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Second Offense DUI Arrests in Bellingham Now Being Sent to Yakima County Jail

Second Offense DUI Arrests in Bellingham Now Being Sent to Yakima County Jail

In last week's episode, DUI attorney Jonathan Rands and KGMI's Dillon Honcoop talked about the overcrowding at Whatcom County's jail. This week they discuss the new procedure of sending second offense DUI arrests to Yakima County jail and the impacts that has on one's life.


Episode Transcript

Dillon
Last week here on the program we talked about the jail. Of course, it's been a hot topic around the county for awhile. People focusing on it more and more. Everyone says we need a new jail, gotta have a new jail right away. The one that we have is too small, dangerous, falling about, all this. Jonathan Rands, local DUI attorney  was in last week and he shared with us how some of this stuff works behind the scenes. And maybe one of the reasons they have so much crowding in there, maybe one of the easy things they could do to deal with the crowding problem at the Whatcom County Jail, at least until they come up with a plan for a new one. Jonathan Rands is back with us this morning. Welcome to the program.

Jonathan
Good morning.

Dillon
Since we last talked, you described it to me as complicating factors. 

Jonathan
Yes.

Dillon
That make this even a more sticky situation. You were talking about here in Whatcom County, this was last week. Here in Whatcom County all agencies book DUI first offense, people charged on their first offense, you know accused of DUI, into jail. Nowhere else in Washington State do they do this.

Jonathan
Nowhere else, to my knowledge in Washington State. By and large vast majority of counties do not do it. I can tell you all up and down the I-5 corridor from north to south, which is where a lot of my friends and colleagues practice, nobody else does a mandatory booking on a first offense. There is a mandatory statutory requirement for booking on a second offense in a lifetime, but not one on a first offense. So we had discussed the utility, if you will, of actually doing that. Especially in light of at least a 12 hour impound hold on the vehicle and things of that nature. And the question was, do we really need to book somebody on a first offense? I think it's a similar question on a second offense, but it's a discussion for a later day in terms of these constitutionality, if you will, of that statue. But I wanted to just take it a little bit further and tell you and everybody else, what the procedure was. I guess kind of a public service announcement in terms of why you don't want to get a Bellingham, specifically a Bellingham police officer making a DUI arrest. Because the jail will not allow Bellingham Municipal cases to be booked at this particular point. My understanding is any case. They're not accepting warrants from Bellingham Municipal. They're not accepting anything but, I think assault for DV with a DV tag. Meaning another household or family member or inundating or marital relationship. So —

Dillon
DV - domestic violence.

Jonathan
Domestic violence. So I think those are the only real exceptions because of the immediate danger that that accused person would pose to the complaining witness. But here's the way it's working. So they're not booking first offense DUIs, which means the protocol is when the person is finished being breath tested or they refuse, rather than walking them down the hall and taking them into the jail, they are doing what they used to do, which was release the person. And I haven't got confirmation of this, but the way it used to work is the police officers would drive that person to, what I would consider a safe area, meaning a well-lite area. It wasn't unusual for people to be dropped of say Sherry's or the local Denny's.

Dillon
You mentioned Denny's last time. It made me really really hungry. Thankfully I had breakfast this morning, so we're good.

Jonathan
But now I believe that they are asking them to contact a friend or somebody that's available that can have face-to-face contact with and release the person to that person. And that's on a first offense. However, Bellingham Municipal's policy, or the prosecutors or the city's desire is to book second offense DUI arrestees. I think there's usually a specific find that because it is a second offense they pose a significantly more risk and danger to the public because it's a second offense. I mean, I guess it kind of makes sense, but that doesn't mean that they're serial offenders. It could be an offense from 25 - 30 years ago, the fact that they know about a second offense in a lifetime. It's more likely that they're going to be booked into jail.

But what jail? You might say. The more aggravating the case, the more likely it is. So let's assume it's a minor car accident, high breath test, second offense. And speaking with the prosecutors in terms of the policy that is moving forward, and in fact on this last Tuesday, I saw this in action for the first time, which I'm about to talk about. Bear with me as I go back to the future.

