, over 43.5 million Americans took a road trip for Thanksgiving and 48.7 million Americans traveled ventured more than 50 miles from home during that time.

With more drivers on the roads comes an inherent risk for more accidents and traffic problems simply due to the increased number of vehicles. However, when you combine the higher number of vehicles out on the road with the increased amount of alcohol consumption during the holidays, it can lead to some serious consequences.

More than 40% of traffic-related deaths during the holidays are a result of drunk drivers. Of that 40%, more than a third occur around the Thanksgiving holiday. There is a marked increase in drunk driving accidents during December around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays as well. The number of DUI-related traffic stops often increases by more than 30% on Christmas Eve and more than 40% of traffic accidents on New Year’s Eve are the result of drinking and driving.

With all of the potential risks of an accident or DUI charge, you may be thinking that it would be best to just stay home for the holidays and not go out at all. While that is one way to decrease your risk, that may not be the most practical choice for some folks. If you are one of those people that would have a hard time just staying home for the holidays and not consuming alcohol at all, consider some of the tips listed below to keep your risk for a possible DUI charge to a minimum.

Driving on Blackout Wednesday and During the Holiday Season: What can I do to prevent a DUI charge?

1) Understand how alcohol affects you and plan accordingly

Many do not realize that a person’s decision-making abilities and driving-related skills can already be diminished even if they are not yet showing typical signs of intoxication. Many factors determine the effect alcohol has on a person’s body and their behavior. These can include the person’s weight, hydration level, when they last ate, and their overall tolerance to alcohol.

 

People that don’t drink often and have a lower tolerance for alcohol are more likely to participate in social gatherings that involve drinking around the holidays compared to other times of the year. Also, those that do drink often are more likely to consume even higher amounts of alcohol than they usually do because of the increased number of parties and social gatherings. It’s fairly simple — people tend to drink more when they are around others that are drinking too.

That is why it is so important to understand how alcohol affects your body specifically. It takes time for your body to metabolize and process alcohol but it gets absorbed into your bloodstream within minutes of you taking a sip. For most, you start to feel the effects of alcohol within 5 to 20 minutes of consuming it, but your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) typically peaks between 45 to 90 minutes after you’ve had a drink.

A person’s body can only process so much alcohol at one time. How much your body can effectively process in a given amount of time differs for each person, but generally, if you are consuming more than one drink per hour your body will have a hard time keeping up. Drinking more alcohol than your body can process at one time is what causes the symptoms of impairment.

2) Don’t rely on quick fixes to sober you up

Many people believe they can control how quickly their body “sobers up” after consuming alcohol. For example, a common myth is that drinking coffee will help because caffeine will sober you up. The problem is that caffeine may help with the drowsiness caused by alcohol consumption, but it won’t help your body process and remove the alcohol in your system any faster. The body needs sufficient time to metabolize alcohol and break it down before returning to normal.

Even after you stop drinking, the alcohol you consumed will continue to affect your brain and body for several hours or more. Biologically speaking, alcohol can be detected in your body for even long after you stop drinking. So, even if it’s been several hours since you last had a drink, you could potentially still be charged with a DUI if you get pulled over. Alcohol can be detected using either a breathalyzer or blood test even several hours after consumption.

3) Plan and arrange for a ride home

You best bet to prevent a DUI charge is to plan and arrange a ride for yourself and/or others so you don’t get behind the wheel at all when you have been drinking. With the current rise in popularity of services like Uber and Lyft, there are many options available to those that want to go out and have a few drinks. Although using these services at popular times may be more expensive than driving yourself home, it is definitely the safer choice.

You could also arrange for a designated driver (DD) ahead of time. Perhaps there is someone that will be out with you that doesn’t plan to drink or is willing to refrain from alcohol for the night so he/she can be the driver. This can be a great option as well. However, always make sure that your designated driver is committed to the task. It is never a good idea to simply choose the person that is the “least drunk” that night to drive home.

It is likely that the person you think is the “least drunk” is still well past the point of impairment and could cause a risk to you and others if he/she gets behind the wheel. The coordination needed for driving is compromised long before the signs of intoxication or “being drunk” are even visible. A person’s reaction time is slowed, and the sedative effects of alcohol can increase the risk of nodding off behind the wheel even after just one drink! Plan ahead and decide who your DD is going to be before you go out to avoid a making a poor choice later.

Another thing to consider when choosing whether or not to get an Uber/Lyft or drive home yourself is the emphasis patrols that get added for law enforcement across the state and across the country. In the state of Washington, sobriety checkpoints are not allowed; however, that does not mean that law enforcement agencies do not have other means to catch drunk drivers. Because they know that this time of year elicits a greater number or drunk driving incidents, they are specifically trained to be on the lookout for any signs of impairment.

The Bottom Line…

We all want to celebrate during the holidays and enjoy the time being around family and friends, but if you aren’t careful, you could be faced with a DUI charge or be the cause of an accident. Remember that Blackout Wednesday — the night before Thanksgiving — is the busiest night of drinking across the whole year, even bigger than New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day in some areas.

