Monthly Archives: March 2010

Law in Focus: Bikini Baristas and Free Speech

(Blogger’s note: Stan Glisson, a local Bremerton defense attorney, is back to help us sort through the legal issues of the so-called “bikini baristas.” Here’s his take. You can read his earlier posts here.

The first amendment to the US constitution prohibits the government from “abridging the freedom of speech”, among other things. It is said that many delegates to the Constitutional Convention refused to sign the Constitution without a bill of rights, they considered these rights so important. Freedom of speech has been interpreted over the last two centuries to include a variety of forms of expression, primarily to ensure to Americans that our government can never censor critical examination. Questioning the government is undoubtedly protected. Also literature, for example, of essentially any type is safe; film is protected, as is protesting, organization of labor, and now … pasties?

Around the state, scantily dressed baristas have been in the news. Young women working the stands have been alleged to wear shorts, bikinis, bras, sometimes just pasties. Arrested in Snohomish county, charged in Pierce county with public exposure, the coffee stands are drawing more and more attention, while increasing in number. They are clearly popular, but troublesome to some. So should the county take action? Should they be outlawed; can the employees charged and arrested?

Luckily, our local authorities are devoting their time to more pressing matters. Also, the law allowing prosecution of the semi – clothed baristas doesn’t appear to exist here. State law only prohibits exposure of the body if likely to cause “affront or alarm”. Hard to imagine, in a scenario where the women really are only seen by those who seek them out. In Pierce, the county code pretty clearly outlaws pasties in any public place. The Bremerton code, incidentally, contains a nearly identical provision. The Kitsap County code, however, doesn’t appear to contain any such prohibition. So in the unincorporated county, it certainly seems that none of these stands are breaking the law by dressing employees in swimsuits, undergarments, or pasties.

The local government could draft a law to prohibit such shops if it so desired. But should it? Would the Constitution allow it? The First Amendment has certainly been invoked to protect more offensive forms of expression than minimal clothing. Crude t-shirts, bumper stickers, random vulgarities that we hope our kids don’t notice – these are offenses we routinely endure, but are protected. We have become desensitized to the ubiquitous comic strip character urinating on disfavored car company logos (And if you have stick figures representing your family members in your back window, well … I guess you have rights too). Pornography, flag desecration, even racism and hate speech; these have all been specifically protected by the highest courts in the country. We each have the right to express ourselves in almost any creative way, regardless of offensiveness to others. In fact, it’s generally only offensive expression that requires protection.

The French author Voltaire is quoted as saying, “I may disagree with what you say; but I will defend with my life your right to say it.” We express ourselves in words, action, association with others, and yes – our clothing. By what we wear, we create an image and express an attitude. The government can’t outlaw particular styles of dress any more than it can regulate the music you listen to or the color of the tie you wear to work. If a shop owner wants to create a certain climate or entice a certain clientele by having employees dressed in skimpy clothing, it seems to me that we as a society have to allow it. If we lived in a warmer climate, such attire might not be so rare. But if we deny the right to baristas to wear bikinis to work, what right are you willing to give up next?

Stan Glisson is an attorney in Bremerton with the firm Glisson and Witt. Their firm mainly handles DUI and misdemeanor defense, as well as felony defense. Glisson earned his law degree at the University of Washington, has worked as a Kitsap County deputy prosecutor, and as a Kitsap and Snohomish defense attorney before entering private practice.

Marijuana Initiative: Signature Gatherers Mobilize in Kitsap

Marijuana legalization advocates have gone to work in Kitsap. Supporters of Initiative 1068 held meetings on Bainbridge, in Poulsbo and in East Bremerton this past week.

Greg Jablonski, one of the chairs of Sensible Washington in Kitsap County, had a turnout of about two dozen people at the Sylvan Way branch of the Kitsap Regional Library. Many who came out Wednesday not only signed petitions, but agreed to collect signatures as well.

Charles Voyce, the other chairman for the campaign in Kitsap County, said he’s passionate about legalizing pot.

“I believe adults should be free to do what they want, within limits,” said Voyce.

