Former Council Member Venus Velazquez Not Guilty

By Garth O'Brien | December 13, 2008 
Filed Under DUI News

Seattle DUI DefenseSeattle, 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.

DUI Blog Comments

One Response to “Former Council Member Venus Velazquez Not Guilty”

  1. Eric Michl on January 13th, 2009 3:19 pm

    Hi Garth and thanks for the kind words. The Velasquez trial was hard fought by both sides. It is my belief that the jury acquited because she took the stand. They heard that she regreted refusing the breath test, had to get an interlock in order to drive for the next year, and lost the election as a result of this arrest. I think had she not taken the stand and with the jury instructions written as they are, they might have convicted.

    A couple of issues came up during the trial that bothered me. First, she wanted to speak with her own lawyer, who turned out to be her husband and he did not know anything about DUI law. Bowman suggested that I could have let her speak with the public defender after she refused. Problem with this is we get into me determined what lawyers are qualified to give advice in certain cases. This is totally inappropriate and I know in some cases where officers have done similar and the judges have called them on it.

    Next was the blood search warrant issue. I was asked why I did not get one in this case. I normally don’t go that far with things if there is no victim involved, there is no significant DUI history, and the evidence by itself without a blood or breath test is strong enough. I was going to get one in this case but my sergeant shortstopped me… since I would not go to that extent with anyone else I shouldn’t with her.

    Her PBT was .11. Her BA in the station would have likely been .09 or .08. A blood test would be about the same given the extra hour or so to get the warrant, drive her to the hospital, and get the blood drawn.

    It was an unfortunate situation. I removed her from the road because she had no business driving in her condition. Had I let her roll with a PBT of .11 and she crashed later. I’d have some splaining to do..