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DUI and the Washington Media

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | Aug 01, 2013 | 0 Comments

Washington State DUIs in the Media
The mission of the news media ostensibly is to convey the events which affect its readership in an objective and informative manner. But in reality, the biases of those who work in the news media tend to affect how a given topic or story is reported.

As an example, let's look at DUI in Washington state. The topic is fairly popular now ever since Governor Inslee signed into law tougher penalties for repeat drunk driving offenders.

First, let's examine this Seattle Times story posted on July 31. It outlines how a young woman drove too fast on an I-5 entrance ramp in Federal Way, and both she and her male passenger were ejected from the vehicle. The man didn't survive, and the woman was booked on suspicion of DUI and vehicular homicide.

The headline of the story reads: "Driver arrested after fatal Federal Way crash; DUI suspected."

Though accurate, the headline calls attention to the suspected DUI charge rather than the fact that neither driver was wearing a seat belt - which was the major factor in the man's death.

Here's a story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer posted two days earlier about how a collision between an SUV and a pickup truck resulted in the death of a man riding in the truck bed. The driver of the truck, who appeared to be at fault, was arrested for "investigation of vehicular homicide."Yet because an officer said the man "appeared to be intoxicated," guess what the headline reads?

"Alcohol Blamed for Fatal West Seattle Collision."

So the incident was framed as alcohol use and not a man riding unsecured in a pickup truck bed took.

Finally, another story in the Times from July 20 described a story where a pickup truck's mirror struck a bicyclist in the hand, causing serious injury. The man was arrested for "investigation of vehicular assault," not DUI, and the only hint of intoxication was a comment by a police detective that the driver "appeared to be impaired." So what does the headline scream?

"Man with prior DUI arrested in truck-bicycle collision."

Therefore, the driver's past, not the present circumstances, garnered top billing and implying that this might have been the case in the crash with the bicyclist.

It's fairly obvious that the news media doesn't realize that someone being suspected of intoxication does not automatically make them a DUI suspect, and a DUI arrest doesn't automatically make them guilty. But it's not hard to figure out what reporters' stances are on the topic of DUI - just look at the headlines.

About the Author

Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney

Highly rated by former clients, who praise his warm, knowledgeable courtside manner and his fierce determination to reduce or eliminate charges. An accomplished speaker, author, and leader in DUI defense statewide Kevin is well respected by judges, prosecutors, and other attorneys across the State of Washington for his expertise, integrity, and knowledge in the complicated forensic science area of impaired driving allegations.


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