Ryan Witt

Ryan Witt

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 ↓

 

In the State of Washington, the DUI statute has multiple prongs and one of the prongs is “affected by”—meaning the cop decides if you’re affected by alcohol or drugs. You do not need to have a predetermined amount of alcohol in your blood such as .08 to be arrested and criminally charged. In fact, every month, we have cases charged in Kitsap District, Bremerton Municipal, Port Orchard Municipal, and Poulsbo Municipal courts that are below the .08 standard. 

There Is No Automatic Dismissal!

 

Do not plan to show up to court and anticipate your case is “getting thrown out” once you point out a blow below .08 during your arraignment. It will not happen. These cases make money for the county and cities. Additionally, if an officer wrote in your reports that you were “affected by” a substance, that is sufficient for a judge or prosecutor. Unless you have video that establishes that the officer is lying and proves you were driving perfectly, the judge is going to find probable cause and you will be arraigned. Additionally, there may be further restrictions on your driving due to this reason. 

Do Not Ignore Filing Your DOL Hearing Request!

 

Because people often get legal advice from friends who support non-legal theories for dismissal, the accused will, to their peril, wait to file the DOL hearing request. If summonsed, the defendant goes to court for arraignment well beyond the 7 day hearing limit and discovers they are facing a DUI criminal charge and now will have their license suspended regardless of whether they prevail on the criminal case. That is a bad situation to be in because, if you do not ignore the reality of low blow DUI arrests and had filed the DOL hearing request, your attorney could have successfully fought the DOL suspension due to a lack of jurisdiction on the low blow. In fact, most officers know they are not supposed to file the report with DOL on a DUI arrest below .08 but some officers still do it. Once that paperwork is filed, you must request the hearing if you want to avoid the suspension. 

Caution

 

This information is an over-simplified explanation of these challenges. Do not use this as legal advice. To know what your risks and challenges are with an arrest below .08, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. It will make all the difference in your result. Do not take advice from non-lawyers or lawyers who do not practice law in your area.

During the pandemic, what has risen at a rate as sharply as the virus? - Occurrences of domestic violence.

The conditions that people have been required to endure (unexpected time at home, unemployment and financial insecurity, anxiety, and stress) are all known to aggravate domestic violence.

In a recent study from UC Davis, the researcher said “The pandemic, like other kinds of disasters, exacerbates the social and livelihood stresses and circumstances that we know lead to intimate partner violence” and further the “increased social isolation during COVID-19 has created an environment where victims and aggressors in a relationship, cannot easily separate themselves from each other. The extra stress also can cause mental health issues, increasing individuals perceived stress and reactions to stress through violence and other means.”

Is the uptick in acts of violence attributed to domestic abusers who were “predisposed” to be abusive or could the uptick in assaults be attributed to, otherwise peaceful people, being placed under stress from the COVID-19 pressures?

 

Additional data from the UC Davis study “[does] not suggest causality and there is no way to determine if intimate partner violence was present in those relationships prior to the pandemic. What the data does suggest, however, is that experiencing such violence is related to reporting more exposure to stress.” Researchers found that “as people find themselves in a more tenuous financial situation due to COVID-19, there are more things to worry about and subsequently argue about” which leads to an occasion for intimate partner violence.

One study by two economists at BYU, published in the journal of Public Economics, found disturbing trends. They sampled 14 large cities across the United States. To note, “the data suggested that the pandemic has produced many new offenders; reports coming from city blocks with no previous record of domestic violence were the main drivers of the increase.”

What we see on the ground level

 

Many people who have been married peacefully for decades have succumbed to the stress inflicted by the COVID lockdowns. People are irritated with each other as there have been no viable outlets. Otherwise good people now are facing Assault charges. People who have no history, or violent tendencies, are now wrapped up in the criminal justice system. 911 calls are often made out of frustration and exhaustion rather than violence or danger. Many people who make the call recognize, after the fact, that it was a mistake. 

Is your family impacted?

