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Posts made in December, 2014

By on Dec 23, 2014 in Civil Rights, Communication, Constitution, Criminal, First Amendment, Police | 0 comments

As the year winds its way out, many people are discussing 2014. They’ll talk about what they accomplished, what they failed to accomplish, and what they hope to accomplish in the future. These are great conversations to have. Another conversation emerged too. A conversation about the criminal justice system in America. Being a criminal defense attorney, I regularly have thoughts on the system. But today’s post is about the growing social consciousness of the criminal justice system itself. 2014 was a banner year for non-attorney, non-police officers to take a hard look at how our country accuses and processes people charged with crimes. One of the biggest pieces of media that got people talking was NPR’s excellent Serial podcast. Serial was a 12-week look at the prosecution and conviction of Adnan Syed, a Muslim-American convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee. This post is not about the process as applied to Syed. Serial asks the listeners to review the evidence and draw their own conclusions, and I encourage you to do so. But whether Syed is guilty of the crime he was convicted of, no one denies there were irregularities in the process, from the investigation and interrogation, all the way through Syed’s trial and appeal. I talked to a number of people who were genuinely surprised those irregularities existed, and continue to exist, in our criminal justice system. Serial got people talking about how the system stands now, and that alone is an impressive accomplishment. A public defender in the Bronx wrote an op-ed, springboarding off of Serial to shine a light on the flaws in our system. It’s a great read, although luckily in Washington State where I practice, a lot of the issues the author point to do not occur here. For example, Washington does have a liberal discovery system, where both the defense and prosecution turn over materials they anticipate they will use or could be used at trial. There are some exceptions, like attorney-client statements, but reports and recordings are by default exchanged. I think it’s a fantastic and fair way to conduct the serious business of criminal justice and I would support any system that moves to that model. I imagine if you were...

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By on Dec 8, 2014 in Communication, Criminal, DUI, Noah Weil, Police, Traffic Ticket | 0 comments

The last time I was pulled over was in 2007 for expired tabs. It was annoying. I paid the ticket. The second to last time I was pulled over was in 2004 and that one was more interesting. It was fairly late at night, around 11:00 pm. In the car I was driving was my girlfriend (now wife), and two of our other friends who were in town visiting Seattle. We had visited a bar around 7:30, then checked out some of Seattle’s nightlife. At the bar I had a beer. I was pulled at 11:00 because I had made an illegal left turn at a strangely laid-out intersection (Seattle has a lot of these). After I made my left I saw the trademark flashing lights in my rear-view mirror. I pulled over. Officer: “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Me: “I do not.” Officer: “You made an illegal left turn back there. It’s a weird intersection, a lot of people make that mistake.” Me: “Oh, sorry.” Officer: “Have you been drinking tonight?” Me: “Yes I had one beer earlier tonight.” Officer: “Would you mind blowing into my portable breath test machine?” Me: “Sure.” Officer (checks readout): “Ok looks like you’re fine. Thanks for being honest with me. I’m not going to write you a ticket. Have a nice night.” Me: “Thanks!”   With the benefit of hindsight, I can say my actions that night were very risky. Not drinking, I was clearly not over the limit over appreciably affected by alcohol. But telling the officer I had been drinking exposed me to all sorts of trouble. The officer was perfectly within his rights to ask, and I was perfectly within my rights to decline to answer. “But Noah,” you might say. “It worked out great! No ticket, no arrest, and you got a blog post out of it!“ That’s totally true, it worked out fine. Had I declined to answer the officer’s questions he may have written me a ticket for being obstinate. He may have said I had bloodshot, watery eyes and obviously smelled like alcohol, and arrested me for DUI. Who knows? But I know with certainty that if that officer heard me admit...

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