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Just Reported

Ten Injured In Multiple Car Crash

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Detectives are investigating after a truck careened into at least nine other vehicles in South Seattle just before the evening commute.

Witnesses said that just before 5 PM Friday the suspect’s vehicle was traveling at speeds in excess of 65 MPH south along the 9200 block of Rainier Ave. South.  They said the  70-year-old driver lost control of his truck and slammed into at least 9 different cars before coming to rest against a tree in the 9400 block of Rainier Ave. South. One of the involved vehicles was a Seattle Police car.  The officer, who suffered minor injuries, was able to free himself from his mangled car, make his way through the scene, and place the suspect under arrest before any more damage could be done.

Ten people were injured, two of which were children.  Many of the injured people had to be cut from their vehicles by firefighters. Medics transported two adults to Harborview Medical Center (HMC) with critical, but non-life threatening injuries.  The remaining eight people were taken to HMC for evaluation.

Traffic collision investigators responded to the scene and are investigating what caused the collisions.  A drug recognition expert was called to evaluate the suspect.  The driver will be booked into King County Jail for investigation of vehicular assault.

Defense attorneys question deputies’ use of marijuana citations

When an Orange County deputy sheriff pulled over a University of Central Florida student not far from campus early July 26 and found a small bit of marijuana in the car he was driving, the deputy offered a potentially enticing option.

The deputy told Luis Cruz he was facing a misdemeanor charge, but could fix it by paying a fine to the Clerk of Courts Office, similar to a traffic ticket, the student recalled Friday.

“He said it would turn into a civil citation and that it would be nothing,” said Cruz, 28. He was handed a document that looked like a traffic ticket. “In my mind, it just didn’t sound correct.”

The young man’s lawyer, Orlando attorney Lyle Mazin, says that’s because it wasn’t.

Though it’s unclear how long the practice has been in use, some defense attorneys in Central Florida say they weren’t aware of it until recently.

Rather than making arrests, deputies in some cases have been issuing citations for misdemeanor marijuana possession charges and telling accused offenders that they can resolve their cases by paying a fine.

But by doing so, the defense lawyers say, they admit wrongdoing without ever speaking to an attorney.

On Thursday, Winter Park lawyer Donald Lykkebak sent a letter to Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Frederick Lauten, expressing concern that the use of no-appearance-required citations “discourages the exercise of due process.”

Lykkebak, a lawyer in Florida since 1970 who was certified as an expert in criminal trial law in 1987, wrote that he was unaware this was going on until he was approached by a potential client who said she had been told she could “just pay a fine” without appearing in court.

“I told her the charge was a criminal misdemeanor and she could not ‘just pay a fine’…. Foolish me,” Lykkebak said in his letter to Lauten.

Amy Carter, Central Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers president-elect and a former assistant public defender, also wasn’t familiar with the practice. In a warning email to the association’s members Thursday afternoon, she said she was “alarmed and outraged.”

While a citation may seem like a perk — you get to avoid a trip to jail, after all — the defense lawyers say there are serious downsides in conceding a misdemeanor pot charge, such as difficulty getting a job if an employer conducts a background check.

Lykkebak and Carter said it also could prevent someone, for example, from getting into medical school, or could affect a non-citizen’s immigration status.

Steve Foster, a former prosecutor for the State Attorney’s Office who now works for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, said the practice is nothing new.

“I can only tell you, anecdotally, that this procedure has been in effect for at least, I’d say… since 2003, and maybe even before,” Foster said.

He cited an administrative order signed by former Chief Judge Belvin Perry in 2003 and last amended last year, which authorizes the practice. It says an officer opting to issue a citation should explain that paying the fine “shall result in the withholding of the adjudication of guilt,” which lawyers say is not the same as the charge being dropped.

It was unclear Friday how long the Sheriff’s Office has been issuing the citations. A spokesman did not reply to emailed questions Friday.

State Attorney Jeff Ashton was in trial and unavailable, as was his top misdemeanor prosecutor, officials said. Chief Judge Frederick Lauten was out of the office Friday, a spokeswoman said.

The defense lawyers also noted that some of the accused have legitimate defenses to their charge.

In Mazin’s case, for example, so little marijuana was found in the car his client was driving that the arresting deputy wrote in his report he had to use it all in his test kit, and had none left to submit as evidence.

“Meanwhile, Cruz is left standing with what he thinks might just be the equivalent of a traffic ticket, but what in reality is a criminal charge,” Mazin said, adding: “These things are wolves in sheep’s clothing.”

The charge against Cruz was dropped after he hired his attorney.

On Friday, Lykkebak said he worries that young people are more likely to face a minor pot charge, and therefore more likely to be affected by the procedure.

“And they’re also the ones that would like to choose the easy way out rather than have to call dad and tell him, ‘I have to hire a lawyer. I got in trouble up here at school,'” he added.

Carter said an unchallenged marijuana charge may seem minor, but its impacts are lasting and hard to foresee.

“There’s just so many things that could happen down the road that you’re not aware of,” she said.

jeweiner@tribune.com or 407-420-5171

Copyright © 2014, Orlando Sentinel

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