Ryan Witt

Ryan Witt

Several times a year, we see law enforcement officers pull over a vehicle and the only justification given is that the middle brake light is out. However, not all vehicles have a middle brake light and it is not necessary under the law. Even if you have one, it does not need to be functional.

Can You Be Pulled Over If Your Middle Brake Light Is Out?

 

We believe the answer is no.  We base this opinion on the controlling statute, RCW 46.37.050. 

 

(1) After January 1, 1964, every motor vehicle, trailer, cargo extension, semitrailer, and pole trailer, and any other vehicle which is being drawn at the end of a combination of vehicles, shall be equipped with at least two tail lamps mounted on the rear, which, when lighted as required in RCW 46.37.020, shall emit a red light plainly visible from a distance of one thousand feet to the rear, except that passenger cars manufactured or assembled prior to January 1, 1939, shall have at least one tail lamp. On a combination of vehicles only the tail lamps on the rearmost vehicle need actually be seen from the distance specified. On vehicles equipped with more than one tail lamp, the lamps shall be mounted on the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable.

(2) Every tail lamp upon every vehicle shall be located at a height of not more than seventy-two inches nor less than fifteen inches.

(3) Either a tail lamp or a separate lamp shall be so constructed and placed as to illuminate with a white light the rear registration plate and render it clearly legible from a distance of fifty feet to the rear. Any tail lamp or tail lamps, together with any separate lamp or lamps for illuminating the rear registration plate, shall be so wired as to be lighted whenever the head lamps or auxiliary driving lamps are lighted. 

The Statute Does Not Require Three Brake Lights!

 

Police like to interpret (or make up) laws that fit their needs. Don't fall prey to a sloppy interpretation of a straight forward statute. If you have a middle brake light, and it is out, who cares! It is not required anyway. Don't fall for the false narrative that this is some violation. 

Is This Stop Unlawful? Yes.

 

If you were pulled over for a middle brake light and subsequently arrested for DUI, there is a good chance we can prove the stop is unlawful. This may allow for a challenge to probable cause and your underlying charge of DUI being dismissed. 

Will A Dismissal Help Me With The Department Of Licensing? 

 

Additionally, where a case is dismissed due to constitutional challenge, your DOL hearing result (assuming you were suspended) can be thrown out as well. This is an additional step that must be taken upon prevailing on the criminal case.

If you have a Washington State DUI and you find yourself in this situation, give out office a call right away. We can be reached at:

 

(360) 792-1000

In DUI cases, the Court will often impose an Ignition Interlock requirement as a pretrial condition of release. In some situations, the imposition of that condition is discretionary, in other situations, the imposition is mandatory. This page addresses the situations in which it is mandatory.  

Mandatory Requirement For Installation / Use Of An Ignition Interlock Device

 

If an individual has a prior DUI conviction from any state (assuming the laws are comparable), the Court must order that the defendant install an ignition interlock effectively immediately. So the only way to be truly prepared for your arraignment is to have read and reviewed this form in advance.  Be advised that the Court doesn't allow for a window to time to drive home. Effectively immediately is truly effectively immediately.  

Form - Declaration To Not Operate Any Motor Vehicle Without Ignition Interlock

 

If a person falls into this scenario (where the IID will be required at arraignment) it is our preference to go through this document prior to the arraignment. To access the document, please press CLICK HERE, immediately below. 

 

CLICK HERE

 

 If you have any questions about the form, please call our office at (360) 792-1000. 

 

 

 

The "Statute of Limitations" is a safeguard that prevents the State or any prosecuting authority from charging a criminal case outside of a certain period of time. The Statute of Limitations precludes the State from bringing charges against an individual outside a time period that the legislature has deemed to be appropriate. 

Statute of Limitations in WA for a DUI is two years

 

RCW 9A.04.080 (1) Prosecutions for criminal offenses shall not be commenced after the periods prescribed in this section.

(j) No gross misdemeanor may be prosecuted more than two years after its commission. 

A DUI is a gross misdemeanor, therefore the Statute of Limitations is two years. The case can not be filed more than two years after it is alleged to have occurred. 

Can my DUI be dismissed if outside the Statute of Limitations?

 

Absolutely! We always check on the Statute of Limitations when we review a DUI case. This is especially important when a blood sample was taken and the Washington State Crime Lab is involved. We have seen the Lab take up to 14 months to return a result to the law enforcement agency. So many cases actually are charged right up to the Statute of limitations, and some over. If the case if charged beyond two years, case dismissed! 