If you plan to go out tonight (or any other night during the holiday season) plan ahead for a ride home and be cautious when consuming alcohol. Make sure you understand that every person’s body reacts and processes alcohol differently. There is no quick fix to sober you up once you consume too much alcohol and even after one drink you could be too impaired to operate a motor vehicle safely.

Even if you aren’t planning to go to the bars on Blackout Wednesday or during the holiday season, keep in mind that there will likely be more impaired drivers on the roads. During the Thanksgiving holiday and the following months, there will be an increased number of travelers on the roads. Stay alert and call your local law enforcement agency if you suspect a drunk driver. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Even though the holiday season can be joyful and fun, it can also be a worrisome time of year for some. The good news is, Garguile Law, PLLC is always here to help. Remember that if you do get charged with a DUI or your receive a traffic ticket in Tacoma or the surrounding areas you can give us a call right away. We have a great deal of experience handling both DUI’s and traffic infractions in multiple courts all across the state of Washington. It is more than likely that we can help you with any charges you receive. So, if something happens and you need assistance with a traffic matter this holiday season don’t hesitate to contact us.

From all of us here at Garguile Law, PLLC we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and holiday season!
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Drowsy Driving – 4 Common Risk Factors and Warning Signs

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While you may not realize it, drowsy driving is a big problem on our nation’s roadways. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that more than 100,000 vehicle crashes are caused by drowsy driving each year. You’d likely be hardpressed to find a driver these days that has not gotten behind the wheel at some point knowing that they were a bit too tired to drive. With the constant demands of living in a 24/7 society, it can be difficult to maintain a routine sleep pattern and make sure you are getting enough rest on a daily basis. We all know it is not easy but it is important.

State lawmakers and law enforcement agencies agree and as a result some, including the state of Washington, have taken big steps to address the problem of drowsy driving in the last several years. Both Arkansas and New Jersey have recently enacted laws that make it a felony for a fatigued driver to cause a vehicle crash that results in a fatality. Similar proposals have been presented in New York and Washington state as well. While the bill has not yet passed in Washington state, law enforcement agencies have taken advanced measures to identify drowsy drivers on the road and have implemented emphasis patrols for this week to highlight Drowsy Driver Prevention Week across the state.

With all of the local initiatives that have been put into action in an effort to bring heightened awareness to this issue, it is important to understand and be able to identify some of the most common risk factors and warning signs for drowsy driving. Keep reading to find out the 4 most common risk factors for drowsy driving and find out how you can prevent the potentially catastrophic consequences of getting behind the wheel when fatigued.

4 Common Risk Factors and Warning Signs for Drowsy Driving

1) Sleep Deprivation or Fatigue

Okay, so this may seem like a no-brainer. If you haven’t gotten enough sleep, it is more likely that you will be drowsy while driving. While most would agree that this is a fairly obvious risk factor, not many actually take it very seriously when making the decision to get behind the wheel. Studies show that being awake for more than 20 hours results in an impairment equal to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08, the legal limit in all states. Similar to alcohol and drugs, sleep deprivation impairs driving skills like hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and awareness of surroundings. Approximately 11 million drivers admit that they have had a crash or near crash because they dozed off or were too tired to drive (2005 Sleep in America poll).

How to Prevent It: Again, while the answer may seem fairly obvious, the easiest way to address the risk factor of sleep deprivation is to make getting the right amount of rest a priority. Sleep is as vital to our well-being as food and water are, yet many put it last on their list of priorities. Be good to yourself and make time for sleep. If you have a long drive ahead of you, make sure you get a good night’s rest beforehand and schedule breaks along the way so you don’t get too fatigued. If you find that you are getting sleepy while you are driving, even for a short time, pull over and take a break or a quick nap. Even just a little bit of sleep can make a big difference for your body and your brain and can prevent further drowsy driving risks.

2) Your Age – Young Drivers are at a Greater Risk for Drowsy Driving

Combining inexperience with sleepiness and a tendency to drive at night puts young drivers at a higher risk for drowsy driving. This is especially true for males between the ages of 16 and 25 years. Studies show that only 20% of teens get the recommended 9 hours of sleep on school nights, and nearly 45% sleep less than 8 hours on school nights (National Sleep Foundation’s 2006 Sleep in America poll). In addition, many young folks are juggling a great deal of responsibilities, which makes getting enough sleep a difficult challenge to overcome. Teens often try to manage hefty academic responsibilities, after-school activities, family duties, work tasks, and their social lives. With so much to juggle it’s no wonder teens are regularly sleep-deprived and often drive when they are drowsy. For more information on teen driver issues and concerns, take a look at our previous blog post on National Teen Driver Safety Week.

How to Prevent It: As a parent, you can make sure to keep tabs on your son or daughter’s sleep habits. While it may not be easy to implement a regular bedtime, especially for older children, it can truly benefit them in the long run. If trying to get your teen to stick to a regular bedtime is too difficult, at the very least, try to make sure your teen has appropriate coping mechanisms to deal with an overload of responsibilities so that they don’t deprive themselves of sleep in order to manage all that they are dealing with.

