When you get a traffic ticket in Washington, you expect a fine and some points on your driving record. You may not realize that some traffic offenses are considered criminal offenses.
If you're charged with a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or felony traffic offense, there is a lot more at stake. A conviction could mean a significant fine, loss of your driving privileges and even jail time. There are also collateral consequences that continue to affect you even after you've resolved your charges.
It is not always obvious that a traffic offense is criminal
You may know that a first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor, but did you know that hitting an unattended car and leaving the scene without conspicuously providing your identifying information is also criminal?
Hit and Run Unattended where you strike a unattended property (common examples include hitting a vehicle, fence, mail box) and leave the scene without conspicuously providing your identifying information. Leaving the scene after hitting unattended property is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
Hit and Run Attended, where you strike an attended property (usually a vehicle) and leave the scene without conspicuously providing your identifying information. It is a gross misdemeanor that carries a penalty of up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine and a one-year license suspension. If you injure someone, you could be charged with a felony.
Here are some other examples of Washington State criminal traffic charges:
Negligent Driving in the First Degree -- operating a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, while exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor or marijuana or any drug. Misdemeanor carrying a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Reckless Driving -- driving a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people or property is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a $5,000 fine and a 30-day license suspension.
Attempting to Elude -- Willfully failing to stop or driving with wanton or willful disregard of the lives of others while attempting to elude police. Typically a Class C felony punishable by a 5-year prison sentence and up to $10,000 in fines, along with revocation of your driver's license. However, a judge or jury could instead find the driver guilty of the misdemeanor offense of failing to obey an officer.
Driving on a Suspended License --
There are three levels to this offense.
- Driving while license suspended in the third degree (DWLS3) is the least serious level. DWLS3 is punishable by a maximum 90 days in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.
- Driving while license suspended in the second degree (DWLS2) could mean up to 364 days in jail, up to a $5,000 fine and an additional year of license suspension.
- Driving while license suspended in the first degree (DWLS1) occurs when a driver has reached habitual traffic offender status and could mean significant time in jail and years without a license.
You can also be charged with a criminal traffic offense for aiding and abetting a traffic offense.
For more information about criminal traffic offenses in Washington, contact Pewitt Law, PLLC.