Ryan Witt

Ryan Witt

July 08, 2018

Drug Offenses

In Washington, any criminal charge related to drugs is properly called a Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (VUCSA). Under this Act, a person can be charged for drug possession, use, manufacturing, delivering or intent to deliver.

With all of the publicity regarding legalization of marijuana or Seattle’s “safe zones” for heroin, some people think of Washington as a drug friendly state. That is absolutely not true. Prosecutions for drug crimes are common and aggressive. In fact, it is also common to see the Prosecutor allege “intent to deliver” due to the significant increase in punishment. While you may consider a certain amount of marijuana normal for personal use, the Prosecutor may not see it that way.

Do You Have A Drug Offense Charge? CLICK HERE And We Will Contact You Within 15 Minutes.

Additionally, it is important to understand that while you may be in possession of a “legal” drug or narcotic, it doesn’t mean you can use it or possess it at your discretion. For example, you may have been prescribed medication for your back pain but you can’t be in possession of your friend’s identical pain medication. And, while marijuana is “legal,” there are limits on where you can use it, how you can use it, whether you can grow it, and how much you can possess. The term “legal” can be confusing and dangerous in the world of drug charges.

How Serious Are Your Charges?

If you are facing a drug charge and curious about the seriousness of your case, it is extremely important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. The jail time, fines, and other consequences will vary depending on certain factors:

  • The type or classification of drug
  • The quantity of drugs
  • Personal use vs. intent to distribute
  • Evidence of sales
  • The presence of firearms or weapons
  • Past criminal history

Additionally, if you manufactured, sold, or delivered drugs near a school, near or on a school bus, in a drug free zone, in a park, to a minor, or on public transit, the Prosecutor will likely seek sentence enhancements. This can greatly increase your range of jail time and fines.

On the positive side, some people may be eligible for alternatives to the normal VUCSA punishments. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to enroll in the Drug Court program or qualify for a drug treatment program. Again, the unique facts of your case will determine the options for resolving your drug charges short of going to trial. In most drug cases, it’s important to consider alternatives due to the lengthy prison terms for VUCSA convictions.

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

If you found this article interesting, CLICK HERE to view more similar articles on our Blog.

July 08, 2018

Reckless Driving

Reckless Driving is a crime of interpretation – the officers interpretation. Reckless Driving is a criminal charge where an officer has full discretion to determine a driver’s intent. The officer must decide whether a driver’s conduct amounts to “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of people or property. Is it possible for different officers to interpret that standard in vastly different ways? Absolutely.

If you are going 90 miles per hour and are pulled over by Officer A, you may receive a speeding ticket.

If you are going 90 miles per hour and are pulled over by Officer B, you may be taken to jail for Reckless Driving while your car is being impounded.

Same set of facts, but two totally different interpretations. In scenario 1, the person has an infraction – a speeding ticket. In scenario 2, the person is saddled with a criminal charge.

If You Were Charged With Reckless Driving, CLICK HERE And We Will Contact You Within 15 Minutes.

The full definition of Reckless Driving is as follows:

RCW 46.61.500

Reckless driving—Penalty.

(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars. 

On top of the potential jail time, a person convicted of reckless driving shall be suspended by the Department Of Licensing for not less than thirty days. There is no option for an occupational license or an ignition interlock license as is available with a DUI.

Reckless Driving is not a charge to shrug off. It is a gross misdemeanor, the same level of crime as a DUI. It can affect your license status, insurance rates, ability to cross into certain foreign counties, security clearances, ability to rent vehicles, and most importantly, it is a criminal charge on your record.

Options For Resolving A Reckless Driving Case.

Reckless Driving 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 for resolving a Reckless Driving case other than going to trial or pleading guilty.

Most jurisdictions have some form of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, which is in essence 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 Reckless Driving case is typically dismissed at the end of the agreed upon term. Procedurally, the case goes onto a long continuance and then ends in a dismissal – there is never a conviction if all the terms are met.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements

Should You Go To Trial?

If a defendant wishes to not resolve the matter through a Diversion or a Compromise, they always have the right to go to trial. At trial, a defendant can require the Prosecutor to prove every element of the Reckless Driving charge beyond a reasonable doubt. You are able to challenge the case based on the elements. It is quite possible that a jury would feel that going 90 MPH on the highway is NOT a “willful or wanton disregard” for the safety of people or property. All Reckless Driving cases are different and that is just one example. Typically each case has it’s own unique set of facts and it’s own unique set of defenses.

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

If you found this article interesting, CLICK HERE to view more similar articles on our Blog.

July 07, 2018

Theft

In the State of Washington, there are essentially three ways to be charged with the crime of Theft. The difference in the three charges is strictly determined by the value of the item stolen.

