Attorney Robb Spensley wins client acquittal in felony trial

Pittsford Attorney Robb Spensley wins acquittal for his client, Eugene Diou, after a full day trial in Vermont Superior Court Criminal Division before Judge Thomas Zonay. Mr. Diou had been accused by his then husband Richard Dayton. The jury deliberated for less than an hour before they found Mr. Diou not guilty of all charges.

Mr. Diou had been charged with Aggravated Domestic Assault in the First Degree, a felony that carried a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, the state was proceeding on a theory of strangulation. The state also sought the lesser included Domestic Assault charge. Attorney Spensley informed the jury that his client acted in self-defense. “We are obviously very pleased that the jury reached the proper verdict. Mr. Diou acted in self defense after being assaulted in his home,” Attorney Spensley stated from his Pittsford office.

Vermont Attorney Evan Chadwick Successfully Completes Drug Recognition Expert Training

Attorney Evan Chadwick of Chadwick Law, traveled to Alpharetta Georgia in order to participate in a vigorous three day training regarding the process and science behind a Drug Recognition Evaluation that accompanies many Vermont DUI prosecutions.

Attorney Chadwick received a thorough overview in the 2015 NHTSA/IACP DRE Pre-School & DRE 7-Day training curriculum that officers attend nationwide. Emphasis was made on analyzing a DRE case file, to include, the DRE Face Sheet & DRE Narrative report, how to compare the two with one another and with the Drug Symptomology Chart, as well as emphasis on each specific step involved in a 12-step DRE evaluation. Time was also be spent covering the IACP’s rules and regulations that officers are required to follow in order to become certified and to recertify as a DRE.

“The training I received was essential in furthering my understanding of the science behind a Drug Recognition Evaluation and what errors officers make in conducting these evaluations”, stated Attorney Chadwick. “It is a training that anyone who is serious about defending DUIs in Vermont needs to take in order to best serve their clients”.

Will my insurance company know about my Vermont traffic ticket?

One major question many non-Vermont residents ask when they are facing a traffic ticket in Vermont is whether their insurance carrier will be notified of the violation.  There is not a clear answer to this question, as each insurance company’s policy differs with regards to how often they run a motorists DMV record.  However, the State of Vermont has made it incredibly easy for any legitimate insurance company, employer or other agency to quickly gain access to a motorist’s Vermont DMV violation record.

The State of Vermont has partnered with Vermont Information Consortium, LLC to set up a portal that, for a $75 annual fee, allows for most any legitimate business, to check an individual’s driving or criminal record.  There are no cumbersome forms to fill out, or significant lag time between the request and production of the record.  All the company needs is the driver’s name and date of birth and they can quickly review whether that individual has been convicted of violating any traffic laws in the State of Vermont.

Many may believe that if they do not reside in the State of Vermont, that their motor vehicle violation can remain their secret if they just pay the fine and move on.  However, with the ever improving technology of State agencies, no motorist is free from the ever watching eye of those companies who may profit off finding a record of a motorists violations.

How is the Vermont move over law enforced?

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The Law:  23 VSA Section 1050 states:

(a) Upon the approach of a law enforcement vehicle which is sounding a siren or displaying a blue or blue and white signal lamp, or both, or upon the approach of an ambulance, fire apparatus, a vehicle operated by a volunteer firefighter, EMS personnel, or a motor vehicle used in rescue operations as set forth in section 1252 of this title which is sounding a siren or displaying a red signal lamp, or both, all other vehicles shall pull to the right of the lane of traffic and come to a complete stop, until the law enforcement or emergency vehicle has passed. However, an enforcement officer who is present shall have full power to regulate traffic irrespective of the foregoing provisions.

(b) The operator of a vehicle which is approaching a stationary law enforcement vehicle which is displaying a blue or blue and white signal lamp, or of a vehicle which is approaching a stationary ambulance, fire apparatus, a vehicle operated by a volunteer firefighter, or a motor vehicle used in rescue operations as set forth in section 1252 of this title which is displaying a red signal lamp or a stationary towing and repair vehicle displaying an amber signal lamp shall proceed with caution, and, if traveling on a four-lane highway, and safety conditions permit, make a lane change. (emphasis added)

There are numerous ways Vermont law enforcement officers can selectively enforce the provisions of the Vermont mover law.  As highlighted above, Section (a) of the Vermont Move over law is pretty clear as to a motorist obligations when they see emergency personnel with active lights traveling down the same road: the motorist must pull over and come to a complete stop until the emergency vehicle has passed them by.  

 

Section (b) of the Vermont moreover law however, is a little more vague.  In sum, a motorist must pass an emergency vehicle with caution and if they can do so safely, pull over the next lane if they are traveling on a 4 lane highways, such as the interstate.  On numerous occasions this firm has been hired to defend tickets that allege a violation of section (b) because they either could not safely move over.  This becomes a point of perception if litigated before a Vermont Judicial Bureau judge and is a primary reason why all discovery requests (such as the cruiser video) should be secured to see exactly what the conditions were at the time of the stop to ensure that a motorist’s rights are protected every step of the way.

Is a speed trap legal in Vermont?

