Jennifer Witt

Jennifer Witt

DUI investigations are somewhat unique in that an officer is trying to find probable cause for your arrest with your help. And, even though the officer is doing an active investigation with your help, you are not actually in custody. For that reason, there is no need to read Miranda Warnings until the officer feels like the evidence collected (including your statements) sufficiently warrant the arrest.

 

At the point Miranda is read to you, the case is essentially ready to hand over to the Prosecutor. Usually, the officer will still want to collect a breathalyzer or blood sample but most people will do that voluntarily because Washington is an implied consent state. This means, if you don’t submit to the breathalyzer, you are automatically suspended for what is termed a “refusal.” This is a mandatory suspension by DOL regardless of the outcome of your criminal case.

  

What should I know to avoid creating problems for myself during a DUI stop?

 

While a DUI investigation is tricky and many people make incriminating statements without intending to do so, citizens can be aware of certain aspects of a DUI investigation to protect themselves.

 

1.  Remain Silent. While you can’t be completely silent, you do not need to answer “extra” questions. You should hand over your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance but you should not make “small talk” or think that your friendliness will get you out of an investigation. Every statement that you make will be included in the police narrative that is included in our discovery. Even the most innocuous statements will be used against you in the affirmative or used to prevent you from asserting a defense.


2.  Keep your license, registration, and proof of insurance in an easy to reach location. If you have to get out of the car to get your purse and retrieve the license, the officer is likely to make notes (not in your favor) about your body mechanics, movement, anxious or “fumbling” behavior. Even on cases where our clients had no alcohol, the report will always state that the officer “smelled an odor of intoxicants” or that you slurred your speech while asking to retrieve your purse in the back seat. Whenever possible, make your initial stop as uneventful as possible. Simply hand over the required items and do not make a comment.


3.  Don’t answer unnecessary questions. If you are asked about where you came from, where you are headed, or whether you are on medication, you are not required to answer those questions. You can simply ask if you are under investigation and, if so, you would like to remain silent for the duration of the stop. This requires the officer to build a case against you without your help! This does not mean you will avoid being arrested but it makes it more likely you won’t be convicted.


4.  Don’t fall for fake promises! Often, officers will say things like, “If you’re cooperative, you won’t get into trouble” or “I know you aren’t impaired but I just have to ask a few questions.” This induces the driver to start talking again and make incriminating statements. You are not allowed to lie to law enforcement without a legal consequence but an officer can lie to you. Lying is considered an investigation technique. Just remain silent regardless of what is “promised” to you. Do not suggest that you live a few blocks away or someone can come pick you up—those statements can be used to suggest guilt that you know you are impaired. Just keep quiet and wait to find out if you are going to actually be arrested.


5.  If you are arrested, do not be aggressive or argumentative. The moment of being arrested comes as quite a shock for most people. It is the first time you have every been in trouble with law enforcement and you may have the urge to act out in shock. Do not act out! Again, remain silent and physically cooperative. Every statement that you make will be included in the police narrative.


6.  Do not refuse the breathalyzer if you would like to be able to drive. As stated before, Washington is an implied consent state and you are automatically suspended if you refuse the breathalyzer. As a side note, if the officer mentions that you can have counsel to discuss the issue and dials the public defender, you better make sure the person is familiar with the implied consent laws in Washington. Many “on call” public defenders are new law school graduates who attended schools in other states. While they should know all of the laws in the State of Washington, most lawyers learn through experience. In this case, mistakenly telling you that it doesn’t matter whether you “blow” (which is true in many states) will have very bad consequences for you and that inaccurate advice will not be considered by the prosecutor. It is also important to understand that you do not have much time to think about the breathalyzer test. If you seem to be hesitating about taking the breathalyzer (even briefly), the officer can terminate the process and just write it down as a refusal.


7.  If you are in custody and brought to court for your Arraignment, do not attempt to plead guilty. In most courts, a judge will not allow you to plead guilty at Arraignment but don’t even think about it. Some people want to “explain their situation” and ask the court for mercy because they are immediately pleading guilty. This will not happen. Prosecutors and Judges handle thousands of DUIs a year and are desensitized to any excuses. There will be no mercy. A prosecutor’s “success” is typically determined by statistics surrounding convictions and they will only appreciate the fact that you made it easy to add to their “win” column.