Dillon
Back the future, nice. Nice.

Jonathan
So here's what's likely to happen. Because they want them booked, Bellingham Municipal has contract with Yakima city jail, or Yakima County Jail. So the officers, I don't think it's the same arresting officer, but they will transport the person down to Des Moines, to a location called SCORE. SCORE's an acronym and I don't know what it stands for, but what happens at the acronym, you're put on a bus. It's a custodial bus and that bus will take you to Yakima County Jail where you're booked in on your DUI out of Bellingham Municipal court. You will then sit there until you can do a telephonic or a, I guess it's a Skype procedure more than anything. You can see the judge and the prosecutor and the defense can see the person. You can see the person and you can have the hearing telephonically. When a person is booked on any crime, they need to be arraigned within 14 days. And so this procedure could take some time. Ideally, an arraignment by court rule is required to be held within 48 hours in some way, shape, or form. So the arraignment is held, and bail would either be set or not set, but usually on a second offense case Bellingham Municipal judges will impose a bail. And conditions of release. And if you meet that bail or those conditions of release, you'll be release.

So let's just take a step back and look at this less closely. What does that mean? Let's say that happens on a Friday or early Saturday morning. That means that you are, takes the time to drive you down to Des Moines; takes the time to get over to Yakima. I did a case over there not too long ago and me leisurely driving over there, which usually means speeding, but at least —

Dillon
Hey, you said it, I didn't say it.

Jonathan
At least I stopped and had dinner.

Dillon
That's right, we talked about my speeding ticket here on this show, so I can't say I'm innocent.

Jonathan
Oh, I didn't say I got caught. So I think you're looking at a four or five hour journey from the King County area. Not to mention the hour and a half to two hours from here.

Dillon
By the way, SCORE is South Correctional Entity.

Jonathan
Thank you.

Dillon
And officially it's the South Correctional Entity Multi-Jurisdiction Misdemeanent Jail.

Jonathan
I love Google.

Dillon
Now it's official.

Jonathan
Now I know what you were typing over there.

Dillon
That was just off the top of my head, come on. Google, are you kidding?

Jonathan
I just thought you were sending out an email and ignoring everything I was saying. No, research, research in action. Ok so, practically speaking, what affect does that have one somebody's life? So you're going to be — this hearing that's set up is going to happen in court, because the way it used to work, is there would be a judicial officer in the jail on the weekend, usually on Sunday mornings to deal with these weekend arrests. They would review documentation. They would set bail or they would allow the person to be released on their own personal recognizance. If they set bail and they were not able to be release that weekend, then there would be a court hearing in the jail. And actual physical court room is in the jail, I don't know how many people know that, but there's court there. And the person would appear in front of the judge and a public defender or private council could be present and could make some arguments and deal with the person being in custody. You know, that takes you from Monday to Sunday afternoon basically. Hopefully nothing bad as far as loss of jobs or things of that has happened. But in the new scenario, you're not going to be put in front of a judge on camera until Monday or Tuesday morning. And this past Tuesday when I was in court for some other matters, one of these hearings was set up. It works pretty well. I mean in the Bellingham Municipal Court they've installed some nice big monitors upstairs and downstairs. You can see the person. You can hear the person. It's just as good as if you're sitting in front of them like we are hear today. So the communication isn't a problem, but let's assume that under that scenario the person enters a plea of not guilty, and their public defender is seated at the desk in court, which makes conferring with your client a little bit difficult.

Dillon
You think? Yeah.

Jonathan
But let's say that the person's released. Now what happens is, or will be released upon certain conditions, and one of those being bail. So what I don't know yet is, whether you post bail for the person at Yakima County or whether you go to the Bellingham Municipal clerk's office and they transmit that information to the Yakima jail. What I can tell you is that there's been a lot of confusion locally where the jail has required, or the judge in the jail has required money to be posted, people go to the jail, post it, but in the meantime the paperwork was transferred down the street to Bellingham Municipal and they didn't get word that the bail was posted, so the person can sometimes still be held until we get that squared away. 

