What sets us apart? Major legal challenges by Robertson Law

Since 2008, the lawyers of Robertson Law have taken a leading role in fighting major legal challenges in Washington State.  It is an important distinction that sets us apart from other firms.

Major Court Challenges to Breath Alcohol Testing and Sobriety Testing

In 2015 Ryan filed "amicus" briefs on behalf of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice in two court cases challenging the admissibility of breath alcohol evidence and sobriety test evidence.

In State v. Mecham, (Case No. 90598-3) Ryan argued that the standardized sobriety tests commonly used in Washington State DUI investigations invades constitutional privacy protections requiring law enforcement officers to obtain a warrant before administering the tests. Furthermore, if a person refuses to perform the tests, absent a warrant the refusal cannot be used as evidence at trial. 

Here is the link to Ryan's amicus brief which was filed with the State Supreme Court. http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/Briefs/A08/90598-3%20Amicus%20(amended)-%20WA%20Foundation%20for%20Criminal%20Justice.pdf

In State v. Baird-Adams, (Case No. 90418-7) Ryan argued that the breath alcohol test administered in Washington State (i.e. DataMaster) also constitutes an invasion of constitutionally protected privacy requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant before administering the test. Furthermore, if a person refuses to perform the test, absent a warrant the refusal cannot be used as evidence at trial. Ryan was subsequently asked to present oral argument and appeared before the State Supreme Court on May 12, 2015.

 Here is the link to Ryan's amicus brief which was filed with the State Supreme Court.http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/Briefs/A08/90419-7%20Amicus%20-%20WA%20Foundation%20for%20Criminal%20Justice.pdf

Here is the link to the oral argument in Baird-Adams. http://www.tvw.org/index.php?option=com_tvwplayer&eventID=2015050011

The Supreme Court has yet to issue rulings on these cases.

Supreme Court Limits Officer Opinion Testimony on DUI Cases

In 2014 Ryan filed an "amicus" brief to the State Supreme Court on behalf of the Washington Foundation for Criminal Justice arguing that the Court must restrict law enforcement testimony regarding certain kinds of sobriety testing to ensure DUI defendants receive a fair trial. A common sobriety test performed during a DUI investigation is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN). Law enforcement officers and prosecutors attempt to use the results of this test to establish the officer's opinion a driver is impaired. In the case State v. Quaale, 182 Wn.2d 191 (2014), the Supreme Court agreed with Ryan's analysis that the results of the HGN test may not be used to directly establish an opinion of impairment.

"Here, the testimony in question is distinguishable from that in Heatley because Trooper Stone's opinion was based solely on the HGN test, which is expert testimony subject to our decision in Baity. As has been explained, the HGN test can indicate the presence of alcohol in a suspect but it cannot establish impairment. In contrast, the officer in Heatley based his testimony on observations of the defendant, such as the defendant's unsteady balance, the defendant's bloodshot eyes, and the odor of alcohol on the defendant's breath. A lay witness may express an opinion on another person's intoxication when the witness had the opportunity to observe the affected person. Id. at 580, 854 P.2d 658. Unlike the officer in Heatley, Trooper Stone based his opinion on expert and not lay testimony, and in doing so, he gave impermissible opinion testimony that constituted an improper opinion on guilt. This improper opinion on guilt violated Mr. Quaale's constitutional right to have a fact critical to his guilt determined by the jury."

State v. Quaale, 182 Wn.2d 191 (2014).

Here is the link to Ryan's amicus brief which was filed with the State Supreme Court. http://www.courts.wa.gov/content/Briefs/A08/89666-6%20Brief%20Amicus%20Curiae%20of%20Washington%20Foundation%20for%20Criminal%20Justice.pdf

Equal Protection Challenge - Victory in Division One

In 2011, Ryan filed a challenge in the Court of Appeals to Washington's 2009 statute which now requires drivers to waive their right to appeal a license suspension in order to obtain a limited license to drive called an "ignition interlock license." The appeal alleges that this law violates due process and equal protection rights of drivers, who must make the Hobson's choice to forego their right of judicial review to obtain the privilege to drive once their license is suspended.  A decision was published by the Court of Appeals, Division One, on September 30, 2013.  You can read the Court's published opinion HERE.

Here is Ryan's appeal brief which was filed with Division One:

Department of Licensing Class Action

In 2012, Andrea and Ryan filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of all persons in Washington who were required to pay a fee (of $200 or $375) in order to receive procedural due process.  Defendants facing DUI-related charges must pay this cost to be permitted a hearing to address administrative suspension of their driver's licenses when arrested for DUI offenses.  The lawsuit is based upon the premise that you should not be required to pay for access to justice when such an important property interest is at stake.  Robertson Law teamed up with the firm of Williamson & Williams, a class action boutique firm who worked with Andrea on the Red Light litigation.The matter is currently pending review by the State Supreme Court.  The statement of grounds for direct review can be seen here:

Scientific Challenges

In January 2008, Andrea was one of three lawyers who took part in a massive challenge exposing systemic fraud and poor scientific practices in the Washington State Toxicology Laboratory.  As a result of a nearly two week long challenge, an unprecedented ruling was handed down by a panel of three judges in the King County District Court. The decision was widely covered by local media.  The ruling resulted in the suppression of thousands of breath test results in DUI-related arrests for over two years in King County.

The ruling for that challenge can be read here:

Three judge panel suppression order based on scientific challenges

When the three judge panel was reconvened in 2010, Andrea was again part of the same three lawyer team which addressed the changes to the Toxicology Laboratory since the original litigation.  While many improvements and upgrades had been made to the scientific process of the Lab, the focus of the 2010 litigation shifted to attacking the presentation of breath test values to a judge or jury in the absence of uncertainty of the measurement.  Uncertainty is similar to the concept of "margin of error." The true value of a measurement (in this context, the true breath alcohol concentration of a defendant) can never truly be known. Even the best and most accurate instruments can yield only an estimate of the true value.  Uncertainty expresses the range in which the true value of a measurement is likely to occur.  The King County District Court panel issued the first decision of its kind in the nation, requiring the State to present evidence of measurement uncertainty when introducing breath test results.

The ruling related to uncertainty can be read here:

Suppression in the absence of measurement uncertainty

The State has appealed this ruling, and Ryan is co-counsel for the defense on appeal.  We expect that the State Supreme Court will review this issue in the near future.

Red Light Camera Infraction Class Action

In 2009, Andrea joined forces with four other attorneys, in a Statewide challenge to the issuance of traffic camera infractions in cities throughout Washington.  Filed as a class action lawsuit in King County, it was soon moved to federal jurisdiction, based on the combination of both municipal defendants and corporate defendants (the two corporations which produce and maintain red light camera equipment in various jurisdictions).

For over a year, the lawsuit was heavily contested and wound its way through federal district court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  While ultimately the suit was dismissed, the lawsuit brought awareness to the public of the unjust implementation of this technology.  Since that time, some cities have abandoned their camera infraction programs, and others have scaled back their use of the technology.

Here is the original complaint filed in 2009:

Red Light Class action complaint

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The attorneys of Robertson Law have a proven track record of creative and effective advocacy for clients throughout the state of Washington.

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Andy Robertson has a proven track record of creative and effective advocacy for clients facing criminal charges throughout the state of Washington. Ryan Robertson's practice focuses exclusively on high-quality creative appellate representation in criminal and administrative matters, as well as expungements, vacation of records, and petitions to seal.