8.  If you are booked into jail and released, you must return to the courthouse for your hearing. Do not miss court for any reason! If you miss your court date, you will likely face additional criminal charges and will make it nearly impossible to negotiate your DUI charge in a favorable way.


9.  Find experienced counsel. This cannot be overstated. You may have an amazing Family Law lawyer but she likely has no business handling your DUI case. Attorneys don’t technically “specialize” but they certainly have their strengths. The more you handle one type of case, the better you are. If you can find a criminal defense attorney who is a former prosecutor, has taken 100+ cases to trial before a jury, and understands the local rules and practices of where you are charged, that should be a good start. Be careful about lawyers who practice outside of the county where you are charged. Some are fine but others make it quite obvious that they don’t know what they are doing. We often see big firms out of Seattle or Tacoma send inexperienced lawyers to Kitsap County because the more well-respected attorneys don’t want to travel outside of their regular practice area. Unfortunately, the inexperienced “newbie” doesn’t know how to prepare the forms nor understand the local procedures. This is not a good sign to the prosecutor and does not bode well for your case.


10.  Send in your request for a DOL hearing. If you fail to submit your request by the deadline, you will be automatically suspended!


11.  Do not compare your case with anyone else’s case. A DUI case is so fact specific that it is impossible to compare the process or the result. Even in the same county, courthouse, and with identical blood alcohol levels, defendants will end up with different results. The prosecutor assigned to your case makes a difference. Your criminal history makes a difference. Whether you were argumentative makes a difference. Whether you remained in custody or were booked and released makes a difference. The way the officer wrote the report makes a difference. Whether you made any statements (even when you thought they made you look better) makes a difference. Whether you performed field sobriety tests makes a difference. Whether there is a breathalyzer or blood result makes a difference. There are so many aggravating or mitigating factors that it is pointless to compare your case to someone else’s situation. You will become more frustrated and anxious by listening to people who are not criminal defense lawyers and who are not reading your particular discovery packet. Save yourself the headache and keep communications regarding your case solely between you and your attorney.


12.  Finally, be completely honest with your lawyer. Do not omit important “bad” facts. Being arrested can be embarrassing and it can also bring up fears about past criminal history. For that reason, some clients will try to hide bad facts or fail to mention that they had a prior DUI in another state. Your attorney must know all of the bad facts! Even if your past criminal history wasn’t discussed at Arraignment and you think your past DUI won’t come up, you are wrong. A thorough criminal history will eventually be run and any arrests or convictions will be available for the prosecutor to see. If your attorney presents your defense as a “first time mistake” and then, in court, learns that you have past history, you can forget about any deal from a prosecutor or any jury believing your defense. Always be truthful and forthcoming with your attorney. Often, with enough notice, bad facts can be minimized by an experienced criminal defense lawyer.

 

Take Your Criminal Charge Seriously

 

A DUI charge is a very serious situation that can have lasting impacts on your personal and professional life. If you were diagnosed with cancer, you wouldn’t leave it to chance that things would work out. You wouldn’t delay in getting help. You would seek out the best and most experienced help to get you through that crisis. The same should be true for a legal challenge. Don’t leave your future to chance and don’t delay.

 

Being charged with DUI is not a hopeless situation. Be proactive. Contact a lawyer right away to discuss your unique facts. An experienced criminal defense attorney can do a lot to mitigate the damage to your life and get you successfully through this crisis.

July 03, 2020

Can You Beat A DUI?

 

Many clients want to know if we think there is any chance that their case will be dismissed. Often, the answer that a lawyer gives them will be a determining factor in hiring that lawyer. Consequently, many firms will advertise with ads that say “We win 95% of the time!” or some other click-bait type slogan. It is critical that consumers understand what those claims mean.