Pulling all-nighters on a regular basis should not be how your son or daughter prepares for school tests or projects. However, if it can’t be avoided try to help them make alternative arrangements for getting to school the next day. Instead of driving themselves when they have had little to no sleep, offer to drive them yourself or help them coordinate a ride from a friend so they are not driving while they are drowsy. Also, don’t forget to talk to your son or daughter about the dangers of drowsy driving. While you may understand the importance of talking to your child about the risks of alcohol or drug use, discussing the dangers of falling asleep at the wheel can be just as impactful for your young driver. Do your best to make time for that conversation now if you haven’t already.

3) Untreated Sleep Disorders

 

An undiagnosed or untreated sleep disorder can keep you from getting enough sleep on a regular basis, which can make you very tired during the day. Researchers estimate that more than 70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. Those that may contribute to fatigue during the day and drowsy driving incidents include: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), insomnia, and narcolepsy. It is estimated that 12 million people in the United States have OSA. In addition according to the National Sleep Foundation, people with untreated obstructive sleep apnea are up to 7 times more likely to have a drowsy driving crash. If you suffer from a sleep disorder your sleep patterns can become fragmented or disrupted on a regular basis, which can result in an accumulated “sleep debt” over time. That “sleep debt” must be repaid at some point in order for your body to continue functioning at an optimum level. Unfortunately, your body may involuntarily address an accumulated “sleep debt” at unexpected times, such as behind the wheel of a car.

How to Prevent It: The best thing you can do to prevent drowsy driving incidents that result from a sleep disorder is to get treatment from a physician. If you notice any symptoms of a possible sleep disorder, contact a doctor as soon as possible so you can get treated. If you notice that you are starting to fall asleep during the day or you are nodding off during everyday activities despite getting 8 hours of sleep on a regular basis, a sleep disorder could be to blame. In addition, if you have irregular breathing or increased movement during sleep you could be suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder that can impact your driving abilities.

Sometimes it can be difficult for the person experiencing these symptoms to recognize them, but they be more noticeable to a spouse or family member. If you tend to exhibit any or all of these behaviors on a regular basis, make sure to get in touch with your doctor to see if you may have a sleep disorder. Treatments are readily available for most disorders and can be very helpful for yourself and other drivers you interact with on the roadways.

4) Late or Early Morning Driving

If you drive late at night or early in the morning you may be more likely to fall asleep at the wheel simply because your body’s internal clock (controlled by your brain) is telling it that it’s time to go to sleep. Consider this: Your body has an internal clock that triggers certain involuntary behaviors at specific times throughout the day in order to maintain your physical well-being. For example, you may be surprised to learn that your hormone signals, general alertness, and body temperature changes throughout the day at certain times without you even knowing it. These physical changes are completely involuntary and we have very little control over their occurrence.

The good news is that although we can’t control our internal clock we can trust that it knows what is it doing and is ultimately trying to keep our body functioning at the highest level. One way it does this is by following circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are cycles in your body that occur in 24-hour patterns. Your internal clock follows these circadian rhythms to make you feel sleepy or alert at regular times every day. You must have sleep to survive and for your body to function properly so to keep you from staying up for days on end, your brain induces symptoms of sleepiness in a regular pattern to make you rest regardless of whether you want to or not.

Generally, our bodies become sleepy at night and again in the middle of the day. It is most natural for your body to go to sleep when it is dark outside, which is why most people often have a very difficult time trying to fight off sleep at night even when they are well-rested. This also explains why most vehicle crashes caused by drowsy driving occur between midnight and 8:00 AM. However, our internal clock also makes us sleepy during the middle of the day. While this helps explain why some folks can’t seem to pass up a little afternoon nap or why they might need a caffeine refill around mid-day, it also supports statistics that show falling asleep at the wheel regularly occurs between 1:00 PM and 3:00 PM.

How to Prevent It: So what can you do to combat this? I’m sure we all know that when it’s time for bed, it’s not very easy to fight your body’s natural instincts to sleep. The simple answer is to try and avoid driving at night it possible. If you must drive at night, make sure you get plenty of sleep beforehand so you can stay more alert behind the wheel. In addition, while it is most definitely not a replacement for proper, restful sleep, consuming a little caffeine can be helpful at times. A small amount of caffeine can help give your body a short boost that may help you stay more alert. However, keep in mind that everyone reacts to caffeine differently and you need to be careful with how much you consume and how often you consume it as well. It can be a good idea to also take a short nap just after consuming caffeine as well. Taking a nap gives your body a chance to get a bit of rest, which it will likely respond to even better than the caffeine itself, and it will allow time for the caffeine to kick in too. Just try to keep in mind that while caffeine consumption can be helpful for a quick boost in alertness its effects are only short term. Caffeine cannot replace your body’s need for sleep and ultimately the best way to prepare for driving at night is to stay well-rested.