Theft in the Third Degree: This is a gross misdemeanor and punishable by up to a $5,000 fine and up to 364 days in jail. Stolen items or services are valued at less than $750.

Theft in the Second Degree: This is a Class C felony and punishable by up to a $10,000 fine and up to 5 years in jail. Stolen items or services exceed $750 but do not exceed $5,000.

Theft in the First Degree: This is a Class B felony and punishable by up to a $20,000 fine and up to 10 years in jail. Stolen items or services exceed $5,000.

Do You Have A Theft Charge? Click Here And We Will Contact You Within 15 Minutes.

Theft charges can have serious negative impacts on a person's personal and / or work life. Often employers require employees self-disclose arrests for such charges. This can lead to discipline, loss of security clearance or termination.

Future employment opportunities will most certainly be impacted. If you are in a profession where it is required to hold a professional license (real estate agent, pharmacist, teacher, doctor etc...) you may not be able to renew your license. Certain entire industries will also deem you as unemployable. You will not work in lending, banking, or any position in where money exchanges hands. If you are a contractor or laborer and required to go in clients homes, that may no longer be allowed. If you are heading off to college, or thinking of going back to school, your ability to obtain student loans will be impacted. If you are thinking of purchasing a home, the mortgage lending process will be turned upside down. These types of charges can cause a serious up-hill battle for most people. For these reasons, Theft charges must be addressed with the highest importance.

How Do Misdemeanor Theft Charges Resolve?

Common ways that we avoid misdemeanor theft convictions for our clients are through two different instruments, 1. a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement (or PDA), or 2. a Compromise of Misdemeanor. Typically, both will achieve the end result of dismissal of the charge.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT COMPROMISE OF MISDEMEANOR

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT PRE-TRIAL DIVERSION AGREEMENTS

Both of these methods of resolution are higlhy effective. We use each, when appropriate, to mitigate serious long term negative impacts on our clients. More than 95% of our clients charged with Theft will have thier case dismissed by either a Compromise or a PDA.

Unless a person has an extensive criminal history or the facts of the immediate case are disturbing, the majority of the misdemeanor Theft charges can be resolved through one of the mechanisms mentioned above. Often times, the Courts will require a drug and alcohol assessment if they deem there to be an underlying chemical dependency issue. Those proactive treatment requirements are often worked into the deal and their satisfactory completion can be a requirement for the case to be ultimately dismissed.

How Do Felony Theft Charges Resolve?

Common ways that we avoid felony theft convictions for our clients are through the "Therapeutic Courts" in Kitsap County Superior Court. The Therapeutic Courts have expanded and now are able to accept a large number of participants. "Therapeutic Courts" is a term used like an umbrella to cover many different rehabilitative Court programs.

Typically these diversionary programs will result in the felony theft being dismissed. The programs that are within the Therapeutic Court program are: Drug Court, THRIVE Court, Felony Diversion, Veteran's Court and Behavioral Health Court. If a person is accepted into one of these programs, and they complete the program, the pending theft charge will be dismissed.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT DRUG COURT

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THRIVE COURT

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT FELONY DIVERSION

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT BEHAVIORAL HEALTH COURT

These Superior Court Therapeutic Court programs are harder to enter than their counterparts in District Court. The process for application and acceptance is rigorous, often requiring some in-person "viewings" of each Court program. However, we have had great success having clients accepted into the programs, and ultimately having the felony charges dismissed.

Additional Or More Serious Charges

What seems like a simple Theft charge can quickly turn into a more serious charge or multiple charges. While Theft is charged as First, Second, or Third Degree, it is possible to be charged with additional crimes that relate to theft. For example, if you stole a watch out of jewelry case, you might be charged with Theft in the Third Degree. However, if you pulled the watch off of your roommate’s hand and won’t give it back (perhaps you feel justified because he hasn’t paid rent), you would have committed the crime of Robbery, a felony. In that case, you committed theft of the watch but you also committed assault by physically removing the watch and that amounts to Robbery. There are other potential charges and special allegations in this scenario but, for simplicity, the point is that the details matter.

Crimes such as Robbery, Burglary, Motor Vehicle Theft, Possession of Stolen Property, Theft of a Firearm, Theft of Livestock, and Extortion are all theft crimes but are charged under different RCWs. When consulting with a criminal defense attorney, be sure to tell your attorney all of the details surrounding the theft so he or she is adequately prepared to defend your unique case. It is critical to know whether you have been properly charged based on the circumstances.

Finally, if the Prosecutor learns of additional facts that include assault or that a weapon was on your person during the commission of the crime, your Theft in the Third Degree charge can become a felony or you can be facing multiple charges. Furthermore, if you contact the person you took the item from (including store clerks), you could be charged with Witness Tampering. Clearly, if you are facing a charge or are under investigation for Theft, it is important that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. In these types of cases, early involvement by an attorney can make a big difference in the outcome of the case.

