Ryan Witt

Ryan Witt

During the pandemic, many special “stings” and task force programs were put on the back burner. Now that Covid has rounded the two year mark, our office is seeing these less regular cases come back into the forefront. And the local prosecuting authorities have verified that these once popular sting programs are now back up and running.

Who Gets Hit With Charges?


Criminal defendants in Furnishing Liquor to Minor cases are not out looking to join the criminal justice system. Often, they are simply young adults who are entering the workforce with their first job. The opportunity could come from a local pizza place, with a “Server Needed” sign hanging in the door. “No Experience Needed” can equate to not a lot of hands on training about the rules and regulations regarding sales of alcohol.

Enter The Special Agent


The Washington State Patrol doesn’t just write speeding tickets. They hire a few mature looking individuals to go into restaurants and taverns and see who will sell to them. They enter, pick a table, order a beer and pizza, and the trap is set. The probable outcome is that the unsuspecting college age server ends up with a criminal charge.

The Elements Of Furnishing Liquor To A Minor


RCW 66.44.270 states: 


(1) It is unlawful for any person to sell, give, or otherwise supply liquor to any person under the age of twenty-one years or permit any person under that age to consume liquor on his or her premises or on any premises under his or her control. … A violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor.

There Are Positive Ways To Resolve A Furnishing Liquor Charge


Furnishing Liquor to a Minor Cases are handled in District and Municipal Courts, as they are Gross Misdemeanors. Being that they are handled in these “lower” Courts, there are typically more options available for resolution than either pleading guilty or going to trial.

Many jurisdictions have some form of Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, which is essentially a contract between the Defendant and the Prosecuting Attorney. With this type of Diversion Agreement, the Court does not sentence the defendant. Rather, the Court merely approves the contract between the parties. If you abide by the terms of the contract, the Furnishing Liquor charge is typically dismissed at the end of the agreed upon term. Procedurally, the case goes into a long continuance (several months at least) and then ends in a dismissal – there is never a conviction if the terms are met.


The most common term that we see is the requirement to complete is a class hosted by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board called “Responsible Liquor and Tobacco Sales Class.” The other negotiated terms could be payment of a probation assessment and maintain law abiding behavior.


Click here for more information on Pre-Trial Diversion agreements


Hopefully you are never in the position to be charged with this crime. But if you are on the receiving end of a Furnishing Liquor to A Minor Charge in Washington State, give our office a call. We can often have these cases worked out prior to your arraignment date. We have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo, and Gig Harbor for your convenience.

February 06, 2022

Military / Active Duty

Witt Law Group’s offices are conveniently located to serve active duty at Naval Base Kitsap, which is located on the Kitsap Peninsula in Washington state. Naval Base Kitsap was created in 2004 by merging the former Naval Station Bremerton with Naval Submarine Base Bangor. If you live in the area, you will often hear submariners refer to being stationed at Bangor or at Keyport but it is all part of NBK. Sailors will typically refer to Navy Base Kitsap located in Silverdale since, within the area, there is also the possibility of being based at Naval Station Everett, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, or Naval Magazine Indian Island.

 

We do not handle criminal matters for sailors facing civilian criminal charges in the Everett or Whidbey Island area but we are happy to provide a referral to another law firm.

 

If you are serving in the Air Force or Army in western Washington, you are likely stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord in Pierce County, Washington. For these service members, the civilian criminal cases are most frequently charged in Pierce or Thurston counties or the cities within that area such as Lakewood, Tacoma, Puyallup, Olympia, and Yelm.

 

Witt Law Group handles all aspects of civilian criminal charges, including Department of Licensing consequences from criminal charges. We do not handle cases prosecuted under the UCMJ.

 

Finally, if you are no longer active duty but work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard (PSNS) or Naval Base Kitsap, we are happy to assist in providing legal guidance. Even as civilians, it is possible to have challenges that impact your employment because you possess certain military clearance to enter the shipyard and/or base. 

Why do our military service members face a more challenging time with civilian criminal cases?

 

Military service members have unique challenges when it comes to legal issues in the civilian world. If the sailor or soldier does not understand the function of military legal vs. civilian legal services, it can create a great deal of frustration and negative consequences.