A few more things to consider …

People who are fatigued or don’t get enough sleep on a regular basis have a higher risk of falling asleep at the wheel. This is especially true for commercial drivers that spend long hours on the road and people that work late shifts. According to the National Sleep Foundation, working the night shift increases your risk for drowsy driving by nearly 6 times! Those that work more than 60 hours per week or who are rotating-shift workers need to extra mindful of their driving behaviors since their sleep patterns will likely be disrupted on a regular basis. Individuals that drive for a living, especially for long periods of time such as long haul commercial truckers, are much more likely to have fall-asleep crashes. In addition, if you are a business traveler you might spend more time on the road compared to the average commuter and you might experience jet lag. Crossing time zones can throw of your body’s internal clock and cause confusion for your body as to when you should be sleeping and when you should be awake. Both of these factors can contribute to an increased risk for drowsy driving accidents so make sure that you get plenty of rest if you plan to be operating a motor vehicle.

Ultimately, the biggest thing to remember is this: accidents caused by drowsy driving are preventable. We all know that feeling tired while driving is likely to occur at some point during our lives but that does not mean we should actively choose to drive that way on a regular basis. In this day and age we all have a great deal of responsibilities to manage but regardless of how busy we may keep ourselves, we must make sure to take care of our bodies and make sleep a priority on a regular basis. Staying well-rested will not only help our bodies function more efficiently, it can help to prevent a possible accident or injury caused by drowsy driving. Keep in mind that if you fall asleep at the wheel and cause an accident, even one that does not involve any other vehicles or drivers, you could be seriously injured. In addition, if you display signs of drowsy driving while behind the wheel — whether an accident has occurred or not — you could be cited with Negligent Driving in the 2nd Degree or Reckless Driving by law enforcement. The bottom line is: drowsy drivers put everyone on the road in danger. If you consider the information and tips in this article seriously you can help prevent unnecessary catastrophes on the roadways in the future. So get your rest so you can stay safe and stay alert at the wheel. Your safety is worth it.

 

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Halloween Safety Tips

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Have you picked out your costume yet? Have you planned out your Trick-or-Treat route for this year? Tomorrow is Halloween, and it is by far one of my favorite holidays to celebrate, especially in the Pacific Northwest. There are so many local events and activities to check out in the area. If you are still looking for something ghoulish to do, I recommend taking a look at this article from the South Sound Magazine: Tacoma’s Best Halloween Activities for some ideas.

Even if you don’t plan on going out for Halloween this year, there can still be a lot of stress surrounding the holiday. Whether you are focused on making sure you have enough candy to pass out, or you’re hoping you can get that last minute DIY costume glued together in time, Halloween night comes with a lot of fun, but also a lot to worry about. This year I wanted to make sure that, in addition to racking up the largest candy pile on the block, you are prepared for a safe and fun night across the Puget Sound. If you follow the tips detailed below, you can keep your worries about the safety of yourself, your friends, and your family to a minimum and focus on enjoying the holiday instead.

You may be surprised to learn that although Halloween is ideally supposed to be all about amusement, candy, and fun — it can also be full of dangerous situations for both you and your family. The fact that DUI’s and alcohol-related incidents spike on October 31st may not be surprising to you, especially since alcohol has become a big part of the holiday. This year it is expected that more than 61 million households across the country will either attend or host a Halloween party and a recent survey suggests that 55% of those households plan to include alcohol in their celebrations. Including alcohol in your festivities can certainly liven up the party but if you do plan to consume alcohol this Halloween, please make plans to have a designated driver, so you aren’t tempted to get behind the wheel. You could risk not only a DUI charge but also the potential to hurt yourself or others in an accident. Plan ahead and remember that your safety and the safety of others is simply not worth the risk.

While potential DUI charges and/or accidents involving alcohol are something to surely prepare for, that’s not the only safety concern. In addition to the dangers that drinking and driving on Halloween pose, there are also plenty of safety issues for drivers that have not consumed alcohol to consider. You may have already noticed that the days are getting shorter and the sun is starting to set earlier in the evening. As darkness continues to come earlier in the day, it also becomes harder for drivers to see pedestrians, especially small children wearing dark costumes or clothing, in the dark. In fact, most auto accidents involving pedestrians occur when it is dark. Couple that with the fact that in the Pacific Northwest roads are often slick from rain, and you could potentially have a recipe for disaster on Halloween night if you are not taking extra precautions as a driver. As those that have lived in Washington for any amount of time surely know, even if the weather forecast predicts a 0% chance of precipitation, it is best to prepare for rain anyway. Water on roadways also increases the glare from vehicle lights and can decrease the driver’s visibility.

Make sure that if you are out driving on Halloween night you decrease your speed in residential areas and pay close attention to your surroundings. According to a recent analysis of fatality records on Halloween, more than 70% of car accidents on October 31st occur away from intersections and crosswalks. Stay extra vigilant and watch for children darting out into the street. It’s best not to pass stopped vehicles. They may be dropping off passengers or children. If you are the one stopping to drop off passengers, make sure to turn on your hazard lights so you can communicate with other drivers. Always yield to young pedestrians too. When families are in large groups it can be a challenge to keep track of everyone. Children might not stop for you either because they don’t see your vehicle approaching or they might not know how to safely cross the street. Kids are often overly excited to fill their bags with candy on Halloween night and don’t always consider the safe practices they have been taught to use when crossing the street.

