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Washington Court Invalidates Pretrial Substance Abuse Conditions

The Court of Appeals for the State of Washington has held that pretrial conditions for release on personal recognize that require a defendant to undergo an alcohol evaluation, comply with any recommended treatment and attend three weekly self-help meetings were not authorized by court rule and violated the United States and Washington Constitutions.

Robert Butler was charged with a DUI after he rear-ended a King County Sheriff’s vehicle. A test revealed that Butler had a blood alcohol reading of .20. When released on his own recognizance, the state district court imposed the above conditions for Butler to remain on release pending trial. A superior court denied Butler’s habeas petition challenging the conditions, but entered an order prohibiting the state from using any statements he might make during the evaluation against him.

The appellate court found that the pre-release conditions amounted to post-conviction penalties that might be imposed on a probationer. The Court stated such requirements “could involve serious restrictions on [Butler’s] constitutional rights.” Specifically, the Court found the conditions were “direct commands” that constrained Butler’s right to autonomous decision making, his right against self-incrimination and his right to confidentiality.

When Butler tried to comply with the evaluation condition under the protection order, the evaluator terminated the interview and complained to the district court that Butler would not cooperate. The Court of Appeal cited this as a clear violation of Butler’s right against self-incrimination, as the counselor wanted him to discuss the crime he was accused of committing before he went to trial.

The conditions were vacated as not permitted by law. See: Butler v. Kato, 137 Wash.App. 515, 154 P.3d 259 (Wash.App. Div. 1, 2007).

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Related legal case

Butler v. Kato