In order to determine the viability of a speed trap defense, one must first ask themselves, what is the legal definition of a Vermont speed trap.  A speed trap is defined as a speed limit that is unjustified based on specific factors set forth by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association as well as the local Governor’s Highway Safety Program.  Based on the evaluation of engineers in these programs, local and state speed limits are set based on specific factors including the type of roadway, the visibility of drivers while on that specific stretch of roadway and population density.  It is the intent of these evaluations to reasonably limit the speed limit to ensure the safety of drivers and pedestrians alike.  If it is found that a Vermont speed limit sign was posted at a speed lower then what a study would conclude, then it could be defined as a “speed trap” and subject to attack at a Vermont traffic hearing.

However, providing that a speed limit is in fact not supported by NHTSA or GHSP is a difficult task.  Further, even if an argument can be made that the speed limit does not fit the defined criteria, once would also have to show what criteria that specific stretch of roadway would fit into and what an appropriate speed limit would be.  Most traffic judges will limit such an inquiry at trial, given that the purpose of the traffic court is to efficiently resolve cases, not allow for hours of testimony as to why a speed limit was in fact a speed trap.

One of the only real ways to implement change is to demand a study be conducted on the stretch of roadway by a NHTSA or GHSP engineer.  If this is conducted, the study itself could be considered a public record and could potentially be admissible in Court.  Certain stretches of road, especially on Vermont Route 100 may be subject to additional studies in the future and could be a key piece of evidence if a favorable result is concluded that will show that a speed limit is unreasonably low and thus is considered a speed trap.

 

 

Expanding the Vermont Traffic Stop: Know your Rights

Most people are unaware of the law related to illegal expansion following a motor vehicle stop. The police routinely perform motor vehicle stops on motorists in Vermont, which can often result in a Vermont speeding ticket, some other Vermont traffic ticket, or a criminal citation related to DUI. Most often, it is the quality of the driving itself that alerts the police to a particular vehicle. But what happens if the police use a minor traffic violation, and the resulting motor vehicle stop, as a mechanism to investigate the driver or passengers pertaining to issues that are unrelated to a Vermont speeding ticket or Vermont traffic ticket?

The vast majority of motor vehicle stops in Vermont are related to speeding and minor traffic infractions. But once a motor vehicle stop has occurred, the police are only permitted to investigate and inquire about issues directly related to the reason for the stop. They are not allowed to detain you any longer than it takes for them to issue you the ticket.

Does this mean that, following a stop based upon a speeding infraction, an officer would be forced to ignore and walk away from the obvious open alcohol container, plainly visible illegal substances, or a driver who appeared visibly intoxicated? No! The driver or occupants would clearly be in more trouble. However, if the police make no such observations, they are not allowed to use this opportunity to further inquire about other potential criminal or wrongful conduct. This is an illegal expansion.

At Chadwick Law, we not only specialize in defending Vermont speeding tickets and Vermont traffic tickets, we specialize in challenging illegal expansions. As a motorist in Vermont, be aware of your rights. If you are pulled over related to a Vermont speeding ticket or Vermont traffic ticket, politely decline to engage in conversation of issues that are not related to the stop itself and decline any requested searches. The common result of challenging a case due to an officer’s illegal expansion of a stop is that the criminal charge is dismissed. Protect yourself with awareness.

Do license points transfer from Vermont to other states?

One of the most frequently asked questions as a result of a Vermont traffic ticket are whether the points issued as a result of of the violation transfer to the operator’s home state.  In short, there is no exact answer to this question.  Each State runs their own point system when it comes to civil traffic infractions.  As a result, each state has their own internal policies with regards to whether or not points are shared from one state to another.

It is important to note however, that regardless of whether points transfer, the most important question to those living outside the State of Vermont is whether the violation itself transfers.  The violation (defined by a code) is what carries with it the potential for increased insurance rates, which as posted previously can cause motorists thousands of dollars in hiked premiums over the coming years.

What insurance companies are looking for when they check a motorist’s driving record is whether the violations themselves carry with them an indication that they fall under a category of “moving infractions”.  This means that the violation charged was the direct result of the manner in which an operator drove their motor vehicle.  Speeding violations are the first that come to mind.  However, there are other violations such as running a red-light, failure to yield and driving too fast for conditions which carry the same connotation as speed does in the eyes of insurance companies.

As a result, the overall motivation for any operator looking to contest their Vermont traffic ticket is to avoid as much of the “moving violation” indication on their driving record as possible.  This will minimize the damage of a driving record check and will ensure that an out-of-state motorist will not be hit as severely or at all, when their insurance company checks up on the driving status of an individual driver.

 

 

DUI checkpoints net more than just DUIs

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The sign should read, “law compliance checkpoint ahead”, as officers are on the lookout for all types of potential criminal offenses.

A favorite tool for law enforcement in detecting drivers operating under the influence of alcohol, DUI checkpoints have long been effective in law enforcement netting arrests on busy holiday weekends such as Memorial Day and the 4th of July.  However, drivers would be remiss to believe that these checkpoints are present only to detect potential alcohol based offenses along busy Vermont roads.  Instead, in recent years, law enforcement have honed their skills to detect other offenses, such as drug consumption that can also result in a motorist be inglead off to the mobile command post to be processed for a criminal offense.