It is especially important for younger, inexperienced drivers to consider the tips mentioned above. Young drivers, ages 15 to 25 years, accounted for ⅓ of all fatal accidents involving child pedestrians on Halloween from 1990 to 2010 (Fatality Analysis Reporting System). Unfortunately, because they have less experience on the road, the reflexes of new drivers and their decreased ability to anticipate potentially hazardous driving situations can lead to catastrophic consequences. As a parent, it may be best to simply keep your young driver off the road on Halloween night altogether — both for their safety as well as the safety of others. At the very least, try to keep them from driving from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Historically, over 60% of motor vehicle accidents on October 31st occurred during this 4-hour window, with ¼ of accidents taking place between 6:00 PM and 7:00 PM (Fatality Analysis Reporting System).

Also, as a parent, if you have children headed out for trick-or-treating it never hurts to provide them with extra visibility features. Give them a flashlight or glow stick that can be worn with their costume. The easier it is for drivers to see them, the less likely it is for them to be hit by a motorist. Make sure you teach them how to cross the street properly or as an alternative to trick-or-treating outdoors, consider attending a local trunk or treat event that is indoors. Oftentimes these types of activities can be just as much, if not more, fun than going out on Halloween night — especially if it ends up raining on trick-or-treat night.

Ultimately, I hope that your Halloween night is full of fun and memories that you can look back on with a smile. So, go out and have a good time, but no matter your age or the activities you have planned for Halloween, please keep the tips I’ve listed here in mind as you enjoy the night. We truly care about your safety. From all of us here at Garguile Law, PLLC — Happy Halloween!

 

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What is an E-DUI and Why Should I Fight it?

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In the last few months, you may have heard some of the buzz surrounding Washington’s new E-DUI law. Also known as the new “Distracted Driving” law, the new policy was just recently implemented in late July of 2017. Texting while driving or holding the phone to your ear while driving has been illegal in the state of Washington for some time now, but you may not be as familiar with the new restrictions posed by the Electronic-DUI law that is starting to gain steam across the state. You may be wondering: what exactly is an E-DUI and is it really worth fighting if I get cited for one? The answers to these questions might surprise you.

As mentioned earlier, on July 23, 2017, Washington state became one of the few states to ban virtually all use of hand-held electronic devices while driving in an effort to decrease distracted driving. In the last several year’s research on distracted driving, particularly with the use of cellphones, has rendered some staggering statistics. In Washington state alone, fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32% from 2014 to 2015. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 3,400 people in the United States were killed in auto accidents that involved a distracted driver in 2015, not to mention the over 391,000 people that were also injured in a crash involving a distracted driver. With these numbers, it makes sense that lawmakers and law enforcement alike would want to do whatever they can do minimize the number of distracted drivers on the road. The goal of the new E-DUI law was not only to help fight what some are now calling an epidemic in our country but also to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving in hopes of preventing unnecessary fatalities and injuries.

So, what actions and behaviors are specifically prohibited by the new law? What are you allowed and not allowed to do while you are behind the wheel?

What’s NOT Allowed (Even at a Red Light)

  1. Hand-held use of a cell phone (or electronic device such as a tablet, laptop, or video game) while driving.
  2. Typing messages or accessing information while driving.
  3. Watching videos or using electronic device cameras while driving.

So, what exactly do they mean by “hand-held use of a cell phone” and what specifies “while driving?” Let’s clarify. You can get pulled over for holding a cell phone or other electronic device in your hand while driving, no matter the purpose. You cannot hold the phone to your ear, send or receive text messages, surf the web, check your email, watch YouTube, or snap a selfie even while you are stopped at a red light. So, what about those folks that use their cell phone as a GPS device to get directions to a new location, is that allowed? The answer is really yes and no.

Yes, you can use an electronic device for driving directions. No, you cannot hold that device in your hand while you are driving. So, if you are a person that likes to hold your phone in your hand to view directions, you will need to find a way to either mount your phone or place it somewhere where it can be viewed while driving that is completely hands-free. What happens if you need to change directions while you are driving or you get lost? Well, you will need to pull over outside of the flow of traffic or park somewhere to adjust your device. While this might seem inconvenient, it is likely the best idea if you want to avoid being cited with an E-DUI ticket. A good idea is to start your GPS device or driving directions on your phone before you get on the road so you won’t have to mess with them while you are driving. Even when you are stopped at a red light, use of an electronic device is prohibited unless it is completely hands-free and you can be ticketed regardless of the reason.

What is allowed

  1. Hands-free functions, like Bluetooth calling, are still okay but only with one touch or swipe (see clarification below).
  2. Using a cell phone to contact emergency services and/or call 911.
  3. Using a CB radio if you are a commercial or emergency services driver.