If you have a statute of limitations question about a DUI, or any Washington criminal case, please give our office a call. We have have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience. 

The Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney in many cases asks the Court to ORDER a defendant be "administratively booked." In response to the Prosecution's request, the Judges always order it. So what is administrative booking? 

Administrative Booking Defined

 

Administrative booking in Kitsap County is the process of formally entering a person into a vast database. This allows their arrest and / or charge to be viewed by other courts, law enforcement agencies, etc. The Prosecution believes this to be highly important in DUI cases, and views the administrative booking as the most viable way to make the DUI history known to other law enforcement entities. In essence, they verify your personal information, photograph you and fingerprint you. 

The Steps Required

 

•  The Court must order the person to be administratively booked. If the Jail doesn't see a Court Order requiring booking, they won't do it. So you must bring a copy of the court order or your conditions of release including that condition.

•  Bring a photo ID. Without photo identification, the jail won't book you. 

•  Go to: 614 Division Street, Port Orchard Washington 98366 during business hours. 

Is There A Way To Dodge Booking?

 

Often times, no. This can be an issue if you are out of state and attempting to resolve your pending case. In the new era of Covid, nearly all court functions can be accomplished over ZOOM. Do you really want to fly back to Washington only to be administratively booked? It can be a massive inconvenience for people in this situation. There are ways to work around this requirement, but each case is different. For example, maybe the jail in your local county will do a "courtesy" booking for the Kitsap case. We have spoken with many jails in Washington and elsewhere. Some say yes, some say no. 

 

 

Judges, Prosecutors and even defense attorneys struggle to make sense of Washington State Department of Licensing's Abstract of Driving Record, or "ADR." This blog post is intended to provide you with the skills to read and even understand your ADR. 

Skills To Read The ADR

 

Attached below is a 12 page instructional document that was generated by DOL. It is the same material used to teach lawyers and Court staff. To access the document, press click here, immediately below. We hope this will help you unlock the mysteries of your ADR. 

 

CLICK HERE

 

If you need more assistance beyond what is provided in this document, you should call the help line for the Washington State Department of Licensing. That number is (360) 902-3900. 

 

Witt Law Group is a Criminal Defense and Personal Injury Law Firm based in Kitsap County Washington. 

An arrest for a DUI and dealing with the criminal charge is daunting enough. If you are lucky enough to have been informed about the co-occurring civil proceeding, your already high stress level will go through the roof. When we inform people about the civil proceedings, on top of the criminal prosecution, their heads figuratively explode. Most ask:

If I’m already being prosecuted, and the result of the criminal case will dictate what happens to my driver’s license, why is DOL also going after my license?

That is a great question. It’s one of the only questions where we do not have a satisfactory answer. The best we can surmise is “if one level of governmental oversight is good, two must be better.” Obviously this is a tongue in cheek answer. That is because there truly is no good answer – Washington State just likes more government than less. A wise, now retired Kitsap County District Court Judge, when posed with difficult questions, used to opine “It is what it is.” That is the most accurate statement when trying to rationalize the necessity for DOL's involvement in DUI cases.

Understanding that the DOL’s case against a defendant occurs simultaneously with the government’s criminal prosecution, what can be done about it?


The Four Legal Issues At A DOL Hearing


The are four legal issues that a DOL Hearings Examiner will take into consideration at a DOL hearing. When we participate in a DOL Hearing on behalf of a client, we try to challenge at least one, if not all, of the issues.


1. Did the law enforcement officer have reasonable grounds to believe the petitioner had been driving or in physical control of a motor vehicle within this state while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or drugs;


2. Was the petitioner lawfully placed under arrest;


3. Was the petitioner advised of the ICWs (Blood case: Whether the petitioner’s blood was lawfully drawn, i.e. pursuant to search warrant or consent);


4. Was the breath/blood testing valid according to the statute and protocols established by the state toxicologist and showed a result of alcohol concentration of .08 (.02 for minor) or more or .50 or more for THC concentration.

Alternatively - If the subject refused, was the refusal valid under the statute and case law?


How To Challenge The Four Legal Issues


Have competent counsel help you throughout this process. Many people have public defenders appointed on their cases. Understand that public defenders represent people in criminal matters, not civil matters. While the DOL hearing seems like a logical extension of the criminal case, it is not. It is civil in nature, so a public defender will not help you. 

Make sure to submit your request for the DOL hearing within 7 days from the date of arrest. If your license is from out of state, this request can not be done online, it must be made through the mail.

