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John Lutgens, Attorney at Law
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Alcohol related driving offenses: Negligent Driving in the First Degree

It is a common misconception that driving a vehicle while one’s blood alcohol level is below 0.08 ng/ml is not illegal. However, if the operation of the vehicle is determined to be both negligent and endangers person or property one can be cited for Negligent Driving in the First Degree with a blood alcohol level under the legal limit of 0.08 ng/ml. Under Washington law a person can be cited for 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 an illegal drug.

Negligent Driving in the first degree is a misdemeanor under Washington laws and is subject to a maximum punishment of 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. Washington law defines Negligent as the failure to exercise ordinary care, 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.

A key elements to this criminal driving offense is “Exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug” To meet either of these element the prosecuting authority must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person has the odor of liquor 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 or illegal drug, and either is in possession of or in close proximity to a container that has or recently had liquor in it or possesses an illegal drug; or alternatively it can be shown by other evidence to have recently consumed liquor.

“Illegal drug” is defined under chapter 69.50 of the Revised Code of Washington(RCW) as a drug for which the driver does not have a valid prescription or that is not being consumed in accordance with the prescription directions and warnings, or a legend drug under chapter69.41 RCW for which the driver does not have a valid prescription or that is not being consumed in accordance with the prescription directions and warnings.

Should you be charged with Negligent Driving in the First Degree call our firm to consult with us regarding your rights and to discuss the facts of your case and allow us to consult with you in determining what defenses are available to you.

© Law Office of John J. Lutgens, August 12, 2010.

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