Tag Archives: Whatcom county

Escaping the virus: trails of Whatcom County

Throughout the past couple of weeks, trails and other outdoor areas have begun to reopen. Like most of us, I have been looking for a way to safely get out and experience something other than the inside of my home. A great place to check out to get some safe exercise is the Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve.

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Know your rights


By: Jeremy Rick

An ancient Chinese safe named Lao Tzu once said: “He who knows, does not speak.”In the words of Bellingham-based attorney Sean McKee: “The right to remain silent is the best piece of legal advice anyone could get.”

Whatcom Community College recently held a discussion on interacting with law enforcement officers. McKee, alongside fellow attorneys Aaron Lukoff and Jeffrey Lustick, and Bellingham police officer Todd Osborn, relayed legal pointers to attendees at the April 22 “Know Your Rights” event in Heiner Auditorium.

“If you take nothing else out of this forum, do not waive your rights,” Lustick said in his opening remarks.

One must, however, understand the rights individuals are ensured under Washington state law in order to heed Lustick’s words.

“The hardest thing I ever do is defend an innocent person,” Lustick said, adding that “sometimes they dig a hole deeper, and deeper, and deeper.”

Innocent people often “admit too much” and mistakenly incriminate themselves because there is a lack of legal education available to the public, McKee said.

“There is, generally, just no education about it,” he said, and researching the law alone “can be hard to decipher.”

Further complicating the matter, police are not required to be honest with civilians.

“I can lie to you if I want,” Officer Osborn said. “I can use a reasonable ruse.”

This is a tactic Lustick described as using “certain mental prods to get you to admit something.” These dishonest interactions can be avoided by knowing and utilizing the rights Washington guarantees to individuals, and the “Know Your Rights” event was an opportunity for attendees to gain this knowledge from formally educated lawyers.

“As lawyers, our job is to be the hammer of truth, the hammer of justice,” said Lukoff. With that in mind, Lukoff and his colleagues offered three steps for handling most police interactions.

“The first words out of your mouth should be, ‘Can I help you?’” Lustick said. “The next question should be, ‘Am I detained?’” Then, “ask to speak to a lawyer,” and refrain from answering any questions.

Police “must stop questioning you” at this point, otherwise it “will be considered coercive,” Lustick said, which is inadmissible in court.

“There are on-call public defenders 24 hours a day,” McKee said, ready to assist in these circumstances.

McKee said people often think they will appear guilty if they ask for a lawyer and decline answering questions. He disagrees, and suggests that people refuse answering questions at all costs.

“If you don’t play the game, you can’t lose,” he said. This tidbit of advice is especially applicable when a police officer asks to search a car that smells like marijuana.

“Odor by itself is insufficient” without permission from the owner, McKee said. “Simply, do not consent to a search.”

In response to the refusal of a search, police may threaten to use the “hard way,” McKee said, which would involve utilizing K-9 units and search warrants.

“Go with the hard way,” he said, because police “have to get probable cause for a warrant.”

To obtain a warrant, an officer must contact a judge and provide them with information that suggests probable cause for investigating possible criminal activity. Then, the judge must sign a warrant granting the officer permission to search private property, such as a car or home.

If an officer suspects someone of being under the influence of marijuana, alcohol, or other drugs while driving, they may ask the driver to

perform a field sobriety test.

“Field sobriety tests have not been designed for marijuana,” Lukoff said. “The only way they can find out [if someone has been smoking marijuana] is blood tests,” and “a blood-draw is a search-and-seizure under the Fourth Amendment,” which would require a warrant.

In the case of alcohol, Lukoff and McKee suggest refusing sobriety tests and mobile Breathalyzers, but consenting to the use of a blood-alcohol content (BAC) machine at the police station.

“The best thing to do [is not to] volunteer,” McKee said, and added that people should comply when it is necessary, but it is not necessary to comply with every request from an officer, and that is why it is important to “invoke your rights.”

