Check fraud may seem like an uncommon occurrence, but the truth is, plenty of people are still stealing checks, forging checks, and trying to cash other people’s checks illegally. Often, these crimes aren’t committed out of malice, but rather, economic hardship.


If you’ve been accused of check fraud, it’s not the end of the world—there are lots of options, and crucial legal distinctions to be aware of. And if you aren't sure, it’s good to know why and how you may be accused.

Different Kinds of Check Fraud


Check fraud is a catch-all term referring to several kinds of criminal activity. It may include (but isn’t limited to) forgery, check kiting, counterfeiting or alteration, and even some forms of identity theft (i.e., when someone cashes a check that wasn’t made out to them).


Checks may be completely fabricated—simply printed off or copied—or they may be altered, both of which are illegal. Check washing, as it’s often called, is the process of removing signatures or designated amounts from checks in order to steal money.


Checks may also be cut without proper authorization; in the case of businesses, this usually means someone has gotten ahold of checks and is making them out without permission.

Avoiding Check Fraud


As a private citizen, it’s important to guard your checks and always check your bank statements. Additionally, taking protective steps—like only accepting checks during business hours to ensure that they’re legitimate, never endorsing checks before you’re ready to cash or deposit them, or using pens which make check-washing less viable—can help you keep your finances secure.


Sometimes, unsuspecting citizens find themselves in possession of fraudulent checks without realizing it, or may think that it’s ok to cash a check on behalf of a family member. For this reason, it’s important to know the laws around check cashing; if a relative or friend signs a check over to you, you may cash it. However, without their express permission, you may inadvertently find yourself committing fraud.


If you’ve been accused of fraud, the best thing to do is obtain experienced, professional legal counsel.


At the Witt Law Group, we believe that all persons are innocent until proven guilty, and that everyone deserves their day in court—no matter the charge. We handle criminal defense cases in Kitsap County and have offices in Bremerton, Poulsbo and Gig Harbor for your convenience.

Published in Witt Law Group Blog
December 12, 2018

Felony Diversion

 

 

Certain felony crimes in Kitsap County can be resolved through what is called Felony Diversion. In essence, Felony Diversion is a stipulated order of continuance where if the participant meets all of the negotiated and required conditions, the pending felony charge(s) against the participant will be dismissed.


Eligibility Criteria:


1. The participant must be charged in Kitsap County Superior Court with one or more felony level offenses.

2. The participant must have never participated in an equivalent diversion program in Washington or in any other state.

3. The participant should have relatively little or no misdemeanor / gross misdemeanor criminal history

4. The current offense must not be a “violent offense”, but those can be considered on a case by case basis by a supervisor in the prosecutor’s office.

5. If the crime charged resulted in damage, restitution should ideally be paid upfront. If not paid upfront, the participant must agree to pay the restitution amount in full during the term of the diversion program.

6. The victim should be supportive of the diversion program, but it is not required.

7. The participant must write a letter outlining why they believe they are a good candidate for felony diversion.


Typical Conditions:


1. The standard terms are to complete 48 hours of community service, pay an $850 program fee, have law abiding behavior, report monthly or quarterly compliance (if any form of treatment is required) and waive extradition.

2. The duration of the program is typically for one or two years.

3. If the prosecution believes that some treatable condition was a contributing factor in the criminal behavior, they will require the applicant to receive an evaluation. Based on the outcome of the assessment, treatment may be required. For example, if the prosecution believes that anger management or chemical dependency treatment is appropriate for the participant’s rehabilitation, then such programs are made a condition of the agreement.


The End Result:


Felony diversions end in the dismissal of a participant’s charges. This is typically a great result in exchange for the participant committing to the program and meeting all the requirements. Not everyone will qualify for this program, but it is almost always worthwhile to make the request.


Other Alternative Resolutions:


If you are curious about other ways to have a criminal charge reduced or dismissed without going to trial, click on the following links for an explanation of each:


Pretrial Diversion Agreement (not available for felony charges)


Compromise of Misdemeanor (not available for felony charges)


Behavioral Health Court


Veteran’s Court


Drug Court


We hope that this helps assist you in deciding what type of resolution you want to pursue in your case. Obviously not all of these options are available for each specific charge or fact pattern, so call our office to discuss the specifics of your case. Witt Law Group is a criminal defense and DUI defense law firm with offices in Bremerton and Gig Harbor Washington.

Published in Criminal Defense

 

When potential clients call our office, they generally know what “crime” they’ve been charged with but they don’t always know what that means.

Published in Witt Law Group Blog


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.

Published in Witt Law Group Blog