Ryan Witt

Ryan Witt


The law can be very complex—which is why civilians may not always fully understand the gravitas of what they’re being charged with. A Belfair man recently discovered this the hard way, after a crime he believed to be a misdemeanor was determined to, in fact, be a felony.


The Kitsap Sun reports that Jerome Mojeca Dunkle, 33, was caught prowling vehicles in Bremerton in December. Neighbors spied on him and even managed to restrain him until police arrived—at which point Dunkle informed officers that he believed he had only committed a misdemeanor.


From the Kitsap Sun:


The officer told Dunkle that because of his history he could face a felony charge.
"Dunkle advised I was wrong and stated it was a misdemeanor," the officer wrote.
However, it was Dunkle who was incorrect; due to a prior car prowling conviction, his car prowling was elevated to a felony, which ultimately landed him in jail for 45 months.


How Does a Misdemeanor Become a Felony?


The short answer is: It depends.


In criminal law, crimes are divided into misdemeanors, which are usually low-level crimes, and felonies, which are more serious. Each state and local government determines these distinctions differently, and the distinctions vary based on elements of the crime. In Washington, these distinctions and maximum sentences are outlined in RCW 9A.20.021. Depending on the nature of a crime, though, and who’s committing it, as well as other extenuating circumstances, courts have some flexibility in which category a crime falls under.


For example, drug paraphernalia, when found alone and in the hands of someone who’s never been convicted of a drug-related crime before, is a misdemeanor. Possession of drugs in addition to the paraphernalia, visible intoxication while driving, or the intent to distribute it, could elevate the charge.


What Can I Do If I’m Arrested?


When drugs or alcohol are involved, courts can be quite a bit more lenient with individuals who are compliant with the law and who seek treatment or counseling—which means it is possible to have a charge decreased.
But before you even get to that step, the best course of action is to exercise your right to remain silent.


Even if you’re fairly sure about the law of the land, or you don’t think what you did was that serious, it’s critical that you allow legal professionals to help guide you through the process.


Regardless of the nature of your crime—or your previous experiences with law enforcement—if you have questions about criminal defense in Washington State, contact the Witt Law Group. We have offices in Gig Harbor and Bremerton and we practice DUI defense, criminal defense, and personal injury in Kitsap, Pierce and Jefferson Counties. Call one of our offices or CLICK HERE to fill out our online contact form.

The offense of DUI or Driving Under the Influence consists of “driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.” You can drive after consuming alcohol so long as you are not impaired by the alcohol. Thus, a person can legally drink and drive, but the two activities cannot be combined to the degree where the drinking affects the driving. Allowing some amount of alcohol to be legally consumed before driving begs the question – what is the threshold for “Probable Cause?” Law enforcement can arrest an individual for drunk driving based upon probable cause. It is important to know how law enforcement and the Courts determine or interpret probable cause. Courts have ruled that P.C. to arrest must be based on the facts known to the arresting officer at the time of arrest, not facts established after the arrest. It is a judgement call where the facts and circumstances known to the officer would warrant a reasonably cautious person to believe that the offense of DUI is being committed. P.C. needs to be more than a bare suspicion of criminal activity, and it should not be viewed in a hyper technical manner. It is determined by viewing the total facts of each case, viewed in a practical, non-technical manner.

Law Enforcement and the Courts Looks For Certain Things.

 

Typically, the Courts deem that an officer’s report notating blood shot watery eyes, slurred speech and an odor of alcohol is enough. It can be one of these or any combination. Courts have consistently held that odor alone can rise to the level of probable cause. Poor driving does not need to be present for the probable cause determination.

Questions About Probable Cause and your DUI?

 

If you have questions about DUI in Washington State, or probable cause for your arrest, contact the Witt Law Group. Probable cause is a complicated subject, but it must be reviewed in every case. We have had many cases thrown out due to an arrest that lacked adequate probable cause. We have locations in Gig Harbor and Bremerton and we practice DUI defense in Kitsap (Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale) and Jefferson Counties and also in Gig Harbor Municipal Court. We would be glad to consult with you about your case, free of charge. Call our office at (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton) or fill out our online contact form by CLICKING HERE. Best of luck!

Sign sign, everywhere a sign.

But why? Why does the City of Port Orchard or Kitsap County have the ability to put up these signs? Can they can regulate behavior such as skateboarding?
Unfortunately, it looks like the answer is yes. 

A City gets it regulatory authority from a governmental document called a City Code. Codes and ordinances exist to protect citizen’s rights, neighborhood esthetics, property values, and to enhance public safety. City codes contain specific sections which are basically the laws of a city. The laws are enforced by City Code Officers, or the City’s Police Officers.

In 1997, the City of Port Orchard enacted POMC 11.04.080 which regulates the use of skateboards. It reads as follows: 

11.04.080 Skateboards - Restrictions

(1) It shall be a civil infraction for any person to use a skateboard in violation of the provisions of this section.

(a) No person shall ride a skateboard on the public streets, sidewalks, alleys, walkways, docks, buildings or parks within the central business district defined as the area bound by Port Orchard Boulevard on the west side and Maple Street on the east side and the south side of Bay Street to the waterfront. Also Cline Street to Division Street, Sidney Avenue to Division Street and Port Orchard Boulevard to Tremont Street.