 

First, there were approximately 30,000 arrests for DUI in 2019. According to Washington Courts data, DUI charges were dismissed by the Court or Prosecution’s Motion on 3,645 occasions. That is a bit misleading unless you are a defense lawyer. As you can see from the image, 2,855 of those dismissals were on Prosecution’s Motion under “other.” 

 DUI Chart

The category “other” encompasses a myriad of options. It can mean that the Prosecution realized that the blood result won’t be returned before speedy trial runs. Consequently, the Prosecutor will “dismiss” the charges but file them again once once blood results are available. It can mean that a defendant successfully completed a 5 year Deferred Prosecution and the Prosecutor is now dismissing the charge. It can also mean that the defendant entered into a Pretrial Diversion Agreement that did not include a lesser charge but was a straight dismissal after “being good” for a period of time. The bottomline is that, while it might appear that nearly 10% of DUI cases are dismissed, that would be an inaccurate view of the data.

 

So, How Do Attorneys Claim To “Win” 97% Of The Time?

 

The key is determining the definition of “win” by the lawyer. For some, it is getting a Not Guilty verdict when the case goes to trial. However, depending on the state and county, about 2-10% of DUI cases go to trial. If you do the math, even if your potential lawyer had 10% of cases dismissed and another 10% of cases receive defense verdicts at trial, you still don’t get 97% success. Clearly, there is a lot of gray area in the definition of success when it comes to DUI defense.

 

What Should I Consider When Looking At “Success” For My DUI?

 

At Witt Law Group, our definition of success is dictated by the client. Obviously, we want to make any criminal charge disappear for our clients. That is always our first intention. We fight aggressively to expose every legal challenge possible and seek to suppress any evidence that should be inadmissible. However, we are also extremely skilled negotiators who will focus on our clients’ most pressing needs and fears. If you have been arrested for DUI, most people have a lot to lose—including freedom.

 

Despite those fears, we will never fudge the numbers. Statistics can be manipulated but, in the end, if a client doesn’t feel heard and aggressively represented, it isn’t a win. Every case and every client is unique. When the prosecution’s case is very strong, the client may simply want to mitigate damage to their lives and career by entering into a diversion agreement. Alternatively, some clients feel very strongly that they want to go forward with a trial and put their unique set of facts before a jury. For a person with a CDL who drives for a living, the jury trial could be worth the gamble. For clients who are in the medical or educational profession, their professional licenses are at stake and a trial may not be worth the risk. They might want a strong negotiator to reduce the charge or have the charge dismissed after a period of “good” time. Each client’s needs dictate how we strategize a “win.”

 

We have a highly successful strategy for finding any and all legal challenges to your arrest. There are many layers to this process and the complexity of options often depends on the availability of evidence (i.e. lapel and dash cam footage, witnesses, legality of the stop, etc.) as well as factors such as criminal history. Each case is thoroughly analyzed for extensive legal issues and facts that support your defense. While only a small percentage of our cases must go to trial, all of our cases are prepped for trial. Whether in negotiation or in front of the jury, we always seek a win for our clients.

 

Any private criminal defense lawyer will cost, at a minimum, a couple thousand dollars for a first time DUI defense. In Kitsap County, 95% of experienced local attorneys will typically charge $2500 for most misdemeanor offenses, including DUI. If you have multiple charges or extensive criminal history, the cost can vary. For example, if you are facing a felony charge, the cost is more likely to be near $5000 or even $10,000, depending on the seriousness of the offense.

 

If you are going to hire a private defense attorney for DUI defense, do not get too fixated on price—unless that has to be the determining factor for you. If you are hiring a criminal defense lawyer who has been a former prosecutor, has gone to trial at least 50 times before a jury, has practiced more than 10 years in the county where you have been charged, it is likely that you have weeded out quite a few lesser experienced attorneys. That’s a good place to start.

 

How Do I Find The Best Defense Attorney For Me?

