By Garth O'Brien | December 13, 2008
Filed Under DUI News
Seattle, Washington. Venus Velazquez was arrested for DUI in October 2007 just weeks before an election to secure another term as a City of Seattle Council member. The DUI arrest most likely was the sole reason Velazquez lost her election.
Last week Velazquez was found “not guilty” by a jury of her peers. The jury trial lasted two days with riveting video evidence supporting Velazquez’s legal defense. Her attorney, Bill Bowman, relied heavily upon the video that showed a cordial and steady suspect. The jury did not have blood alcohol evidence as Velazquez refused to provide a breath test sample which benefited her criminal case.
However, a refusal of a breath or blood test in Washington triggers harsh civil penalties imposed by the Department of Licensing. In fact, Velazquez received a driver’s license suspension and is now required to install an Ignition Interlock Device and carry SR-22 insurance.
Velazquez’s arrest added to the quagmire that is Seattle politics. The City Attorney for Seattle, Tom Carr, supported Velazquez’s election opponent, now Councilman Bruce Harrell. Carr’s office was recused from prosecuting the case that normally would have fallen under the City of Seattle’s jurisdiction.
The the arresting officer, Eric Michl, experienced pressure from his comrades. Apparently, some SPD members did not like one of their politicians being arrested. I know Eric Michl, and as a former prosecutor for the City of Seattle I can attest to his honesty and by the book police work. Officer Michl calls it as he sees it, and never embellishes or distorts the facts of the case. It is the prosecutor’s decision to file criminal charges and decides which case is proper for trial. It is the police officer’s job to ensure the community is safe by making a proper arrest based upon the facts presented to the officer at the time of the incident.
The status or position of the DUI suspect should never be considered by an officer in the ultimate decision to make an arrest. It is disheartening some officers were unhappy with Michl’s arrest decision.
Velazquez feels vindicated with the not guilty jury verdict, but this ordeal did cost her a re-election.