DUI & Criminal Charges in Bremerton — What You Need To Know

If you are facing a DUI charge in Bremerton, you are being charged by the Bremerton City Prosecutor.  This is because the City of Bremerton has its own Prosecutor and does not outsource criminal charging and prosecution to the Kitsap County Prosecutor. 

Bremerton Municipal Courthouse is open five days a week and handles criminal charges such as DUI, Assault, Trespass, and many other misdemeanor cases. If you were arrested by Bremerton Police but your conduct amounted to felony, the investigation reports will be referred to the Kitsap County Prosecutor’s office for felony criminal charging. 

When Your Case Is Moved From Bremerton Municipal Court to Kitsap Superior Court

Occasionally, a defendant might be initially charged with a misdemeanor but the Bremerton Prosecutor dismisses the case or may choose to “decline” the case. This can happen when the conduct appeared to meet the elements of a misdemeanor criminal charge but, upon further review or discovery, the prosecutor learns that the conduct is more appropriately charged as a felony. In that case, the person will be charged by the Kitsap County Prosector upon receiving all of the reports. This can take weeks or months. Eventually, the defendant will be mailed a Summons to appear in Kitsap Superior Court.

What Type Of Cases Get Re-Filed As Felonies

The most common cases we see with re-filing are DUI cases with an accident. If the initial investigating officer learns that a passenger or someone else was seriously injured during the accident, he will notify the prosecutor and file supplemental reports. More often, when an accident occurs with a DUI, the prosecutor will wait to charge the case until she has assessed the level of injuries or seriousness of the accident. 

When there is a very serious accident with bodily injuries that is initially charged as a misdemeanor, there is a strategy that some defense attorneys will employ. If the timeline allows, the defense attorney will suggest the client plead to the misdemeanor DUI before the prosecutor can re-file as felony vehicular assault. 

Under the Constitution, once the defendant has plead to the underlying charge of DUI, double jeopardy rules apply and the prosecutor cannot file a new felony charge based on the same facts resolved in the misdemeanor case. This scenario is highly unusual and only a very experienced defense attorney would know whether pleading to the DUI is a good long term strategy. Sometimes, this is not a good tactic—particularly where there are strong defenses to the DUI charge. Also, pleading to the DUI when there is an accident, can have implications for civil lawsuits against the defendant.

Bremerton Prosecutors

The prosecutors in Bremerton are experienced attorneys and have held this position in other counties. Unlike some counties or cities where brand new lawyers fill these positions, Bremerton has experienced trial attorneys who have handled thousands of criminal cases.

The only thing that is slightly different for Bremerton as compared to Poulsbo, Bainbridge, or Kitsap District prosecutors is that Bremerton cases generally take longer to resolve. They have a decent number of cases and they take longer to negotiate and bring to a resolution. There is also only one judge and she is fairly new. So, things move at a slower pace. 

Case resolutions and fines

Case resolutions in Bremerton Municipal are fairly comparable to Kitsap County District cases. However, in Bremerton, you often see larger fines or unusual requests such as a scram bracelet (alcohol detecting ankle monitoring) for a condition of release and as part of case resolution such as electronic home monitoring to include TAD unit (transdermal alcohol detector).

Process of resolving cases

Your attorney should be very familiar with the protocol in this court otherwise you could be in for extra challenges. The protocols have significantly changed over the years. Nearly 20 years ago, Ryan was the prosecutor in this court. Things are very different now. The newest judge does more micro-managing of cases, which has changed the dynamic for resolving cases with the prosecutor. As mentioned above, negotiations take much longer than district court.  Also, expect to have case resolutions critiqued by the judge. The review of the resolution will typically take twice as long on the day of court as compared to Kitsap District Court.

Challenges after case resolution

When cases are resolved with a Pretrial Diversion Agreement (PDA), the original charge can be dismissed in two or three years if certain conditions are met or, more commonly, the original charge can be reduced to a lesser charge in two or three years if terms are met by the defendant. 

For those who are having their original charge reduced to a lesser charge, there is a unique challenge in Bremerton. The judge will assess a mandatory conviction fee at the final review hearing. This is because you are being “convicted” of the lesser charge at your two year review. So, this fee cannot be assigned earlier. 

Mandatory Conviction Fee & Your Required Presence

The problem is that, since you are being assessed a new fee, the judge wants you present in the court room to acknowledge acceptance. This does not happen in other local courts in Kitsap. Presence is typically waived and so out of area attorneys will tell their client there is no need to appear but, in fact, this judge is likely to issue a bench warrant if you don’t show. 

It Kitsap District, the court will usually assign a probation assessment of $400 when you enter your PDA (usually paid $20 a month) so you are paying fines throughout the two year period while waiting to have your charge reduced. Then, when you have your final review hearing (again, typically the defendant’s presence is waived), the court will issue the mandatory conviction fee of $43 but take the money out of the $400 you already paid toward the probation fee. Basically, you “pre-paid” your mandatory conviction fee within your probation fee. Hence, your lack of presence is not a problem.

Post-PDA review hearing

Additionally, there is another risk for a warrant after you enter a PDA in your case. Unlike other courts in Kitsap, Bremerton will set an additional “review hearing” way in advance of the hearing to reduce or dismiss the original charge. The hearing could be two weeks, a month, or perhaps 90 days after the entry of your PDA. The court will inform the defendant that his or her presence is waived if all of the documents or proof of compliance have been submitted but this is very risky. 

For example, one of the conditions might be to file the chemical dependency evaluation with the court. The evaluation agencies will tell you that they will do this and will do so in a timely manner. Unfortunately, this only happens about half of the time. So, if you didn’t show up for court under the false assumption that your required documents were filed with the court, the judge will issue a warrant. 

You do not have recourse agains the assessment agency so you better double check with the clerk’s office to make sure all documents were filed. Unfortunately, half of the time when we call, they will not confirm that information. The best course of action is to just show up at this review hearing even if it is a waste of time (you have done everything required of you) because it is not worth risking a warrant.

Call A Local DUI & Criminal Defense Attorney

So, if you have a case in Bremerton, make sure you hire a LOCAL defense attorney. These are just a few of the issues that can arise in resolving a criminal charge in Bremerton. If you hire an attorney who practices in Bremerton every week, you should be fine. We have practiced in Bremerton for nearly 20 years and handle Bremerton cases every week.

*PDAs are unique to Kitsap County and the cities in this area.

Ryan and Jen Witt of Witt Law Group, Kitsap County defense and personal injury lawyers

Get help now

Whether you choose to handle your case alone or engage the Witt Law Group, being informed and prepared is essential. Early involvement of an attorney can significantly impact your chances of a fair recovery, allowing you to focus on healing while we handle negotiations with insurance adjusters to secure fair compensation for your injuries.

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