 

First, most active duty members have been relocated to Washington from another state so any notice they receive from a court is likely sent to the address on their home state drivers license. In our experience, most soldiers and sailors do not request a new drivers license in each state where they are relocated. This makes for some challenges in timely notice of a pending criminal charge.

 

Second, since active duty members are relocated or deployed frequently, the individual is accustomed to leaving the geographical area without concern for follow up and, furthermore, has no understanding of how to “monitor” potential problems.

 

Third, when problems arise, the individual typically tries to make an appointment with their branch of military legal to seek advice. For any military-related matter or punishment, this makes sense. Unfortunately, waiting to get the appointment and then being advised that military lawyers do not advise on civilian criminal issues, eats up valuable time to resolve criminal cases with the least amount of challenges. 

How do I know if I should consult with a private criminal defense lawyer?

 

If you were ever stopped by law enforcement and/or under suspicion for a crime, even if not arrested, you should consult with a civilian private criminal defense lawyer. Depending on the nature of the case, you may not be charged for a year or more. Where blood was drawn, such as a DUI stop, the state toxicology lab may not return the results of that sample for a year. Additionally, the officer may have had enough information at the time of the stop to submit notice to DOL of the investigation, which could potentially suspend your drivers license long before you are actually charged by the prosecutor. Most people are unaware that a DUI criminal charge triggers both a civil administrative consequence and a criminal consequence in the state of Washington. A public defender can only help with the criminal case. If you request a DOL hearing in time, your private criminal defense attorney should handle both matters. 

Should I leave on deployment if I believe I am under investigation and I do not know if I have a criminal charge?

 

This situation happens all the time in Kitsap County. With Naval Base Kitsap, there are so many submariners or sailors who are living in civilian life as well as military life. Sometimes, while off base, events occur that leave the service member wondering if a civilian consequence will arise down the road.

 

We have helped hundreds or perhaps thousands of active military members handle the “wait and see” phase while you may be under investigation. There is no reason to panic and it is entirely possible, by having an attorney monitor the situation, you might avoid any negative consequences while you are deployed. For more information on that topic, click the button below. 

 

What Can Happen If I Am Restationed While A Criminal Case Is Pending? 

 

What steps can I take to avoid getting a warrant while deployed?

 

The best thing to do is call a local criminal defense attorney right when the questionable incident happens. Make sure the law firm you call is very experienced in this area. Just as you would not call a dermatologist if you needed open heart surgery, do not call law firms that “dabble” in this area or have no experience in criminal defense. If you are active military and potentially facing a criminal charge, you absolutely need the right lawyer. 

What if I am facing a court martial or other military consequences?

 

The civilian world is quite different than the military world when it comes to prosecution. For this reason, we have the best referrals to defend you in military courts. We handle all civilian consequences and, if there is a need for a military attorney, we will get you in the best hands to handle all adverse actions you might be facing. 

How do I know whether I have a civilian consequence or facing a military prosecution? 

 

Most likely, the nature of your potential charge will tell us who will have jurisdiction. If you were stopped or investigated by a civilian law enforcement agent and it was not on base, you are likely facing a local municipal or county prosecutor. Depending on the location, it could also be on federal land and, in that case, it could be in federal court. In matters where the case is not in military court, you are facing civilian rules and punishments (jail, fines, etc.) as defined by the Revised Code of Washington. However, it is possible that you may also face non-judicial punishments from your command or due to rules under the UCMJ. 

What will a civilian criminal defense attorney do for me while I am deployed?

 

If you hire Witt Law Group, we monitor your matter through weekly contacts with the court and prosecutor’s office. Whenever possible, we try to negotiate the case even prior to the actual criminal charging. This avoids an arrest record altogether because the criminal case is never charged. Additionally, if we know one of our clients is facing an upcoming Arraignment date but is still deployed, we can have that court date moved and no warrant will be issued. You can serve your duty without the stress or fear that you will have an arrest warrant when you return. It is also best to have a civilian contact for our office as well. Should it become necessary to request a DOL administrative hearing within 7 days, we can quickly contact your representative to have this option preserved so you do not automatically have your drivers license suspended. 

What if I have an upcoming court date but I am also facing Nonjudicial Punishment (NJP)?

