How A Car Prowl Becomes A Felony

May 26, 2018 Written by


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.