 

Next, consider reviews and referral sources. You should focus on organic reviews (people who had to take the extra time to go to a site like AVVO or a Google Business site to leave their personal experience) as well as personal and professional referrals. Generally, these are the most trustworthy. If you are in the military or work at the shipyard, you will often hear our firm recommended because we understand the challenges with security clearances and dealing with your Command. If you have an unusual circumstance, such as managing security clearances, this is another factor you might consider in your choice of lawyer. Therefore, asking friends or colleagues for legal referrals might be a serious consideration if employment is a meaningful issue.

 

Often, you will see firms that put out extensive ads on Google. You will see their listing at or near the top of the page in a Google search and the word “Ad” (often in bold) will appear. It is normal for law firms to advertise but, where you see the same firm appear at the top for every search, it will typically mean that the firm is spending tens of thousands of dollars in ads per month. If a firm has a good reputation and does well with word of mouth referrals (often by other legal professionals), spending that kind of money on advertising is not necessary. Additionally, this type of advertising expense is past along in terms of much higher legal fees to new clients. You may even find quotes as high as $5000 or $7500 for DUI defense!

 

If you are being asked to pay $7500 for DUI defense, it is not going toward your defense—it is going to someone’s advertising budget. Kitsap County people are hard working and should not be asked to pay the fees of large Tacoma and Seattle firms. We respect that incomes in Kitsap County are not those of Seattle but it will never impact how hard we work for you. We get stellar results without outlandish legal fees.

 

Should I Rush To Hire An Attorney?

 

Yes and no. Criminal charges have some issues that can be time sensitive and you need to have qualified representation to help you. In the case of DUI, you have a very short window to request a DOL hearing to avoid license suspension. However, that does not mean you should feel pressured on the phone. You should always be able to speak with an attorney and have a free consultation. Additionally, the firm should be able to tell you who will actually represent you. This means that a “managing partner” should not sell you on the firm and then pass your case along to an inexperienced new lawyer. You should feel comfortable to ask that kind of question.

 

If you have a legal issue in Kitsap County, we are always here to help. We have been in the area for decades and our family for multiple generations. Our reputation matters and we strive to maintain that stellar reputation. If your legal issue is outside of Kitsap County, we would be happy to take your call and assist in finding you an experienced colleague. Feel free to call anytime. We are here for you 7 days a week.

If you suddenly realize that you have had too much to drink, can you pull over on the road without facing criminal charges?

 

Technically, you have committed the crime of DUI (assuming you are over the legal limit or “affected by” under the statute) but, if no one saw you and there is no evidence to prove this charge, a DUI charge is not likely. Regardless, you should always stop driving if you are impaired. The challenge can be understanding how to safely pull over and avoid a criminal charge.

 

ACCORDING TO THE STATUTE, WHAT AMOUNTS TO “PHYSICAL CONTROL”

 

When you pull over into a parking lot or the side of the road, you are in physical control of the vehicle. This means you can be charged with a crime. The statute that applies is:

 

RCW 46.61.504

Physical control of vehicle under the influence.

(1) A person is guilty of being in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug if the person has actual physical control of a vehicle within this state:

(a) And the person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of the vehicle, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's breath or blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or

(b) The person has, within two hours after being in actual physical control of a vehicle, a THC concentration of 5.00 or higher as shown by analysis of the person's blood made under RCW 46.61.506; or

(c) While the person is under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug; or

(d) While the person is under the combined influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor and any drug.

(2) The fact that a person charged with a violation of this section is or has been entitled to use a drug under the laws of this state does not constitute a defense against any charge of violating this section. No person may be convicted under this section and it is an affirmative defense to any action pursuant to RCW 46.20.308 to suspend, revoke, or deny the privilege to drive if, prior to being pursued by a law enforcement officer, the person has moved the vehicle safely off the roadway.

(3)

(a) It is an affirmative defense to a violation of subsection (1)(a) of this section which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant consumed a sufficient quantity of alcohol after the time of being in actual physical control of the vehicle and before the administration of an analysis of the person's breath or blood to cause the defendant's alcohol concentration to be 0.08 or more within two hours after being in such control. The court shall not admit evidence of this defense unless the defendant notifies the prosecution prior to the omnibus or pretrial hearing in the case of the defendant's intent to assert the affirmative defense.

