Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

There is a lot to deal with following a car accident. Most injured victims will deal with pain, healing, medical bills, stress and even anxiety about the accident. However, many of our clients are unpleasantly surprised to find that their insurance rates will be raised even when the accident was not their fault. Talk about adding insult to injury!

 

In the State of Washington, approximately 20% of drivers on the road are uninsured. If you are hit by one of them, your UIM/UM and PIP coverage can help. It’s never great to have to use your own insurance when injured due to someone else’s negligence but it is better than nothing. Make sure you have that coverage! 

Will My Premiums Increase?

While your own insurance can help in this situation, there might be a financial consequence—your premiums increase. We have been asked in the past to “do something” about the unfair practice but our hands are tied. In most states, insurance companies are permitted to raise your rates. You can complain but it will rarely make a difference.

 

What is particularly troubling about this practice is that it is often the poorest in our community who get hit with the greatest premium increase. The study done by Consumer Federation of America found that the insurance companies added a greater premium hike to people who were deemed less educated and lower income. Hopefully, the lawmakers of Washington will crack down on this practice. 

Insurance Company Decisions Are Tied To Profits

As we have said in the past, insurance companies are tied to profits. The bottom line dictates most of their responses. Whether it is “low balling” the settlement offer or raising rates on innocent accident victims, get prepared. The State of Washington does not prohibit “not-at-fault premium penalties.” However, since not every company does this, find a knowledgable insurance agent to help you navigate this issue. Drop the unfair company and find one that will truly stand by you!

 

If you have been injured and need help navigating all of the insurance challenges, we are here for you. We truly enjoy getting accident victims the settlement they deserve. Our consultations are free and, if you are too injured to come into one of our offices, we can handle everything over the phone or come to you. Don’t delay. Personal injury cases have a statute of limitations and you can be barred from bringing a case if you wait too long.

 

December 22, 2019

Designated Drivers Beware

 

Are you planning to attend holiday parties as the designated driver? Good for you! Just remember that there is some risk in taking on that role if you also use marijuana.

 

Many recreational users of marijuana don’t understand that THC levels remain high enough to be cited for DUI days after their last use. The levels of THC will certainly depend on how often you use, how active you are, how long you have regularly used marijuana as well as other physiological factors. However, it is very important that you understand there is always a risk for prosecution. Even smoking the day before you are pulled over can pose a risk of being charged with a crime—we have seen it.

 

Additionally, don’t think that “just one drink” will keep you free from prosecution. We have represented people arrested by law enforcement for DUI with blows as low as .03 and the State did not drop the DUI charge. This year alone, we have represented more than a dozen clients charged with DUI with blood alcohol at or below .06 under the “affected by” prong of the statute. The State prosecutes these charges just as aggressively as an .08 or above. While the DOL jurisdiction for suspending your license occurs when you blow an .08 or above, the prosecuting attorney will still seek criminal remedies that impact your driving and cost you in terms of fines, restitution, emergency response restitution to the law enforcement agency, and legal fees.

 

The moral of the story—if you use marijuana, you should consider using Uber for your designated driver. Also, the “one drink” plan is not a risk-free plan. The safest plan in terms of avoiding a criminal charge and getting home safely is to stay off the road if you use any marijuana or plan to indulge in alcoholic beverages.

 

Have a safe and crime-free holiday season! We want the Christmas tree to be the only twinkling lights you see.

 

If an issue does arise, do not hesitate to contact our office. While we handle auto accidents all over the State of Washington, we primarily handle criminal matters in Kitsap County and Pierce County as well as all cities in between. We have office in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Gig Harbor for your convenience and offer free consultations. Over the holidays, we will have the office phone forwarded to our cell phones so do not delay in seeking legal advice if you or a friend need help.

If you have been injured in an accident and have been told by your treating physician that you will likely need future care, it is important that you understand what that means for your personal injury case. For those victims who are on Medicare, will be a Medicare beneficiary within 30 months, or have a “realistic expectation” of becoming a Medicare beneficiary due to Disability Benefits, it is important that you keep in mind the concept of a Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (MSA).