At the hearing, there are many considerations that your private attorney should address. Is the case at hand a refusal? Was there an accident? Were multiple people in the car? Did law enforcement see the driver behind the wheel? Should the defendant be available to testify? Is the BAC result admissible? Is the "chain of custody" good on a blood sample? This list could go on for pages and pages. Usually there is a valid challenge to at least one of the four issues if your attorney knows where to look. 

Witt Law Group is a DUI Defense and Personal Injury law firm based in Washington State. We have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience. If you have a questions about an upcoming DOL hearing, or your DUI case in general, give our office a call. 

Kitsap County is quick to criminally charge people with the crime of Aiming or Discharging a Firearm or Other Dangerous Weapon. But is the charge always justified? 

 

Kitsap County consists of 395 square miles of land, and it is not heavily populated. As such, many families and individuals live on 5 or more acres. One of the draws for many people about Kitsap County is the ability to discharge firearms. However, at least in our office's opinion, that privilege is frowned upon by the County Prosecuting Attorney and by local law enforcement. In light of that information, is is legal to discharge a firearm on your own property? The answer lies in reading the state and local statutes combines. 

 

State Firearms Statute - RCW 46.41.230 Aiming Or Discharging Firearms, Dangerous Weapons

(1) For conduct not amounting to [an assault], any person who:

(a) Aims any firearm, whether loaded or not, at or towards any human being;

(b) Willfully discharges any firearm, air gun, or other weapon, or throws any deadly missile in a public place, or in any place where any person might be endangered thereby. A public place shall not include any location at which firearms are authorized to be lawfully discharged; or

(c) Except as provided in RCW 9.41.185, sets a so-called trap, spring pistol, rifle, or other dangerous weapon,
although no injury results, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor punishable under chapter 9A.20 RCW.

 

In summary of the state statute, a person may not aim a firearm towards any human being, discharge a firearm in a public place, or in any place where a person might be endangered

Kitsap County Statute - 10.25.020(b) Firearms Discharge

(1) The discharge of firearms is prohibited within 500 yards of any shoreline.

(2) The discharge of firearms is [additionally prohibited in certain enumerated locations] - See statute for specifics.

(b) [The discharge of firearms is prohibited] [o]n any parcel of land less than five acres in size.

In summary of the Kitsap statute, a person may not shoot within 500 feet from a shoreline, in certain locations, and if the person's piece of land is less than five acers in size. In other words, If your piece of land is more than five acers, and not by a shore line, you are most likely good. 

Reading The State And Local Statutes Together

Our understanding is this - a person may not aim a firearm towards any human being, discharge a firearm in a public place, or in any place where a person might be endangered. Additionally, the plot of land on which you are shooting must be larger than five acers in size

The State's Argument - Which Is Unsuccessful

We have seen the Prosecuting attorneys argue that the act of discharging a firearm "potentially" endangers any human being if anyone is even remotely nearby. For example, we have seen them argue to the Court that a person "might be endangered" even if the person discharging the firearm is shooting in the opposite direction. Their argument to the Court fails. The Court recognizes that the State is trying to make a "per-se" argument - basically just the act of discharging a firearm in and of itself is inherently dangerous to anyone nearby. This argument is overly broad and inconsistent with the wording of the controlling statutes. 

If you have been charged with the crime of Aiming or Discharging a Firearm or Other Dangerous Weapon or any other Kitsap County crime, give our office a call. 

 

This, nor any of our blogs, are intended to be legal advice. All situations are different and each require a private discussion with an attorney. Do not misconstrue this blog post for the advice of local, licensed counsel.

 

 

Vehicle Prowling In The Second Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor, which means the maximum penalty is up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  Getting an attorney early on, even before the arraignment, can often alter the course of how the criminal charge will ultimately resolve. 

 

Elements Of The Vehicle Prowling Charge

 

The elements of Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree are as follows: 

•  A person is guilty of vehicle prowling in the second degree if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, he or she enters or remains unlawfully in a vehicle other than a motor home, as defined in RCW 46.04.305, or a vessel equipped for propulsion by mechanical means or by sail which has a cabin equipped with permanently installed sleeping quarters or cooking facilities.

"Enters Or Remains Unlawfully"

 

To fully understand the charge, one must also understand the definition of "enters or remains unlawfully". The definition is as follows:

•  A person "enters or remains unlawfully" in or upon premises when he or she is not then licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged to so enter or remain.