Let Us Help You Avoid A Conviction For Theft

The Attorneys at the Witt Law Group have been representing people accused of Theft for over a decade. We have offices in Bremerton, Gig Harbor and Poulsbo for your convenience. We can be reached 24/7 at (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton), (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or text us at (360) 710-0027.

If you found this article on Theft interesting, CLICK HERE to read more similar articles, such as relating to Shoplifting, on our Blog.

What Is Probable Cause And Can I Challenge It?

Probable Cause is a simple and yet tricky legal term. For defense attorneys, it is often a frustrating “gray” area that seems to frequently morph in favor of law enforcement.

The basic definition for probable cause depends on the circumstances of law enforcement’s involvement. The probable cause definition is slightly different for a warrantless arrest (i.e. DUI on the side of the road), an arrest warrant, and search warrants.

Probable Cause For Arrest:

For a warrantless arrest, probable cause exists when facts and circumstances within the police officer’s knowledge would lead a reasonable person to believe that the suspect has committed, is committing, is about to commit a crime. In the case of a warrantless arrest, it doesn’t mean that there is no need to establish probable cause. Under this circumstance, the arresting officer must make a report that articulates the reasons he or she met the standard of probable cause and can justify the prosecution charging the defendant with a crime. The officer can not say he or she “had a feeling” or “could just tell something wasn’t right” to justify the arrest. The officer must be able to articulate specific facts that supported the probable cause standard. In the case of DUI, the smell of alcohol on someone’s breath, visible open beer cans in the front seat, or slurring of speech might support the officer’s decision to find probable cause for arrest even when the driver does not submit to (fail) road side tests or submit to the breathalyzer. The police officer’s report is then forwarded to the Prosecutor and presented in Court before the Judge. The Judge may read openly the Statement of Probable Cause but, generally, defendant’s through their attorney, will waive the reading of probable cause.

Probable Cause For An Arrest Warrant and/or Search Warrant:

When an officer does not witness a crime but believes a crime is occurring or will take place in the future, he or she can try to obtain a warrant. The affidavit filled out by the officer must state specific facts that support probable cause to arrest someone, do a search of property, or seize property. In the case of a warrant to search, the officer must articulate that there is probable cause to believe a crime was committed at the place to be searched, or that evidence of a crime exists at the location. If the warrant is to seize property, the officer must articulate that there is probable cause to believe that the item to seize is contraband, is stolen, or constitutes evidence of a crime.

If the warrant is based on information from informants, the Judge must make an additional special consideration as to the basis of the informant’s knowledge as well as the trustworthiness of the informant. It is very important that law enforcement is truthful in their statements regarding informants and their history. Obviously, it is relevant if the informant has been known to lie in the past or has reason to frame someone else for their crime. Warrants can be sought during the work week but there is also a Judge “on call” over the weekend or after hours who is available to do telephonic warrants. Hence, warrants can be obtained at anytime that law enforcement deems it necessary.

 

Why do most attorneys waive the probable cause reading?

As noted above, probable cause is a “gray” area that rarely favors the rights of the defendant. While probable cause is rooted in the protections for citizens as stated in the Fourth Amendment that, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched,” this doesn’t always equate to a high standard upon review. In fact, most criminal defense attorneys will tell you that the bar is quite low. The review is based on a reasonable person standard rather than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. Additionally, the term Probable Cause was never formally defined by the Framers. As courts have attempted to craft its meaning over time, the reality is that there is no black and white definition or standard for probable cause. The Court must simply make a factual determination and consider whether he or she believes the officer was Constitutionally justified in making the arrest. In reality, it is quite rare to witness a Judge find a lack of Probable Cause. In the right circumstances, it is certainly worth an attorney contesting probable cause, but it is typically not where defense finds the most success.

 

If this article on Probable Cause was informative, see our BLOG for many other similar articles.  

July 07, 2018

Trespassing

Trespassing charges can occur when an individual enters or unintentionally wanders onto someone else’s property. A property owner generally initiates the investigation – usually with a 911 call – but the criminal charge is brought against a defendant by the State of Washington (or a city, if the act occurred within city limits). Often times people do not even know that they are Trespassing until they are confronted by law enforcement, or they receive a summons in the mail weeks or months later.

Do You Have A Trespassing Charge? Click Here And We Will Contact You Within 15 Minutes.

There are two degrees of Trespassing in Washington, both are misdemeanors. The elements of the charges are as follows:

RCW 9A.52.070
Criminal trespass in the first degree
(1) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building.
(2) Criminal trespass in the first degree is a gross misdemeanor.

RCW 9A.52.080
Criminal trespass in the second degree
(1) A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another under circumstances not constituting criminal trespass in the first degree.
(2) Criminal trespass in the second degree is a misdemeanor.

