Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

If you had interaction with law enforcement in the past year or so, it’s possible that the officer's reports, which were forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office, are now being reviewed. To the surprise of many, law enforcement does not determine whether you will be charged with a crime. An officer may arrest you for suspicion of a crime but only a prosecutor can decide to bring charges against you in a court of law. 

But it’s been almost a year since I was stopped by law enforcement!

 

With the “down time” from covid-19, many prosecutor’s offices are using this courtroom break to get through the stacks of reports that were forwarded by law enforcement over the past year. Most prosecutors are so busy that this is a task that sits on the back burner. Unless the report involves immediate harm to citizens, it’s possible that the “back burner” stack will sit indefinitely until a prosecutor finally “declines” charges. That is when the person who was arrested or investigated can breathe a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, there are likely going to be fewer sighs of relief. The backlog of reports are being reviewed daily. We have heard from certain prosecutors that they have been charging dozens if not hundreds of cases right now. This means hundreds of people will be receiving Summons in the mail soon! 

How will I know if I’ve been charged with a crime?

 

If you had contact with law enforcement in the last year or believe you were being investigated for any reason, make sure that your address is up to date with the Department of Licensing. The clerk’s office will use that address to mail you the Summons. If you do not receive it and fail to appear for court, a warrant for your arrest will be issued. If you avoid dealing with the criminal charge, more trouble is sure to follow. You could be stopped for a traffic offense and, if the officer realizes there is a warrant for your arrest, you may be arrested right on the side of the road. So, create more certainty with your legal problem and put yourself in a better position to negotiate your case by following the rules.

 

Make sure your mailing address is correct. If you are unsure as to whether you are going to be charged with a crime, contact our office. We will monitor your situation for you. Avoid a warrant issued or an unexpected arrest. For any questions, give our office a call.

 

One of the most important considerations right now is how coronavirus is impacting criminal
charges. We wrote a past blog about how dates are being impacted but it’s important to also
understand how this unique time might improve the results of your case.


Get A “To Do” List From Your Attorney


First, use your “free time” wisely. If you have been charged with a DUI or another alcohol-related
offense, there are productive things you can do while you are waiting for your next court date.
We ask our clients to have a drug and alcohol assessment done as well as a victims’ impact
panel. Believe or not, there are agencies who are still making it happen! These appointments
are not easy to schedule during normal times so you will really have a leg up getting that done.


Get Ahead Of The Criminal Charge


Second, even if you haven’t been charged with a crime yet, call our office. We can talk to the
Prosecutor’s Office and challenge the investigation. If there are serious legal challenges to the
potential charge, we may be able to convince the Prosecutor to decline filing the charges.


Exculpatory Evidence


Third, since you are not in-custody, you can assist your attorney with investigating your case
early to ensure potential exculpatory evidence is not destroyed. For example, you can help us
understand the scene of where or how you had contact with law enforcement. We may want
residential security camera footage, security footage from a business, or traffic camera footage.
Often, those videos are destroyed within 7-14 days so time is of the essence.


DOL…DOL…DOL…Don’t Forget!


Finally, DO NOT WAIT ON YOUR DOL HEARING REQUEST! If you had “contact” with a police
officer for a potential DUI or Physical Control charge (if you were not arrested but they may be
forwarding your information to the Prosecutor’s Office), your 7 day window to request the
hearing will likely start from the date you had that contact with law enforcement. It only 50% of
our cases do the officers give the suspect the actual DOL request form. It is up to you to know
that you need to request that hearing within 7 days even if you were never given the form. You
have no other recourse if you wait beyond the 7 days.


If you have any questions about your DUI arrest, stop, investigation, or the DOL hearing request
process, do not delay in contacting our office. We are available 24/7. If this post was relevant to you, CLICK HERE for many similar posts. 