Dillon
Stuck in limbo, basically. 

Jonathan
I have one case where two different people posted bail in two different places and though the person was released, we now have double bail that was posted. So I have some concerns about what happens when bail is posted and a person is 4.5-5 hours away. Then the next concern is, let's say they say, you're free to go and you walk out the doors of Yakima County jail. Now what? You don't have a car. I think that they offer you a bus ticket, or somebody offers or gives you a bus ticket back, but whether that's to Des Moines or Bellingham, the rumor was, I talked to a public defender who said I believe my client was given a ticket back to Bellingham. And of course buses aren't very speedy. You're probalby looking at getting back home in Bellingham Tuesday or Wednesday.

Dillon
Yikes. Imagine the phone calls you'd have to be making throughout that point. Not just to your legal representation, but to your family, to your employer, to your friends, the plans that you have. 

Jonathan 
You're not even going to be able to make that many phone calls because, maybe you're aware of this, but calling out of the jail, any jail, is not that easy. You've got to setup an account. You've got to have money in that account. Or you make collect calls. And people are reticent to receive collect calls today. And most everybody has a cell phone that receiving a collect call is not the easiest thing to do. I've had clients call me from the jail, and it's not necessarily a collect call, but I accept it, I pay for the services and they want a credit card. But by the time they give you the time to enter the numbers from the credit card, especially when you're driving down the road and you've got to pull over to talk to somebody, you've timed out. 

So it's this frustrating experience of this lack of communication. But I see, you present and issue that I am looking at selfishly, because now I have to explain to stressed out spouses, friends, family in terms of where is he or she, and why is he or she ... when am I going to get them back? We just don't know any of these answers yet because, like I said, last week was the very first hearing that I'd seen this in action. And while the communication works ok, while the technology works ok, that's another issue. What if there's no internet on that particular day? I had no internet one day when Comcast had an outage here a couple weeks ago. And I don't know what the court uses or not, but I mean we're very reliant on technology and anything can happen and complicate things. Before anybody says it, well, the person was drinking and driving and couldn't think of a better thing to happen to somebody. But remember that we're at a stage that somebody's always presumed innocent. And what we're balancing is the presumption of innocence with public safety with also that person's constitutional rights and that person's court rule rights in terms of what has to happen and when it has to happen. And yes, technology is great and this might all sound like a great idea right now, but remember DUI can touch anybody that has a driver's license, age 16 to however long you hold a driver's license for. And so we have to be very cognizant, I think, in terms of a Bellingham DUI arrest if you've ever been arrested before, you very well might find yourself east of the mountains quite quickly with very little help locally because nobody in Yakima, when they find out it's a Bellingham arrest, is going to be very familiar with procedures. Or willing or able to take on the case. 

Dillon
Crazy to think that someone who, under the law, is presumed innocent kissing goodbye to day after day after day of their personal life and all this stuff. Again, I understand the public safety issue, and that's why we do some of the things locally that we do, but now with this jail situation, that's crazy. If ultimately someone is not convicted, the facts are found to be off or they don't align with what the accusations were, you're going to have someone who loses a lot. I mean, think about the personal expense, the impact to your life, all of that because of this situation right now.

More coming up with local DUI defense attorney Jonathan Rands here on The Legal Docket on KGMI News Talk 790. 360 306 8136 is his phone number. And I'll share that one more time with you in just a moment. But I also what to mention his website jrandslaw.com. Rands, Jonathan Rands, his last name is spelled r-a-n-d-s, very simply, so jrandslaw all one word dot com. And you can check out his info and background on a lot of this stuff there. And as promised, one more time the phone number 360 306 8136. Back with more in just a moment.

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Dillon
The situation with our Whatcom County jail right now is having a ripple effect through the entire local justice system, I guess if you want to put it that way. Local DUI defense attorney Jonathan Rands in studio with us this morning. We talked about this last week, and some of your concerns about policies here locally that could be actually contributing to the jail overcrowding problem and some suggestions you had of some things they should look at to ease that burden. But the situation continues. The city of Bellingham, Bellingham police and Bellingham Municipal Court having to kind of alter their normal course of business to deal with the situation right now where that's can't sent people directly into the Whatcom County jail like they used to with the booking restrictions that share that Elfo put into effect. We're talking about the impact now this is having on someone's life potentially if they are pulled over, if they're accused of DUI, it could mean days and days of procedure even if they are found innocent on this.