 

When a soldier or sailor is facing NJP for a violation of the UCMJ, the individual can accept the punishment or seek a military attorney to seek a court martial trial. Most of our military clients are in the Navy and this NJP is often referred to as Captain’s Mast. When facing Captain’s Mast, the sailor’s command will determine an appropriate punishment. Sometimes, we will receive a call from the sailor’s command to discuss what is likely to happen and how serious the offense or punishment could be in the civilian court.

 

In most cases, the command wants to make sure the sailor serves punishment for the violation but they also want it to be a learning experience so they are supportive of the sailor. For that reason, we usually see sailors accept the NJP rather than proceed to a military trial. This allows the sailor to serve their punishment immediately after the arrest or filing of the criminal charge while Ryan begins negotiating on the civilian side. However, the service member should consider consulting with a military attorney because, depending on the sailor’s time in the Navy, how much the military has “invested” in the sailor, as well as many other factors, command may seek to discharge you from the Navy regardless of the NJP. If you need information for a local attorney familiar with military law and court-martials, we can provide you a referral. 

What if my court date and NJP are at the same time?

 

If the sailor is facing a court date during NJP, this date can often be moved or we can arrange with command to have the sailor transported to court during the NJP period. If the sailor cannot be transported or is overseas, Ryan can appear at the Arraignment and, in the sailor’s absence, request that the hearing be moved to a future date. The judges and prosecutors in Kitsap County are well-versed in the protocols of the Navy and how service members are managed when facing a criminal charge. Without a doubt, the fact that the sailor is being punished by command does carry weight with prosecutors. The NJP will not be substituted for civilian punishment but it is considered during negotiations. 

What if I want to wait and meet with Navy legal before handling my civilian criminal charge?

 

Be very careful about waiting because there are critical timelines that can pass. You can have your drivers license suspended through DOL or, worse, you may end up with a warrant if you do not appear for your scheduled court date.

 

It is reasonable and prudent to reach out to Navy legal to determine whether there could be consequences within the military, such as NJP, but do not substitute Navy legal for your civilian legal obligations.

 

This information is from the U.S. Navy JAG Corps website:

 

Q. Where do I go for help with criminal matters?

A. Navy legal assistance attorneys do not handle criminal matters, including adverse administrative issues such as Articles 15 and discharge actions. If you are a service member, please visit your local Defense Service Office. If you are a civilian, you will need to seek assistance from a private civilian attorney experienced in criminal law. Contact your local county bar association for a referral to a competent civilian attorney. 

I do not have much money so I will wait to talk with the civilian Public Defender. Can that create problems?

 

Public defense is usually free or very low cost for those who cannot afford a private criminal defense lawyer. That option can be helpful for those without funds. However, waiting to meet with your public defender can create additional problems. The reason this is a problem is that you must be assigned a public defender, which happens at Arraignment. Therefore, you do not have the benefit of legal advice until after your first appearance in court. 

What are examples of issues that might arise if I wait to be assigned a Public Defender?

 

(1) If you are being charged with a crime that involves a potential license suspension, you will not be provided a reminder about your Department of Licensing hearing request deadline. If 7 days has past, you have missed the deadline.

 

(2) Even if you request the DOL hearing in time, Public Defenders do not assist with this administrative hearing, which can suspend your driving privileges. You are on your own unless you hire a private lawyer.

 

(3) If you want to prevent a warrant while you are deployed or concerned about notice due to an out of state license, a public defender can not help you. Since they are not assigned until the case begins, any help you need prior to Arraignment must be provided by a private defense attorney.

 

(4) If you are deployed or have been relocated at the Arraignment date, a public defender can not step in for you and waive the Arraignment. Because you are not a client prior to Arraignment, the public defender would not have your orders or notice that you can not appear for court. In that case, you will likely have an arrest warrant issued by the judge until you appear to quash the warrant.

 

This is not an exhaustive list of the many things a private criminal defense attorney can assist with prior to Arraignment. Often, with legal counsel during the investigation phase, there are other problems that can be avoided. Every criminal case is unique so you have to discuss the facts of your case with a lawyer in the local area where you are being charged. 

Is it possible to make the criminal case “go away” so that I do not have to return to Washington?

