Week of June 9, 2016
Before someone can plead guilty, the court must carefully inform him or her that by entering a plea, the person gives up certain rights. That among the rights is the right to a trial and at that trial to question and confront witnesses against them. Another right he or she is informed that they are giving up is the right to appeal. That seems simple and straightforward, but it is not. There are some things that can result in an appeal after the defendant has pleaded guilty. This is what happened in one case.
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On June 29, 2013, Michael Dee Neisler was driving south on State Route 25 when he crossed the centerline and hit another car head-on. Neisler was drunk. He had an alcohol blood level of .19. Two persons in the other vehicle were injured, one seriously hurt and permanently blinded and the other person badly hurt as well. Mr. Neisler was not seriously injured.
Sixteen months later, on October 21, 2015, Michael Neisler pleaded guilty as charged to two counts of Vehicular Assault with an aggravating factor that the injuries substantially exceeded the level necessary to satisfy the offense. The agreement was that Neisler would plead guilty as charged and in exchange, the state would “defer to the court with regard to sentencing.” In other words, the state would not recommend a particular length of sentence. After the sentencing hearing, Neisler was sentenced to 72 months in prison.
On November 13, 2014, Mr. Neisler gave Notice of Appeal, claiming that the state broke the agreement during sentencing when the state provided the court the facts and circumstances of the crash and the resulting serious and permanent injury to the victims.
One year later, on November 10, 2015, The Court of Appeals ruled against Neisler and confirmed the 72-month sentence. Not getting the answer he wanted from the Court of Appeals, Neisler appealed that decision and on December 17, 2015, filed a request for the Supreme Court to review the Court of Appeals decision.
On June 1, 2015, the deputy handling this case, Deputy Lech Radzimski, received notice that the Supreme Court refused to review the Court of Appeals decision and so the decision of the Court of Appeals will stand. It takes a few more weeks for the decision to be final and for the issuance of a Mandate, which officially is the end of the appellate process. Yes, Neisler pleaded guilty, but that was not the end of the work. Finally, three years after the crash, the case is over.
Week of June 16, 2016
Use it or lose it.
That is the message from the state of Washington to land owners who have water rights associated with their land. They face what is called an Involuntary Relinquishment if the water right associated with their property is not used for a period of five years. This is the education and lesson being learned by several county property owners when they were served with court proceedings started by the Department of Ecology regarding the water rights associated with their land.
Some people who received this set of documents brought their concerns to our County Commissioners for input and help. The County Commissioners asked me to look at this situation and advise them as to whether or not county interests or county matters were involved.
My civil deputy, Nicholas Force, researched the law on this issue and we came to the conclusion that the interests of the county itself were not involved and that it appeared that the Department of Ecology was following the law and established procedure. We had to advise the commissioners that there did not appear to be a just reason for the county to involve itself in this litigation between the State of Washington and these citizens. This is essentially a civil matter in which the county does not have a direct interest.
While it could be argued that this “involuntary relinquishment” as to one or more private citizens represents a diminution in value that affects the entire county, this view is not reflected in the law. Neither is this considered a “taking” without the compensation required by law. The matter is between the State and the individual who have the water rights.
The bottom line is this: If anyone has a water right associated with their land allowing them to use the water from a stream or river, they must put that water right to use. If it is unused for a period of five years, the State may act to strip the water right from the owner. That is the law and all property owners should be aware of it and act accordingly to protect what they have. They must use it or lose it. I recommend they use it, and document the use of it.
It is no secret that Washington State would like to tax everything. I believe that if the State could figure out a way to put a meter on our nose, they would charge us for the air we breathe.