(b) Whenever any person is riding a skateboard upon a sidewalk of the city which is not in an area prohibited by subsection (1)(a) of this section, such person shall at all times exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian and shall operate the same in a careful and prudent manner at a rate of speed no greater than is reasonable and proper under the conditions existing at the point of operation, taking into account the width and condition of the surface. When riding a skateboard would endanger or unreasonably inconvenience pedestrians or vehicular traffic, such person shall stop and carry the skateboard.

(c) Whenever any person is riding a skateboard upon a sidewalk of the city, such person shall yield the right-of-way to all pedestrians and shall maintain foot control with the pavement within 10 feet of any pedestrian.

(d) No person shall leave a skateboard upon a sidewalk or street in such a manner as to obstruct pedestrian traffic or vehicular traffic emerging from alleys or driveways.

(2) Violations – Penalty. Upon determination that a violation under this section has been committed, such violations shall be punishable by a fine not exceeding $50.00. (Ord. 1682 §§ 1, 2, 1997).

The City Says No

The City has made it unlawful for individuals to ride a skateboard almost anywhere within the City limits – certainly within the core of the city. As there is not a tremendous amount of recreation for kids in that area, that is unfortunate. Even more so if you or your child end up getting cited for the infraction. Port Orchard Boulevard does look enticing to board down, but unfortunately, it is off limits.
At Witt Law Group, we represent individuals with all types of infractions, including skateboarding. We also handle criminal defense and personal injury cases in Kitsap and Pierce Counties. You can contact us at either our Bremerton or Gig Harbor office.

Just remember, “skateboarding is not a crime – it is a civil infraction.”

I did something really stupid and was charged with a crime. Can I just pay the person back and make it go away?


The closest thing to being able to “make it go away” is what in Washington is called a Compromise of Misdemeanor. Upon the completion of a couple simple steps, it does end with the criminal case being dismissed.


The Compromise of Misdemeanor is a mechanism in our Criminal Code that allows us in most cases, excluding DUI and DV, to pay the willing victim back and compensate them for their cost and trouble. In essence, you (or your attorney) need to communicate with the victim in the crime (unless there is a No Contact Order or Condition of Release) and see if they are interested in such a resolution.

I want to shake hands and have this go away!

Three things must happen for this type of resolution to end in a dismassal. 

1. The victim needs to agree and be supportive of such a resolution. The victim needs to fill out a Declaration stating that they have been “compensated” and made whole, and that they further agree that they waive all further civil remedies based on the alleged criminal act. Meaning – they need to agree that they give up their ability to sue the Defendant civilly at any point in the future. 

2. Money, or something of value needs to change hands between the defendant and the victim. An attorney can and should act as a go-between. 

3. Once the Declaration of the victim is filed with the Court, a Judge needs to sign an “Order on Compromise”. This is the document that ultimately dismisses the case.

RCW 10.22.010 - The Elements:

Below is the exact wording of the Statute. As you can see, not many case types are excluded. 

When a defendant is prosecuted in a criminal action for a misdemeanor, other than a violation of RCW 9A.48.105, (which has to do with gang activity) for which the person injured by the act constituting the offense has a remedy by a civil action, the offense may be compromised as provided in RCW 10.22.020, except when it was committed:

(1) By or upon an officer while in the execution of the duties of his or her office;

(2) Riotously;

(3) With an intent to commit a felony; or

(4) By one family or household member against another as defined in RCW 10.99.020 and was a crime of domestic violence as defined in RCW 10.99.020.

A short list of case types that are not excluded are: Assault, Theft, Trespassing, Hit and Run, Malicious Mischief, Indecent Exposure and Harassment. This is not an exhaustive list, and more often than not, cases can be "compromised."

Once the “Order on Compromise” is signed, the case is over.

At this point, the case will show as a Dismissal on your criminal history. So – aside from a Not Guilty verdict, this is as close as you can come to making a bad choice “go away.”

At Witt Law Group PS, we have made many, many cases “go away” by facilitating a Compromise of Misdemeanor. It is not applicable to all cases, but certainly a large number can be handled this way. It is the resolution that probably produces the least amount of stress on the criminal defendant.

We would be glad to happy to handle your criminal case for you and we have offices in Poulsbo, Gig Harbor and Bremerton for your convenience. Our attorneys handle criminal defense cases all over Western Washington including Kitsap County and Pierce County. You can call us at (253) 312-3838 (Gig Harbor) or (360) 792-1000 (Bremerton), or just CLIKE HERE to fill out our on line contact form. We can even be reached afterhours or on the weekends. Don’t let a criminal case ruin your days – let us handle it and see if we can make it “go away.” Thank you for reading.

In Washington State you MAY temporarily exceed the posted speed limit if the vehicle in front of you is impeding the normal and reasonable flow of traffic (going too damn slow).
RCW 46.61.425 states:


(1) No person shall drive a motor vehicle at such a slow speed as to impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic [and] a person following a vehicle driving at less than the legal maximum speed and desiring to pass such vehicle may exceed the speed limit…at only such a speed and for only such a distance as is necessary to complete the pass with a reasonable margin of safety.