There is a bit of confusing language in the policy that mentions certain actions being allowed with either “one touch” or “one swipe,” but what does that mean exactly? Here are a few examples. Let’s say you are using a hands-free Bluetooth headset while driving and your phone rings. It is okay to answer that call by either touching the phone or the headset as long as you can do it with just one touch and without holding the phone itself. How about a different situation. Let’s say you are using your phone to play music while driving and a song comes on that you don’t want to hear. It is okay to skip that song or turn off the music as long as you can do so with just one touch (or swipe) and you do not have to pick up or hold your phone to do it. However, you cannot then proceed to browse through your playlist to choose a song by scrolling through your phone’s options. To avoid a potential ticket, the best policy is really just to set your music to play before getting on the road, just like you would with your GPS and driving directions.

The new E-DUI law clearly shows some differences from the more lax Cell Phone Use While Driving infraction that has been a part of the Revised Code of Washington for some time. Overall, the new law allows for very minimal handheld device use while driving — but that’s not all. With the new law comes not one, but two new infraction possibilities. If you receive a ticket for an E-DUI, it is likely that you will be cited under RCW 46.61.672 (Using a Personal Electronic Device While Driving). The first time you are cited with this infraction the ticket fine is already pretty hefty at $136 but if you are cited for this same infraction for the 2nd time (within a five year period), the ticket fine increases to a whopping $234!

What’s more, as a secondary offense, you can also be cited with the new Dangerously Distracted Driving infraction under RCW 46.61.673 for activities such as eating, smoking, applying makeup, or reading while driving. There seems to be more confusion and uncertainty among drivers when it comes to this statute compared to the E-DUI statute. For example, you might be wondering: Does this mean I can’t drink my coffee on the way to work anymore or eat my fries after running through the drive-thru for lunch? Again, the answer is really yes and no. All of the activities mentioned above are considered secondary offenses, which means you can’t be pulled over just for doing them on their own. A primary traffic offense such as speeding, failure to yield, or improper passing is usually committed in conjunction with a secondary offense. So, if you are pulled over for speeding and the officer sees that your focus on the road and the speed limit was affected by the fact that you were enjoying a delicious Big Mac while driving, then you could be ticketed not only for the speeding violation but also for the secondary offense of Dangerously Distracted Driving under RCW 46.61.673. Getting cited for Dangerously Distracted Driving comes with a $99 ticket fine. While this lower fine may seem a bit easier to swallow, keep in mind that you if the officer decides to cite you for both the primary offense you were originally pulled over for (i.e., speeding) and the secondary offense of Dangerously Distracted Driving the fines for both are added together, and you could easily be looking at ticket fines of $200 or more for just one infraction.

While these secondary offenses may seem like overkill to some, the goal of lawmakers and law enforcement is again to decrease the number of distracted drivers on the road in hopes of also decreasing the number of accidents caused by those that are distracted while driving. So, if you are going to eat your breakfast while driving, that is still okay but just make sure you are staying focused on the road while doing it and not committing any other traffic offenses that could get you pulled over. The bottom line is that if law enforcement personnel believes that you committed a traffic offense because you were dangerously distracted by any activity unrelated to the operation of your vehicle, they can, and very well may, ticket you for distracted driving under RCW 46.61.673.

Now that we’ve gone over a bit about what the new E-DUI and Dangerously Distracted Driving laws are, your next question is probably: If I get one of these new tickets, is it worth fighting? The answer to that is — YES. Absolutely! In addition to the differences in the new laws versus the older Cell Phone Use While Driving mentioned above, there are also differences in their impact on your insurance rates. The previous infraction of Cell Phone Use While Driving was considered to be a non-moving violation (unless you had a CDL or an intermediate license). Therefore, drivers that did not have a CDL or intermediate license who were cited for either RCW 46.61.667 (Texting While Driving) or RCW 46.61.668 (Cell Phone Use While Driving), did not have to worry about their insurance company finding out because the violation was not reported to the Department of Licensing. If you just paid the ticket fine or fought it in court and lost, a committed finding under the old law ultimately would not have affected your insurance rates. However, that is not the case for the new E-DUI law.

If you are found to have committed an E-DUI infraction in the state of Washington, the violation will be available to insurance companies and your premiums could increase dramatically. Since committed traffic infractions stay on your driving record for three years in the state of Washington, depending on your insurance policy, a committed finding on an E-DUI could translate to an overall cost of $1000 or more in the long run. Therefore, if you receive a citation for an E-DUI or Dangerously Distracted Driving, we highly recommend that you do not just pay the ticket, even though this may seem like the cheaper option. We understand that hiring an attorney to fight the infraction may cost more than the ticket itself, but in the long run, it is an investment that will save you a significant amount in lowered insurance rates. An article posted in Forbes showed that getting just a single traffic ticket could potentially raise your insurance rates by as much as 22%! With the new laws E-DUI’s and Dangerously Distracted Driving tickets now going on a driver’s record and being available to insurance companies, these tickets can be added to list of reasons your insurance company might increase your rates.

