Charges Involving a Motor Vehicle

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

  • Reckless Driving

  • Negligent Driving

  • Hit and Run

  • Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)

While most crimes involving a motor vehicle are misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, you could face a felony charge. In addition to facing fines and jail time, your driver license could also be suspended, which could negatively affect your every-day life. So you should not take these charges lightly.

Don’t risk losing your rights or risk taking the easy road to quickly resolve your case. Speak with a layer about charges involving a motor vehicle so you can make informed decisions.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

When people here of the charge “Driving Under the Influence” (or a DUI), most people immediately think of alcohol. While most DUI charges involve alcohol, you can also be charged with a DUI if you are under the influence of drugs and the police/prosecutor believe your ability to drive was negatively impacted by the drug. While a DUI charge involving drugs can include illegal drugs, it can also include more common prescription drugs or even over-the-counter drugs (like pain medications or sleep medications).

These cases are highly fact specific, technical in nature, and what you say and do can significantly, and negatively, impact your case. Don’t risk doing something that could harm you. Contact an attorney to assist you.

While a first DUI conviction is a gross misdemeanor (maximum of 364 days of jail and $5,000 fine), subsequent DUI convictions can result in much more serious consequences such as suspended driving license, mandatory jail time, or electronic monitoring.

Finally, if you are a minor or a professional driver, the laws are different.

Reckless and Negligent Driving

While Reckless and Negligent driving charges sound similar in nature, the consequences can be very different. For example, Reckless Driving is a gross misdemeanor (maximum of 364 days of jail and $5,000 fine) and Negligent Driving in the first degree is only a misdemeanor (maximum of 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine). Negligent driving in the second degree is only an infraction.

These charges are very fact specific and even the smallest of changes can change an incident from just an infraction to a gross misdemeanor.

Hit and Run

Washington law provides that if you hit a vehicle and fail to immediately stop and notify the owner/driver of the vehicle, you could face either misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or even a felony depending upon the facts of your case.

The severity of the charge depends upon whether the vehicle was occupied when it was hit, and, if occupied, whether some was injured or died as a result of the crash.

  • Unoccupied vehicle = misdemeanor charge (maximum 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine);

  • Occupied vehicle, but uninjured person = gross misdemeanor (maximum 364 days in jail and $5,000 fine);

  • Occupied vehicle, injured person = Class C felony (maximum of 5 years in jail and $10,000 fine); and

  • Occupied vehicle, occupant dies from crash = Class B felony (maximum of 10 years in jail and $20,000 fine).

Driving While License Suspended (DWLS)

Driving while license suspended is the most charged crime in the State of Washington. Many people face this crime because there are numerous ways that your license can be suspended and it can difficult to have your license reinstated. There are three degrees, or levels of severity, for the charge of DWLS. Each level has separate punishments and consequences.

1) DWLS 3rd Degree

This is the most common DWLS charge. In order to be convicted, a prosecuting attorney must prove you were driving a vehicle, at the time of driving and your license was suspended or revoked, but while eligible to have your license reinstated. Most often people have their license suspended because of unpaid traffic tickets, unpaid child support, or simply failing to reapply for a new license.

DWLS 3rd Degree is a misdemeanor and you will face a maximum of 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine.

2) DWLS 2nd Degree

DWLS 2nd degree is more serious than DWLS 3rd degree. Not only is a DWLS 2nd degree charge a gross misdemeanor (where you can face up to 364 days in jail and up to $5,000 in fines), a conviction for DWLS 2nd Degree also includes an additional 1 year driver license suspension beyond the suspension you are already facing. Avoiding the additional 1 year suspension is extremely difficult, but can be avoided if you can obtain your driver license at the time of sentencing and the judge recommends against the additional suspension (but this is not guaranteed).

If your license was suspend because of a DUI, reckless driving, hit or run, or due to a felony crime, then your license is suspended in the 2nd degree. While you may be permitted to have a restricted license in some situations, if you are driving without a restricted license, you will likely face mandatory jail times on your prior, probation matter.

3) DWLS 1st Degree

DWLS 1st Degree is less common, but if convicted you will face serious punishment. In order to be convicted of DWLS 1st Degree, you must have been operating a vehicle with a suspended license or without a valid restricted liscense and you must be deemed a habitual traffic offender (HTO). HTO face significant hurdles and can have a massive impact on your life since your driving privileges can be revoked for extended periods of time. In order to become designated as a HTO, one of the following must occur:

1) You have three major traffic offenses within a 5 year time period; or
2) You have 20 driving infractions within any 5 year time period.

Major traffic offenses are criminal charges such as reckless driving, DUI, hit and run, eluding a pursuing police vehicle, driving with a license suspended. “Traffic violations” is defined broadly and can include everything from speeding to even some equipment violations (for example, failing to wear a seatbelt).

While DWLS 1st degree is only a gross misdemeanor (with penalties of up to 364 days in jail and $5,000 fine), there are mandatory jail times. For the first DWLS 1st Degree conviction, there is a mandatory minimum of 10 days of jail time. For the second DWLS 1st Degree conviction, there is a mandatory minimum of 90 days of jail time. Finally, for a 3rd DWLS 1st Degree conviction, there is a mandatory minimum of 180 days of jail time. While some judges will allow mandatory jail time to be served on electronic home monitoring, some judges will require you to sit in jail.

What Can You Loose From A Criminal Conviction

If you are convicted of a crime, you can suffer several consequences. Below is a list of just a few ways a conviction can negatively affect you:

Harm to your Reputation | Time in prison or jail | Large Fines | Loss of your right to carry or possess a firearm | Loss of your right to vote | Your assets can be seized | Permanent criminal record; and Immigration consequences.