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Posts from the ‘Municipal Law’ Category


Is Your Cellphone Subject to Public Records Act Disclosure?

Traveling businessman checking cell phone
State Supreme Court ruling makes personal cellphones of public employees subject to Washington’s Public Records Act.

Traveling businessman checking cell phoneThe Washington Supreme Court on Aug. 17, 2015, issued its ruling in Nissen v. Pierce County, which ruled that the personal cellphone of a public employee, if used to conduct public business, is now subject to disclosure under the state’s Public Records Act. Read more »


Washington’s Marijuana Law — Sorting out the myths and facts

marijuana law
Learn how marijuana legalization affects DUI laws and investigations.

marijuana lawOne of the many myths surrounding the passing of Initiative 502 was that for the first time, it became illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. Truth is, it has always been illegal to drive under the influence of any intoxicating substance, whether that is alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, or any other prescribed or illegal drug. The method by which a marijuana DUI is investigated has not changed with the passage of I-502. The only true change to the law is how a person can be convicted.

Prior to the passage of I-502, the prosecution had to prove that the driver “was under the influence of, or affected by” the drug (in this case, cannabis). Washington’s new legislation still permits the prosecution to prove its case in that fashion, but the law has added another prong to the statute by which a conviction can be obtained. The only significant change to impaired driving laws is the creation of a “marijuana per se” impaired driving. This limit, set at 5ng/100ml of blood, provides the prosecution another way to prove an impaired driving case, similar to the .08 grams of alcohol that has become synonymous throughout this country as the “legal limit.” In reality, for both alcohol-based and marijuana-based DUIs, the prosecution can still obtain a conviction even if the person tests under the per se limit — if they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual was “affected to an appreciable degree,” regardless of what level is found in their breath and/or blood.

There are many similarities between an alcohol DUI and a marijuana DUI. However, there are also some differences. Read more »


Temple of Justice Update: When a 911 Call Goes Awry

911 callWhen the government negligently fulfills its duty to protect everyone, it usually is not liable to anyone in particular. The Washington Supreme Court, in Munich v. Skagit Emergency Communication Center, (No. 85984-1), dealt with a thorny exception to that rule.

Case Facts

The facts of the case are tragic. While fighting over their property lines, William Munich’s neighbor fired a shotgun at him. Munich ran into his garage and called 911. The operator, a Skagit County employee, assured him that police were on the way and told him to stay put. But on the triage system the operator accidentally entered the call as a non-emergency. As a result, the officer en route did not turn his lights on or speed to Munich’s house. In the meantime, Munich’s neighbor barged into the garage and shot him to death with over a dozen rounds. The officer arrived two minutes later. Read more »


Temple Of Justice Update: How Can Local Governments Structure Debt?

Washington’s Constitution prevents local governments from taking on certain levels of debt without a popular vote. In a case with the unwieldy caption In re Bond Issuance of Greater Wenatchee Regional Events Center Public Facilities District, No. 86552-3 , the Washington Supreme Court decided whether that constitutional provision is implicated when a city promises to pay the debt for a separate entity in the event the entity cannot service the debt.

Case Facts and the Debt Provision

In 2006 several local governments, including the city of Wenatchee, created a municipal corporation to build and run an events center. The corporation issued debt. In 2011, it sought to use that ability to issue long-term bonds. The corporation wanted low interest on the bonds. So, it persuaded Wenatchee to promise that if the corporation couldn’t make payments, Wenatchee would make them. Wenatchee agreed to do so, but first filed a lawsuit asking whether the Constitution authorized such an arrangement.

By a 5-4 vote, the Washington Supreme Court answered “No.” Read more »