Now you might be thinking that you still have time to fix your habits. After all, some counties and agencies have mentioned that they will honor a grace period of 6 months or more for drivers pulled over for an E-DUI. Yes, that is true; however, a there are some law enforcement agencies in the Puget Sound area that are not allowing a grace period. In just the first week of the new law’s implementation, 27 drivers were cited for E-DUI’s by the Washington State Patrol, and over 300 drivers were pulled over for the offense. If you haven’t changed your habits yet, you could be next. We know that getting cited for an E-DUI or Dangerously Distracted Driving can be frustrating — not to mention expensive — but here at Garguile Law, PLLC we can help. We have already fought (and won) numerous E-DUI cases since the new law was implemented just two months ago. We have the experience and the know how to keep this infraction off of your driving record and keep it from affecting your insurance rates. So, if you happen to get cited with an E-DUI or Dangerously Distracted Driving ticket, give us a call right away at (253) 201-2001. We can help fight the ticket for you, and you won’t even have to appear in court.

As a final note, while it may be tempting, the next time you go to pick up your cell phone or electronic device while you are driving, try to keep these frightful statistics in mind. Each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed, and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver. Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it visually takes your eyes off the road, manually takes your hands off the wheel, and cognitively takes your mind off of driving. If you engage in distracted driving by using your cell phone while you are behind the wheel, you could not only be ticketed for an E-DUI but more importantly, you could endanger the lives of others and yourself. So the next time you hear that ping from your phone that signals a new text message, I remind you to ask yourself: Is picking up my phone really worth the potential consequences?

References

National Teen Driver Safety Week: The frightening reality of teen driving!

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In case you haven’t heard, this week is National Teen Driver Safety Week. This annual initiative established by Congress in 2007, is dedicated to raising awareness and gaining community involvement in an effort to create and encourage safer driving habits among teens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), motor vehicle crashes have historically been, and still remain, the number one cause of teen deaths each year. In 2015 alone, over 2,300 teens in the United States ages 16 to 19 were killed and over 220,000 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes in 2014. While these staggering numbers can be quite alarming, accidents are not the only concern for teen drivers. Teen drivers involved in an accident are often issued a traffic ticket as well. In addition, even without an accident, young drivers are typically cited with 1 or more traffic infractions while they still hold an intermediate license, which lasts until they turn 18 years old. There are a number of reasons for this.

Teen drivers have considerably less experience operating a motor vehicle compared to their adult counterparts and are also more vulnerable to driving distractions such as cell phone use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), research shows that dialing a phone number while driving increases a teen’s risk of crashing by six times, and texting while driving increases the risk by 23 times. In addition to the increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, young drivers that use their cell phone while driving can also be cited for various traffic infractions that can ultimately affect their driver’s license and insurance rates.

In the state of Washington specifically, teens (ages 16 to 18) are not permitted to use wireless devices while driving even if the device has hands-free capability. In addition, teen drivers can be pulled over for cell phone use as a primary offense, which means law enforcement can stop them even if no other traffic offense has been committed. Teen drivers can also be cited for Washington’s new Distracted Driving or E-DUI infraction for operating a personal electronic device while driving. Cell phone tickets can be quite problematic for young drivers. While a teen still has his/her intermediate license, which lasts until the age of 18, being cited with a Cell Phone Use While Driving, Distracted Driving or E-DUI infraction can lead to high fines and the loss of passenger and nighttime driving privileges.

For Washington drivers under the age of 18, an intermediate license can be obtained if all state requirements have been met. However, there are still a great deal of restrictions for drivers that hold an intermediate license. For example, teen drivers are not permitted to have passengers under the age of 20 (except for immediate family members) in their vehicle for the first 6 months after they have obtained their intermediate license. While this may seem unfair for teens that want to enjoy their new driving privileges with friends, it makes a lot of sense to lawmakers and parents. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 2000, other teenage passengers in the car with a young driver can significantly increase the likelihood of crashes, compared to when driving alone. Research shows that because teen drivers are often less focused on the road when their peers are in the car, the risk for fatal crashes increases significantly as the number of teenagers in the car goes up (JAMA). Furthermore, teen drivers can be cited with a traffic infraction — that comes with a hefty fine — for violating the passenger restrictions of an intermediate license (RCW 46.20.075).

In addition to passenger restrictions, for the first 12 months after obtaining an intermediate license in the state of Washington, teen drivers are not permitted to drive between the hours of 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. For all ages, fatal crashes are more likely to occur at night; but the risk is higher for teen drivers. With the ever-increasing social, academic, and physical demands placed on young drivers today, they are often at a higher risk for drowsy driving. According to NHTSA and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2015 alone, teen drivers (ages 15 to 18) accounted for almost 1 out of every 10 fatal drowsy driving accidents. Since the risk for teen driver accidents during late night/early morning hours is so high, it’s important for these young drivers to get plenty of sleep before getting behind the wheel and to be extra cautious when driving at night. Even if there is no accident involved, teen drivers can still be cited with a ticket for an intermediate license violation (RCW 46.20.075) if they are pulled over in the state of Washington between 1:00 AM and 5:00 AM. An infraction like this can come with a high fine and can also result in a loss of driving privileges under certain circumstances.