For both of these charges, the word “enter” can mean any part of your body, or no part of your body if you are holding an item and the item is entering into the property. For example, if a person is holding a stick and they push the stick through an open window, they have “entered” the premises. The word "premises" is also used very broadly and will include any building, dwelling, structure used for commercial aquaculture, or any real property.

There Are Multiple Ways To Resolve A Trespassing Charge

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

Most jurisdictions have some form of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, which is in essence 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 Trespassing case is typically dismissed at the end of the agreed upon term. Procedurally, the case goes onto a long continuance and then ends in a dismissal – there is never a conviction if all the terms are met.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements

A second option is entering into a Compromise of Misdemeanor. This happens when the defense attorney for the defendant obtains a signature from the property owner on a document that asserts that the property owner is waiving future civil litigation against the defendant and wishes that the defendant not be prosecuted. This is typically the quickest and least expensive way to have a Trespassing case be dismissed.

CLICK HERE to learn more about Compromise of Misdemeanor

 

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

Defenses To Trespassing

Additionally, if the case goes to trial, there are several statutory defenses to the charge of Trespassing. The defenses that can be asserted by the defendant are:

(1) The building was abandoned; or
(2) The premises, at the time of the trespass, was open to the public and the defendant complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises; or
(3) The defendant reasonably believed that the owner of the premises would have let the defendant enter or remain on the property.

This is not an exclusive list of defenses for trial, but it is the “affirmative” defenses that are laid out in the statute. Other defenses, such as lack of intent, can also be argued at trial.

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

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

July 05, 2018

Assault

Assault pic 1

Why Was I Charged With Assault?

In the State of Washington, there are four levels of basic Assault, three levels of Assault of a child, and a separate Assault called Custodial Assault when the victim is staff or a volunteer at a jail, corrections or detention facility. The level of Assault will depend on the seriousness of your charge.

Relationship To The Victim

If your victim is a family member or there is some prior relationship between aggressor and victim (this is very broad under the statute), Domestic Violence may be added as a “tag” to the charge. 

My Partner Does Not Want To Press Charges. Will My Case Be Dismissed?

Under Washington State law, the "State" brings the charges, not the victim. This is the prosecuting authority of a municipality or a county. This governmental authority is the "plaintiff" in the case against a defendant. Stated another way, only the State can bring an Assault charge against a defendant. And the natural consequence of that is also true - only the State can drop the charges. Unfortunately, in the State of Washington, a victim can not drop the charges.

Definition Of Assault

Washington Courts define an Assault in three ways: (1) An attempt, with unlawful force, to inflict bodily injury upon another; or (2) An unlawful touching with criminal intent; or (3) Putting another in apprehension of harm whether or not the actor actually intends to inflict or is incapable of inflicting that harm.

The necessary elements to prove an Assault charge can be found in RCW Title 9A.36. However, it should be noted that the actual term “Assault” is not defined in the Washington Criminal Code. Courts across Washington use the common law definition of Assault. This very generic definition of Assault is used in all levels of Assault (1, 2, 3, and 4) but felony levels of Assault (1, 2, and 3) will include some additional qualifiers, which increase the severity of the Assault charge.

No One Was Hurt

There are Assault charges that can occur regardless of whether physical harm occurred. This is the reason Assault charges can be tricky. The person charged with Assault may have had no intention of putting a person in fear of harm. However, in those cases, the State must prove that this fear is reasonable based on the circumstances.

Self-Defense

If the harm caused was intentional, the accused may assert he was acting in self-defense. The accused may assert self-defense where: 1) the accused reasonably believed he was about to be injured, and 2) the force used in defense was not more than was necessary. Basically, the response is judged based upon a reasonable person standard in the same or similar circumstances.

Time Is Critical

Time matters when it comes to an Assault charge. In past cases, we have been able to collect video evidence or witness statements to prove our client was not an aggressor. In some occasions, we even prevented the Prosecutor from charging the case, thereby preventing an arrest record for our client.

As time passes, video recordings from businesses and homes are deleted. That loss of evidence can mean the loss of your best defense. Furthermore, as memories fade and people lose contact with potential defense witnesses, days and weeks of delay mean the State may have an upper hand. The police reports will be considered the most reliable evidence.

Could You Face A No Contact Order?

Every Day The Prosecutor Is Building A Case Against You

In the most serious Assault cases, such as any felony Assault charge, it is absolutely critical that you seek a defense lawyer immediately. Often, the Prosecutor will be waiting on police reports and investigation before charging a case (this can be months or even a year). The State is bolstering its case but you are losing your defenses with the passage of time. If you know investigation is underway or is at least likely, make sure you call a lawyer right away.