 

While it is not common, there are situations in which we can either resolve the case in advance of Arraignment or, due to the nature of the crime, you can appear for your Arraignment via zoom. Additionally, in certain types of cases, we can work out a Compromise of Misdemeanor, which essentially makes the case “go away” by coordinating a deal with the victim. We have done this many times before the client even appeared in court for the initial Arraignment. Basically, while we are monitoring the case, we get notice that the case will be charged. Between notice of charging and the mailing of the Summons to appear, we work out a deal before the client ever goes to court. In that case, at Arraignment, we already have a resolution to the matter. This can not happen with a public defender because they are not assigned until after the Arraignment. 

How do I find an experienced civilian criminal defense lawyer?

 

Do not call lawyers who are not in the state where you are facing a criminal charge because they cannot give you advice. It is also best to call an attorney who is local to where your case is pending because each jurisdiction (city or county) has specific protocols and, in some cases, “therapeutic courts” or alternative resolutions for your type of case. For these reasons, the attorneys at Witt Law Group only advise potential clients who have a criminal matter in Kitsap, Pierce, or Thurston counties as well as the cities that lie within that area such as Bremerton, Poulsbo, Seabeck, Hansville, Rolling Bay, Port Orchard, Silverdale, Purdy, Kingston, Bangor, Bainbridge Island, Gig Harbor, Fox Island, Tacoma, Olympia, and Lacey.

 

If you or a loved one who is serving in the military in the Kitsap or Pierce county area and facing a criminal charge, please contact our office at (360) 792-1000. If you are unsure if you are being charged in Kitsap, Pierce, or Thurston counties or the cities in that area, you can contact our office for guidance on that issue.

 

What can happen if I am being stationed out of Washington state and I do not know yet if I am being charged criminally in a civilian court?

 

This situation is very similar to being deployed while under investigation. The answer is quite simple. You need to hire a criminal defense attorney in the area where you are potentially facing the criminal charge. The attorney can monitor the case for charging and keep you updated.

 

Theoretically, if you notified the Court and the Department of Licensing of your new address, you should be notified by mail of any upcoming court dates. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and, more often than not, we get calls from service members who did not receive notice and now have a warrant. Typically, the military catches the pending criminal charge and warrant, which leads to very negative consequences on the military side. For obvious reasons, your command will not think fondly of a member of the team who has allowed a criminal charge to go unnoticed or ignored.

 

If you hire Witt Law Group to monitor your case, we will take a fee to do so but it will not be the entire legal defense fee. This allows us to keep track of the situation and give updates without charging you the cost of defense. This way, if no criminal charges come from the investigation, you only spent a fraction of what it would cost to hire a lawyer for the entire case.

 

Additionally, if we find out you are going to be charged, we can quickly work out a payment arrangement with you or a family member. Payment arrangements are rarely an option in any criminal defense firm but, in our experience, we have never been burned by a military member failing to take care of an outstanding bill. Therefore, if we are monitoring your case and a criminal charge develops, we can work with you to manage the financial challenge. 

 

If you or a loved one who is serving in the military in the Kitsap or Pierce county area and facing a criminal charge, please contact our office at (360) 792-1000. If you are unsure if you are being charged in Kitsap, Pierce, or Thurston counties or the cities in that area, you can contact our office for guidance on that issue.

 

If you miss a court date, the odds are that a judge will issue a warrant. However, there are often things a defendant can do to reduce her risk of getting a warrant or increase the odds that the warrant will be quashed quickly. 

How Can You Help Yourself?

 

1.  If the date has not passed, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney in the town or county where you are expected in court. A local attorney will not only be able to advise how the hearing might go but also, in many cases, appear on your behalf if it is impossible for you to attend.


2.  If you are active duty military and deployed, get a copy of your deployment papers to a friend or relative who is willing to hire an attorney on your behalf. The attorney can appear on the scheduled date and get you a new date reassigned.

3.  If your hearing is due to a compliance issue, get yourself in compliance prior to the hearing. For example, pay your fines, file your required treatment report, get a clean UA or whatever else is creating the noncompliance status. If you missed the hearing, get in compliance immediately thereafter because a judge is more likely to to quash a warrant for someone who is back in compliance. 

You Must Get Advice From An Attorney In The Area You Have Court

 

None of the above information should be construed as legal advice since every criminal case is so unique. Additionally, every local jurisdiction has unique rules and customs that could dictate the result of missing a court hearing. Regardless of where you are, missing court is never a good idea. 