(b) It is an affirmative defense to a violation of subsection (1)(b) of this section, which the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant consumed a sufficient quantity of marijuana after the time of being in actual physical control of the vehicle and before the administration of an analysis of the person's blood to cause the defendant's THC concentration to be 5.00 or more within two hours after being in control of the vehicle. The court shall not admit evidence of this defense unless the defendant notifies the prosecution prior to the omnibus or pretrial hearing in the case of the defendant's intent to assert the affirmative defense.

(4)

(a) Analyses of blood or breath samples obtained more than two hours after the alleged being in actual physical control of a vehicle may be used as evidence that within two hours of the alleged being in such control, a person had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more in violation of subsection (1)(a) of this section, and in any case in which the analysis shows an alcohol concentration above 0.00 may be used as evidence that a person was under the influence of or affected by intoxicating liquor or any drug in violation of subsection (1)(c) or (d) of this section.

(b) Analyses of blood samples obtained more than two hours after the alleged being in actual physical control of a vehicle may be used as evidence that within two hours of the alleged being in control of the vehicle, a person had a THC concentration of 5.00 or more in violation of subsection (1)(b) of this section, and in any case in which the analysis shows a THC concentration above 0.00 may be used as evidence that a person was under the influence of or affected by marijuana in violation of subsection (1)(c) or (d) of this section.

(5) Except as provided in subsection (6) of this section, a violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor.

(6) It is a class C felony punishable under chapter 9.94A RCW, or chapter 13.40 RCW if the person is a juvenile, if:

(a) The person has three or more prior offenses within ten years as defined in RCW 46.61.5055; or

(b) The person has ever previously been convicted of:

(i) Vehicular homicide while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, RCW 46.61.520(1)(a);

(ii) Vehicular assault while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, RCW 46.61.522(1)(b);

(iii) An out-of-state offense comparable to the offense specified in (b)(i) or (ii) of this subsection; or

(iv) A violation of this subsection (6) or RCW 46.61.502(6).

 

As you can see, there are still many ways to be charged with Physical Control even though you have pulled off of the roadway. Additionally, while a substance may be legal or legally proscribed, it may still be illegal for you to consume it and drive. Furthermore, while Physical Control is different than being charged with DUI, the punishments are the same and creates very serious consequences for those convicted of the crime. 

WHAT CAN I DO TO AVOID BEING CONVICTED OF PHYSICAL CONTROL

 

Therefore, if you want to avoid a Physical Control charge, here are some pointers:

 

•  Do not have your car on.
•  Do not have the keys in the ignition (even if the car is off).
•  Do not be near any ingress or egress onto any road. In other words, park as far away from normal traffic flow as you can.
•  If you are going to sleep, do not be in the driver’s seat.
•  When it gets cold, do not be tempted to turn on the car for heat.
•  Do not put the keys into the ignition to listen to the radio (refer back to #1!)
•  To draw less attention to you, park perfectly straight into a stall (if a parking lot).
•  Do not park where customers would have to drive or walk past your vehicle to enter a business.
•  Do not assume a few hours of rest will put you below the legal limit. If you are impaired and do not want to sleep 8 hours, contact an Uber or friend to come pick you up.
•  Even though you are no longer driving, do not consume any additional alcohol while sitting in your car.
•  Make a mental note of when you pulled off the road.

 

DO I HAVE ANY AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSES?

 

If you have been charged with Physical Control, you must assert an affirmative defense of “safely off the roadway.” This means that you must assert you were no longer on a roadway. Pulling onto a shoulder or even a side street will not work. It must be an area far away from a roadway such as a parking lot or a rest stop. Additionally, it would be best to have proof of when you pulled over. You could text a friend that you pulled over to a parking lot or screenshot the time when pulled over to your location. Get out of the driver’s seat and make sure your keys are not in the ignition or such that you could “touch start” your vehicle. It must be absolutely clear that you can not exert ANY control over your vehicle.

 

WHAT WILL A PROSECUTOR BE LOOKING FOR?