Based on the elements of Vehicle Prowling in the second degree, one is guilty of the offense even if the entry is for a fleeting moment and even if noting is actually taken from the vehicle. If an individual merely enters a vehicle to snoop around, but doesn't actually take something, that conduct would still meet the elements. However, if a person got into a car accidentally, because the cars looked similar, that would not be a crime because the prosecuting authority would most likely not be able to prove the "intent to commit a crime" element. 

 

Ways To Resolve A Vehicle Prowling Charge

 

There are defenses to Vehicle Prowling but, for the most part, a defense attorney is attacking the element of intent.  Any defense attorney will be exploring if the State can disprove whether the entry was an accident. Additionally, Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree cases are handled in District and Municipal Courts, as they are gross misdemeanors. Being that they are handled in these “lower” Courts, there are more options regarding how to resolve a Vehicle Prowling case other than going to trial or pleading guilty.

Most jurisdictions have some form of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, or "PDA," 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 Vehicle Prowling 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. If you would like to learn more about Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements, see below.

 
More Info On PDA's 

 

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 Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This may be the route you want to go, but make sure to discuss all the risks involved with competent counsel. 

 

We Are Here For You, 24/7

 

Witt Law Group serves individuals who have been charged with the crime of Vehicle Prowling in Kitsap County (including Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale, Kingston, Poulsbo & Seabeck). 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 Vehicle Prowling was interesting to you, please CLICK HERE to read more similar articles in our Blog.

 

 

First, an evaluation is extremely helpful in DUI cases. Most private defense attorneys will want this done and completed early because it helps with negotiation. A skilled negotiator is equally, if not more, important as trial experience when it comes to DUI cases. Unfortunately, clients are frequently misinformed about negotiation vs. trial due to law firm advertisements.

 

We see the negative impact of gimmicky advertising all the time. Due to misinformation, we spend a great deal of time and significant effort educating new clients on the realities of a DUI charge in Washington. The problems can be even more significant when the client is from another state and is unaware of the unique rules in Washington—including the fact we are an implied consent state.

 

So What Does The Eval Do?

 

A drug and alcohol evaluation can be extremely helpful because it can be a tool that the prosecutor uses to make a favorable decision in your case. When your defense attorney can establish legal issues with your arrest and also establish that you are not a threat to the community, via no dependency issues, it improves your odds of a good outcome.

 

In a nutshell, a positive evaluation can help negotiations run much more smoothly. There are a lot more details to this process but, suffice it to say, taking the proactive step to get an evaluation before your first pretrial can make a significant difference in assisting your attorney get the end game you want. It might be a dismissal one year later, after avoiding any further criminal violations, or it might be some other agreement. Basically, if you get an evaluation at a location that will give you a fair shake, your evaluation can be a positive tool in your defense.

 

Where Do I Make The Appointment?

 

Always ask our attorneys where you should go for an evaluation. Not all evaluators are equally qualified, meet the court standards, and some have more history of financial incentive (assigning lots of treatment that their company gets paid to provide). There are many factors to consider before you pay for an evaluation.

 

For More Information About Evaluations, CLICK HERE

 

If you have any further questions about signing up for an evaluation or how it might help in your specific case, contact one of our lawyers. Every case is unique so do not take the above information as legal advice. Do not take your friend’s advice. Do not substitute general blog advice. Do not delay getting advice. Call early in your case and contact a trusted experienced criminal defense lawyer in the area where you were criminally charged.

 

November 12, 2020

Contingency Fee

How does a personal injury lawyer get paid?

An attorney who is working on a personal injury case has a very different set of rules and interests than other areas of the law. To avoid having an injured person unfairly treated due to a lack of funds to sue a tortfeasor (at fault party), the rules allow attorneys to charge a contingency fee for the case. This means the lawyer will not get paid unless the lawyer is able to successfully resolve the case for their injured client. The contingency fee for almost all personal injury cases is 33% for the law firm. If the case goes to trial and is very complex or costly in terms of experts, the law firm may raise that contingency fee to 40-50% of the verdict. If it is a simple auto accident trial and experts are not needed, some firms will keep the 33% fee in place. 

The unique value of the Witt Law Group attorneys handling your injury case is that we will never make more money than our clients—even if we are entitled to the 33% fee. Try to find another law firm that will put that in writing! 

We are different because our law firm receives nearly three-quarters of our cases on referral. This means we keep people happy and they think of us when their friends and family need legal help. It is in our best interest to make sure we treat our community right and we have been successful because of that philosophy. In a time when firms spend tens of thousands of dollars a month in advertising, we just have to treat clients fairly. Occasionally, it might cost a bit in cutting our fee but, so far, we don’t regret giving money to a client rather than spending it on an advertisement.