What to Know About Negligent Driving 1st Degree in WA State

Understanding RCW 46.61.5249 

If you or a loved one has been charged with negligent driving 1st degree in Washington State, it’s crucial to understand what this means. For clarity, let’s dive into the specifics of the statute, RCW 46.61.5249, that defines this offense.

Negligent driving in the 1st Degree is a criminal traffic offense in Washington State. Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree is defined as a person operating 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 an illegal drug.

The statute defines “negligent” as failing to exercise ordinary care, essentially doing something that a reasonably careful person would not do under the same circumstances or neglecting to do something that a reasonably careful person would do. Examples include accidentally crossing over the yellow line, forgetting to use a turn signal, speeding, falling asleep at the wheel, or simply not paying attention to the conditions of the road.  Also, with a Negligent Driving 1st Degree charge, there is no need to prove a causal connection between negligent driving and alcohol or drug consumption. 

Notably, it’s an affirmative defense if the driver can prove they have a valid prescription for the consumed drug and have been consuming it according to the prescription directions and warnings. This defense needs to be substantiated by a preponderance of the evidence. 

Comparing Negligent Driving 1st Degree and DUI

It’s not uncommon to see a DUI charge get knocked down to a Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree charge. This typically happens when the prosecutor’s case for DUI isn’t rock solid—for instance, when the breath test results are just at or under the legal limit. This strategy is known in legal circles as a ‘plea bargain.’

But hold on a second. Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree isn’t just a ‘watered-down’ DUI charge. It can indeed stand as an independent charge when the prosecutor deems it appropriate.

So, what distinguishes a DUI from a Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree charge? The specifics of the observed driving behavior and the breath or blood test results. For instance, you could blow a number significantly under the .08 limit set for DUI. However, if your driving was deemed negligent and you’ve shown signs of consuming alcohol—even a minimal amount—you might face a Negligent Driving 1st Degree charge.

Therefore, a Negligent Driving 1st Degree charge is not only about the consumption of intoxicating substances. It also involves demonstrating negligent driving behavior while showing signs of such consumption. This can include substances like alcohol, marijuana, or even prescribed drugs

Understanding the Consequences of Negligent Driving 1st Degree

A conviction for negligent driving 1st degree in Washington State can lead to penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Unlike some other driving offenses, there is no license suspension or high-risk insurance (sr-22 insurance) required by the DOL for a Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree conviction. Furthermore, there’s no requirement for an ignition interlock device unless it’s a second conviction that was reduced from a DUI.

However, if you have prior offenses stemming from a DUI in the last 7 years, the DOL will require you to have an ignition interlock device for no less than 6 months. And you can’t remove it unless you’ve had no violations of using the interlock for 180 days prior to removal.

Other potential consequences include having to get an alcohol and drug assessment, completing any recommended treatment, and attending a victim’s impact panel. You could also be placed on probation with the court for up to two years. A conviction for Negligent Driving in the First Degree will stay on your record for insurance purposes for 3 years, but on your criminal history with the courts and law enforcement permanently, unless it meets the criteria to be expunged.

How can I defend against Negligent Driving in the First Degree?

Defenses against a negligent driving 1st degree charge in Washington State will vary depending on the specifics of the situation. However, if the charge stems from the use of prescription drugs, it’s an affirmative defense. This means the burden is on the defense to show beyond a preponderance of the evidence that the prescription drug was validly prescribed and consumed according to the prescription directions and warnings.

Do I need an attorney if I am charged with Negligent Driving in the First-Degree?

Facing a charge of negligent driving 1st degree in Washington State can be daunting. That’s where Garguile DUI & Traffic Lawyers, PLLC, can assist. Our experienced attorneys have a proven track record of successfully defending clients in similar situations. We understand the gravity of your problem, and we are here to help you clear your name and avoid the severe consequences of a conviction.

We offer a no-cost, risk-free consultation to discuss the details of your case and determine which defenses may be best suited for your situation. Whether you were wrongfully accused or made an honest mistake, we will work tirelessly to protect your rights and ensure a favorable outcome.

Do not wait to get the legal support you need. Contact us today by filling out our secure contact form or giving us a call to schedule your consultation. 

Whether you need to help to craft a defense based on the specifics of RCW 46.61.5249 or need guidance to understand your charge better, we’re here for you. With Garguile DUI & Traffic Lawyers, PLLC, you can face your charges with confidence and peace of mind.