 

To summarize, the 2 biggest factors that help you successfully assert your affirmative defense are:

 

•  Showing that you did not and could not assert control over the vehicle is critical. You did not have keys in the ignition and you did not have convenient access to the keys. Additionally, you were not in the driver’s seat.


•  You should be located in a secluded parking lot or rest area, which is as far away from the entrance to the road as possible. If it appears that you could easily return to the roadway (even if you are resting in the passenger’s seat when confronted), you will not meet the standard of “safely off the roadway.”

 

If you are confronted by an officer regarding your attempt to pull off the roadway and she suggests that you “just pulled over”, make sure to request that the officer touch the hood of the car. Having the officer verify that your engine is cool is helpful to asserting your defense.

 

WE ARE ALWAYS HERE TO HELP IN YOUR DEFENSE

 

Please share this information with friends. It is never acceptable to drive while impaired by alcohol or drugs and, if you suddenly feel impacted by a substance, it is critical that you pull safely off of the roadway. This blog is intended to be informational and not legal advice. However, since the charge of Physical Control requires that you assert an affirmative defense, it is important to understand the necessary steps a citizen must make to claim a defense. It is important for tearing down the prosecutor’s case against you as well as being able to put forth a strong defense.

 

If you have any questions regarding a Physical Control charge, a DUI, or any other criminal defense question, our team is here to help. We offer free consultations 7 days a week. 360.792.1000

 

Effective June 11th, a new re-sentencing option was enacted through Senate Bill 6164. This bill allows for a Prosecutor to petition the sentencing court to ask for a lesser sentence.

 

Important facts to know before the petition can be made.

 

1.  Under the Bill, the Prosecutor can petition for a reduction if, “the person’s sentence no longer advances interests of justice. The purpose of sentencing is to advance public safety through punishment, rehabilitation, and restorative justice. When a sentence includes incarceration, this purpose is best served by terms that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offense and provide uniformity with the sentences of offenders committing the same offense under similar circumstances.”


2.  The review applies to sentencing on a felony offense.


3.  The Prosecutor shall make reasonable efforts to notify victims and survivors of victims of the petition for resentencing and the date of the hearing.


4.  The sentencing Court has discretion. This means the Court may deny the request and not hear the Prosecutor’s petition.

 

According the Bill, there are certain relevant post-conviction factors that the Court will consider.

 

1.  The inmate’s disciplinary record and record of rehabilitation will be reviewed.


2.  The Prosecutor can provide evidence that the inmate’s age, time served, and diminished physical condition have reduced the inmate’s risk for future violence.


3.  The Prosecutor can provide evidence that reflects “changed circumstances” since original sentencing that substantiates the fact that the current sentence no longer serves the interest of justice.

 

Clearly, the key to this petition is having a willing and available department at your local prosecutor’s office to handle such matters. In King County, the Prosecutor has released this statement on their website:

 

“We, at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) are excited at the enactment of this law and to announce the creation of a new unit, the Sentence Review Unit, to manage this work in our office. This new law allows us to continue and strengthen our existing criminal justice reform efforts. For the past thirteen years, the KCPAO has reviewed old cases with an emphasis on “Three Strikes” cases where a person was sentenced to life for committing a robbery in the 2nd degree. The purpose of the review of old cases is to determine if the sentence is consistent with current principles of justice. For example, 2nd degree robbery is no longer counted as a strike under Washington law.”

 

When we learn how Pierce or Kitsap Counties are proceeding with these petitions, we will update our website. If you have any additional questions, contact our office at 360.792.1000.

Check Your Auto Policy Today

 

In the State of Washington, auto insurance carriers are required to offer PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, to their insured. This type of benefit is essentially a no-fault coverage that kicks in when you are injured in an auto accident. It can also be used where the driver of a car injures a pedestrian. The pedestrian is allowed to use the driver’s PIP coverage to assist with medical bills.

 

Why Do I Need PIP If I Have Bodily Injury Coverage?