The Impact To Your Family

While an Assault 4 case or other misdemeanor charges can seem less serious, these charges often have the most negative impact on families in the long term. The financial burden of a No Contact Order can quickly lead to bankruptcy for families who were just barely making it financially. In the past, we have helped domestic partners establish that there was and is no risk to safety as well as no fear at the time of the partner’s arrest. In Washington, there is a mandatory arrest requirement when an officer is called to what appears to be a potential domestic violence situation. Since there is little discretion for the officer due to the mandatory arrest requirement, there are frequently mistakes made regarding who was the aggressor and whether there was even an assault taking place. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help determine whether there is still time to prevent the No Contact Order from being issued. Again, time is critical in this situation.

What Does It Mean If My Charge Has DV Or Domestic Violence Attached To It?

Often, people call and say they were charged with Domestic Violence. This is false. Domestic Violence is not a criminal charge. However, the “tag” of domestic violence carries with it significantly more consequences, including a loss of gun rights. The video below by defense attorney, Ryan Witt, helps explain what it means to be charged with Assault 4-DV.

To learn more about DV Tags, click here

99% of our Assault cases resolve as a reduced charge, dismissal through diversion, or dismissal at trial.

Control Your Conditions Of Release

As discussed above, if you are facing an Assault charge with a domestic violence "tag," the Prosecutor will seek a No Contact Order between you and the victim. Even if the No Contact Order forces you out of your own home, that is not a consideration for the Court. You will have to secure a residence that is away from your spouse, partner, or roommate and, if you share children, you may not be able to see your children due to the No Contact Order. This order can be in place for many months as the case works its way through the normal course of criminal cases. For this reason, if you have not yet been Arraigned on your charge and the No Contact Order is not yet in place, call our office immediately. In certain cases, your lawyer may be able to prevent the No Contact Order from being put in place but this is very fact specific, rare, and depends greatly on timing.

Going To Trial Versus Negotiating An Alternative Resolution Or Dismissal

Most people who call our office are worried about losing their family, their job, and serving jail time. These are very real concerns when you are facing an Assault charge. The more serious offenses carry very lengthy prison time. As attorneys, that is our most serious concern, too. You can’t get back to being a successful member of society if you are spending years in prison.

When it comes to Assault charges, there are different tactics a skilled defense attorney must use to keep clients out of jail or serving very little jail time. While most clients want to “tell their story” and have a chance to fight the charges by going to trial, there are times when this can be very dangerous. The reason is that juries can do very unusual things when it comes to judging a criminal case simply based on two versions of a story without direct evidence. Additionally, most jurors do not believe the State would take a case to trial if there weren’t truth to their version of the story. If you have a case that must go to trial, it is absolutely critical to have a skilled trial attorney present your version of events. 

Risks of Trial

When a case proceeds to trial, the Prosecutor is being forced to step away from hundreds of pending cases that she is trying to negotiate. Preparing for trial and spending a week or two in trial is not something the State wants to do unless absolutely necessary. If defense forces the issue of trial, be prepared for what are called “hold backs” or additional criminal charges. The State essentially held these additional charges back as an incentive for you to make a deal.

"Hold Backs" Or Extra Charges

When these “hold back” charges are reasonable and provable by the State, it can be very risky to proceed to trial. Perhaps you had a great defense on the original charge of Assault but are looking at a drug charge with intent to distribute (drugs were found when you were arrested for the Assault) and the elements on the hold back charge are easy to prove. Do you want to risk being found not guilty on the Assault charge but guilty on an attempt to distribute charge? Depending on your criminal history, perhaps not. These are all factors to consider if facing a serious charge that carries long prison time. Do not assume that attorneys who focus only on taking cases to trial is in your best interest. It is critical that you hire an experienced trial attorney but the attorney must also be incredibly skilled in negotiation techniques. The best defense attorney will need both of these tools to get the best outcome for a client.

Why Hire Us?

Our firm has tremendous success defending Assault cases at trial and negotiation. We prepare our clients with the facts of their case, the legal defenses they have, and all of the potential outcomes of their case. We thoroughly investigate all aspects of a case —looking for evidentiary issues and legal issues. We recognize that most assault cases come to us because the officers on scene decided winners and losers. They decided who was the aggressor and who was the victim. We will work tirelessly to present an accurate side of the story.

Assault panel 1

Assault panel 2

Assault panel 3

Did You Receive A Summons For An Assault Charge?

Receiving a Summons, rather than being arrested, can be a very helpful fact for certain Assault charges. Depending on the jurisdiction and type of charge, we can assist in presenting a proactive defense and prevent a No Contact Order from being put in place. In domestic situations, this can be a game changer. Since Assault 4 cases can go on for months, where there is no risk to the alleged victim, it is important to be able to stay in your residence.

How Much Does It Cost For Assault Defense?

