Working as an Everett car crash attorney, I am frequently asked questions about different driving infractions including; Washington State drunk driving laws, Washington State cell phone laws, and the difference between Negligent Driving and Reckless Driving. Here is an article to help you better understand Washington State negligent driving laws.
What is Washington State Negligent Driving Law
In Washington State there are two different types of negligent driving; first degree negligent driving, and second degree negligent driving. While first degree negligent driving is considered a misdemeanor and has some stiff consequences, second degree negligent driving is simply a traffic violation which is accompanied by a mark on your driving record and a fine.
First Degree Negligent Driving
According to RCW 46.61.5249, a driver is guilty of first degree negligent driving if…
- They are driving the vehicle in a negligent manner that is endangering or can likely endanger property or people, and displays signs of alcohol or illegal drug use.
- By the law, a person is considered negligent if they fail to show reasonable care and drive in a manner that a reasonable person would in the same circumstances.
The law goes on to explain that alcohol and drug use can be based off of the odor or alcohol, speech or coordination impairment, or alcohol paraphernalia in the car (ie an open bottle)
Illegal drug use refers to any controlled substance which is not only limited to narcotics such as cocaine and heroin, but also for prescription drugs. A person without a valid prescription or that is not using the drugs with respect to the directions or warnings on the label can be charged with first degree negligent driving.
Second Degree Negligent Driving
Second degree negligent driving is different from first degree in that it does not involved the use of drugs or alcohol.
According to RCW 46.61.535 a driver is guilty of second degree negligent driving if…
- They operate a vehicle in a way that is negligent and endangers any person or property
- This law applies on public property and roads- it is the task of the driver to prove that they were operating on private property
What are Washington State Negligent Driving Penalties?
First Degree Negligent Driving Penalties
Negligent driving in the first degree is classified as a misdemeanor in Washington State, which is a criminal charge (meaning it goes on your permanent record not only your driving record). A misdemeanor has the consequences of a fine between $250.00 and $1,000 dollars and is accompanied by a minimum of 24 hours in jail, but depending on the case, can require anywhere up to 90 days in jail.
The only way out of the jail sentence is by proving the jail time would cause substantial risk to the offenders physical or mental well being OR if the jails are overcrowded and do not have enough space to house the offender. In this case, the jail time would be replaced with 40 hours of community service as determined by the judge.
Second Degree Negligent Driving Penalties
Negligent driving in the second degree is a traffic infraction, meaning it goes only on your driving record and not your criminal record. It is accompanied by a $250.00 fine, but does not typically require jail time.