 

The reason that PIP is so important is that, following an accident, the at-fault driver’s insurance does NOT pay your medical bills. Many people mistakenly hand over the at-fault driver’s insurance information at the hospital or doctor’s office believing the medical provider can simply bill third party from the start. This is not true. And, if you do not have medical insurance or PIP, you will be immediately on the hook for those bills. Your Bodily Injury Coverage will possibly cover injuries to your passengers or to those you injure if you cause an accident.

 

So When Does Third Party Pay My Bills?

 

After your case is settled through negotiation or a trial (assuming you prevail), your attorney will take the proceeds of your settlement and pay the medical providers. Prior to settling your case (which can be many months or years), the medical providers will file a medical lien against your case or may send your medical bills to collections. If your medical bills were paid through PIP, you will likely need to pay that amount back (subrogation) at a reduced rate. However, there are situations where your carrier will waive subrogation.

 

What Does PIP Cover?

 

PIP can be used to cover medical expenses and loss of income due to your accident. The minimum that a non-commercial policy can offer for PIP benefits is: (a) $10,000 medical, (b) $2,000 funeral, (c) $10,000 income continuation limited to $200/week, and (d) $5,000 loss of services limited to $200/week. There are larger PIP policies available so it is important to ask your agent to provide quotes if you would like a higher policy. If you do not reject PIP, the minimum policy will be included.

 

How Can PIP Help Avoid My Bills Going To Collections?

 

The standard PIP policy is usually $10,000 but you can opt to have a much higher policy. Occasionally, we see a $35,000 policy, which is very helpful. This means that your medical providers will bill your PIP policy just like it was medical insurance (however, there is not negotiated lower rate). The providers will bill your PIP until you reach the maximum benefit and the remaining balances are your responsibility. If you have medical insurance, the provider may then start billing insurance. As long as medical providers are paid, they will not send you to collections.

 

What If My Insurance Carrier Says I Don’t Have PIP?

 

In the State of Washington, you must affirmatively reject PIP in writing. If there is a dispute about coverage, the insurance company must provide your attorney with the document with your signature indicating your rejection. If the company cannot provide proof of your signature, they must offer at least the minimum $10,000 policy to you.

 

What Are Some Of The Challenges With PIP?

 

For PIP to apply, your care must be (a) reasonable, (b) necessary, (c) related, or (d) incurred within three years of the injury. So, your physical therapy will likely be reasonable and necessary but your subscription to a mail order food service is not. Certain insurance companies really like to mess with this type of denial. They will assert that, after paying out $2,000, they feel your care is no longer medically-necessary. They will have an “independent” review done of your records or have you submit to an Independent Medical Exam (IME). These are not really independent as the chiropractor or doctor will be chosen and paid for by the insurance company.

 

When Does PIP Not Apply?

 

There are some restrictions to using your PIP policy. If you intentionally hurt someone, such as ran them over or intended to cause damage and someone was injured in the process, your policy would not apply. There is also an exclusion for coverage if you commit a felony while you are injured. Similarly, if you are injured while racing your vehicle (under the statute that covers this term), your insurance company would likely deny your benefits. Most importantly, make sure you have all of your vehicles listed on the declaration page of the policy. If you or a relative are injured in a car that you own but was not on the policy, the company will not pay benefits. There are a couple of other random exclusions such as war and nuclear events that are included but the basic take away is that you should not commit a felony while driving and that all of your vehicles are listed on your declaration page.

 

Can A Company Stop Paying My Benefits?

 

Yes. If the insurance carrier believes that your treatment does not meet one of the basic requirements such as reasonable and medically-necessary, the company can refuse to pay bills in the middle of your treatment. If this happens to you, your attorney will assist in trying to regain your PIP benefits. If you are not represented and your insurance carrier has refused to pay under your PIP benefit or ordered a PIP Termination Exam (PTE), contact a lawyer today. Depending on the facts, they may be facing a bad faith insurance claim. There are many reasons for using your PIP benefits (reduced pay back and avoiding bills going to collections) but there are also certain requirements under Medicare Secondary Payer Rules that PIP be used before Medicare or Medicaid pays for any treatment. It is important to understand your benefits and how to maximize them in the event you are injured in an auto accident or were hit as a pedestrian by a car.