If you were arrested for a crime involving drugs or alcohol, your attorney may request that you seek a drug or alcohol assessment that could be used for the purpose of negotiation. Additionally, there are circumstances in which the Court may require you to have an evaluation. A conviction for the following crimes may trigger a mandatory evaluation:

 

•  DUI/DWI—Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs

•  MIP—Minor in possession

•  Public intoxication

•  Disorderly conduct

•  Conviction for possession of drugs

•  Physical control

•  And, by discretion, any case where the crime involved drugs or alcohol

 

What You Will Need For Your Evaluation

 

Before you attend your evaluation, you will need to make sure that you or your attorney have provided the treatment agency with certain required documents. Those documents are: (1) the criminal complaint, (2) the arrest report with police narrative, (3) your criminal history, and (4) your driving abstract, which is usually provided in discovery but you may need to get it from the Department of Licensing.

You May Be Drug Tested 

 

In nearly all cases, the evaluation will include a urinalysis to detect the presence of drugs or alcohol in your system at the time of the evaluation. If this will be a problem, you may want to discuss this with your attorney prior to making your appointment. Depending on your location, it may take a week to a month to get an appointment for the evaluation so consider this if you have strict timelines. Additionally, the report may not be ready and provided to your attorney or probation for another week or two. Be sure to ask your attorney who should receive a copy of the final report. You may want to see the recommendations before a copy is provided to the Court or Probation.

 The Interview

 

The entire interview with questionnaires and UA should take approximately 90 minutes. A summary of your answers, the UA result, and the court documents will all be referenced in the final report. It will also include a determination as to whether you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and the recommendations that are appropriate. These recommendations may range from an 8 hour ADIS class (Alcohol Drug Information School) to something as intense as in-patient treatment for an extended period of time. Other common requirements that may be ordered by the Court or recommendations by the evaluator are: AA meetings, substance abuse education classes, counseling, group support sessions, and random drug or alcohol testing.

 Questions?

 

If you have any other questions or concerns about an upcoming drug and alcohol assessment, it is important to talk with your lawyer. If the Court ordered you to have an evaluation, there are strict guidelines as to who can administer this evaluation. Not all agencies are approved by the Court and you don't want to waste your money. So, when in doubt, seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At Witt Law Group, we offer free consultations 24/7 and can handle almost all matters over the phone, email, or zoom.

 

From an outward appearance, courts seem to have relaxed in their pretrial conditions of release, and certainly on how quickly they are requiring people to come back to court. Some people are misinterpreting this and believe that other timelines are relaxed as well. One example of this is the timeline to request a DOL hearing following your DUI arrest. In our jurisdiction, that timeline is 7 days. If you wait longer than 7 days, you forever give up your ability to challenge DOL's suspension of your driver's license. We know the days bleed together at this point but don’t forget this important deadline!

 

Another problem could arise for those of you who appeared in court (whether in person, telephonically, or via Zoom) and a condition to contact probation was required by the Court. This is a bit confusing since probation is not technically “open” but they are still working. Make sure you always comply with the Prosecutor or Judge’s order. If you have 24 hours to “make contact with probation,” make sure you email or phone probation your contact information, your case number, and anything else you have been instructed to provide. Don’t put yourself in jeopardy by treating any legal matter as though you will “get a pass” if you fail to comply. That is a recipe for a much bigger problem when the courthouse finally opens.

 

While it is true that there are many changes to how courts are running during the COVID-19 pandemic, most aspects of our practice are moving along in a normal fashion. It took a few weeks to get all the “players” in place and learning to practice law from home but, for the most part, we have all settled into our new normal. For this reason, the short answer to this questions is—don’t count on that kind of miracle.

Criminal Cases Continue To Be Charged

 

In fact, most prosecutors we have spoken with have indicated that, during their time away from the courtroom, they are spending more time charging cases. This means they are reviewing police reports that may have been filed with their office in the past year and deciding whether to charge a person with a crime. If they charge you, the case is sent over to the District Court Clerk’s office and they will send a Summons to your last known address with Department of Licensing. This is a good reason to make sure your mailing address is up to date! So, be prepared that charging is increasing and Summons are already being received in the mail. To us, that means prosecutors are moving full steam ahead during the pandemic.

