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Volkswagen’s Recovery Plan After Emissions Cheating Scandal


Volkswagen AG (VW) has turned to a small group of insiders to lead them down the road of recovery after its diesel-emissions scandal that’s left regulators, investors and 11 million customers awaiting answers.

VW is relying on five supervisory board members who represent its entrenched interests. The group has a total of 31 years on the board and was paid a combined 3.5 million euros ($3.95 million) last year by VW.

Berthold Huber, a five-year veteran from the IG Metall labor union and currently Volkswagen’s interim chairman, will lead the supervisory board committee overseeing the probe. Panel members Bernd Osterloh and Babette Froehlich are also employee representatives. Olaf Lies is economy minister of Lower Saxony, which owns 20 percent of Volkswagen’s voting shares, while Oliver Porsche represents the family that controls a majority of VW’s common stock.

VW has stuck to company veterans. CEO Matthias Mueller, appointed after Martin Winterkorn was pressured to step down, has a four-decade career at the carmaker. Designated Chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch, previously chief financial officer, had long been a close associate of Winterkorn, who remains CEO of VW’s majority shareholder Porsche Automobil Holding SE.

While VW has said it has a solution to make its vehicles compliant with emissions regulations, the company hasn’t disclosed how the repairs will affect their performance.

At the very least, Volkswagen will need to disable the illegal software. The upgrade could also require physical changes to the cars’ emissions systems to treat the harmful nitrogen oxides. Depending on the fix, drivers may see lower gas mileage than they used to get.

In a letter to investors posted on Volkswagen’s website, Mueller asked for patience. “I know that you will have many questions you would like to see answered,” the CEO said. “I am personally committed to answering them. However, I must ask you to give me time to gather the full facts first.”

You Just Blew $5,000: Washington State’s DUI Implied Consent Law

1effd2d3-5e9e-4fda-83ec-6de7344d1809Under Washington’s Implied Consent Law, you already agreed to the breath test if you have a license in this state. When you applied to get your WA driver’s license, you were asked to sign several papers. The small print stated that you agree to take a breath test when under arrest for drunk driving and if you refuse your license will be taken away.

If you blow a 0.08% or higher, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is considered above the legal limit and you will receive a DUI in Washington. Under these guidelines, a person under 21 can face arrest for driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. Anyone who operates a commercial vehicle (such as a bus or tow truck, for example) is deemed impaired once his or her BAC reaches 0.04%.

The penalties for refusing to take the breath test are more serious than if you took the breath test and failed. Generally, a person with no prior DUI arrests who refuses to take the test will almost certainly suffer harsher licensing consequences.  If you refuse the test, your driver’s license will be revoked for two years for a first-time refusal, three years for a second refusal within seven years, and four years for a third refusal within seven years. In addition to your driver’s license being revoked, you may face a longer mandatory jail sentence.

The most important thing to remember is that you should immediately exercise your right and contact an experienced DUI attorney for advice prior to making any decision regarding the breath test. If you refuse the test, it is still possible to prevail at your administrative hearing. This is another important reason to contact a DUI lawyer for help in defending your case.

Since the decision to take or refuse the breath test has serious consequences, the law provides that you must be officially “reminded” of the consequences of your decision by making the officer read the Implied Consent Warning form prior to you making your decision. If you’re hearing it for the first time, the form can be difficult to understand. In most cases, at the time the officer is reading the Implied Consent Warning, you have been arrested, handcuffed and taken to jail. You may not be in the correct state of mind to fully comprehend the information being read to you.

The Implied Consent Warning form does not tell you several important facts:

  1. If you refuse the test, you will probably be prosecuted anyway.
  2. Your refusal to take the test will likely be the cornerstone of the prosecutor’s case.
  3. If you refuse the test, your license will be suspended/revoked and you will have to file proof of financial responsibility (otherwise known as “high risk” insurance) with the DOL, the same as if you had been convicted of DUI.

Whether you took the breath test and failed or refused to take it, you have a very limited time frame in which to request a hearing from the Department of Licensing (DOL). If you do not request a hearing within this time, your license will be suspended or revoked on the 60th day after your arrest. This license suspension is separate from any suspension that may be ordered in criminal court.

Another factor to consider is with implied consent you can face a type of “double jeopardy.” A DUI arrest can prompt an administrative license suspension with the DOL; however, all DUI arrests also trigger a case in criminal court where you could also face driver’s license suspensions. Even though both cases arise from the same even – the DUI arrest – they are two separate proceedings before two separate agencies. One is through the DOL (civil) and the other is through WA State’s criminal courts.

