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the Esquire's Casefiles

Legal education and lessons learned watching cases and people going through them

"Is It Okay to Search Your Car?"

On Saturday, I was visiting a public county park on a lake. I was driving our Honda Odyssey minivan with my wife and four of my five kids. The Sheriff's office was there conducting a "random alcohol check." 

"Hi," said the friendly police officer outside the park entrance as we were waiting in line to pay the $7 parking fee. "We're just conducting a random alcohol check today. Do you have any alcohol with you?" 

I know my rights, so I know that I don't have to answer that question, but I figure it doesn't matter, and there's no reason to cause a stir unnecessarily, so I respond with a smile: "We don't even drink," and my kids add loudly from the back seat, "We're Mormons!" I figured that would be the end of it. It wasn't.

"I'd just like to go ahead and check your car, then. Is that okay?" he asked. It was so subtle. It was so unassuming. My wife said, "sure" at the same time that I said, "no," with a furrow in my brow. The inconsistency was not lost on the police officer,...

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Never Tell This to a Police Officer During a Traffic Stop

A few weeks ago, I was successful in getting a client's DUI case dismissed. You may be thinking that I shouldn't be getting drunk drivers off. But this was no drunk driver. This was a tired mom who'd been up all night with a newborn baby. After taking her older kids to school and on the way back home, a piece of debris came blowing into the road. Tired from lack of sleep, she overreacted, lost control, and ran into a mailbox. That's not drunk driving; it's just an unfortunate accident. No alcohol was involved. No drugs. No impairment.

The police came. They asked her if she had taken anything. She volunteered that she had taken her prescriptions the night before, but nothing else. "What are your prescriptions?" the police asked. She answered, and found herself charged with a DUI because obviously, her prescription medications—which she had taken as prescribed—remained in her system.

Remember that whole "right to remain silent" thing we've been hearing about for decades?...

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