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Criminal Traffic Defense

Criminal Traffic Attorney

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 experienced criminal traffic 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 traffic attorney as soon as possible before evidence and witnesses are lost forever. If you would like to speak with a member of our experienced legal staff or want to set up a free consultation please call us at 253-383-3328.


Reckless Driving Attorney

RCW 46.61.500: Reckless Driving is a gross misdemeanor.

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in a county correctional facility (jail), and/or a $5,000 fine.

Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving

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.  

If you are convicted of Reckless Driving your license will be suspended for 30 days. It can also negatively impact your Commercial Driver's License, including suspension or revocation.

In addition, a Reckless driving conviction qualifies as one of the driving convictions that can get you declared a habitual traffic offender (HTO).

What is a Wet Reckless?

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 down to 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 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 an experienced criminal traffic defense attorney is so important. We here at South Sound Law Group having been helping people just like you for over 40 years.

If you still have questions or you are interested in setting up a free consultation to speak with a member of our friendly legal team, give us a call today at 253-383-3328 or submit a request through our contact page.


Negligent Driving 1st Degree Attorney

RCW 46.61.5249: Negligent Driving in the First Degree is a misdemeanor

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a misdemeanor is 90 days in county correctional facility (jail), and/or a $1,000 fine.

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.
    • 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.

"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.

"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:
    • Is in possession of or in close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor, marijuana, or any drug in it; or
    • Is shown by other evidence to have recently consumed liquor, marijuana, or any drug.

"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:
    • Is in possession of the canister or container from which the chemical came; or
    • Is shown by other evidence to have recently inhaled or ingested a chemical for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects.

What is Negligent Driving?

Negligent Driving 1st degree is used by the government in mainly two ways.

1) A stand-alone criminal offense. 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) An amendment to resolve a DUI. Negligent Driving 1st degree is a "lesser included offense" of a DUI, This allows the government to easily amend a DUI charge down to a Negligent Driving 1st. This works similarly to the "Wet Reckless" described in detail 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, lack of alcohol or drug history, and legal issues argued by your defense attorney that make your case difficult to prove at trial. 

If you want to give yourself the best opportunity to obtain a favorable result from a Negligent Driving 1st degree (or Neg 1st) charge or to obtain an amendment to a DUI charge, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney and especially the best DUI attorney you can find is the first step. No traffic attorney can guarantee you a result but hiring a great local traffic lawyer that knows the law and will fight for you will put you in the best possible position. 


Hit and Run Attorney

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.

It's important to know that neither Hit and Run statute deals with fault of the accident, and thus, a conviction for Hit and Run should not be used against you for any civil action or restitution in any criminal conviction.

Unattended Vehicle or Other Property

RCW 46.52.010: Hit and Run Unattended is a gross misdemeanor.

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in a county correctional facility (jail), and/or a $5,000 fine.

There is no suspension or revocation to your personal license if convicted. 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.

What must you do to avoid a Hit and Run Unattended criminal charge?

The statute is very wordy and confusing but it really comes down to 2 duties if you hit a vehicle and 1 additional if you hit property:

  1. Immediately stop and find the owner and provide them your information
  2. If you can't find the owner, leave a note somewhere the owner will find that has your information.
  3. If you hit property, you must do the 2 steps above and report the accident to the police.

Although the statute requires you to only provide your name and address for your information, it's best practice to provide a telephone number and or e-mail to make things easier on all parties involved.

In addition, if you hit an unattended vehicle or property it's best practice to call the non-emergency police line to report the accident. This helps prevent someone calling the police on you to report a hit and run even though you actually stopped. Going that extra mile can often help prevent criminal charges from being filed, or if they are filed, can help get them dismissed. 

Attended Vehicle or Other Property

RCW 46.52.020:Hit and Run - Duty in case of personal injury or death or damage to attended vehicle or other property

When you are involved in an accident that has people in the other vehicle(s), it creates an additional set of duties and responsibilities for you the driver. Depending on the specific facts, injuries, and what you did or did not do, can alter the seriousness level of the type of criminal charge you could face.

Hit and Run - Property Damage Only

If there is only damage to another occupied vehicle or property you must:

  •  Immediately stop at the scene of the accident or as close as possible; and
    • If you stop as close as possible you must immediately return to the scene
  • Remain at the scene of the accident until you have
    • Given your name, address, insurance company, insurance policy number, vehicle license number, and provided your driver's license to all involved

 If you fail to comply with the above requirements, you can be charged with a gross misdemeanor

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in a county correctional facility (jail), and/or a $5,000 fine. Your driver's license will be revoked and if you have a CDL it will be revoked and if you've been previously revoked, it could mean a lifetime CDL ban. 

Felony Hit and Run - Injury or Death

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 at the scene of the accident or as close as possible; and
    • If you stop as close as possible you must immediately return to the scene
  • Remain at the scene of the accident until you have
    • Given your name, address, insurance company, insurance policy number, vehicle license number, and provided your driver's license to all involved
    • Render assistance to any injured person, including making arrangement or taking them 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.

A driver involved in an accident that is injured or incapacitated to the extent of being physically incapable of complying with the above requirements cannot be charged criminally.

If you fail to comply with the above requirements and someone dies, you can be charged with a Class B felony

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a Class B felony is 10 years in a state correctional facility (prison), and/or a $20,000 fine.

If you fail to comply with the above requirements and someone injured, you can be charged with a Class C felony

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a Class C felony is 5 years in a state correctional facility (prison), and/or a $10,000 fine.

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.

If you fail to comply with the above requirements involving an accident striking the body of a deceased person, you can be charged with a gross misdemeanor

The maximum sentence for a conviction for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in a county correctional facility (jail), and/or a $5,000 fine.

 


No matter what criminal traffic offense you have been charged or the seriousness level, the best advice you can receive is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney that practices in this area of law. These cases are very emotional and almost always involve a victim or victim's family. There is also concern as to both civil liability and criminal restitution.

Your chances of obtaining the best 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.

We here at South Sound Law Group have been fighting these types of charges for over 40 years. We offer free consultations to all potential clients. If you are interested in learning more schedule a consultation today by calling 253-383-3328 or submitting a form on our Contact Us page.

Contact Us

We are located next to the building that holds the Pierce County District Court, Pierce County Superior Court, and the Tacoma Municipal Court. We have free client parking in the alley located between South G St. and Yakima Ave. If you have any trouble finding our location or have a question about scheduling an appointment give us a call at 253-383-3328.

705 South 9th St
Ste 204

Tacoma, WA 98405
253-383-3328
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri: 08:30am - 05:00pm

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