State drunk-driving champion Robert Castle, profiled in a 2008 Seattle Weekly cover story, avoided yet another DUI charge last week - this time while behind bars. The state Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of a 2009 felony DUI case against Castle, who once called a female Seattle cop a "stupid ass bitch slut" and was stopped 16 times for drunk driving since 1985. Ironically, under a state law intended to clamp down on repeat drunk drivers, Castle couldn't be charged by the King County prosecutor, the appeals court said, because legislators did such a precise job of wording the statute.
The appeal revolved around the issue of what constitutes a prior DUI offense. Under a 2008 state law, driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug is a felony if the driver has four or more prior DUI-related offenses. But because Castle had been charged but not convicted of three of his four prior DUI-related offenses at the time King County filed its charge, the trial court last year dismissed that felony count. That was the right thing to do, said the appeals court in an opinion written by Stephen Dwyer:
The State argues that the element requiring the defendant to have four prior convictions is an element that can ripen after the offense occurred but prior to charging. The statute allows no such ripening. We will not look beyond the plain language of the statute to consider extraneous matters where there is no ambiguity presented by the words used by the legislature. The legislature is often criticized for being imprecise in its choice of language. But this statute is clear.
Castle, however, was prosecuted for several DUI-related felonies in Snohomish County and given a stiff prison sentence in 2008. That was in addition to an extraordinary 910-day misdemeanor term in King County jail handed down by a Seattle Municipal Court judge who said he was tired of seeing Castle in his court.