Do Not Delay In Calling

 

Law firms do not operate like drive thru restaurants. Do not expect “instant attorney” for your issue. If your hearing is Monday afternoon at 1:30, do not expect to get help if you start calling at noon on that same Monday. For an attorney to appear, you will need to sign a fee agreement and the attorney files a document called a Notice of Appearance. These things can take time. Do not put yourself in a bad spot by waiting until the last minute. 

Do Not Waste Time By Calling Attorneys Outside Of The Local Area Where You Have Court

 

If you have messed up or fear that you might miss court, do not delay in reaching out to an attorney in the state and local jurisdiction where you are supposed to appear. It is pointless to call an attorney in Texas if your case is in Washington. Attorneys are licensed to practice in a specific state and are not allowed to give any advice on matters in a state where they are not licensed. You are wasting their time and yours to call around randomly for advice. For example, if your case in Bremerton Municipal Court, you should search for “criminal defense attorneys in Bremerton Washington” if you want proper guidance.

 

If you have a criminal defense issue in Kitsap, Pierce, or Thurston counties or cities within those counties, you can reach our firm at (360) 792-1000. We have offices in Bremerton, Gig Harbor, and Poulsbo. We can also handle your representation over the phone or zoom. And, depending on the nature of your criminal charge, you may never need to step foot in the state or courtroom.

December 27, 2021 is a SNOW DAY! 

 All Court hearings scheduled for 12/27/2021 in Kitsap County District Court are canceled. No court tomorrow!

 

Here is the official release from the Court:  

 

"Kitsap County Courthouse, all County offices, and County parks are closed Monday, December 27
The Kitsap County Courthouse, all County offices, and all County parks and parking areas, are closed Monday, December 27 due to inclement weather conditions.

If you are scheduled for a District Court case Monday, please use the LiveChat feature on the District Court home page on Tuesday to check on scheduling. For Superior Court cases call the Clerk’s Office (360.337.7164) on Tuesday.

Kitsap County Garbage and Recycling Facilities are operating on a 2-hour delay Monday. Check the resources below for updates after 7 AM Monday before visiting the facilities.

Check the County’s Inclement Weather Page for updates. Subscribe to e-mail or text message notifications on that page. You can also get updated information by calling the Inclement Weather phone line (360.337.5755). Find a listing of online services at the County's home page www.kitsapgov.com"

 

If you have a Court date that is being canceled and rescheduled, check out our YouTube video on how to find your new court date: 

I stopped to exchange information after an accident but other driver was acting aggressively toward me. So I left. Now what?

Snowy winter conditions can and will lead to many accidents. Generally speaking, being involved in an accident is NOT a crime. Leaving the scene of the accident IS a crime. If you are involved in an accident, do your best to move your vehicle to a safe position and then make contact with the other driver(s) to exchange insurance information and make sure everyone is OK.

What If The Other Driver Acts Aggressively Toward Me?

 

Every so often people are involved in an accident, and they exit their vehicle to exchange insurance information. Then, the are confronted by the other driver who is in a fit of rage. It can be a scary situation for everyone involved. An innocent accident can escalate to a very volatile situation. The problem is that the law requires you to engage with the other driver You are required to stay at the scene and provide your name, address, insurance company, policy number, vehicle license number and exhibit your driver’s license.

How Do You Comply With The Law If The Other Driver Is Putting Your Safety At Risk?

 

The threat faced in every situation is different, but we advise our clients to:


•  Get in your car and lock the door
•  From your locked car, call 911 at the scene if you determine it is safe to remain. Inform the operator of the accident / provide them your insurance information
•  If it is not safe to remain at the scene, drive directly to the nearest police station to inform them of the accident / provide them your insurance information

It’s Better To Be Safe!


Remove yourself from the scene and get to a safe location. Inform the authorities of the accident and let them know why you felt you needed to leave the scene. Lots of people leave the scene and put the accident in their rear view mirror. Even if the person was a jerk to you, you still need to provide your information. Don’t let the jerk on the roadside be the cause of you getting a criminal charge for Hit and Run!

 

Witt Law Group is a criminal defense law firm based in Western Washington. We have offices in Gig Harbor, Bremerton and Poulsbo for your convenience. 

