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Rebuttal to Story About Seattle Firefighter With DUI

Posted by Kevin Trombold DUI Defense Attorney | May 30, 2014 | 2 Comments

Seattle Media Looking for DUI Related Hype
Maybe some of you have already seen this story from which is undoubtedly designed to provoke dismay and outrage (and page views for the site, of course). The headline reads, "Is convicted repeat drunk driver behind wheel of Seattle fire trucks?"

Let's answer this question succinctly: no.

The story talks about how a firefighter is still driving fire trucks for the Seattle Fire Department despite being arrested for DUI three times, the latest of which occurred in March of this year. Although a judge has ordered the man to install an ignition interlock system on his personal vehicle, there have been no restrictions placed upon his on-duty driving either by the courts or SFD, largely because he has not violated any departmental policies while on duty.

But once you read the article, you discover that the man has never been convicted of DUI. His current case is still pending, and an arrest two years ago resulted in a guilty plea for reckless driving, which is not the same as a DUI. What's more, his first arrest for DUI came back in 1994 in Shoreline - which was two decades ago and several years before he was hired by SFD. And that charge was reduced to first degree negligent driving, which again is not a DUI.

It's true that a judge ordered the ignition interlock device based on his two previous arrests. But he also released the firefighter on $25,000 bond, and he continues to drive a fire truck for the city of Seattle. So, to recount: the fireman is not a "convicted repeat drunk driver" like the headline states. He has two driving offenses on his record, but they are considered lesser crimes by many. Plus, the thrust of the article implies that people cannot separate their work behavior from their off-duty behavior successfully.  Its fair to assume that trained emergency response personnel, for example other firefighters, would detect on the job drinking.

So can we relax the hype and not throw away a talented and well trained fire fighter?

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.


md Reply

Posted May 30, 2014 at 07:22:44

Reading the comment section at MyNorthwest provides much entertainment. It’s a bit conclusory to assert that liberal domestic terrorists’ drinking while on duty are the bane of taxpayer existence. However, it is fun to read the inferential leaps to get there.

John bowen Reply

Posted Aug 06, 2014 at 10:03:43

Amen to your comments. The media loves to hype things way beyond the level of which is warranted. Innocent until proven guilty. Charged and convicted are very different things.

I’m a firefighter for the City of Seattle. I know the FF who has gained such media notoriety. He is a good guy who has used some poor judgement allegedly. Let the legal system, not the media hype, decide his crime, punishment, ramifications, etc. I have no problem with high standards of behavior. In fact I feel we should be held to a much higher standard than almost all other institutions, given the serious nature of our profession, and the level of trust and professionalism that society expects from us. That being said, reactionary policies, draconian leadership due to a distorted public opinion due to media hype certainly is not the answer.

The media loves to pin up on public trends. Right after 9-11 firefighters were the media darlings; they literally could do no wrong (despite acting like humans; fallible and prone to human failings). They have lost their fifteen minutes of fame; which is a good thing. Unfortunately the pendulum seems to be swinging in the opposite direction. Knee jerk reactions, either by the public, or the City and Department leadership are the wrong response. If anyone should be blamed for putting the public at risk its the media, as they take away time, energy and resources as paranoid leaders and elected officials react, rather than act.

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