Is There A Silver Lining? 

 

One potential positive outcome due to the COVID-19 court changes might be the willingness of the prosecutor’s office to extend better offers to defendants. This could be happening to avoid the upcoming backlog of cases that we know will soon be clogging the court calendars. The “better offers” might look like a pretrial diversion agreement with less restrictive conditions than in a normal circumstance. However, we do not expect to see any straight dismissal of charges unless there was already a legitimate legal challenge to the charge. The best way to know if you are a candidate for a “pandemic deal” is to keep in touch with your lawyer and let them know if you have taken any proactive steps during the court date rescheduling period. The more seriously you take your criminal charge and the more proactive steps you have taken during the break, the greater likelihood of negotiating a good deal should you choose not to go to trial.

 

Witt Law Group is a criminal defense law firm based in Bremerton, Kitsap County, State of Washington. 

 

One of the new options under the umbrella of Therapeutic Court is called THRIVE. This new program stands for Teaching, Healing, Resilience, Independence, Voice, and Empowerment. This new program is available to a person who has been exploited or trafficked in their life. This can mean anything from survival sex, sex for drugs, having a pimp, labor exploitation, or other behaviors that indicate exploitation. Most importantly, there is not a requirement that you testify against your pimp or trafficker but you will be required to comply with subpoenas. If this is something you are concerned about (you know that the Prosecution will need your testimony in a trial) you should address this with your defense attorney.

Does my charge have a nexus to my current or past abuse?

 

The key to qualifying for THRIVE is that the applicant’s exploitation must, in some way, be connected to the current offense. For this reason, the THRIVE team has to look at eligibility on a case-by-case basis to review the facts around the applicants pending criminal charge. However, there are some criminal charges that will automatically make you ineligible such as sex offenses, serious violent offenses (as defined by statute), or where the accused appears to be more of a trafficker than the one being exploited.

How do I apply?

 

The Prosecutor’s office has a therapeutic court form which must be submitted before the team will conduct a needs assessment and substance abuse disorder evaluation. The team will review your application and determine if the necessary nexus exits in your case. If you are approved, you will meet with the team every other Friday morning.

 

What is required of a THRIVE participant?

 

The program is 18 months long, which includes three 6 month phases. Some participants will need inpatient treatment first and then the participant will begin outpatient treatment and mental health treatment. Unlike other therapeutic court programs, the participants in THRIVE do have the option to participate in out of county therapeutic programs. Additionally, another unusual component is that the team may allow you to appear via video rather than in-person for every court appearance. With such intense treatment, this option of video appearance makes compliance with treatment requirements quite a bit easier.

As we were reviewing upcoming court hearings, we touched base with Pierce County District Court and learned they are handling things a bit differently. Unlike Kitsap County, which is already moving court dates to June and July, Pierce is taking a “pause” on court hearings. It was explained by a Clerk that “paused” means no one appears on the current date set (in April, for example) and, when the Courts return to a normal schedule, they will reschedule a hearing date and send out notice.

Make Sure Your Address Is Correct!

 

The only issue with this process is that, if you are “waiting” for a new date, it is possible that your summons might not reach you. Theoretically, if your address is up to date with Department of Licensing, you should receive the mailing of your new date. However, in the past, mistakes have been made. To avoid any risk of missing your new court date, make sure you check in with your lawyer. You can also check with the Clerk’s office to make sure they have an accurate address for you.

How To Check Your Date Online

 

If you want to check on any pending rescheduling, we have provided a video on how you can look up your court date under our Videos tab. It does NOT work for any Superior Court. Again, if you do not see your new date, it is best practice to check in with your attorney or the Clerk’s office. Once you click on the video (below), make sure to scroll down. 

 

CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO ON HOW TO FIND YOUR DATE