 

For More Information On Hit And Run, Watch Our Video Below 

When confronted with the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) test in Washington State, what should I do?

While this blog should not be construed as legal advice, we share this information after 20 years of experience in Kitsap County, Washington. Many people believe that refusing the BAC test makes a future DUI prosecution more difficult for the Prosecuting Attorney. The theory makes sense – if you take the BAC result out of the Prosecutor’s tool chest, it is more difficult to prove the case. Unfortunately, that theory does not match with legal reality in the State of Washington.

The State Can "Argue" The Refusal


When you “refuse” the breath test at the station, it is true that the State doesn’t have a result to show that an individual is over the per se limit. However, in exchange, the State now possesses something more powerful – the ability to argue the refusal.


The District Courts give the Prosecuting Attorneys wide latitude to paint the defendant who refused the breathalyzer as a menace to society. The menace to society / danger to the community label permeates through all levels of the DUI prosecution, not just before a jury at trial.


As early as a defendant’s first hearing, or “arraignment”, the State will undoubtedly mention the refusal when suggesting conditions of release to the judge. For example you will hear statements like “your Honor, as troubling as these facts are to begin with, this defendant also choose to refuse the breath test, preventing this Court from knowing how high the result was and how serious a threat this individual poses to the community.” Next, the Prosecutor will ask for an Ignition Interlock requirement due to the refusal.


The refusal is easy for the Prosecutor to prove. While the introduction of a BAC result into evidence is a precise process of many steps that must be followed in the correct order, the refusal is as easy as throwing paint at a wall. For defense counsel, it is nearly impossible to prevent the State from intruding / arguing the refusal evidence before a jury.

A Refusal Is A Sentencing Enhancement


When the Prosecuting Attorney alleges the “Refusal” on the Criminal Complaint, it is a sentencing enhancement. The sentencing enhancement increases the mandatory minimum jail time and mandatory minimum fines.

A Refusal Triggers More Severe Sanctions From The DOL


Lastly, the “refusal” triggers more severe action by the Washington State Department of Licensing. For a frame of reference, if an individual blows, the suspension is usually 90 days. Under the same set of facts, with a refusal, the suspension will be not less than one year.

People Have No Reason To Know The Negatives Of A Refusal

 

People aren’t educated as to the negative repercussions of the refusal. No one ever plans on being arrested for DUI, so why would you educate yourself for a scenario that you believe will never happen? To compound the issue, individuals from other states come with the belief that they need to refuse the breathalyzer because it is advantageous in their home state. Washington is an implied consent state and you will are assumed to consent to the blow if you drive on Washington roadways. If you don’t blow, you will certainly be punished more severely. If you have questions about this or any other Washington DUI related topic, please call or text our office. 

If you are facing a Domestic Violence charge in the State of Washington, you may be eligible to enter a rigorous but rewarding treatment plan commonly known as a Deferred Prosecution. A successful Deferred Prosecution ends with the current charge(s) being dismissed, but not everyone is eligible to enter a domestic violence Deferred Prosecution.

 

The four major factors that determine whether or not a person may be allowed into a Deferred Prosecution are (1) you can not have done a previous Deferred Prosecution, (2) you believe that, without such treatment, you have a high likelihood to reoffend, (3) you must be diagnosed that you are in need of domestic violence treatment, and (4) the case is charged in a District or Municipal Court in the State of Washington. 

Benefits of a Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution

 

•The case is dismissed

•There is no jail time

•More often than not, even initially reluctant people at the end of the Deferred Prosecution report that is was a very positive experience

 

Downside of a Domestic Violence Deferred Prosecution


• You are only eligible to enter the program once in your life. If you mess it up, even at the beginning, that was your only shot

 •You are waiving substantial rights upon entry of a Deferred. If you fail, it is much easier for the State (or City) to convict you. If the Court deems that you are out of compliance, the Judge simply reads the Officer’s narrative of the events – no trial is held

 •In entering a Deferred, you have created a legal record that you are in need of domestic violence prevention treatment 

 •The entrant bears the cost of the domestic violence treatment program, and the Court costs for the Deferred Prosecution

 

The Domestic Violence Case Will Be Dismissed

 

Under RCW 10.05.120(3), the domestic violence case will be dismissed. The Statute states:

 

When a deferred prosecution is ordered for a petition brought under RCW 10.05.020(1) involving a domestic violence behavior problem and the court has received proof that the petitioner has successfully completed the domestic violence treatment plan, the court shall dismiss the charges pending against the petitioner

The fantastic part (other than getting the case dismissed) about this plan is that the dismissal can happen very quickly. Once a treatment plan is complete, the Court shall dismiss the pending charges. This would typically be in one year, because the average DV treatment plan is one year long. To contrast, Deferred Prosecutions for alcohol are five years, at the minimum. 