As Lukoff put it, “Be polite, don’t lie to them, but don’t answer any questions.”

“I strongly recommend, under no circumstances you waive your right to be silent,” Lustick said.


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Drawing inspiration from life

Story and photos by  Ben White

Monday afternoon yells productivity for Christian Harkson, Co-Owner of a local screen printing company, Disidual Clothing. Clad in skate shoes, slim corduroy pants, and a backwards ball cap, Harkson emphasizes the relaxed dress code that comes with being an employee at the Bellingham-based clothing designer. Demand for the company’s release of fall apparel has been high, and the law of supply and demand is alive and well in the rushed atmosphere that surrounds the shop. Disidual Clothing, now in its second year of business, is well on its way towards making Harkson’s dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur a reality; a dream many Bellingham business owners share.

“It’s hard to believe that two years ago we were doing this in your bedroom,” said Harkson to coworker Brendan Pape. “A, we didn’t know anything about screen-printing, B, there was dog hair in every print, and C, that damn hose with the crack would leak everywhere.”

While nostalgic memories from Disidual’s rather humble start began to get tossed around, it was obvious the two owners hadn’t had much time to let the reality of their company’s success sink in. In January of 2010, both Harkson and Pape were sophomores at Western Washington University pursuing their respective degrees in communications. Harkson said he considered majoring in business and marketing, but the rigorous math requirements were a constraint that ultimately made the decision for him. Many might shy away from entering the entrepreneurial world without a background in business, but Harkson worked his communication skills to his advantage.

“The biggest thing in business is just getting out there and talking to people,” he said. “I don’t think we would’ve been as successful without those skills.”

Thus far, those skills have landed Disidual Clothing a spot on almost every major university campus in Washington State and a handful of smaller shops in the Bellingham area. Harkson, pulling a freshly printed tee from the screen asks, “Does this look like Sehome High School green to you?” He nods to himself, seemingly in agreement with his own proficiency in color matching. The shirt makes its way through a drying machine which Harkson periodically checks with a laser operated temperature gun. Soon an entire box of shirts will have made their way through the dryer and will eventually find homes in the hands of several dozen Sehome High students.

Harkson points out that one of the challenges in owning a company like Disidual lies in the amount of competing business. “I think what makes us stand out is that unlike a lot of other companies, we own our own equipment,” he said. “We really try to focus on printing our own brand rather than having other people print our stuff.”  Although the business sources its clothing from companies such as American Apparel, the designs are exclusive to Disidual. “We draw inspiration from life,” said Harkson. “Childhood experiences, representing our home town and really anything unique” will eventually find its way onto a screen.

Another challenge that Harkson faces is being a co-owner. Being a co-owner means that you don’t always get to do what you want, when you want, he said. However, two minds are generally better than one, and the owners of Disidual realized this right from the start. “There are a lot of times when I have an idea that might be crazy but Brendan thinks it’s good and we could make a lot of money on it,” said Harkson. Co-ownership means that not only do you get different ideas and opinions, but when things aren’t going as planned, you get to share in the struggles.

Fortunately for Disidual, the struggles have been kept to a minimum. The company recently moved into a new storefront location, and more importantly, out of the garage. In addition to the new work space, three new interns were added to the team. Two, like Harkson and Pape just a year ago, are students at Western. Brian, a new intern, is an economics major and political science minor in his freshman year at Western. “I’m just learning the business right now and just trying to help build up the company,” he said. “They [Harkson and Pape] are a lot of fun but at the same time we get a lot of stuff done.”

Disidual lives true to the concept of “all work and no play make jack a dull boy.” The regular combination of processing orders and printing while taking breaks to shoot hoops in the company’s private court or talking in a variety of comical accents keeps the mood light. “Where do I see us in five years?” said Harkson. “In five years I see us in freakin’ Nordstrom’s and eating lunch in a fancy restaurant. Either that or we’ll be here, printing tee shirts for high schoolers, and eating Little Ceasar’s pizza.”
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