Holiday Safe Travel Tips

The holidays are quickly approaching and your schedule is likely packed with festive activities and parties. If you are planning on heading out of town to visit family or friends for the holidays or for the day, it is important to keep in mind safety tips for traveling.

photo via Ris Media

By Car

Check your vehicle before heading out. Make sure you have a full tank of gas, your tires are properly inflated and your lights and windshield wipers are working. Pack a winter weather emergency kit in case of inclement weather on your trip.

  • Don’t drink and drive. If you have been partaking in festive celebrations involving alcohol do not get behind the wheel. Have a sober driver get behind the wheel instead. Even if it is the next day make sure you are awake and alert before beginning your road trip.
  • Wear your seatbelt and make sure kids and pets are properly bucked up. Make sure your child is in the proper safety restraints for their size and age (car seat, booster seats.) Pets should not be allowed to roam around the car, protect them with a cat or dog travel carrier, pet barrier in the trunk, or seat belt harness.
  • Have your cell phone available but don’t text/call while driving. Keep your attention on the road, not your electronic devices. It is important to have a phone easily accessible in case of an emergency or inclement weather.
  • Check the weather along your route. Have an idea of what you are heading into. If you are facing snow, rain, sleet, ice, hail, thunderstorms etc. you should be prepared.
Photo: Sean Locke

Photo: Sean Locke

By Plane 

  • Pack your presents in carry-on luggage to avoid theft and damage.
  • Travel light. Although you may need to take warm winter clothes (hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters…) with you don’t pack things you don’t need. It will make for an easier trip if you aren’t weighed down with heavy luggage or extra bags.
  • If you have medications you are bringing make sure to keep the medications in their original packaging and keep in your carry on bag. If your luggage is lost you don’t want to have to deal with not having important medications.
  • Make sure a friend or family member has your travel itinerary and that you have arranged for transportation once you arrive at the airport. The holidays are busy and many people will be waiting for taxis and shuttles.
  • Leave expensive jewelry, cameras and electronics at home. You don’t want to risk getting robbed or potential damage.
  • It is flu season, wash your hands often and carry hand sanitizer with you. Avoid touching your face or eyes. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve. If you have been sick, consider postponing your trip.


Preparing ahead for your travels will help you avoid stress during the holidays. Follow these tips to help you arrive safe, happy and on time to your holiday destination.


Holiday Theft Prevention Tips

The holiday season is among us, a time for celebration and giving. However with all of purchases, presents and merry partying comes the threat of break-ins and theft. Protect your home, vehicle and your family this holiday season with these seven tips.

1. Leave the lights on. If you are heading out of town to visit family or just going down to the mall for some last minute gifts don’t leave your house in the dark. Empty houses are targets during the holidays. Have your outside lights and holiday lights on timers. Ask a friend or neighbor to pick up your newspaper and mail if you will gone for a few days.

2. Don’t have your gifts visible. After a day of shopping make sure you put your gifts in the trunk of your car, if your trunk is visible cover your packages with a blanket to keep the bags out of view. If you have a Christmas tree in your front window, leave gifts hidden out of sight until Christmas, if all of the wrapped gifts are in view you are more likely to be a target.

3. Install a security system. Using a security alarm can alert you or the police of an intrusion. Install pet-friendly motion detectors in areas like your living room or front door area. The motion detectors will go off when a person triggers them but ignores anything weighing less than 60 lbs. You don’t want Fido or Fluffy triggering the alarm and causing a panic!

4. Lockup valuables. Purchase a safe and keep any valuables, important documents and momentos in here. Keep track of your holiday gift purchases. In the event of a theft you will likely be able to recover some of the value lost from your insurance.

5. Invest in a front-door security camera. (Or at least a decoy!) With many packages and deliveries getting left on your front porch many potential thieves may be tempted to make a grab, installing a security camera at the front door can help deter people from entering. If you don’t want to spend the money on an actual camera system, purchase a realistic decoy that will do the trick.