 

If you have questions about entering into a Deferred Prosecution for your domestic violence case, give our office a call. We have offices in Gig Harbor, Bremerton and Poulsbo for your convenience. 

When a DUI defense attorney looks over the facts of a case, what they are trying to do is figure out what evidence can be “suppressed,” or in other words, be declared inadmissible at a future trial. One of the most common pieces of evidence that a skilled attorney will attempt to suppress is the results from the BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) test. If the BAC result is suppressed, this removes the most significant piece of evidence from the State in a future DUI prosecution. Without the BAC test result, the State would have to prove that the defendant is “affected by” alcohol, and that is not always easy to do. So how do you suppress the BAC result?

Challenge the 15 Minute Observation Period

 

Under Washington’s Law governing breath tests, an officer must conduct a fifteen minute observation of a person arrested for DUI prior to the administration of the breath test. This requirement comes from RCW 46.61.506, Washington Administrative Code (or WAC) 448-16-040 and from the Washington State Patrol’s BAC DataMaster Operator’s Manual. Each of these authorities mandate an uninterrupted observation period of at least 15 minutes. If the observation period is interrupted, it must be restarted – including a new mouth check.
The observation period begins with the officer conducting a mouth check. This can either be a physical inspection, or the officer simply asking the subject if they have anything in their mouth. Once the mouth check is complete, the observation period has begun. The following is a statement that must be sworn to, every time an officer conducts a BAC test:

 

I observed the subject during the entire observation period and during that time they did not eat, drink, smoke, vomit, or place any foreign substance in their mouth.

 

This begs the question, what does “observe” mean? Many officers treat this requirement (that they are swearing to!) very lackadaisically. Most defense attorneys argue that any break in the observation period invalidates the period, and thus, invalidates the test result. For example, when the officer fills out forms, leaves the room for any reason, lets the subject go to the bathroom, or, the most egregious – drives with the detained subject in the back of the patrol car. Most defense attorneys have a very black and white definition of the meaning of "observe." The courts, not so much. 

“Observe” Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Visual Observation


In 2013, a Washington Appellate Court chipped away at the requirement for direct, 100% visual observation. The Court in State v. Mashek 177 Wn.App 749 ruled that the observation “need not be strictly visual but, rather, can be a combination of other senses….” The Court lowered the bar and said as long as there is “prima facie evidence” (evidence of sufficient circumstances that would support a logical and reasonable inference of the facts sought to be proved) that the person did not vomit, eat, drink, smoke, or have foreign substances in their mouth for 15 minutes before the test, then the test is valid. Basically the Court indicated that an officer can use a combination of any number of their senses to keep an individual under their observation. 

This Mashek Decision Is An Obstacle, But It Is Not Insurmountable


Even with the Court diluting the uninterrupted observation period rule, officers still FREQUETNLY violate the rule in an irreparable way. For example, they leave the BAC room for several minutes, or a second officer signs the form that didn’t observe the subject at all. And there is definitely not a clean observation of a defendant in the back of a patrol cruiser when the officer is driving. The ability to suppress the BAC result with this defense is slightly harder, but it certainly did not go away.

Contact A DUI Defense Attorney


The penalties for a DUI conviction are severe. If you are facing a DUI charge, give yourself the best chance at avoiding or mitigating the penalties of a DUI conviction. Contact the DUI defense attorneys at Witt Law Group right away!

People are often shocked by the rule that when a law enforcement officer responds to a domestic violence call, someone has to be arrested. Even if the individuals involved don’t want assistance, and everything is back in a peaceful state, someone will be arrested and taken to jail. The arrest most often seems excessive and leads people to be upset not just at the other party, but usually at the police. Which begs the question….

Why Are People Arrested Over Such Minimal Events?

