By Noah Haglund and Eric Stevick Herald Writers
MILL CREEK — A south Snohomish County judge who presides over drunken-driving cases now faces a possible DUI charge of his own after his arrest Wednesday night.
The Washington State Patrol stopped Snohomish County District Court Judge Timothy Ryan on the Bothell-Everett Highway, between 183rd and 186th Street SE, shortly after 9 p.m.
Ryan, 65, was driving an Acura TSX sedan south on the highway when a trooper noticed the car drift multiple times outside its lane, patrol Sgt. Kirk Rudeen said. The car also reached 53 mph in a 45 mph zone, according to an arrest report.
“It was a combination of lane-travel violations and speed,” Rudeen said.
After the stop, the trooper described Ryan as cooperative and polite, but noted that he smelled of alcohol, Rudeen said.
The arresting trooper wrote in his report that he also noticed Ryan’s eyes were bloodshot and watery and that his face was flushed.
The trooper noted that Ryan early on told him that he is a judge, and also lived nearby.
A second trooper was contacted and asked to observe the traffic stop investigation. He also described Ryan as having bloodshot and watery eyes.
“As Ryan responded to … questions, his speech was slurred and there was a strong odor of intoxicants coming from him,” that trooper wrote.
Ryan refused field-sobriety tests, according to State Patrol reports. Later, at the Mill Creek Police Department, he also refused a breath test.
Ryan told the trooper he drank one beer with a fellow judge before his arrest. The report did not provide a location where Ryan had been before he was stopped.
When the trooper told him he was under arrest, Ryan allegedly asked him if he was being serious.
“Based upon the information and my training the arrest decision was not hard to make as I had formed the opinion that Ryan was obviously impaired by the alcohol that he had consumed and I was unwilling to allow him to continue to operate a motor vehicle,” the trooper wrote in his report. “It however was not easy to inform him that he was under arrest as he has (earned) my respect in the past.”
After he was arrested and his car impounded, the judge was given a ride to his home in Bothell, Rudeen said.
In Washington, a driver who refuses to take a breath test during a DUI stop is subject to a two-year license suspension. That’s an administrative process overseen by the state Department of Licensing.
Ryan is a longtime judge at Snohomish County District Court’s South Division in Lynnwood.
The case already has been moved to King County to avoid a conflict of interest for local prosecutors and judges, Snohomish County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Roe said Friday.
Roe said he contacted his counterpart at the King County Prosecutor’s Office on Friday morning to make arrangements.
“I called Dan Satterberg himself and he said that is what neighbors are for,” Roe said.
Local prosecutors often appear before Ryan to argue their cases, and local judges not only work with the judge, but he numbers many among his friends. Sending the case to another county avoids potential complications, Roe said.
Ryan did not return phone calls to his office Friday.
Ryan is the second high-profile Snohomish County elected official arrested for investigation of drunken driving this summer.
On July 26, a Mukilteo police officer arrested County Council Chairman Brian Sullivan near the Mukilteo Speedway after an eyewitness reported seeing him driving erratically.
Sullivan’s DUI case was moved to Skagit County District Court to avoid a conflict of interest. His next court date is scheduled in October.
The trooper who pulled over Ryan was part of Target Zero, a statewide effort to end traffic deaths.
Troopers conduct the patrols in cooperation with local law enforcement.
In Snohomish County, the patrol has six troopers and a sergeant assigned to Target Zero, primarily working nights, Rudeen said.
Through Friday, the team had made 456 impaired-driving arrests in the county this year.
Impaired driving is a factor in about half of the state’s traffic deaths, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Herald reporters Rikki King and Scott North contributed to this report.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.