Of the most common offenses detected by law enforcement is the possession and consumption of marijuana.  Although possession of small amounts of marijuana have been decriminalized (resulting in only a civil infraction, not a criminal citation for possession of under 1 oz.), the detection of marijuana can now lead to not only a hefty fine, but also increased scrutiny by law enforcement to see if the operator is under the influence of marijuana while driving the motor vehicle.  Although this is not your standard run of the mill DUI investigation, drug recognition experts are being trained at increased levels to be able to respond quickly to a report of a potential driving while high infraction.

These offenses carry with them the same penalties as a driving under the influence of alcohol charge (maximum of 2 years in jail and loss of license for up to 6 months).  Further, even if a motorist is found not be under the influence of marijuana, but is under the age of 21, they can face up to a 6 month license suspension as a result of merely possession a small amount of marijuana.

DUI checkpoints are misleading in name and in purpose.  Law enforcement use these checkpoints to have unfettered brief contact with a magnitude of individuals to detect and arrest those suspected of violating Vermont laws.  Thus, when approaching one of these checkpoints it is important to know that all actions committed by the driver will be heavily scrutinized and that you will not be off the hook if you have not consumed alcohol, but may have something else of interest in the vehicle that a well trained Vermont law enforcement officer may be able to detect.

Will marijuana legalization change Vermont DUI laws?

By most accounts, marijuana legalization is now considered a foregone conclusion in the State of Vermont. According to a recent Castleton State College Poll, 56 percent of Vermont adults now support legalization. Further confidence in legalization has been voiced by the Governor Peter Schumlin, Speaker of the House, Shap Smith, and Attorney General, William Sorrell.

With momentum growing, the State elected to commission the Rand Corporation, to conduct a financial analysis of the cost benefits of marijuana legalization to the State of Vermont.

In its recently released report, it was disclosed by Rand that Vermont could generate up to $75 million in tax revenue per year. This figure certainly rings bells in the minds of legislators, as they faced a $113 million budget shortfall by the end of 2014.

With the potential benefits in mind, it should come as no surprise that Jeannette White, D-Windham County and Joe Benning R-Caledonia County, introduced a 41-page bill in December proposing legalization of the possession of up to one ounce for recreational use and cultivation of that totaled 100 square foot or less.   White has long supported legalization, as she led the effort to approve Act 76, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2013.

Despite the optimism of passing a legalization bill in 2016, there remain some headwinds for legalization the strongest of all being the interpretation and enforcement of DUI laws when it comes to Driving while under the influence of marijuana or Driving While High (DWH). If this delay lasts too long, the bill’s approval may outlast Schumlin’s 3rd and final term, causing the bill to be placed on the desk of an unknown governor.

Currently, Vermont law does not give much clarity on the subject of DWH, merely stating that someone is under the influence of marijuana or other drugs if the impairment, is “noticeably and appreciably” affecting a person’s ability to drive a vehicle safely.

“Noticeably and appreciably” certain appear to lend themselves subjective observations that allow for significant discretion by individual law enforcement officers.  However, convictions for DWH have posed significant challenges for prosecutors to scientifically prove that the motorist was influenced by marijuana at the time of the stop due to the lack of a numeric standard for impairment that could be relied upon similar to the current .08 law for alcohol.

Now, with legalization on the negotiating table, reports have surfaced that lawmakers are considering amending Vermont DUI laws to allow for the admission of saliva tests, which could be conducted roadside. These tests are alleged to be able to detect recently ingested marijuana and provide a reading that could give prosecutors further tools to prove DWH charges.

In a 2013 report from the Drugged Driving Coalition, Greg Nagurney, the appointed representative of the State’s Attorneys and Sheriffs, stated that a majority of county prosecutors and sheriffs supported an amendment to DUI laws to allow prosecutors to charge motorists with DWH if impairment could be detected “to the slightest degree” (23 VSA 1201(a)(2). If this low standard of proof is approved as part of the legalization bill, it may be difficult for any motorist who has consumed marijuana in the last 30 days to immediately refute law enforcement suspicions of DWH. If these suspicions are supported by other evidence such as smell, bloodshot eyes or confusion, a probable cause arrest could very well ensue even in cases when the high from smoking marijuana has long subsided.

 

 

 

Do you know what the speed limit is?

Proper posting of speed limit signs is a predicate requirement to any speeding violation.  Vermont roads are known to be windy and, at times, closely closed in by foliage.  As a result, speed limit signs at times can be difficult if not impossible to view.

If charged with a speeding violation, the first step in any defense is to go back to where the last speed limit sign was displayed and take a picture.  If the sign is covered by leaves or other debris or is simply in a place that cannot be viewed easily from the road, this can play into a successful resolution of your Vermont speeding ticket.

So before you leave the scene of the stop with that dreaded white ticket in your hand, be sure to capture everything you can about the scene and the road leading up to it.  The circumstances may be just what you need to be able to negotiate your ticket or defend it at trial when your Vermont Judicial Bureau hearing comes around.