Jonathan
Well, not only if they're found not guilty on this. Remember you're presumed innocent.

Dillon
Right, presumed innocent, found not guilty. Got it. Still working on my lawyer chops there.

Jonathan
It's just constitutional law, Dillon, it's ok. So I have a hypothetical that is not beyond the pale would be somebody who is a second offense, has refused to provide a breath sample, but has tried to or wants to exercise their right for an independent alternative test in the form of a blood test. First of all there's a big problem finding anybody mobile. But what usually happens is the police officers will say you can make that request when we book you into the jail locally. But I'm not going to facilitate that. Now the law doesn't require the officer to facilitate a blood draw if a person requests one. But the law does not allow them to obstruct it or impinge upon it in any way, shape or form. The language is actually they're not allowed to thwart the attempt.

Dillon
Well this process of shipping someone to Des Moines and then over to Yakima and all the procedures, wouldn't that be kind of thwarting the process? 

Jonathan
I think it's going to have a huge impact on it. And let's say a person says, no thank you. I'm not going to give a breath sample. And the police officer says that's your right to do, fine, but stand up, we've got to transport you now. We're going to book you into jail. And the person says, well, I'd like to exercise my right for an independent alternative test. What will likely happen, what I've seen in the past, is they hand the person a phone book, or they give them their cell phone and say, if you can find somebody to come draw your blood at this particular point, fine, but I'm not taking you anywhere. Locally, there's nothing wrong with transporting that person up to St. Joe's having them walk in and the person saying, I'd like a medical or medical legal blood draw. St Joe's quit taking those people some time ago. Ironically, they will give a blood draw at the direction of a police officer though. 

So the question becomes, what's thwarting and what's not thwarting? But assume you can't find anybody in the space of 5 or 10 minutes that you're allotted to make at 1, 2, 3 in the morning. And then its, well, time to go. Well, we've got to drive you down to Des Moines. Are you given access to your phone during transport to maybe arrange for somebody to meet you there? Finally you get to Yakima several hours later, the right to exercise to get a blood draw at that time is useless because it really doesn't mean anything given the way alcohol works in our body and dissipates as quickly as it does. So lots of ramifications that I can see. None that have happened that I can tell about right now, but people don't necessarily hire lawyers to always fix problems; sometimes we're called upon to look at them. Just looking down the road to the impact of one thing leads to the next. And this really has nothing to do specifically with DUI. This has to do with a local problem of a jail being overcrowded and decisions being made of how to deal with it, which are the decisions that have to be made. 

Dillon
It's a bad situation that we have here in Whatcom County right now. And I hope that our local leaders can come up with some real workable solutions soon. Jonathan Rands, thanks for being in this morning and explaining how this works. That's that much more of a warning and you mentioned earlier, public service announcement. A lot of the stuff we talk about with you amounts to that. Just in general with how difficult this process is. Even last week how much more difficult it is with the jail overcrowding. And now specifically now if someone is accused of DUI in Bellingham, this could be an absolute nightmare, guilty or not guilty just even the initial process of what they're going to do if they arrest you on those kinds of charges. 360 306 8136 is the phone number to reach Jonathan Rands' practice in Fairhaven. 360 306 8136 and his website, as I mentioned a little bit earlier jrandslaw.com. That's an excellent resource as well on all matters DUI. jrandslaw.com check it out on the world wide web. Thanks for being here this morning.

Jonathan
Thanks for having me.


Call now for your free consultation (360) 306-8136

“Jonathan, thank you for bringing the best possible outcome today in my case. It was a humbling and very sobering experience and I am mindful everyday of my personal responsibility and actions and those around me. My career has taken off and I’m glad to have this chapter behind me and will move onward past probation!”
Julie
A DUI Client