Criminal defense attorneys work on a flat fee basis. This means that you do not pay an hourly fee or a contingency fee. In fact, it is unethical to charge a contingency fee in criminal cases. The flat fee you are charged usually depends on the location of where you are charged and the type of charge.

There Are 4 Levels Of Assault

The lowest level of Assault is Assault in the Fourth Degree. Assault 4’s are handled in District and Municipal Courts because they are Gross Misdemeanors. The maximum penalty for an Assault 4 is 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

With the assistance of the definition above and the four degrees defined by statute below, it is easier to understand the various levels of Assault through qualifiers or special allegations.

Assault in the Fourth Degree

(1) A person is guilty of assault in the fourth degree if, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first, second, or third degree, or custodial assault, he or she assaults another.

How Are Assault 4 Cases Typically Resolved?

Misdemeanors are handled much differently than felonies and typically there are more options for how to resolve the case. This is because District Courts and Municipal Courts have a rehabilitative model rather than the punishment model found in Superior Courts (where felonies are handled).

Options in the “lower” courts for a misdemeanor Assault (other than going to trial or pleading guilty), are (1) the “Compromise of Misdemeanor” (only available for certain crimes) and (2) certain Court specific agreements that are much like a contract. These various “contracts” are known as Diversion Agreements, Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements, or Stipulated Orders of Continuance. The benefit to choosing one of these alternatives is that the charge is reduced or, after a designated period of time, the pending charge is dismissed. A Compromise of Misdemeanor, while not a diversion agreement, is also an option if the misdemeanor Assault charge is not domestic violence-related.

CLICK HERE to Learn More About Compromise Of Misdemeanor

CLICK HERE to Learn More About Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements

Unless a person has an extensive criminal history or the facts of the immediate case are disturbing, the majority of the misdemeanor Assault charges can be resolved through one of the mechanisms mentioned above. Often times, the Courts will require some type of treatment, such as domestic violence treatment or alcohol treatment if alcohol was a contributing factor. Those proactive treatment requirements are often worked into the deal and their satisfactory completion can be a requirement for the case to be ultimately dismissed, if your resolution calls for dismissal.

If one of the resolution options above is unavailable and a defendant decides to enter a plea of guilty to an Assault in the Fourth Degree charge, the District or Municipal Court will sentence the person to the maximum sentence (364 days), and then suspend the amount of time that is to remain hanging over the defendant’s head. So, for example, if the Judge sentences a person to one day, the sentence is actually 364 days with 363 days suspended. This is done in all assault cases where the Judge enters a sentence. It is done to ensure that the defendant will comply with the terms of the sentence (treatment, etc.). If the person does not comply with the Court’s sentence, the Judge can start imposing portions of the sentence that are suspended. Considering there are 364 days available for jail time, it is always best to comply with your conditions!

Serious Consequences For Assault Charges

If you are accused of being in possession of a firearm when the Assault took place, you are facing the most serious of consequences. You will be facing a felony level charge and, if convicted, the prosecutor will add a sentencing enhancement. If you did not possess a firearm at the time of the offense, contact a defense attorney right away to see if evidence can be presented immediately that could move your charge from a Felony to a Misdemeanor. Whenever possible, it is critical to attempt to have Assaults handled in District Court because the consequences are less severe and the jail time is greatly reduced. Additionally, there are more lenient alternative resolution options in District Court.

Felony - All Other Assaults

All other Assaults (3, 2, & 1) are felonies and charged in Superior Court. Keep in mind, the basic Assault definition from above still applies, but certain qualifiers are added that describe the facts, intent, or level of injury, which dictate the charging level of the felony.

Unlike the rehabilitative model of the District Courts, Superior Courts have a punishment model. There is less emphasis on treatment and more resources go toward a defendant’s punishment. That is not to say that there are no rehabilitative programs, but rehabilitation is rarely the focus.

Assault in the Third Degree (Class C)

(1) A person is guilty of assault in the third degree if he or she, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first or second degree:
(a) With intent to prevent or resist the execution of any lawful process or mandate of any court officer or the lawful apprehension or detention of himself, herself, or another person, assaults another; or
(b) Assaults a person employed as a [transit driver or any transit employee]; or
(c) Assaults a person employed as a [school bus driver or any employee related to the operation of a school bus]; or
(d) With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm; or
(e) Assaults a firefighter or other employee of a fire department, county fire marshal's office, county fire prevention bureau, or fire protection district who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault; or
(f) With criminal negligence, causes bodily harm accompanied by substantial pain that extends for a period sufficient to cause considerable suffering; or
(g) Assaults a law enforcement officer or other employee of a law enforcement agency who was performing his or her official duties at the time of the assault; or
(h) Assaults a peace officer with a projectile stun gun; or
(i) Assaults [basically any health care provider]; or
(j) Assaults [anyone employed in the Courts]; or
(k) Assaults [anyone located in a Court building].