 

The purpose of a MSA is to avoid shifting the financial burden to Medicare if you are being compensated for future care in your personal injury case. For example, if part of your $300,000 settlement is in consideration for medical care you need in the future, Medicare should not be on the hook later to pay for that care. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid expect that you have placed some portion of your settlement into a specially designed Trust for future medical care.

 

Things To Consider For An MSA

 

When determining whether your case might fall within the conditions for a MSA, here are some criteria to consider:

Are you a Medicare beneficiary (due to age or disability benefits) and your total settlement value is greater than $25,000?


Is there a “reasonable expectation” that you will become a Medicare beneficiary within 30 months of the settlement date and the anticipated settlement amount for future medical expenses, disability, and lost wages is expected to be greater than $250,000.


A “reasonable expectation” occurs when:


a) you have applied for Social Security Disability

b) you have been denied Social Security Disability Benefits but plan to appeal

c) you are in the process of appealing a denial of Disability Benefits or re-filing for Disability Benefits

d) you are 62 years and 6 months old

e) you have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) but do not yet qualify for Medicare based on ESRD.

 

Things To Consider For An WCMSA

 

If you are settling a Workers’ Compensation case and a portion of the settlement is to pay for future medical services related to the workers’ compensation injury, you will need to do a separate analysis to determine if a Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside Arrangement (WCMSA) is necessary. 

 

These issues can be complicated but the purpose is simple. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) want to make sure the victim is not burden shifting future medical payments to CMS. If you receive money for future medical care, that money may need to be put in a special Trust to ensure that future care is paid for with this money rather than CMS money. To avoid future penalties, being denied future benefits, or facing other civil actions taken against you, contact our office for a free consultation to determine if you need an experienced attorney to assist with your case. Most personal injury victims have a much better financial outcome if they have legal representation and hiring an attorney can be critical for someone who is receiving benefits from Medicaid or Medicare.

 

Witt Law Group is a personal injury / auto accident law firm based out of Kitsap County Washington. We have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience. If you have any questions about an MSA, please give our personal injury lawyers a call. 

For various reasons, people leave the State of Washington with unresolved legal issues. More often than not, a person is under investigation for a crime but not yet charged when they move. By the time the prosecutor’s office charges the case, the mailing address provided months or years earlier is no longer valid.

Delays In The State Bringing Charges 

 

In recent months, we have experienced in increase in cases where DUI cases have been charged a year after the person was originally arrested and released. When the toxicology lab returned the blood result, the accused person had been living in another state for many months. Often, the only reason the person knows they have been charged with a crime is that notice of a warrant appears on a background check for a new job.

 

If you have unresolved criminal charges or have been notified that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, it is critical that you contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Hiring private defense counsel will cost money but it can help get you back to “normal” much faster and, hopefully, allow you to keep your job.

 

How the Witt Law Group can help:

 

1.  We will determine if charges have been filed or a record has been created. Additionally, we will determine whether a warrant has been issued.

 

2.  We will determine if there are any critical timelines that you may have missed and whether there is a way to remedy the missed deadline.


3.  We will determine the jurisdiction of your matters or matters. This means we need to figure out where you were charged—city, state or federal charges.


4.  We will determine whether you left the state “pre-resolution” of your case—meaning the case is unresolved. If you were arrested and left before your arraignment, you will likely need to appear in court with an attorney to help quash your warrant before we begin negotiation of your case. If you left post-resolution of your case, we will facilitate bringing your case back to a status of compliance.

Every Case Is Unique

 

Criminal charges are common but the facts of every criminal case is different and the challenge in resolving the case is always unique. To really understand the path that your unresolved case could take, it is best to contact an experienced lawyer right away. Discuss the unique details of your case so you know how to move forward. Delaying will only cause more unintended negative consequences. If you found this article interesting, CLICK HERE to see all of our blog posts. 

If you were recently arrested or received a summons in the mail to appear on a criminal charge, it is important that you deal with your legal issues promptly. Around the holidays, many people want to put off dealing with the cost and the stress of the criminal justice system until later in the new year. This can be a very bad decision that leads to more negative consequences than anticipated.

