Within criminal defense there is a small area of crimes that deal with traffic offenses, or specifically, crimes committed while in the operation of a motor vehicle. Although DUIs are the most common segment of criminal traffic defense, there are a number of other criminal offenses to be aware of. These types of criminal offenses are a unique niche of criminal defense that require an attorney familiar with the consequences of a conviction and the type of evidence, witnesses, and testimony the government will use in their case against you and how best to combat it.
In addition, convictions for criminal traffic offenses can come with additional sanctions and penalties that can impact your life beyond jail time and fines. This list includes, but is not limited to, suspension or revocation of your driver's license, defensive driving school classes, commercial driver's license consequences, and increased insurance rates, and being labeled a habitual traffic offender.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal traffic offense, they should speak with an attorney as soon as possible before evidence and witnesses are lost forever. If you would like to speak with a member of our staff or call to set up a free consultation please call us at 253-383-3328 or e-mail us at Office@williamawhitelaw.com.
RCW 46.61-500 is the controlling statute for Reckless Driving. It states:
(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for up to three hundred sixty-four days and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.
(2)(a) Subject to (b) of this subsection, the license or permit to drive or any nonresident privilege of any person convicted of reckless driving shall be suspended by the department for not less than thirty days.
(b) When a reckless driving conviction is a result of a charge that was originally filed as a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504, or an equivalent local ordinance, the department shall grant credit on a day-for-day basis for any portion of a suspension, revocation, or denial already served under an administrative action arising out of the same incident. During any period of suspension, revocation, or denial due to a conviction for reckless driving as the result of a charge originally filed as a violation of RCW 46.61.502 or 46.61.504, any person who has obtained an ignition interlock driver's license under RCW 46.20.385 may continue to drive a motor vehicle pursuant to the provision of the ignition interlock driver's license without obtaining a separate temporary restricted driver's license under RCW 46.20.391.
(3)(a) Except as provided under (b) of this subsection, a person convicted of reckless driving who has one or more prior offenses as defined in RCW 46.61.5055(14) within seven years shall be required, under RCW 46.20.720, to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles operated by the person if the conviction is the result of a charge that was originally filed as a violation of RCW 46.61.502, 46.61.504, or an equivalent local ordinance.
(b) A person convicted of reckless driving shall be required, under RCW 46.20.720, to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles operated by the person if the conviction is the result of a charge that was originally filed as a violation of RCW 46.61.520 committed while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or RCW 46.61.522 committed while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.
Reckless driving can be considered a broad "catch-all" type of criminal offense. That means there are many ways one could commit the crime of Reckless Driving. As the statute says, it occurs when someone drives in a manner that puts other people or property in danger. The most common type of facts associated with reckless driving deal with driving at a high rate of speed, weaving through traffic, unsafe lane changes, disobeying multiple traffic laws, and showing a disregard for your actions and the safety of other drivers or property.
Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor which carries a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. In addition, your privilege to drive will be suspended for not less than 30 days. A reckless driving conviction qualifies as one of the types of convictions that can get you declared a habitual traffic offender. It will also cause your commercial motor vehicle license to be suspended or revoked, among other negative consequences to your CDL.
Although this term is not used in Washington state as much as many other states, such as California, this term refers to a conviction for Reckless driving that was originally charged as a DUI but the government amended the DUI charge to a Reckless driving, often as part of a plea agreement. Obtaining an amendment from a DUI to a Reckless driving can occur for many reason but hiring a qualified DUI defense attorney will give you the best possibility for a positive outcome like this.
This type of amendment is actually built into the statute. If you look at the statute, all but sections (1) and (2)(a) deal with the penalties associated with a "wet reckless," that is, a DUI amended to a Reckless driving offense.
These specific provisions address 4 things.
1) If your license was suspended because of a DOL civil hearing based on a DUI arrest, you are given day for day credit towards the mandatory 30 day license suspension for a Reckless driving conviction. In plain English, they won't add 30 more days on top of what you already got. For example, if your license was suspended for 90 days by the DOL because of the DUI arrest, and you are later convicted of a Reckless Driving, the total suspension time for your license is only 90 days. The 30 day suspension for the Reckless driving conviction does not get added on top of the 90 days.
2) If your license was NOT suspended because of a DOL hearing from a DUI arrest, but your license is suspended for 30 days from a Reckless Driving conviction that was amended from a DUI charge, you are still eligible to apply for an Ignition Interlock License, and thus, drive during your suspension.
3) If you have one or more "prior offenses" (DUI, Physical Control, Deferred Prosecution, or an amended charge that was originally charge as a DUI or Physical Control) within 7 years of this "wet reckless" conviction you will be required to have an Ignition Interlock Device installed in your vehicle for 6 months.
