Judge to seek breath-test device to keep driver’s license

EVERETT — Snohomish County District Court Judge Timothy Ryan no longer is fighting the wholesale suspension of his driver’s license after refusing to take a drunken-driving breath test during an August traffic stop.

The judge canceled his license-suspension hearing that was scheduled for Tuesday with the state Department of Licensing, spokeswoman Christine Anthony said Thursday. Instead, Ryan told the state he plans to apply for an ignition interlock device, which would force him to take a breath test before his vehicle could start. That’s a license-restricting option allowed under state law.

Pending the application, Ryan’s mandatory one-year suspension is set to begin Dec. 27, Anthony said.

“State law will allow Judge Ryan to continue to drive during the time of this revocation if he has an approved ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle and applies for an ignition interlock license,” Anthony said. “The device will have to be installed for the duration of the revocation period.”

Drivers must pay for ignition interlock devices themselves unless they can prove financial duress.

Ryan was arrested for investigation of drunken driving Aug. 29 near his home in Mill Creek. Two Washington State Patrol troopers reported that he had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and smelled of alcohol.

The case was transferred to King County to avoid a conflict of interest. Prosecutors there declined to file charges, saying that while the judge apparently had lied about his alcohol consumption that night there wasn’t enough evidence to convince a jury he had been driving drunk.

The case has provoked outrage among many in the community and inspired debate about how drunken-driving cases are handled after arrest.

Ryan was on sick leave for much of the past few months because of health issues, including problems with his hip following surgery.

He returned to the bench Nov. 13 and has been presiding over hearings, Everett District Court Judge Tam Bui said Thursday.

Under state law, anyone who refuses a sobriety breath test after a traffic stop faces an automatic one-year license suspension. If there’s a later incident and another breath-test refusal, that carries a two-year suspension.

Roughly 1,300 people challenged such a suspension in Snohomish County in 2011. About 590 of those challenges were successful, state data show.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com.

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