 Reasons To Hire A Criminal Defense Attorney

 

There are many reasons to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately but here are just a few:

1. Evidence can be more difficult to collect the longer you wait. For example, if a video of the incident would be helpful to your case, be aware that videos are often deleted or destroyed after weeks or months. Additionally, witnesses are harder to track down over time and their memories are less clear. Therefore, your exculpatory evidence could be gone by the time your attorney requests it.
2. There are criminal and civil timelines that absolutely inflexible. For example, if you miss your DOL deadline on a DUI, you will be suspended.
3. Appearing with an attorney can help a person be released on their personal recognizance. If you fail to appear at a hearing, it is likely that a judge or a prosecutor will believe you are a flight risk and your conditions of release will be much tougher when you finally appear.
4. Proactive measures need to start immediately. The time between your arraignment and your pretrial is valuable time! Your attorney can help you by creating a roadmap of proactive steps that facilitate a more positive resolution of your case.

If You Are Unsure About Hiring A Defense Attorney

 

If you are unsure of how to handle your criminal case and need to consult with an attorney, give our office a call. We can help inform you of the risks you could be facing if you delay. Our consultations are free and we have offices in Poulsbo, Bremerton and Gig Harbor. If you are interested in more articles on the law or criminal defense, CLICK HERE to read our blog.

Choose your insurance coverage wisely 

Recently, we were dealing with a first party agent regarding a car accident case. We were commiserating about the difficulty of dealing with the agent of a certain company. This person mentioned that everyone in the industry knows this company is intentionally difficult. They are terrible as third party but also terrible with their own insured as first party. She stated that, “Everyone in the industry knows they are impossible to deal with!” Even if you just need a rental car, they will make it so difficult that you give up. We would probably have to second that sentiment (although there might be a tie with another company). 

When you are choosing auto insurance, be sure to check the reviews of any company you’re considering. Saving a few bucks on your premiums may not be worth it. Check reviews online, ask around, and contact insurance agents. Make sure you make an informed decision. There can be a big difference in customer service among the various companies. Your premium might be higher for a certain company but your stress after an accident could be much lower!

 

“My case is worth 3 times my medical expenses”—Problems With This Personal Injury Myth

 

One of the most common myths when handling injury cases is that there is some magic “multiplier method” for getting a certain amount of money offered by the third party insurance company. Most often, we hear 3x medical costs. We’ve even heard as high as 7x medical! That would be awesome! That sure would make our work a LOT easier!

 

Origins Of The Myth 

 

So how did this myth get started? Well, it was somewhat true decades ago. Unfortunately, the myth continues in various forms all over the internet. Today, the multiplier myth is most often used on click bait websites to help simplify the personal injury process and get a person to sign up with a law firm. This myth is also passed along by friends who tell the injured person, “I got 10x my medical bills and I was hardly hurt!” The friend forgets to mention a few facts such as it happened in California in the 90’s, she was scarred by some object in the car, there was a permanent disability as defined by the AMA guidelines, or she actually broke a bone but decided not have the surgery (which was part of the settlement offer). Then, the person who is injured in “reality land” now assumes that if he or she racks up enough medical bills, there will be a much bigger settlement at the end. Much to the victim’s disappointment, she racked up $25,000 worth of medical bills and receives a $15,000 settlement offer for her soft tissue/whiplash injuries. Not good.

 

While it is true that “medically necessary” treatment has an impact on the value of a case, the insurance companies are always on the look out for injury victims who are faking or exaggerating claims. They hammer those individuals the most. They want the plaintiff’s attorney to file a lawsuit after a low ball settlement offer because the adjuster firmly believes a jury will not like the client. There are many studies to show that it’s a pretty successful strategy.

 

Once a lawsuit is filed, the third party is permitted to see a full medical history. They will poke around looking for ANY past injuries or issues to explain that your past medical conditions are the real problem. If the insurance company believes you are faking any of your symptoms, be prepared for an independent medical exam request. Their experts want to establish that you are a malingerer or committing fraud by faking your claim.

