What Is The Charge Of Vehicle Prowling In Washington State?

Kitsap / Bremerton Defense Attorney Ryan Witt
Vehicle Prowl in the Second Degree

Vehicle Prowling In The Second Degree is a Gross Misdemeanor, which means the maximum penalty is up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.  Getting an attorney early on, even before the arraignment, can often alter the course of how the criminal charge will ultimately resolve.

Elements Of The Vehicle Prowling Charge

The elements of Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree are as follows:

•  A person is guilty of vehicle prowling in the second degree if, with intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein, he or she enters or remains unlawfully in a vehicle other than a motor home, as defined in RCW 46.04.305, or a vessel equipped for propulsion by mechanical means or by sail which has a cabin equipped with permanently installed sleeping quarters or cooking facilities.

“Enters Or Remains Unlawfully”

To fully understand the charge, one must also understand the definition of “enters or remains unlawfully”. The definition is as follows:

•  A person “enters or remains unlawfully” in or upon premises when he or she is not then licensed, invited, or otherwise privileged to so enter or remain.

Based on the elements of Vehicle Prowling in the second degree, one is guilty of the offense even if the entry is for a fleeting moment and even if noting is actually taken from the vehicle. If an individual merely enters a vehicle to snoop around, but doesn’t actually take something, that conduct would still meet the elements. However, if a person got into a car accidentally, because the cars looked similar, that would not be a crime because the prosecuting authority would most likely not be able to prove the “intent to commit a crime” element.

Ways To Resolve A Vehicle Prowling Charge

There are defenses to Vehicle Prowling but, for the most part, a defense attorney is attacking the element of intent.  Any defense attorney will be exploring if the State can disprove whether the entry was an accident. Additionally, Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree 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 regarding how to resolve a Vehicle Prowling case other than going to trial or pleading guilty.

Most jurisdictions have some form of a Pre-Trial Diversion Agreement, or “PDA,” which is essentially 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 Vehicle Prowling charge 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. If you would like to learn more about Pre-Trial Diversion Agreements, see below.

More Info On PDA’s

If a defendant wishes to not resolve the matter through a Diversion, they always have the right to go to trial. At trial, a defendant can require the Prosecutor to prove every element of the Vehicle Prowling in the Second Degree charge beyond a reasonable doubt. This may be the route you want to go, but make sure to discuss all the risks involved with competent counsel.

We Are Here For You, 24/7

Witt Law Group serves individuals who have been charged with the crime of Vehicle Prowling in Kitsap County (including Bremerton, Port Orchard, Silverdale, Kingston, Poulsbo & Seabeck). 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 (360) 773-8598 (Poulsbo) or you can text one of our attorneys at (360) 710-0027.

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

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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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