Here’s the text of the initiative, per the secretary of state’s Web site:

“This measure would remove state civil and criminal penalties for persons eighteen years or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana. Marijuana would no longer be defined as a “controlled substance.” Civil and criminal penalties relating to drug paraphernalia and provisions authorizing seizure or forfeiture of property would not apply to marijuana-related offenses committed by persons eighteen years or older. The measure would retain current restrictions and penalties applicable to persons under eighteen.”

Sensible Washington wants to collect 320,000 signatures by July to provide a cushion for the required 241,000.

“We’re just getting started,” Jablonski said.

Followup: John Wayne Houston Returns to his Roots

John Houston is finally home. Working as a prevention intervention specialist in Renton schools, the 56-year-old is back in the place he grew up, according to a story by Adam McFadden in the Renton Reporter.

His life, as those who regularly read our paper know, took one heck of a detour.

I met Houston in late 2005 as part of a series on Bremerton’s high violent crime rate. Houston had lived for more than a decade on the streets of Bremerton, using, abusing and selling crack cocaine. Houston never believed he’d get out of that violent and helpless underworld.

But arrested by Bremerton police in 2004, he set out to change his life of addiction, one that held him for about 36 years. It wasn’t easy, but through Kitsap County Drug Court, he got on stable footing and set his sights on a new path — helping young people whose lives teetered on the verge of drug addiction like his. He graduated with an associate’s degree from Olympic College in 2008.

He’s since held jobs in Kitsap, Island County and finally, Renton, with the Puget Sound Educational Service District.

He still sends me — and several others blessed to know his amazing transition — a weekly email about his life. Recently he wrote about his time in Bremerton, and how it’s important to reflect on both the good days and the bad.

“I just remember waking up in the woods, soaked, hungry and hopeless. Just like those blue skies and greenness of the trees, I remember the ugliness of where my addiction took me. Just like with the skies and the trees, I must remember the ugliness in order for me to never return there again. Thank you for your support and I love you.”

Roadways Were Busier for Troopers in 2009

DUIs, speed, and pretty much everything else had Washington State troopers working harder in Kitsap County in 2009. Krista Hedstrom, our local state patrol spokeswoman, sent me the stats this morning. Among them:

  • DUI related collisions were up 23 percent with 117, compared with 95 in 2008.
  • Speed related collisions were up 10 percent with 273, compared with 248 in 2008.
  • DUI Arrests in Kitsap County were up by 2 percent in 2009. Troopers removed 858 impaired drivers from the roads in Kitsap compared with 839 arrests in 2008.
  • Speed contacts were up 16 percent in 2009. Kitsap troopers contacted 16,788 speeders in 2009, compared with 14,457 in 2008. Out of those contacted, 11 percent more received tickets than in 2008.
  • In addition, there were 247 more drivers contacted who were issued tickets for aggressive driving in Kitsap County than in 2008. In 2009, 2,620 drivers were ticketed for aggressive driving violations, compared with 2,373 in 2008.

In neighboring Mason County, the numbers were actually down:

  • DUI related collisions were down 45 percent with 45, compared with 82 in 2008.
  • Speed related collisions were down 39 percent with 67, as compared with 109 in 2008.

Kitsap Courthouse’s New System Running ‘Very Smoothly’

A move to push Kitsap County’s felony cases through the justice system more efficiently has seemingly gone off without a hitch.

“Day one went very smoothly,” Kitsap County Prosecutor Russell Hauge said of Monday.

As you may recall, the plan for the county’s courthouse was to route all cases — misdemeanors and felonies — through district court for preliminary, or first, appearances. This new method gives all parties involved — including the defendant — an additional 30 day clock to decide whether to proceed to trial or plead guilty.

If felony defendants fight the charges, then they’ll be placed on a superior court calendar and the case will proceed toward trial. But if they wish to plead guilty, then their first appearance before a superior court judge would be to plead guilty, and likely, be sentenced. The old system might include numerous appearances before the superior court bench, eating up time for all involved.

The new process began Monday. Maury Baker, Kitsap County’s District Court administrator, echoed Hauge’s sentiment that things are going well so far.

They’d planned to have it up and running Jan. 1 this year. It was delayed to March.

And there’s one more thing they haven’t implemented yet — the video system. In the coming months, all jailed defendants will make appearances on video from the jail, rather than be chained together with other defendants and placed in the superior court’s jury box for their first appearance.