 

The third party experts might employ Waddell testing, the Autobiographical Implicit Association Test, or any other series of exams or tests to establish that your injuries are not real or are exaggerated. They can prove their assertion if the tests establish there is inconsistency between your physical findings and your stated symptoms. The goal is to make a pitch to the jury that you are faking it. So, while it’s important to be detailed as you describe pain and symptoms, never exaggerate to a medical professional. People who exaggerate run the risk of a physician labeling you a malingerer.

 

Obtain Guidance For Your Personal Injury Case 

 

If you have questions about treatment or projected settlement figures, talk with your attorney. And, most importantly, don’t seek treatment simply to bolster the medical bills in your case. It will hurt you in the long run. The nature of the injury will dictate the range far more than the treatment. If you broke your arm but decided to forego an optional surgery, your broken arm will be compensated at a much higher amount than a person who has whiplash and elects to treat with various providers for more than a year. Additionally, where your accident happened can be one of the biggest predictors of the amount an adjuster will offer. The insurance companies are keenly aware of jury awards in various cities and counties. If your accident happened in a county where juries typically don't offer much for soft tissues injuries, expect your settlement offer to reflect that information. This doesn't mean you have to accept the low offer but it's important to understand how your local jury might respond if you take the case to trial. 

 

Every case is unique and it’s important to be informed by accurate information and not anecdotal stories. Again, always consult with your attorney about questions and don’t rely on internet searches about case results from a decade ago. If you were injured due to someone else’s negligence, you are entitled to compensation. Don’t compromise that settlement by listening to bad advice.

Most crimes at the misdemeanor / gross misdemeanor do not have “sentencing guidelines” like crimes do at the felony level. Driving While License Suspended in the First Degree (or Habitual Traffic Offender Status) is one of the few exceptions to the rule. For a conviction, the punishment is harsh and escalates rapidly for each offense. DWLS 1 has by far the most severe mandatory sentencing for any crime at this level.

A person is designated a Habitual Traffic Offender by:

1) Accumulating three major traffic offenses within 5 years. (major traffic offenses are DUI, Reckless Driving, Hit and Run, Driving With A Suspended License, Eluding, Vehicular Assault, and Vehicular Homicide), or
2) Accumulating twenty driving infractions within 5 years.

The Department of Licensing determined the 5 year period based on the violation date and not the date of conviction.

Loss Of Driving Privilege

 

Being designated a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) in Washington State can have devastating consequences to you. There is mandatory jail time for those who violate the driving restrictions and there is a lengthy restriction period of 7 years. During this period, the person may not drive. There is no occupational, restricted, ignition interlock, or other alternative licensing options. This suspension is set by the Department of Licensing and is separate from any other driving penalties set by a court due to a criminal conviction.

There are only a few options to restore your license following a HTO designation.


1) You do not drive for the entire 7 years and then you follow the protocol as designated by the DOL to reinstate your license. You must take proactive steps as your license is not automatically valid after the 7 years.
2) Petition for a early reinstatement 4 years after you were first designated a HTO. The details are below. If you are successful with this petition, you may still need to comply with extra conditions such as an ignition interlock on your vehicle and carry SR-22 (high risk) insurance.
3) Seek a stay on your revocation based on your alcohol or drug dependency. This can only be done after you have completed a 2 year treatment program and you meet other conditions of the review. You will be on “probation” for the remainder of the 7 year HTO period but, if you keep an ignition interlock and high risk insurance, you will be able to restore your driving privilege.

Reinstatement Hearings

 

According to the Department of Licensing, you may qualify for a reinstatement hearing if:

1) You have been designated HTO for at least 4 years,
2) There is no evidence that you have driven within the past 2 years,
3) If you had conditions regarding alcohol or drug treatment, you have met all of those requirements,
4) You are not suspended for non-compliance with your treatment,
5) At least one year has passed since any previous reinstatement requested have been denied.

Additionally, if your license has been suspended for other issues such as unpaid fines, there may be other conditions (such as payment of fines or child support) that you must comply with before you can seek to have your license reinstated.