6. Install a password protected or fingerprint keyless entry lock. Fingerprint locks can give you a little extra protection and the high tech entry systems will keep a record of who goes in and out.

7. Don’t open the door without checking to see who is outside. If you don’t have a peephole- install one and make sure that you can get to the door without being seen from the outside. Teach your children not to open the door if they do not know who is there or to wait for an adult.


These are just a few tips to keep in mind when trying to stay safe and secure and prevent theft during the holiday season.


What is “Social Host Liability?”

Have you ever hosted a party and served alcohol? If so, you could face legal consequences if one of your guests drives and injures someone or if your guest is under 21. These laws are put in place to deter hosts from allowing intoxicated guests to drive after attending a private social event.

What is the definition of “social host”?

A social host is someone that provides alcohol to your guests for free. It can be a dinner, house party, or graduation party hosted at your residence, or it can be an event you host in a rented property.

What is the liability?

Common law generally says that social hosts are not liable for injury or death related to alcohol they serve to guests, there are exceptions.

  1. Adults have a duty to refrain from negligently or intentionally supplying alcohol to minors. If they knew the minor was driving under the influence they can be liable.
  2. Party hosts have a responsibility not to “furnish” (make available) or “serve” (deliver) alcohol to minors.


What does WA law say?

In RCW 66.44.270 it states, “It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control.”

What are the consequences?

Penalties include a fine of up to $5,000 and one year in jail.

Parents, what can you do?

Hosting a party and allowing underage drinking sends the message that underage drinking and breaking the law is ok. Draw the line at underage drinking. Do not supply or encourage underage drinking in your home. Talk to your children about the consequences and provide activities in your home (alcohol free) that make your child’s friends feel welcome.






Don’t Rely On Luck: St. Patrick’s Safety Tips

St. Patrick’s Day is coming quickly! The Irish holiday celebrated by many here in the U.S. as a day of drinking green beer and pinching people for not wearing green is typically a care free and fun event. However, with many people partaking in festivities involving drinking, it is important to make it a safe and responsible night as well. Here are some safety tips:


1. Plan ahead. If you will be out on the town or attending a party, make sure you have a plan for a safe ride home. Select a designated sober driver, plan to stay with a friend, or plan to take a taxi or Uber home. Never let a friend drive when intoxicated.

2. Hydrate. Drink enough water during the day to help ensure you are not hungover on March 18th.

3. Know Your Limits. Everyone wants to have a fun and enjoyable night out. Don’t go overboard and be a burden on others.

4. Charge Your Phone. Before your night out make sure you have a full battery on your phone. You will want to have a way to contact people.

5. Keep Valuables Close. A large crowd of people can sadly attract pickpockets. Make sure you keep your purse and wallet safe from people that could take advantage.

6. Watch Your Drink. Don’t leave your drink unattended. Make sure to have someone you trust watch it if you need to put it down.

7. Eat Up. Make sure you have enough food in your stomach to soak up the alcohol. Eat a healthy, substantial dinner before you hit up the bars.

8. Stay in a Group. Don’t go out by yourself or leave the group. Make sure you are at least with one other person. Also, make sure someone knows where you will be for the night.

5 Tips for a Safe Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! You are probably busy planning a romantic date night for your valentine, but make sure to prepare ahead for a safe night to make sure your day stays sweet.


Follow K.I.S.S. (Keep it safe and secure) with these tips.

1. Beware of social media

Sure, sharing pictures of your heart shaped dessert on Instagram may be fun, but sharing your location is dangerous. Letting people know your home is vacant (dinner and a movie date will let them know you will be gone 2+ hours) can make you a target for burglars. Post pictures when you get home!

Bonus: Being off of your phone will make for much better conversation with your partner.