If you are convicted of a DUI, the penalties for your offense will be based upon your prior record of DUI. As a first-time offender, this sentence may include up to $5,000 in fines, a 90-day license suspension and a maximum of one year in jail. For a second or subsequent conviction, these penalties increase exponentially and the court may also impose additional punishments if you had an extremely high BAC at the time of your arrest (0.15% or higher).

In light of the penalties you face if you are convicted of driving under the influence, it is more important than ever for you to seek legal counsel if you are arrested for DUI in Washington. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped in court.

Washington Attorney General Attacks Pimsleur Marketer

In a civil lawsuit filed in Washington District Court, Attorney General Bob Ferguson has accused the language-software seller Pimsleur of unfair trade practices. The suit, filed on behalf of affected Washington consumers, accuses the company of using “negative option” billing practices to trick customers into providing their credit card details, while not adequately warning them that their cards will be billed in the future, sometimes again and again.

According to the Attorney General’s complaint, consumers who purchased the introductory software program for $9.95 were unknowingly and automatically enrolled in a “negative option” purchase plan, which obligated them to receive up to four additional courses at a cost of over $1,000 in total. If true, such deceptive trade practices would run afoul of the Restore Online Shopper Confidence Act, as well as Section 5 of the FTC Act, and several state consumer protection laws.

While negative option billing practices are not illegal per se (most magazine subscriptions, gym memberships, and movie rental outfits use some version of the practice), the legal complaint accuses the company of deceptive behavior in not properly revealing these terms to the consumers, nor gaining their affirmative assent to enroll them in the program. Additionally, the company is accused of making it very difficult for consumers, at their own expense, to return the products for a refund or cancellation. The Washington lawsuit marks an increase in state attorney generals going after online marketers for deceptive advertising practices.

“The company hid the terms of the negative option program in its advertising, and misled consumers into thinking they’d only ordered the inexpensive introductory course for $9.95,” said Ferguson.  “Consumers were shocked to find significant charges appearing on their credit card statements for products they hadn’t ordered, and then angered when the company refused to cancel those charges.”

The Pimsleur product line is marketing through radio, TV, affiliates, and search engine advertising throughout the U.S. it is believe that over 38,000 customers in Washington alone are affected.


Marijuna Laws in Washington after Initiative 502

With the passing of Initiative 502, Washington joins Colorado as one of only two states to (currently) allow recreational marijuana use. While this has been viewed with much joy by the smokers and tokers of the Evergreen State, it still leaves some aspects of the herb subject to legal action, so before you get too reckless with the now-legal drug, be aware of the law when it comes to marijuana.

Marijuana DUI Charges

While most of us associate DUI with driving after having one too many drinks, every state has a charge for drug-related DUI on the books, and Washington is no exception. The legalization of pot did not remove the penalties for driving under the influence of it. In fact, the new statutes may actually make you more likely to get a DUI from marijuana usage than before it was legalized. This is because of the new blood-level limits for acceptable THC intake, levels that many people feel are far too strict and don’t accurately reflect whether a driver was actually impaired or not. Because THC stays in the bloodstream much longer than alcohol, and very low levels are considered impairment under the new DUI statute, the risks of even light marijuana usage triggering a criminal record of DUI are bigger than they were prior to legalization. For a more thorough understanding of the updated marijuana and driving laws, you should refer to this excellent Washington Marijuana DUI guide for more details.

Selling Marijuana in Washington

Even though marijuana is now legal to possess and consume within Washington’s borders, you still cannot sell it to someone else without risking significant criminal charges. Marijuana represents a serious source of revenue to Washington’s tax coffers, and the potential income and savings from the enforcement side, and was directly responsible for eventual approval and legalization. It would be naive to think a person could sell marijuana without paying the appropriate taxes to the government. Recreational marijuana is subject to a 25% tax at three different levels.

Possessing Marijuana

It is legal now for any adult in the state of Washington to possess or have in their possession marijuana for personal use. It is still illegal to possess as a minor, and strict rules remain about adults providing marijuana to children. There also remain certain rules about using marijuana in public, it is still prohibited for use in public parks, public buildings, and most commercial establishments. Usage by adults in private homes has been decriminalized.

The preceding information is not intended to be professional legal advice about any aspect of Washington marijuana laws. While the information is presumed correct, Washington marijuana law is a new and evolving area of law, with significant criminal and civil penalties to those who violate these laws. If you need additional up-to-date information about Initiative 502 or the current state of the law, consult with an experienced Washington marijuana defense attorney today.