Drug and Alcohol Dependency

 

You may qualify for a “stay” on your revocation if you meet certain conditions. At your DOL hearing, you would need proof that you have been assessed “substance dependent,” you have completed a treatment program and are compliant, you are not in HTO status for violating a previous stay or probation, and the offenses leading up to your revocation were due to alcoholism or drug addiction.

Consequences of Conviction

 

Each progressive conviction for DWLS 1 has exponentially harsher minimum sentences. For the 1st offense, the minimum is 10 days. The 2nd offense carries a minimum sentence of 90 days, and the 3rd offense has a minimum of not less than 180 days in jail These are charges not to be taken lightly.

If you are facing a designation of Habitual Traffic Offender, it is critical that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. Occasionally, there may be a challenge to the validity of the designation but time is of the essence.

Do not ignore the warnings by the Department of Licensing or drive once you are notified of the designation. Even if you believe it to be inaccurate, you do not want to compound the problem with additional criminal charges. At Witt Law Group, we offer free consultations. If you are unsure of how to proceed, give our office a call.

As Bob Dylan sang to us in 1964, The Times They Are A Changing. Historians say Bob wrote the song in October of 1963 and so it seems appropriate that this month we want to revisit the message again, nearly 55 years later.

The picture above is Ryan’s mother and my mother doing a little pellet gun practice with our kids. I realize it isn’t the normal image one might advise I use in today’s climate of gun reform or gun violence but, I assure you, they are peaceful and non-violent Grandmothers.

I use this picture because it tells a story of time and perspective. If this picture were taken six or seven decades earlier, these ladies wouldn’t be holding pellet guns. Ryan’s mother was raised in Texas and my mother was raised in Montana. Like all people, they are a product of their environment. What is perceived as normal is based on what you experience all around you. Ryan was raised in Alaska, where everyone had a gun rack on their truck (usually with a gun in it) parked at school. When he lived in Fairbanks, everyone entered the schools and the banks with their guns strapped on. In Texas, Montana, and Alaska, guns were used for protection—necessary protection for the survival of you and your animals.

When Ryan came to the lower 48, he noticed something different. Guns were carried for more than protection. There was some status to having a gun and being able to talk about your gun. For our mothers and for Ryan, you never talk about a gun, you use a gun. If a bear is coming at you, there isn’t a lot of gun waving and and threatening, “I’m going to put a cap in you, bear.” You just fire off a round and hope the bear gets the message that she should retreat.

Ryan and I both grew up knowing that a gun wasn’t a way to solve a problem (other than a bear coming at you). In our upbringing, guns really weren't associated with fighting. That didn’t mean we weren’t taught about fighting. Knowing when to fight and how to fight was just as valuable as knowing how to participate in family chores, take care of your pets, or do well in school. It was a life skill. I don’t recall who taught me how to hold my fist, but I very clearly recall understanding that I would break my thumb if I did it the wrong way. Built into the lesson plans was also an overall understanding of “don’t write checks that your body can’t cash.” Basically, don’t run your mouth in the wrong place or to the wrong people. We also learned that you don’t start the fight but, in defense, you better end the fight.

I realize there are people who only believe in “turning the other cheek” and might take offense to our early lessons—but I think they were valuable. We learned time and place or the context for when defending yourself is appropriate. I have no problem admitting that I’ve thrown a punch. I didn’t start the fight but, when someone hit my cousin, I think my response was completely appropriate. I grew up hearing stories about how my Uncle Ray, who was developmentally disabled, was teased by some boys on the school bus. I don’t recall if it was my Uncle Bob or Uncle Bud who had a little “Billings-style boxing match” after they got off the school bus, but the teasing stopped. In that way, kids learned not to run their mouth or write checks their body couldn’t cash. For me, the guy who hit my cousin learned fairly that he didn’t have the funds to cash that check.

When Ryan came down from Alaska to visit a friend heading out on deployment, he had his first interaction with “weapon” fighting. He and his friends were strolling through an area with fraternities when a group of about 20 young men came out of their frat to fight. One of the college kids threatened to cut them with a knife. Ryan kind of laughed at that because it sounded so ridiculous. I will spare you the details (although some of it is quite funny) but, word to the frat world, boys should not fight men—especially Alaskan men who lift weights 3 hours a day and one is the heavy weight boxing champ of Alaska. Don’t worry, there was no blood shed—just some bruised egos.