 

Why is it that law enforcement arrest individuals over the most benign altercations? The short answer is: they have to. By statute, law enforcement officers who respond to a domestic violence call within four hours of the event, and who have probable cause to believe that a crime of domestic violence has occurred, must make an arrest.

The Mandatory Arrest Rule Comes From The Combination Of Two Washington Statutes.

 

RCW 10.99.030 (6)(a) states “[w]hen a peace officer responds to a domestic violence call and has probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed, the peace officer shall exercise arrest powers with reference to the criteria in RCW 10.31.100.”


RCW 10.31.100 (2) states that “[a] police officer shall arrest and take into custody …a person without a warrant when the officer has probable cause to believe that:

(d) The person is eighteen years or older and within the proceeding four hours has assaulted a family or household member or intimate partner… and the officer believes:

(i) A felonious assault has occurred;

(ii) an assault has occurred which has resulted in bodily injury to the victim, whether or not the injury is observable; or,

(iii) that a physical action has occurred which was intended to cause another person reasonably to fear imminent serious bodily injury or death.

 

When the officer has probable cause to believe that the individuals involved have assaulted each other, the officer is NOT required to arrest both persons. The officer shall arrest the person whom the officer believes to be the primary physical aggressor.

Why Can’t The Officer Use Discretion?


The law enforcement officers who respond are sometimes in a box. Even though there may be a better solution than arresting a party, they must make an arrest. If officers, using their best judgment and discretion, decides to not arrest an individual, they can get in trouble upon review of the situation by their supervisor.


Knowing They Have To Arrest, How Do They Decide?

 

The officers try to determine who was the “primary aggressor” or, in other words, the individual who started the altercation or who kept it going. Or, it could come down to the individual who poses the greater threat. This can be a tricky situation because Officers are thrust into a scene with no understanding of the backstory.


Some individuals are just naturally better story tellers, and some clam up when they are confronted with law enforcement. This can be a huge factor. Some people tell wild and fanciful stories, while the other party just keeps their mouth shut. As such, the police only have one avenue to direct their efforts – they usually are directed by the individual who is more vocal.


Can’t That Lead To Error?


Absolutely. People should find it troubling that the police are NOT there to get to the absolute truth of the matter. Law enforcement works under the premise that getting to the ultimate truth isn’t their responsibility. They are there simply to begin the investigation and separate the individuals involved. The idea is that the truth will shake out in the Court process, by investigation and discussion between the prosecution and defense.


The problem with this logic is that often the police report is all the prosecution and defense have to go on. More often than not, there is no other information gathered and heavy reliance upon the law enforcement officer’s report is bolstered because the Judges take them as unquestionably true.


Another Compounding Issue Is The Low Standard Of Probable Cause


Referencing back to the Statute, it doesn’t take a high measure of proof to determine that there is “bodily injury to the victim, whether or not the injury is observable” The standard to arrest is “probable cause”, which is a very low standard, as opposed to “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” which is necessary to convict.


For example, if a law enforcement officer responds to the scene, and an individual simply says “he pushed me down” with nothing more and no visible injury, that is enough for the officer to make a finding of probable cause. And once that P.C. determination is made, an arrest is mandatory. Often these accusations are exaggerations or total fabrications – that does not matter in the probable cause analysis as long as the tall tale meets the elements of a crime.


Collateral Consequences Of The Mandatory Arrest

 

When the defendant makes his first appearance in Court for the domestic violence charge, the Court will always place a “no-contact order” on the defendant, prohibiting the defendant from contacting the alleged victim. This happens even when the alleged victim comes to court and argues vehemently that the order is not necessary. Astonishingly, the order will even be put in place when the alleged victim tells the Court and prosecutor that the claims he or she made to the officer were a total fabrication. The no contact order requires the defendant to move out of the family home. As you can imagine, the order causes tremendous hardship on both parties, especially if the protected party is now responsible for all child care, bills, upkeep of the house and errands. The contact orders are often devastating to the family, both financially and in the shifting of responsibilities.


What To Do If You Or A Loved One Has A Domestic Violence Charge?


Call the law office of Witt Law Group right away. We have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience. If your case is outside of our area, we can always provide a quality referral.


For More Information On Domestic Violence Charges, Watch Our Video Below ↓