Assault in the Second Degree (Class B*)

(1) A person is guilty of assault in the second degree if he or she, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first degree:
(a) Intentionally assaults another and thereby recklessly inflicts substantial bodily harm; or
(b) Intentionally and unlawfully causes substantial bodily harm to an unborn quick child by intentionally and unlawfully inflicting any injury upon the mother of such child; or
(c) Assaults another with a deadly weapon; or
(d) With intent to inflict bodily harm, administers to or causes to be taken by another, poison or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
(e) With intent to commit a felony, assaults another; or
(f) Knowingly inflicts bodily harm which by design causes such pain or agony as to be the equivalent of that produced by torture; or
(g) Assaults another by strangulation or suffocation.

Assault in the First Degree (Class A)

(1) A person is guilty of assault in the first degree if he or she, with intent to inflict great bodily harm:
(a) Assaults another with a firearm or any deadly weapon or by any force or means likely to produce great bodily harm or death; or
(b) Administers, exposes, or transmits to or causes to be taken by another, poison, the human immunodeficiency virus as defined in chapter 70.24 RCW, or any other destructive or noxious substance; or
(c) Assaults another and inflicts great bodily harm.

Unlike the Assault charges in District Court, felony Assault charges are governed by the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines. The Court is bound by certain “ranges” when sentencing an individual based on the seriousness of the felony and the defendant’s prior felony record. The number of prior felonies makes up what is called a defendant’s offender score.

Under the Sentencing Guidelines, a person with a 0 offender score and a low seriousness level felony assault such as Assault 3, can theoretically do zero days in jail, while a person charged with Assault 1 and a high offender score (and prior “most serious offenses”) can serve out the rest of their life in prison.

How Are Felony Assault Cases Typically Resolved?

We always try to avoid a guilty finding to felony Assaults, therefore avoiding the sentencing guidelines mentioned above. Diversion type resolutions to felony Assaults are not as common as in misdemeanor Assaults, but that is always our goal. There are lesser known diversionary agreements in Superior Court, but we have great success having our clients accepted into these programs. Typically these diversionary programs will result in the felony Assault being dismissed. The common programs all fall under "Therapeutic Courts" in Kitsap County Superior Court. They are: Drug Court, THRIVE Court, Felony Diversion, Veteran's Court and Behavioral Health Court.

CLICK HERE To learn More about Drug Court

CLICK HERE to learn more about THRIVE COURT

CLICK HERE to learn more about FELONY DIVERSION

CLICK HERE To Learn More About Behavioral Health Court

We have had clients who apply for one of the diversion programs and be rejected, only to reapply under a different program and be accepted. Don't lose hope when attempting to enter a Therapeutic Court Program

Being charged with any level of Assault is a terrible experience. Make sure to get a consultation from an experienced lawyer so you know what your options are. Many Courts, especially District and Municipal Courts, will have practices and options that are not known to all attorneys licensed in Washington. The attorneys at Witt Law Group have been handling Assault cases for nearly two decades and can handle any level of Assault that you may accused of.

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

There are certain crimes for which an Officer can arrest you on the spot and you are taken to jail or given a date to appear in Court. Typically, these are crimes such as DUI or an allegation of assault or domestic violence. In these cases, the issue is more immediate and law enforcement is involved in the moment or immediately after the incident.

I Received A Summons For A Date In The Future 

 

In other circumstances, an Officer might hear of a set of facts that could amount to a crime but he or she needs to conduct a more thorough investigation. This investigation can take weeks or months. When the investigation is concluded, the Officer sends the report, along with a recommendation on charges, to the Prosecuting Attorney’s office. Then, a Deputy Prosecuting Attorney will review the report and determine if it warrants charging the suspect with a crime. The Prosecutor will decide which crime or crimes will be on the charging document. As a side note, the charges that the Prosecutor chooses may not always be the same as those suggested by law enforcement.

 

If the Prosecutor decides to charge you with a crime, he or she will sign a Criminal Complaint. Then, the court clerks are notified that the person charged should be sent a Summons to appear in Court to be arraigned on the charges. The Summons will include location of the Court, the courtroom, the date and time of the arraignment, and alert the defendant as to the nature of the charges. It’s important to have an accurate address with the Department of Licensing (DOL) because the court clerks will use the defendant’s last known address provided to DOL for mailing of the Summons. If you do not appear (because you chose not to or because you did not have a current address with DOL and did not receive the notice), the Court will usually issue a Bench Warrant due to your failure to appear.

 

It is best to go to Court prepared and represented!  

A traffic stop is a seizure for purposes of the Washington State Constitution. Such a stop is permissible only if the initial interference with the suspect’s freedom of movement is justified at its inception. Law enforcement is not justified in stopping a person absent a citable infraction or crime.