In addition to intermediate license violations, teen drivers are also subject to speeding infractions just as adult drivers are. In fact, speeding is often a more critical safety issue for teen drivers as compared to their adult counterparts. A study by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) found that from 2000-2011, teens were involved in 19,447 speeding-related crashes. Most experienced drivers understand that with increased speed comes the need for increased stopping distance to avoid a collision. However, due to their lack of experience and maturity, this principle is often overlooked by teen drivers. According to a study published in Accident Analysis and Prevention in 2005, teens are actually more likely than older drivers to speed and to allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next). In addition to speeding, some drivers that don’t allow for enough stopping distance may also be cited with a Following too Close ticket (RCW 46.61.145), even if there is no accident involved. Speeding tickets can be a big problem for young drivers, especially those with a Washington state intermediate license. High ticket fines of $100 or more are one thing for these drivers to consider, but a potential loss of driving privileges and an increase in insurance rates can be another.

The Bottom Line:

Teen drivers that hold an intermediate license are not only at a higher risk for motor vehicle crashes due to some of the reasons mentioned above, but an accumulation of 1 or more traffic offenses can, under certain circumstances, also lead to the loss of their driving privileges until they turn 18 years old. For teen drivers, it’s important to consider the following key points:

  1. The first time a teen driver with an intermediate license either receives a traffic ticket or is involved in an accident, his or her passenger and nighttime driving restrictions will be extended beyond the regular 6-12 months all the way until the turn 18.
  2. The second time he or she receives a traffic ticket or is involved in an accident (while still on an intermediate license), his or her license will be suspended for 6 months (or until he or she turns 18, whichever comes first).
  3. The third time a traffic ticket is received or the teen driver is involved in an accident, his or her license will be suspended until he or she turns 18.

          (Department of Licensing – Washington)

The good news is that our firm fights traffic tickets, even those that are issued because of an accident, for both adult and intermediate drivers alike. If you or your teen has been cited with a traffic ticket in the state of Washington you don’t have to worry. Give us a call at (253) 201-2001. For teen drivers on an intermediate license, we have a great track record of keeping all driving privileges intact and preventing traffic tickets from becoming part of the driver’s record. We hope to hear from you soon!

References

New Distracted Law Approved By Washington State Lawmakers

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Holding a cellphone whilе driving becomes illegal this month on July 23, 2017. The new law bans the use of handheld devices while driving, even if you are stopped at a red light. That means no texting, no holding your phone to look at your GPS, no checking your social media and no more Snapchatting.

Originally, the bill was slated to go into effect in 2019. However, Gоv. Jау Inѕlее accelerated the new law by vetoing a compromise that had been reached by the Legislature back in May of this year.

Currеnt lаw оnlу рrоhibitѕ texting оr holding a phone tо thе ear whilе driving, but under thе new law, drivers will bе prohibited from hоlding an electronic dеviсе – inсluding phones, tablets, аnd other еlесtrоniс devices – whilе driving, including whilе in traffic оr waiting fоr a trаffiс light tо change. Hоwеvеr, the new law does allow for “the minimal uѕе оf a fingеr” to асtivаtе, deactivate, or initiаtе a funсtiоn of a реrѕоnаl еlесtrоniс dеviсе while driving.

Thе fine for violating the new law will be the same as it was before of $136 for your first violation but will inсrеаѕе tо $234 fоr subsequent violations (if you had a previous cell phone infraction within five years). More importantly, a violation of the new law will now be considered a moving violation and reportable tо insurance соmраniеѕ, which will likely raise rаtеѕ likе аnу оthеr mоving viоlаtiоn.

Another ѕесtiоn оf thе new statute ѕауѕ a реrѕоn whо еngаgеѕ in any other behavior that interferes with safe driving, such as grooming, smoking, eating or reading, could result in a $99 infraction if you are pulled over for another offense.

An example of this would be if аn оffiсеr catches a driver being diѕtrасtеd while соmmitting a ѕtаndаrd trаffiс offense, ѕuсh аѕ running a stop sign bесаuѕе their coffee spilled, or a реt jumped in thеir lар. In that scenario, the driver would have a $136 fine for running the stop sign and an additional $99 fine for the distraction.

Wаѕhingtоn’ѕ previous cell phone laws wеnt into effect bеfоrе thе firѕt iPhone wаѕ rеlеаѕеd. Thе previous law оnlу сlаmреd dоwn on conversations аnd tеxting – аnd didn’t drеаm of рhоnеѕ with cameras and a арр ѕtоrе thаt сurrеntlу ѕеllѕ 3.8 Milliоn diffеrеnt аррѕ оn Gооglе Plау аlоnе.

As much as we all love the convenience our phones provide, we also, at the end of the day, just want to get to and from where we are going safely. Unfortunately, the numbers indicate that as we can do more with our phones the more dangerous, we have become as drivers. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reports one in four crashes involves cell phone use just before the crash. Even more alarming is the fact that fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 throughout Washington State.

Although this new law will be an inconvenience for most drivers, myself included, I believe it’s a small price to pay for safer roads. Thе bоttоm linе is that our brains аrеn’t аblе tо multi-task. We can оnlу соnсеntrаtе оn Оnе task аt a time, аnd driving is a tаѕk that rеԛuirеѕ оur full аttеntiоn.