The point of these stories is that it is quite obvious we grew up in different times. If you threatened someone, insulted them for their sexuality or race, or made derogatory comments about their family, no one felt sorry for you when the insulted person cleaned your clock. No one called the cops or the prosecutor. But, times are changing. Instead of learning that you shouldn’t run your mouth, many people run their mouth and then waive around a weapon. They start fights but try to look like a victim when law enforcement arrives.

Why would we highlight this strange change in times? Well, because, more and more, the people who actually start the fight tend to win. By win, we mean they are not the ones who end up being arrested. They love to run their mouth off in a bar, insult your girlfriend, and call you gay. You might ask to “take it outside” to teach them a lesson but they head out to their car to pull out a gun. These people who use “fighting words” don’t actually fight and, when they do, they usually get their @#% kicked. So, when law enforcement arrives, you get arrested. If you never hit them, they will still tell law enforcement that you followed them outside and they felt threatened. The times are changing—and they play by different rules.

So, while many of us could understand that “taking it outside” might seem reasonable, that response no longer works the way it did decades ago. You have to back down. You have to take the insults. You have to walk away. The real reason you must retreat is that the check your body has to cash is way too expensive today.

Today, law enforcement is called for every altercation. There is very little “down time” and, when they respond, situations often escalate rather than deescalate. They don’t have time (or perhaps desire) to find out who started the fight and why. Usually, the most sympathetic (sometimes just pathetic) person is deemed the “victim.” The other person is arrested. Additionally, depending on the county or city you were arrested, certain prosecutors don’t care whether the person baited you into a fight. It doesn’t matter that they called you a racially derogatory term. If you choose to fight, you have to accept that your actions will likely amount to a criminal charge. Law enforcement doesn’t hold trial at the bar or the sports field. They simply arrest you, file a report, and you go to jail.

Getting arrested is just the start of the “costs” of fighting. To hire a defense attorney who can present your side of the story to the prosecutor, it will cost you anywhere from $2500 to $10,000—and there are no guarantees. Criminal charges are a lot like math equations. If the prosecutor can make the three or four elements of a criminal statute add up, you get convicted. If you don’t want to test your luck at trial (and face a much longer sentence), you might feel forced to plea to a lesser charge. Additionally, the process lasts a long time. While you’re trying to move on and apply for a new job, your case may linger for months or even a year. In that time, no one can answer whether you will lose your job, spend months or years in jail, and be forced to say goodbye to your family.

Hopefully, if you’re like us, as we have grown older we rarely encounter situations where a fight could happen. Unless someone grabs the last Costco pumpkin pie during Thanksgiving week, I’m probably not “taking it outside” anytime soon. However, when it happens to those of us from another era, it’s important to know what our response has to be. We need to check our egos and decide whether the fight is truly necessary. While someone should get their ass kicked, you probably don’t want to be the one paying the price for it. While it’s hard to walk away, remember that a pathetic name-calling jerk is not worth your freedom or hard-earned money.

Sometimes it’s hard to react differently when your instincts say something else. So, have a game plan. We take the calls after the fact and see the mess it creates. We don’t want more of these calls. In our minds, there is an element of unfairness to criminal charges for certain fights—but, despite this, we must learn to change with the changing times. In the words of Bob Dylan, “You better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone. For the times they are a-changin’.”

October 12, 2019

Disorderly Conduct

 

Disorderly Conduct charges generally arise when tempers and language boil over the generally accepted social norms. When a confrontation escalates to the point that there is a likelyhood of violence, the person who is raising the temperture of that confrontation can be charged with Disorderly Conduct. This is a criminal charge that is brought by the State (or a City), and not by a private individual. 