“The cop said I was racing! I don’t know what he is talking about!”

To answer this question, you need to consider whether you fit into one of the three most common fact scenarios. These scenarios vary based on arrest and events immediately following your arrest. Almost everyone will fit into one of these three scenarios.

The most common situation is an arrest followed by booking into jail and bailing out

 

When an individual is arrested for a DUI in Kitsap County, the law enforcement officer will almost always book the individual into the Kitsap County Jail. Bail on a first offense DUI with no aggravating factors is usually $5,000. As the person bails out, the jail will give them a court date for their arraignment. If the person was arrested on a Friday or over the weekend, the date will usually be on the following Monday. If the individual was arrested on a weekday, the arraignment date is usually the next day, but not always.

At the arraignment, the Court will assess the bail and whether the bail amount is appropriate. Typically, if bail was set at or near $5,000, the Court will allow the individual to remain out “on bail posted” meaning that they will not need to be rebooked and post additional bail.

This does not hold true if the individual has a 2nd DUI and the officer who booked the individual was not aware of the prior DUI. In that circumstance, the charging Prosector will see the prior DUI (even if it is out of state) and likely request that the Court increase the bail to something much higher than the $5,000. Typically, this number is between $10,000 and $50,000. The number will be higher the closer the prior DUI is in time.

The second most common scenario is when an officer arrests you for DUI and gives you a date to appear in Court but does not book you into jail

 

Sometimes an individual is arrested and the officer, for whatever reason, does not book the individual into jail. This is more common in small cities, like Poulsbo. Using Poulsbo as an example, the Officers complete the process and then typically allow you to find a ride home. They will provide you notice of an arraignment date, which is mandatory. Since Poulsbo only has court on Wednesdays, your arraignment should be the Wednesday following your arrest. You are required to appear on that date.

In this scenario, you typically are not going to jail at your arraignment but there are some exceptions. You are safe (meaning you will most likely not go back to jail at arraignment) if:

      You have no prior DUIs
      Your blow was not shockingly high (like over a .2)
      There was no accident and the stop was for something benign (like speeding)
      You don’t have numerous FTA’s (failures to appear) on your record
      You were not driving on a suspended license, or in violation of an ignition interlock order
      And, lastly, there were no previous Court orders from any Court ordering you not to consume alcohol

If none of these six factors are present, the Judge will most likely PR you (meaning release you on your personal recognizance). There will be conditions placed on you (such as do not consume alcohol) but you do not need to post bail. If one or more of the above conditions are present, you need to anticipate that the City Prosecutor will request that you be taken in on bail. You will need to be prepared with arguments to persuade the Judge to not impose the bail that the Prosecutor is requesting.

Finally, the least common scenario is when you are arrested but no arraignment date is given

 

Occasionally, there are DUI arrests where a person is processed for DUI but they are not given a Court date. This most typically happens when a person is under suspicion for DUI based on a controlled substance rather than alcohol. When an officer suspects impairment on the road side, the officer’s first response is to determine if alcohol is a factor through the use of a portable breath test (PBT). When a person blows 0.00 on the “PBT” and the officer still believes that the individual is impaired, the detention escalates to a more formal procedure where the officer may need a warrant to draw the blood of the suspect. At this point, the stop has escalated, and it can go one of two directions.

The officer will ask you for your consent to give a blood sample, or
If you refuse to consent to give blood, the officer will request a warrant to take your blood (over your objection). Judges will typically grant the officer’s request and sign a warrant allowing the officer to utilize the staff of a hospital or ambulance to draw blood. In both of these scenarios, a blood sample is obtained by the State.
Once the blood is drawn, it is sent to the Washington State Crime Lab. The current backlog at the Crime Lab is roughly 15 weeks. This is why an arraignment date is not provided, as in the first two scenarios. The State can’t charge an individual when the blood result will not be available to be used as evidence in a trial for roughly 15 weeks .

All individuals have a Constitutional right (if out of custody) to be tried within 90 days from the date of arraignment, and the Crime Lab is about 105 days out (15 weeks). Consequently, the State does not charge the cases (or have arraignments) until the blood result is received from the Crime Lab. This way, they do not burn up any “speedy trial” time.

The benefit of the delay in charging is that, once your arraignment occurs, the Judge will usually release you on your own recognizance if you have had no subsequent alcohol-related offenses during the 15-20 weeks.

We tried to cover the three most typical scenarios but all cases are different. Reading an article is no substitute for an in-person conversation with legal counsel. Give our office a call if you have any questions and we will do our best to keep you out of jail at your arraignment.  We have offices in Gig Harbor and Bremerton Washington and can answer questions about your arraignment or about anything else related to your criminal case.