11/5 Update: Voters in neighboring Oregon have just passed marijuana legalization in the mid-term elections with the passage of Measure 91. Recreational use by adults is expected to take effect by July 1st, with oversight handled by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

UK surveillance

UK emergency surveillance bill approved in Commons

A much-criticized emergency surveillance legislation has cleared the UK’s House of Commons after a prolonged session. Angry exchanges were overheard during the sitting, alleging abuse of power.

Opposition came from a group of up to 56 MPs from the three main parties after each party’s spokesperson conceded on the need for new laws.

The data retention and investigatory powers bill was agreed at third reading by an overwhelming majority of 416, after MPs voted 449 to 33 in favour.

Earlier that day, Labour Member of Parliament Tom Watson’s cross-party bid to force the legislation to expire by the end of the year was defeated 454 vote to 56, majority 398.

UK opposition sees the act as conducive to excessive surveillance and potential abuse of power. The government did agree to have additional reviews of investigatory regulations – both a general review at ministers’ own initiative to be completed by the election and addition reviews of the bill every six months, proposed by Labour.

The House of Lords will take a more in-depth look at the bill on Wednesday and Thursday as ministers want to have it sent for royal assent before this weekend.

Bitter complaints were sounded from backbenchers across the Commons, criticizing the bill’s forced passing in just one day.

Watson said: “Parliament has been insulted …[This is] democratic banditry resonant of a rogue state.”

Home secretary Theresa May defended the data retention and investigatory powers bill as a much needed set of proposals that would strengthen national security and public safety. She justified it as necessary following the European Court of Justice ruling this April. The Court of Justice concluded that the EU directive on data retention had overstepped its original intent and powers and was an invasion of privacy. Labour’s acceptance of the bill is seen as a return to the original law before this ruling.

The ECJ ruling said that extended collection and storing of location, texts, phone calls, emails and internet use can paint a very detailed picture of an individual’s personal life and can be seen as a severe intrusion of privacy. The judges said that the blanket retention of such data for 6 months to 2 years, without the proper safeguards, can go far beyond the scope of monitoring serious crime and terrorism. The new restrictions stated that any proposed legislation must be in accordance to human right law. This meant that any requests by local and national security institutions had to be clearly delimited in time period, location and connected suspects.

UK government has said that this ruling would put under scrutiny existing legislation, which could mean that ISPs and communication companies would start deleting vital data. Ministers claim that the bill would only preserve the status quo and would not create new powers for government.

UN commissioner Navi Pillay has criticized the bill, saying that the data retention and investigatory powers bill — also known as the Drip bill — would not address existing European privacy concerns. Pillay says that this motion should be subject of wider public debate.

“To me it’s difficult to see how the UK can now justify rushing through wide-reaching emergency legislation which may not fully address the concerns raised by the court, at time when there are proceedings ongoing by the UK’s own investigative powers tribunal on these very issues,” Pillay said in Geneva on Wednesday.

Privacy groups state that surveillance powers which would allow security institutions and the police to collect personal communications for up to 12 months have been widely rejected by courts in the rest of the European Union. Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Cyprus have all rejected such initiatives, deeming them unconstitutional.

Former director of public prosecutions Lord Macdonald, the Liberal Democrat peer, defends the Drip bill, claiming that this initiative only reconfirms existing practice. He says that the expiration date of December 2016 would require a replacement and along with it, more liberal reforms.

L.A. marijuana market ordered to shutdown

A farmers market for users of medical marijuana has been ordered to temporarily shutdown, following a ruling made by the L.A. County Superior Court judge.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed a temporary restraining order, saying that the California Heritage Market activity did not comply with local regulations for marijuana dispensaries.

Proposition D was passed last year, which established legal instructions for where marijuana dispensaries could operate.

Feuer said that the ruling, supports the “spirit and the letter of Proposition D.”

“The bottom line is that we argued successfully that this so-called farmers market was an attempt to make an end-run around the will of the people when they voted to put Proposition D in place,” Feuer said. “The court saw through this subterfuge.”

The injunction prevents the market’s operators to set up any booths or advertise the business. Police and fire squad members must also be granted unrestricted access to the site.

Feuer claims that “the court was very clear: There could be no multiple vendors selling at this site, only bona fide employees.”

Opened over the 4th of July weekend, the market was set up in a warehouse behind the West Coast Collective dispensary, in an industrial region in Boyle Heights.

“That’s essentially what this business model was,” says Feuer, indicating to the fact that Proposition D did not allow multiple independent vendors to sell on a single site.

Attorney David Welch who represents the Progressive Horizon Collective has commented on this saying that Feuer’s argument are without logic: “A farmers market is no different from a dispensary in that they both sell goods from a variety of vendors. Their arguments are basically a misunderstanding on how this business operates.”

A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 6 to determine whether the market will be allowed to reopen or remain closed.