4) If you were originally charged with Vehicular homicide committed while under the influence, and you are convicted of Reckless Driving, due to a plea agreement, you will be required to obtain an Ignition Interlock license.
If you are still confused, that's okay. It takes time, patience and experience to understand all the ways the criminal traffic statutes connect to each other. This is the reason hiring a qualified criminal traffic defense attorney is so important.
Still have questions or interested in setting up a consultation to speak with a member of our staff? Give us a call today at 253-383-3328 or e-mail us at Office@williamawhitelaw.com.
(1)(a) A person is guilty of negligent driving in the first degree if he or she operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or marijuana or any drug or exhibits the effects of having inhaled or ingested any chemical, whether or not a legal substance, for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects.
(b) It is an affirmative defense to negligent driving in the first degree by means of exhibiting the effects of having consumed any drug that must be proved by the defendant by a preponderance of the evidence, that the driver has a valid prescription for the drug consumed, and has been consuming it according to the prescription directions and warnings.
(c) Negligent driving in the first degree is a misdemeanor.
(2) For the purposes of this section:
(a) "Negligent" means the failure to exercise ordinary care, and is the doing of some act that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do something that a reasonably careful person would do under the same or similar circumstances.
(b) "Exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug" means that a person has the odor of liquor, marijuana, or any drug on his or her breath, or that by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, lack of coordination, or otherwise exhibits that he or she has consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug, and either:
(i) Is in possession of or in close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor, marijuana, or any drug in it; or
(ii) Is shown by other evidence to have recently consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug.
(c) "Exhibiting the effects of having inhaled or ingested any chemical, whether or not a legal substance, for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects" means that a person by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, or lack of coordination or otherwise exhibits that he or she has inhaled or ingested a chemical and either:
(i) Is in possession of the canister or container from which the chemical came; or
(ii) Is shown by other evidence to have recently inhaled or ingested a chemical for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects.
(3) Any act prohibited by this section that also constitutes a crime under any other law of this state may be the basis of prosecution under such other law notwithstanding that it may also be the basis for prosecution under this section.
(4) A person convicted of negligent driving in the first degree who has one or more prior offenses as defined in RCW 46.61.5055(14) within seven years shall be required, under RCW 46.20.720, to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles operated by the person.
Negligent Driving 1st degree is used by the government in mainly two ways.
1) A stand-alone criminal offense that you can be charged under. This is often seen when your breath test or blood draw puts you below the "per se" limits of .08 for alcohol and/or 5ng for THC. The government will combine these lower test levels along with the testimony from the officer to try and show your driving was affected but not to the level of a DUI charge. This crime can also be used as a "lesser included offense" in a DUI trial. This means the government can ask the jury to convict you of DUI or Negligent Driving 1st, if the jury finds the evidence does not support a DUI conviction. This can essentially give the government two chances to obtain a criminal conviction on the same facts. This is completely lawful and they have the ability to request this of the jury if the facts support it.
2) This crime can also be used as a tool to resolve a charge that was originally charged as a DUI. Because a Negligent Driving 1st is a "lesser included offense" it allows the government to easily amend a DUI charge to this crime. This works similarly to the "Wet Reckless" above. There are a number of reasons the government may be willing to amend a DUI charge to this lesser crime including a low breath or blood test, your lack of criminal case history, and a host of other factors that often include legal issues argued by your defense attorney.
If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to obtain an amendment to a DUI charge, hiring a qualified DUI attorney is the first step. Obviously, no attorney can guarantee a result, but hiring an attorney that knows the law and will fight for you will put you in the best possible position to obtain a favorable result.
In Washington state the crime of Hit and Run is mainly separated in two ways. The main factor between the two is whether the other vehicle had people inside of it or not. This is described as an "Unattended" or "Attended" vehicle. Whether anyone was injured or died, or whether you struck other property is also a contributing factor as to what statute you will be charged under.
Duty on striking unattended car or other property—Penalty.
(1) The operator of any vehicle which collided with any other vehicle which is unattended shall immediately stop and shall then and there either locate and notify the operator or owner of such vehicle of the name and address of the operator and owner of the vehicle striking the unattended vehicle or shall leave in a conspicuous place in the vehicle struck a written notice, giving the name and address of the operator and of the owner of the vehicle striking such other vehicle.
(2) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to property fixed or placed upon or adjacent to any public highway shall take reasonable steps to locate and notify the owner or person in charge of such property of such fact and of the name and address of the operator and owner of the vehicle striking such property, or shall leave in a conspicuous place upon the property struck a written notice, giving the name and address of the operator and of the owner of the vehicle so striking the property, and such person shall further make report of such accident as in the case of other accidents upon the public highways of this state.
(3) Any person violating this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
A misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. There is no license consequences for a personal driver's license for a conviction for Hit & Run "Unattended" under RCW 46.52.010.
