The state of Washington establishes and enforces two different negligent driving laws; negligent in the first degree and in the second degree. While both of these laws hold motorists accountable for placing others on public roads and highways in danger, they differ significantly in scope. Essentially, the main differences between Washington's negligent driving laws are that first-degree negligent driving involves the presence of drugs and alcohol and is typically considered a misdemeanor offense rather than a traffic infraction.
Washington created these two distinct offenses several years ago to confront the problem of driver's who exhibited signs of intoxication or impairment yet still had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below the legal limit of .08%. This means that even if a motorist is driving within the legal BAC limits, they may still face criminal charges similar to driving under the influence (DUI). If you, a loved one, or someone you care about has recently been charged with first-degree negligent driving, understanding this law is essential to helping you understand the importance of retaining an experienced Lynnwood DUI lawyer from our firm.
According to RCW § 46.61.5249, a driver can be charged with negligent driving in the first degree if they:
As defined by the statute, operating a motor vehicle negligently refers to a motorist's failure to exercise ordinary care. This means that when a driver fails to act in a manner that a reasonably careful person would act, they exhibit signs of negligent driving. Additionally, the statute clarifies that exhibiting the effects of alcohol can be determined if the motorist has an odor of liquor on their breath or exhibits signs of intoxication by speech, manner, appearance, behavior, and / or lack of coordination. In addition to exhibiting signs of alcohol intoxication, at least one of the following two elements must be present:
In relation to a case of negligent driving involving any type of drug or chemical, a motorist must exhibit the same types of impairment as defined by the statute relating to intoxication. At least one of the following two elements must also be present:
Depending on the nature of the charge and the driver's criminal record, criminal and driver's license penalties may vary. As a misdemeanor offense, however, typical penalties can include probation, fines up to $1,000, up to 90 days imprisonment, or both. Additionally, motorists convicted of first-degree negligent driving may face driver's license suspensions and, in certain cases involving individuals with prior DUI or negligent driving convictions, may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any vehicles they own.
While criminal and driving penalties can be harsh, they can be effectively avoided or mitigated with the assistance of a proven DUI defense attorney. Defense strategies will differ on an individual basis, but will generally focus on challenging any chemical evidence of impairment or intoxication, arresting protocol of law enforcement officers, and a motorist's driving abilities, among other elements. Motorists who face these allegations after taking prescription medication within the prescribed dosage also have grounds for a solid and legitimate defense. It is also important to note that in certain cases, individuals who have been charged with a DUI may be able to reduce their charge to first-degree negligent driving, which can in turn reduce criminal penalties.
As a firm that focuses exclusively on DUI defense and related driving offenses, we are uniquely prepared to handle first-degree negligent driving cases. Founding Attorney Jonathan Dichter has spent years representing individuals throughout the state of Washington who have found themselves facing these serious criminal charges. Equipped with extensive experience, tools, and resources, we are capable of fighting aggressively on your behalf.
As negligent driving cases must be addressed on an individualized basis, we encourage you bring your case to the attention of our firm as soon as possible. Contact Dichter Law Office, PLLC today to learn more about your defense options.