On November 16, 2017, the Washington State Supreme Court handed Robertson Law an impressive legal victory. The ruling will impact future cases throughout Washington State.
The case name is State of Washington v. Chelan County, 189 Wn.2d 625, 156 P.3d 1153 (2017). The case involved a trial court ruling to suppress a breath test refusal from a DUI trial. When a prosecutor disagrees with a suppression ruling court rules allow the prosecutor to appeal, but the prosecutor must first ask the court to dismiss the charge. In this case, the prosecutor attempted to circumvent this requirement by trying to appeal the ruling a different way.
The prosecutor filed what is called a Writ of Certiorari, which is a fancy way of saying the judge made a mistake. Writs are rarely used in criminal cases, and can only be used when the court acts in a clearly illegal way. Attorney Ryan Robertson successfully argued to the Court that the prosecutor was mis-using the writ to challenge the suppression ruling rather than following the established rules for an appeal. The prosecutor's use of the writ would have devastating consequences to criminal defendants because prosecutors could appeal in every criminal case without having to dismiss the case first. Criminal appeal cases would clog the courts and take years to resolve.
The Supreme Court agreed, and held the prosecutor was wrong. In so doing, the Court re-affirmed the principle that the “writ” is an extraordinary legal proceeding and should only be used in rare circumstances where a court's ruling is clearly illegal. With this ruling, prosecutors must use only established appellate rules to appeal in future criminal cases.
If you have questions about a criminal appeal, please contact the attorneys at Robertson Law.
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