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Derrick Coleman & the DUI Presumption of Guilt in Washington State

Derrick Coleman & the DUI Presumption of Guilt in Washington State

Posted by Robert J. Ault on Jan 19, 2016 | 0 Comments

“A defendant is presumed innocent. This presumption continues throughout the entire trial unless during your deliberations you find it has been overcome by the evidence beyond a reasonable doubt…” WPIC 4.01. 

Many believe that the most important aspect of our country's legal system is that a criminal-accused has the right to be "presumed innocent” in the court of law.  Unlike some countries, where the accused has the burden of disproving an allegation made by another with more power, our great country's legal system requires a trier of fact to presume that the criminal accused is, in fact, innocent of what they are alleged to have done. 

Just recently, I was reminded just how much this “presumption” is absent when it comes to DUI suspects. On January 17th, 2016, our Seattle Seahawks were defeated by the Carolina Panthers. In what was nothing short of a miserable first-half, I saw fullback, Derrick Coleman, in the Hawks' backfield.  I mention this because Coleman had been arrested for DUI and Hit & Run on October 14th, 2016 in the City of Bellevue. Specifically, the Seattle Times reported that:

"[Coleman] was driving a Dodge pickup truck in the 13600 block of Southeast 36th Street around 6 p.m. Wednesday when his vehicle hit a Honda Civic. After the crash, Coleman got out of the truck and walked away. The other driver hurt their collarbone in the crash, possible breaking it. Police found Coleman nearby and he was arrested without incident for leaving the scene. A field sobriety test was performed on Coleman, but there's no indication that he was intoxicated. Blood was subsequently drawn from the fullback, and results are pending..."

It should be noted that Coleman's lawyer audio & video-recorded the fullback performing Field Sobriety Tests at the police precinct subsequent to arrest to demonstrate that the player was NOT impaired on the date of the incident. Rather, Coleman had suffered a concussion, and such was only one of the reasons that he was found walking barefoot a few blocks from the scene.

If you're not aware of Coleman's story, you should be. Coleman became deaf when he was 3 years-old. Despite such, he worked with an audiologist from the 3rd grade until he graduated from high school.  He then went on to attend and play football at UCLA, and was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Minnesota Vikings in 2012. He eventually worked his way into a contract with the Seahawks and won a Super Bowl ring in 2014. Coleman is reportedly a devout Christian, respected and liked by teammates and fans.    

After his arrest, Coleman was booked into custody & eventually released. The following day, October 15th, Coleman was suspended “pending investigation” by the Seahawks.  However, on October 19th, he was reinstated by the team. http://q13fox.com/2015/10/20/seahawks-activate-fb-derrick-coleman-from-suspended-list-re-sign-center-jeanpierre/. While Coleman's reinstatement didn't receive much media coverage or attention from the public, plenty was said about his initial arrest. Among the comments posted on the Seattle Times website on October 15th:

Just what Seattle needs. Another problem child. Dump that loser

Too bad......  

Somewhere, sometimes in a young persons life, there is always it seems a major screw-up in their lives...

We all know Derrick knew that too.... I mean he was successful talented and had a very good life...

I hope somehow forgiveness is in our hearts...

Why does anyone leave the scene of an accident? Seems fairly self-evident...

Sleaze lawyer, questionable video interview, anyone see pics of the actual wreck??!!  wow, he knew what he did, and he took off, rather than face the consequences.  suspended right away by the Hawks, they are the only ones with any sense...

So, this we know: (1) Coleman is legally deaf; (2) He had just been involved in a fairly significant collision; (3) He is found walking around barefoot only a few blocks from the scene of the accident; (4) The incident occurred on a Wednesday, during the football season at 6:00 p.m., after Coleman had presumably been practicing all day; (6) His attorney is so confident that Coleman wasn't under the influence of anything that he audio & video recorded the defendant voluntarily performing Field Sobriety Tests at the police precinct; & (7) Oh, by the way, Coleman has NEVER been in any trouble in his entire life.

There obviously isn't any “presumption of innocence” in the court of public opinion, but those who merely assumed the guy was DUI and committed a bunch of crimes without waiting to hear about the results of the blood draw&/or additional information should be ashamed. As I routinely tell juries when defending DUI cases in Washington State, we each process information we have come across in our lives to make assumptions, so some sense can be made of the world.  While this may be human nature, I believe we should all be reminded of the presumption of innocence before necessarily casting judgment.

DUI charges are regularly the toughest gross misdemeanor charges to fight in Washington State. This is why it is imperative that you retain an attorney who focuses solely in DUI defense. A lawyer who is extremely knowledgeable, extensively trained, and one who is going to do everything in their power to resolve your matter in the most favorable light is an absolute necessity. If you or someone you know has been arrested for DUI in Washington State, contact Veitch Ault & Associates immediately (425-452-1600) to make sure one is given the best chance to defend themselves.

About the Author

Robert J. Ault

Rob's status as one of the premier DUI defense lawyers in the state includes being repeatedly recognized as a Super Lawyer Rising Star.

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