However, if you have a Commercial Drivers License (CDL), any conviction for a hit and run charge, even if it occurred in your personal vehicle, can result in a CDL disqualification. Depending on whether you have had your CDL revoked previously, this could result in a lifetime revocation.
Duty in case of personal injury or death or damage to attended vehicle or other property—Penalties.
(1) A driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in the injury to or death of any person or involving striking the body of a deceased person shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident or as close thereto as possible but shall then forthwith return to, and in every event remain at, the scene of such accident until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (3) of this section; every such stop shall be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary.
(2)(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting only in damage to a vehicle which is driven or attended by any person or damage to other property must move the vehicle as soon as possible off the roadway or freeway main lanes, shoulders, medians, and adjacent areas to a location on an exit ramp shoulder, the frontage road, the nearest suitable cross street, or other suitable location. The driver shall remain at the suitable location until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of subsection (3) of this section. Moving the vehicle in no way affects fault for an accident.
(b) A law enforcement officer or representative of the department of transportation may cause a motor vehicle, cargo, or debris to be moved from the roadway; and neither the department of transportation representative, nor anyone acting under the direction of the officer or the department of transportation representative is liable for damage to the motor vehicle, cargo, or debris caused by reasonable efforts of removal.
(3) Unless otherwise provided in subsection (7) of this section the driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person, or involving striking the body of a deceased person, or resulting in damage to any vehicle which is driven or attended by any person or damage to other property shall give his or her name, address, insurance company, insurance policy number, and vehicle license number and shall exhibit his or her vehicle driver's license to any person struck or injured or the driver or any occupant of, or any person attending, any such vehicle collided with and shall render to any person injured in such accident reasonable assistance, including the carrying or the making of arrangements for the carrying of such person to a physician or hospital for medical treatment if it is apparent that such treatment is necessary or if such carrying is requested by the injured person or on his or her behalf. Under no circumstances shall the rendering of assistance or other compliance with the provisions of this subsection be evidence of the liability of any driver for such accident.
(4)(a) Any driver covered by the provisions of subsection (1) of this section failing to stop or comply with any of the requirements of subsection (3) of this section in the case of an accident resulting in death is guilty of a class B felony and, upon conviction, is punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.
(b) Any driver covered by the provisions of subsection (1) of this section failing to stop or comply with any of the requirements of subsection (3) of this section in the case of an accident resulting in injury is guilty of a class C felony and, upon conviction, is punishable according to chapter 9A.20 RCW.
(c) Any driver covered by the provisions of subsection (1) of this section failing to stop or comply with any of the requirements of subsection (3) of this section in the case of an accident involving striking the body of a deceased person is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(d) This subsection shall not apply to any person injured or incapacitated by such accident to the extent of being physically incapable of complying with this section.
(5) Any driver covered by the provisions of subsection (2) of this section failing to stop or to comply with any of the requirements of subsection (3) of this section under said circumstances shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor: PROVIDED, That this provision shall not apply to any person injured or incapacitated by such accident to the extent of being physically incapable of complying herewith.
(6) The license or permit to drive or any nonresident privilege to drive of any person convicted under this section or any local ordinance consisting of substantially the same language as this section of failure to stop and give information or render aid following an accident with any vehicle driven or attended by any person shall be revoked by the department.
(7) If none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under subsection (3) of this section, and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such accident after fulfilling all other requirements of subsections (1) and (3) of this section insofar as possible on his or her part to be performed, shall forthwith report such accident to the nearest office of the duly authorized police authority and submit thereto the information specified in subsection (3) of this section.
If you are convicted of a Hit and Run - Attended Vehicle (where no one was injured or died) you are looking at a gross misdemeanor and face a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. In addition, your personal license will be revoked for 1 year. If you have a commercial drivers license (CDL) it will be disqualified as well. As noted above, depending on your record, this could result in a lifetime revocation of your CDL.
If you are involved in an accident that results in injury or death you could be charge with a Felony Hit and Run. The above statute, RCW 46.52.020 applies. If convicted of a felony hit and run you could be facing steep fines and jail time, loss of license, as well as a host other requirements.
What your actual sentence could be involves a number of specific factors including your "offender score" based on the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) RCW 9.94A and Washington's Sentencing Guidelines.
Whatever criminal traffic offense you have been charged with the best advice you can receive is always to hire a qualified criminal defense attorney that practices in this area of law. Your chances of having a favorable result, avoiding or minimizing any jail time, protecting your ability to drive, and reducing the overall negative impact on your life increases when you hire a qualified criminal traffic defense attorney.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal traffic offense, call us today at 253-383-3328 or email us at Office@williamawhitelaw.com and let us get started on fighting for you so you can get back to your life.