 

PIP benefits are critical to covering you in an accident yet they can be confusing in how and when they apply. For any questions regarding PIP benefits or your car accident, please do not hesitate to give our office a call.

 

If you had interaction with law enforcement in the past year or so, it’s possible that the officer's reports, which were forwarded to the Prosecutor’s Office, are now being reviewed. To the surprise of many, law enforcement does not determine whether you will be charged with a crime. An officer may arrest you for suspicion of a crime but only a prosecutor can decide to bring charges against you in a court of law. 

But it’s been almost a year since I was stopped by law enforcement!

 

With the “down time” from covid-19, many prosecutor’s offices are using this courtroom break to get through the stacks of reports that were forwarded by law enforcement over the past year. Most prosecutors are so busy that this is a task that sits on the back burner. Unless the report involves immediate harm to citizens, it’s possible that the “back burner” stack will sit indefinitely until a prosecutor finally “declines” charges. That is when the person who was arrested or investigated can breathe a sigh of relief.

Unfortunately, there are likely going to be fewer sighs of relief. The backlog of reports are being reviewed daily. We have heard from certain prosecutors that they have been charging dozens if not hundreds of cases right now. This means hundreds of people will be receiving Summons in the mail soon! 

How will I know if I’ve been charged with a crime?

 

If you had contact with law enforcement in the last year or believe you were being investigated for any reason, make sure that your address is up to date with the Department of Licensing. The clerk’s office will use that address to mail you the Summons. If you do not receive it and fail to appear for court, a warrant for your arrest will be issued. If you avoid dealing with the criminal charge, more trouble is sure to follow. You could be stopped for a traffic offense and, if the officer realizes there is a warrant for your arrest, you may be arrested right on the side of the road. So, create more certainty with your legal problem and put yourself in a better position to negotiate your case by following the rules.

 

Make sure your mailing address is correct. If you are unsure as to whether you are going to be charged with a crime, contact our office. We will monitor your situation for you. Avoid a warrant issued or an unexpected arrest. For any questions, give our office a call.

 

One of the most important considerations right now is how coronavirus is impacting criminal
charges. We wrote a past blog about how dates are being impacted but it’s important to also
understand how this unique time might improve the results of your case.


Get A “To Do” List From Your Attorney


First, use your “free time” wisely. If you have been charged with a DUI or another alcohol-related
offense, there are productive things you can do while you are waiting for your next court date.
We ask our clients to have a drug and alcohol assessment done as well as a victims’ impact
panel. Believe or not, there are agencies who are still making it happen! These appointments
are not easy to schedule during normal times so you will really have a leg up getting that done.


Get Ahead Of The Criminal Charge


Second, even if you haven’t been charged with a crime yet, call our office. We can talk to the
Prosecutor’s Office and challenge the investigation. If there are serious legal challenges to the
potential charge, we may be able to convince the Prosecutor to decline filing the charges.


Exculpatory Evidence


Third, since you are not in-custody, you can assist your attorney with investigating your case
early to ensure potential exculpatory evidence is not destroyed. For example, you can help us
understand the scene of where or how you had contact with law enforcement. We may want
residential security camera footage, security footage from a business, or traffic camera footage.
Often, those videos are destroyed within 7-14 days so time is of the essence.


DOL…DOL…DOL…Don’t Forget!


Finally, DO NOT WAIT ON YOUR DOL HEARING REQUEST! If you had “contact” with a police
officer for a potential DUI or Physical Control charge (if you were not arrested but they may be
forwarding your information to the Prosecutor’s Office), your 7 day window to request the
hearing will likely start from the date you had that contact with law enforcement. It only 50% of
our cases do the officers give the suspect the actual DOL request form. It is up to you to know
that you need to request that hearing within 7 days even if you were never given the form. You
have no other recourse if you wait beyond the 7 days.


If you have any questions about your DUI arrest, stop, investigation, or the DOL hearing request
process, do not delay in contacting our office. We are available 24/7. If this post was relevant to you, CLICK HERE for many similar posts.