2. Limit your cash

With lots of people out on date nights, you can become victim to a lost wallet, stolen purse or a pickpocket. Limit the amount of cash you are carrying and keep valuables close to you. Ladies, keep your purse fully zipped closed and keep it in front of you. Men, don’t carry a wallet in your back pocket.

3. Avoid dark areas

Sure, you want to be alone with your significant other on Valentine’s Day, but being alone in a dark alley or street makes you vulnerable. Stay in areas with other people and walk and park in well-lit and trafficked areas.

4. Secure your home

Even if you are gone for just the evening make sure to lock doors and windows and leave some lights on in your home. If you will be traveling out of town get someone to check on your house.

5. Don’t leave it burning

Candles and fires are romantic on Valentine’s Day. Before you go to bed or leave your house ensure candles are blown out, the fireplace is off, the stove and oven are off and your hair straighteners or curling irons are unplugged.

The Steven Avery Case: Netflix’s “Making a Murderer.”

The 10 episode true-crime Netflix documentary, “Making a Murderer” has been all over social media and buzzing in the news. Have you seen it?


This documentary surrounds the court case of Steven Avery and his nephew Brendan Dassey. Avery spent 18 years in prison for a sexual assault. His innocence in this case was later proven with DNA evidence and he was released in 2003. Just two years later, he was charged with the murder of a young woman, photographer Teresa Halbach. This conviction happened around the same time Avery was launching a $36 million civil lawsuit against Manitowac County.

During the murder trial, Avery’s defense asserted that the Manitowac County police officers had somehow planted evidence and framed him for murder. In June of 2007, Avery was convicted to life in prison without possibility of parole. He has unsuccessfully attempted to get a retrial.

This documentary shines a spotlight on our criminal justice system. Prosecutors have stated that crucial details and key evidence were left out of the Netflix series. Whether or not Avery is guilty or innocent, the reality is these problems are occurring including government misconduct and false confessions.


What do you think about this case?


Read more from the Boston Globe here.

In The News: People on the No-Fly List Banned from Guns in CT

The Governor of Connecticut, Dannel P. Malloy has proposed to use an executive order banning gun sales to those on the federal no-fly list. This would make Connecticut the first state to do so. Connecticut state officials are working to get access to these lists.

Malloy had previously passed expanded limits on the state’s assault weapon ban. The possession and sale of large-capacity ammunition magazines are banned. This measure was enacted following the tragic shooting deaths of 20 children and 6 educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary.

Currently, background checks for those seeking gun permits is done by State Police. This new order would require State Police to cross-check these names with the government watch lists. Permits can be revoked for anyone on the watch list that already has a gun permit.

President Barack Obama has called for legislature to make a move regarding preventing people on the no-fly list from buying guns.



Source: AP



Legal Terms 101: Crime Classification

Crimes will receive different classifications depending on how severe the are. These classifications are known as infractions for the mildest crimes and felonies for most serious. The classification of the crime has influence on sentencing and court proceedings. Here are some of the key differences.


1. Infractions

  • An infraction (petty offense) is a violation in the municipal code, or ordinance. In most states, an infraction is not considered a criminal offense and is not punishable by law. There is no jail time associated with it.


  • Jaywalking
  • Speeding ticket
  • Littering
  • Cell phone while driving
  • Not wearing seatbelt


  • Pay a fine
  • Provide explanation and pay the fine
  • Request informal hearing with no attorney (could cost you)
  • Request court hearing with attorney to dispute ticket

2. Misdemeanor 

  • Misdemeanors are criminal offenses less serious than a felony, more serious than infraction. They are punishable by a fine, jail time or both. There are different levels of misdemeanors as well (petty, ordinary, and high/gross)


  • Petty theft
  • Public intoxication
  • Trespass
  • Indecent Exposure
  • Simple assault


  • Contact an attorney
  • Attend pretrial
  • Plead either guilty, not guilty or no contest
  • If given a fine, pay the fine.
  • Your may be able to enter a plea bargain or you may have to go to trial.slide-6

 3. Felonies

  • Felonies are the most serious offense in the United States. Many states will give harsher punishment to repeat offenders. If you are charged with a felony, you may face more than a year of jail time, fines or both.