 

Do You Have A Disorderly Conduct Charge? CLICK HERE And We Will Contact You Within 15 Minutes

According to RCW 9A.84.030, a person commits disorderly conduct if she:

 

1. Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault;

2. Intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority;

3. Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority; or

4. Meets the following:

(i) Intentionally engages in fighting or in tumultuous conduct or makes unreasonable

noise, within five hundred feet of:

(A) The location where a funeral or burial is being performed;

(B) A funeral home during the viewing of a deceased person;

(C) A funeral procession, if the person described in this subsection knows that

the funeral procession is taking place; or

(D) A building in which a funeral or memorial service is being conducted; and

(ii) Knows that the activity adversely affects the funeral, burial, viewing, funeral procession, or memorial service.

If the prosecutor is charging a person under the first part of the statute for provoking a fight, there must be some evidence that your “fighting words” were intended to actually start a fight. A person can be insulting to another person and make offensive statements but, in some circumstances, the words rise to the level that an average person would understand the statements to be provoking a fight. Certainly, if the defendant made statements like, “You think you can take me?” or “I’ll knock that smile off your face.” Statements that are derogatory to a person’s race, ethnicity, or sexuality can also rise to disorderly conduct.

Under the second prong, a person yelling at a City Council meeting could be charged with disorderly conduct. If a person yells or makes offensive statements during the time he or she is permitted to address the Council, this is probably not disorderly conduct. However, if the person continues to yell after their turn or yells while other people who are speaking, this will likely rise to disorderly conduct.

The third prong is used mostly with political protests. If a person gathers with other people and intends to stop traffic to garner attention to a cause, it would be hard to argue that this act was unintentional. If the organizers of the protest have the appropriate permits to hold the rally or demonstration, blocking traffic should not rise to disorderly conduct. If the protest ventures outside the permitted area or designated area for marching, it could be possible to be arrested for disorderly conduct. 

Finally, if a person intends to disrupt a funeral service and knows that it will adversely affect the event, this is disorderly conduct. This is a fairly straightforward. If a person was not invited to a funeral and is there for the purpose of protesting or causing a scene, this conduct will likely rise to disorderly conduct. 

There Are Positive Ways To Resolve A Disorderly Conduct Charge

There are defenses to disorderly conduct but, for the most part, a defense attorney is attacking the element of intent. Depending on the reason for the criminal charge, there could be defenses as to whether abusive language or “fighting words” were stated by the defendant. In the case of disrupting a funeral, was the defendant within the required 500 feet of the event? If you were arrested at a protest or a City Council meeting, there could be a challenge to proving identity. How did the officers know the defendant was the person yelling or causing the disruption? Disorderly Conduct can be a complex charge and it is best to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice on the unique challenges to a particular case.

Additionally, Disorderly Conduct cases are handled in District and Municipal Courts, as they are misdemeanors. Being that they are handled in these “lower” Courts, there are more options regarding how to resolve a Disorderly Conduct case other than going to trial or pleading guilty.

Most jurisdictions have some form of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, which is essentially a contract between the Defendant and the Prosecuting Authority. With this type of Diversion Agreement, the Court does not sentence a defendant, the Court merely approves the contract between the parties (the Defendant and the Prosecutor). If the defendant abides by the terms of the contract, the Disorderly Conduct charge is typically dismissed at the end of the agreed upon term. Procedurally, the case goes onto a long continuance and then ends in a dismissal – there is never a conviction if all the terms are met.

 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION ON PRE-TRIAL DIVERSION AGREEMENTS

 

If a defendant wishes to not resolve the matter through a Diversion, they always have the right to go to trial. At trial, a defendant can require the Prosecutor to prove every element of the Disorderly Conduct charge beyond a reasonable doubt.

Witt Law Group serves individuals who have been charged with the crime of Disorderly Conduct in Kitsap, Pierce and Jefferson Counties. We also handle cases in nearly all the cities within those Counties. We have offices in Gig Harbor, Bremerton and Poulsbo for your convenience. We offer free consultations and can be reached at (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton) or (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or (360) 773-8598 (Poulsbo) or you can text one of our attorneys at (360) 710-0027.

If the topic of Disoderly Conduct was interesting to you, please CLICK HERE to read more similar articles in our Blog.