 

If you find yourself facing a criminal charge involving partner or family violence, give our office a call. Our experienced attorneys have helped many people throughout the past 18 months walk through this very delicate and embarrassing situation. The lockdowns and stressors have created many challenges for our community, including terrible conflicts for families. We are here to help.

If an individual is sentenced to jail in Kitsap County, the Court will direct them to the Kitsap County Jail. There is no formal information provided to these individuals, so this page is provided as a tool to help make entry into the jail less confusing. 

What You Need To Know

Here is the information that we have collected over the years that will make this difficult process slightly easier:

1. Bring your "Commitment." That is the document provided by the court that tells the jail what your sentence is. Think of it as your admission ticket. 

2. Bring State issues photo ID, such as a driver's license. 

3. Bring what ever prescriptions that will be needed for the duration of your sentence. 

4. Bring cash. The cash that you bring will be put in trust, and it can be used to purchase things at the commissary. You can't put money on your books in advance, that is why it is important to bring case on they day you check in.  If you have cash left over, it will be provided back to you in the form of a check. 

What Not To Do

1. Do not bring anything with you, other than what is listed above. Books are provided once inside. 

2. Do not show up intoxicated on any substance. 

3. Do not park near the jail. There is no long term parking and this will lead to your car being towed. 

How To Get There

The jail is located at 614 Division Street, Port Orchard WA 98366. 

While the address is on Division Street, you actually access the Jail from Cline Avenue. Here is a photo from Cline Ave. 

 

Jail check in 1

Walk diagonally through this parking lot which is located on Cline Ave. Head toward this entry to the jail:

Jail check in 2

Hours of Operation

The jail will only accept a person during certain hours. They accept people Monday through Friday, from 8:00 AM to 3:45 PM. If you arrive outside of those hours, they will most likely turn you away. Being turned away could be a terrible event if you are turning yourself in on the last day allowable. 

Rights At Your Arraignment

 

If you have been charged with a crime by any governmental authority, you have the following rights at your arraignment:


1. You are presumed innocent of any charge unless the charge is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.


2. You have the right to a speedy trial. If you are held in jail before trial you must be brought to trial within 60 days after the date of your arraignment. If you are not in jail or if you are released from jail before trial, you must be brought to trial within 90 days after the date of your arraignment. If you are released from jail before trial you must be brought to trial within 90 days after the date of your arraignment.


3. You have a constitutional right to a jury trial unless you specifically give up that right by signing a jury trial waiver.


4. You have the right to see, hear and question all witnesses who testify against you.


5. You have the right to call witnesses on your behalf. You may have the Court subpoena witnesses to appear and testify at no prior expense to you.


6. You have the right to testify on your own behalf. You also have the right to remain silent and not give testimony or present any evidence in your defense. Your silence cannot be used against you.


7. You have the right to be represented by an attorney of your own choosing at arraignment and at all hearings. If after you are screened, it is determined that you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. If you do not have an attorney at arraignment, you do not waive your right to an attorney at any later hearing.


8. If you feel you cannot have a fair trial because of the bias or prejudice of a particular judge, you have the right to ask for a different judge within 10 days of actual notice of assignment to that judge. You are entitled to only one change of judge.


9. If you plead guilty, you give up or waive all of the rights listed above except the right of representation by an attorney.


10. You have the right to appeal any judgment entered by this Court. To begin the appeal you must file a written Notice of Appeal in this Court within 30 days of the judgment.


11. If you are not a United States citizen, a guilty finding to an offense punishable as a crime under state law may be grounds for deportation, exclusion from admission to the United States, or denial of naturalization pursuant to the laws of the United States.


12. If you are not a United States citizen, you have the right to speak to someone from the Consulate of the nation where you are a citizen before being arraigned on any criminal offense.


13. If you are not a United States citizen, and are being held in jail, you have the right to request the prosecuting attorney notify the Consulate from the nation where you are a citizen that you are in jail.

Don't assume you can handle a criminal case on your own

 

Don’t go to Court alone and unprepared. While you may have all these magnificent rights, you need an attorney on your side that knows how to use them. Give our office a call.

Do you have more question about what happens at your arraignment? If yes, click on the box below.

 

What Happens Before And During An Arraignment?