  • Treason
  • Arson
  • Murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Terrorism
  • Burglary


  • Contact a criminal defense attorney
  • Possibility of a dismissal (due to unconstitutional search and seizure, evidence…)
  • You will be arrested and can meet with pretrial services to determine your bond.
  • Arraignment is your first appearance before a judge. You can plea guilty or not guilty.
  • Preliminary hearing will determine if substantive evidence exists to charge you.
  • If evidence exists, the grand jury will hear your case.
  • Eventually a jury will hear your case.
  • If found guilty you may be sent to prison or be charged with fines. If eligable, you may receive probation.
  • If you are acquitted, you will be released and the charge will be expunged in 60 days.





In The News: Yoga Can’t Be Copyrighted



The series of 26 yoga poses created by Bikram Choudhury and title “The Sequence,” has been ruled an unprotectable idea. Yoga poses cannot be copyrighted, declared the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Choudhury’s breathing exercises were also ruled unprotectable, despite a 1979 book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class, that details the practice.

Choudhury’s yoga techniques are also known as Bikram yoga, which has hundreds of studios across the U.S. and brings in about 4.9 million annually. His techniques have strict rules about the pose sequence, breathing, temperature of the room and studio design.

His books have been copyrighted, but he was trying to make teaching the methods he created restricted to himself.

Judge Kim Wardlaw ruled that the practice of yoga dates back thousands of years and the court held that “a sequence of yoga poses and breathing exercises was not entitled to copyright protection.” Yoga, over time, has evolved into a complex practice with spiritual, physical, and philosophical ideas. Some students use yoga for relaxation, others strength and flexibility and others for spiritual benefit.


What do you think? Should Bikram’s sequence be allowed to be copyrighted?



Read more here.

Source: ABA Journal


Criminal Court Process in Washington

Are you facing a crime in Washington State? In the beginning, if you are accused of a crime you must be notified of your charges. Many times the legal trial will be the end of the legal process to determine guilt or innocence. Here is an overview of the specific things that you will go through during the court process.




In Washington State, in order for someone to be arrested there needs to be probable cause to believe they have committed a crime. Usually an arrest will come after officers have gathered evidence and obtained a warrant. It the crime is witnessed, the officer can arrest someone on the spot.

The Miranda rights must be read to the suspect. The two most important pieces of this statement are that the suspect has a right to an attorney and also the right to remain silent. If these rights are not read correctly, a case can be thrown out.

Once the arrest is made, the suspect is booked into the police station, fingerprinted and photographed and valuables are stored. Depending on the case, you may be able to post bail soon after.


This is the first court proceeding in which the judge formally reads the charge and asks the defendant whether they plead guilty, not guilty or no contest. This must occur within 48 hours of the arrest and within 72 hours if they have already been charged.

Pretrial Hearings

This hearing will be scheduled during the arraignment. At a pre-trial hearing these things may occur:

  • A negotiated settlement or disposition is made.
  • Issues with evidence, witnesses, or the investigation are settled with the judge.
  • Conditions of release may be changed.
  • A trial date is scheduled.
  • Possibly a motion hearing will be scheduled.


At this trial, the prosecutor must show that there was enough evidence against the defendant to prove that the arrest had probable cause. If it is agreed, the case will continue to trial. Many of the cases in Washington State do not go to trial. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to a lesser charge they may in turn receive a shorter sentence and avoid trial.

The Trial

Both sides will present evident and arguments and then the judge or jury will decide if the defendant has been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. If the jury cannot agree, it will be declared a mistrial and can be retried at a later date in front of different jurors. Washington State has sentencing guidelines that are usually followed and judges can have more discretion for misdemeanor crimes.


If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime and need legal help, contact an attorney as soon as possible to get assistance and counsel for your case.