This defense is not a myth.

Most people have heard this statement and believe that it is a myth. This is a legitimate defense to a speeding ticket that is rarely used in traffic court. This only applies on a two lane road, one in each direction. Often police will cite a driver and they don’t care when the driver explains that he was just completing a pass. The Officer will just typically tell he driver to take it up with the Judge. It is a hassle, but you need to contest these infractions in Court.
At Witt Law Group, our attorneys have been handling infractions and speeding tickets in Kitsap, Pierce and Jefferson Counties for 14 years. We have Offices in Bremerton and Gig Harbor for your convenience. We can be reached afterhours or on the weekends, and we always offer free consultations. Click HERE to fill out our online contact form. We handle traffic defense, criminal defense and personal injury cases. Ryan Witt has handled thousands of infractions over his career and would be glad to assist you with your case. Good luck with your infraction!

Witt Law Group PS has an office in Gig Harbor and handles misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses, including DUI / DWI and other offenses such as theft or shoplifting. In the summer, Gig Harbor Police write the occasional BUI, which we also handle, too.  If you were cited for a traffic infraction, such as speeding, we can help with that as well. The attorneys at Witt Law Group have been defending these types of matters since 2004 with excellent results. 

We can help you at the earliest stages of the process

We take calls from the roadside and can assist in the multitude of decisions that law enforcement will force an individual to make throughout the early stages of the investigative process. A large number of these decisions can have an impact on the strength of the City’s case. We will always answer whatever questions we can and we encourage individuals to give us a call at any time in the process.

Have you been charged with a crime in the City of Gig Harbor? 

The lawyers at Witt Law Group PS are there for our clients at each step of the process and we always try to have an open line of communication. Navigating a criminal charge is a stressful process and we want our clients to rest assured that their futures are in good hands. We answer the phones in the evenings and throughout the weekends. This is to ensure that we, and our clients, will be prepared to face the task ahead. Ryan Witt has been defending criminal cases such DUI / DWI in Western Washington for more than 14 years. Call our local Gig Harbor office at (253) 312-3838 or Bremerton (360) 792-1000, for a free consultation, or click here for our online contact form.

Our office is located at:

5800 Soundview Drive, Building C
Suite 103
Gig Harbor WA 98335
We are located inside of Gig Harbor Law.


We look forward to assisting you if you are in need of Gig Harbor criminal defense. If you have any questions about our exceptional results or what our clients have to say about us, please refer to Ryan’s reviews on AVVO or our Google Business page.

Drivers beware!  You may be violating the rules of the road. 

Washington has a new Distracted Driving Statute (SSB 5289). Most articles and posts have been inaccurate in their analysis of the Statute. 

January 09, 2018

Criminal Defense Fees

If you are searching for a criminal defense lawyer, you are likely looking at some fairly serious consequences. Some of those consequences might be fines, restitution, jail time (i.e. not working) as well as loss of a driver’s license or security clearance. Those consequences can add up to be pretty valuable. Hiring a person who can devote the time to protecting you and limiting your financial consequences can be well worth the upfront investment.

If you qualify and are considering staying with a public defender, please consider some other factors. Public Defenders are skilled and experienced attorneys. However, they generally are over-worked. In some counties, the court will allow almost everyone to “qualify” for a public defender but that means the public defenders have enormous caseloads. Conservatively, a private attorney has a tenth of the cases and can devote much more time to your defense.

Additionally, we’ve never heard of a public defender giving a client their cell phone number to call day or night. When you open the mail on Friday evening and get notice of a DOL hearing to revoke your license or some other scary information, you won’t spend two sleepless nights waiting to reach your attorney. At Witt Law Group, if you have a question, you just give us a call—anytime you need us.

In Personal Injury cases, if you don’t get a check, we don’t get a check. It really is that simple.

At Witt Law Group, you pay us nothing. The insurance company pays us at the end of the process by way of your settlement. The incentive for us is to get you the best recovery for your injuries. The harder we work, the more you recover. When you are done treating for your injuries, the bills have all been assessed, and all damages have been documented, we get to work putting together a demand letter that tells the story of your accident. Sometimes it gets a bit contentious when insurance companies want you to settle for nothing more than covering your bills (as is often the case with unrepresented victims). That isn’t fair. An accident that causes physical injuries, disrupts so many areas of your life and you should be compensated.

We make sure you feel fully compensated for your damages and injuries. Our compensation or “fee” for this work is 33% of the recovery, which is the standard for personal injury cases.

January 09, 2018

Clallam County

Port Angeles is the county seat and largest city in Clallam County. Sequim and Forks are the other two incorporated cities. While the economy in this county was previously rooted in timber and agriculture, composite manufacturing for aerospace and marine industries have experienced tremendous growth. Despite the economic growth, the area is still growing more slowly than most areas of the state. As far as collisions in this area, there were 824 according to the 2015 Washington State Annual Collision Survey. In the same year, there were a combined 116 DUIs reported by Clallam Sheriff’s Office, Port Angeles Police Department and the Sequim Police Department.