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Yelm Negligent Driving

Have You Been Charged With Negligent Driving in Thurston County?

A quick google search of “states with negligent driving laws” produces many pages with links about reckless driving in various states but very few that mention an actual, separate negligent driving law. Most states appear to lump negligent driving under the charge of reckless driving. On the surface, that makes sense; if you do another quick google search, this time for “synonyms of the word reckless,” you will see negligence listed as one of the options.

However, Washington state possesses some of the most strict driving laws in the county- all you have to do is ask your trusty web browser to see the statistics. As one of the only states with a separate negligent driving law, most people have no idea it even exists until they’ve been placed in handcuffs and charged with negligent driving.

The information presented on this website is a basic overview of negligent driving charges in the state of Washington. Our Yelm criminal defense lawyers believe that educating our clients about their charges is of the utmost importance.

Our team is committed to providing excellent service to our clients, including answering any questions you may have, such as-

  • Is there a difference between negligent driving and DUI in Washington state?
  • Do I need a lawyer if I’ve been charged with negligent driving in Thurston County?
  • Will I go to jail if convicted of negligent driving charges in Yelm?
  • Isn’t negligent driving the same thing as reckless driving?

If you have been charged with negligent driving, now is the time to call an experienced Yelm criminal defense lawyer. Don’t wait—the sooner an attorney starts handling a case, the more options they have for defending you. Contact our firm today for a no-cost case consultation.

Understanding Your Negligent Driving Charge

The laws surrounding negligent driving can be difficult to understand. How is negligent driving different from reckless driving? How is it different from a DUI?

Washington State’s definition of negligent driving is rather broad. There are two types of charges; negligent driving in the first degree, also known as Neg 1, Negligent Driving 1, or “wet reckless,” and Negligent driving in the second degree, also known as Neg 2 or Negligent Driving 2.

State law RCW 46.61.5249 defines Negligent driving in the first degree as someone who
“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 marijuana or any drug or exhibits the effects of having inhaled or ingested any chemical, whether or not a legal substance, for its intoxicating or hallucinatory effects.”

After reading that, you may be asking yourself- How is that any different from a DUI? Like DUI, Neg 1 is a criminal driving offense that includes alcohol or drugs, but there are significant differences between a Neg 1 charge and a DUI charge. For a DUI charge, your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) must register at 0.08. Having consumed any amount of alcohol or drugs, or even the appearance of consuming alcohol or drugs can get you charged with Negligent Driving 1. That means that it is not dependent on the results of a breathalyzer or blood test, merely on how you appear to be impaired.

RCW 46.61.525 defines negligent driving in the second degree as someone who
“under circumstances not constituting negligent driving in the first degree, 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.”

The key difference between a Neg 1 charge and a Neg 2 charge is whether or not the accused appears impaired by alcohol or drugs. So if the definition of reckless is “a willful and wanton disregard” for safety while driving, how is that different from negligent driving 2?

To try and keep this as simple as possible, intent is the main differentiating factor between negligence and recklessness. Here is an example of reckless driving and an example of negligent driving to help you better understand the difference.

Johnny has just finished a 14-hour shift at the hospital. He’s very tired and can’t wait to get home and fall into bed. Unfortunately, Johnny has to drive home from work. Halfway home, Johnny nods off and falls asleep at the wheel. Luckily he didn’t injure anybody but he was spotted by a police officer swerving through the streets. The flashing lights and siren manage to wake Johnny and he pulls over.

Stacey is driving down a two-lane road on her way to a party. She gets stuck behind a tractor going 10 miles under the speed limit. Even though Stacey knows it’s illegal to pass because of the double-yellow lines on the road, she guns her engine and streaks past the tractor. Unfortunately, Stacey doesn’t see the highway patrol officer hiding behind a billboard waiting to catch her in the act.

Can you figure out whether Johnny or Stacey is guilty of negligent driving in the second degree? If you need another hint, just remember the word “intent.”

Penalties for a Negligent Driving Conviction in Yelm

On the surface, being charged with negligent driving doesn’t seem as serious as a reckless driving or DUI charge. Sometimes DUI charges can even be “knocked down” to negligent driving, which carries less harsh penalties than a DUI charge.

But just because it’s seen as a lesser charge than a DUI doesn’t mean that a negligent driving charge doesn’t need to be taken seriously. Negligent Driving 1 is a criminal offense in Washington State. As a misdemeanor, penalties for negligent driving can include

  • Fines up to $1000
  • Up to 90 days in Jail
  • Requirement of Alcohol/Drug Treatment
  • Possible Ignition Interlock Device (IID) use
  • Probation up to two years
  • Increased Insurance Premiums

If you have been charged with Negligent Driving 1 in Tumwater, you may have to appear in either the Yelm Municipal Court or the Thurston County District Court, which is located in Olympia.

Negligent Driving 2 is a non-criminal traffic infraction. As with any infraction, the only punishment is a fine. Most people pay the fine and move on with their lives. Unfortunately, just paying the fine may lead to additional complications down the road, such as skyrocketing insurance premiums. With an attorney, it’s possible to fight the ticket, which could result in having the citation revoked. Hiring an experienced Yelm criminal defense attorney may save you money in the long run.

How a Yelm Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help You With Negligent Driving Charges

There are three elements that must be established by the prosecutor in Thurston County to convict you on a negligent driving charge. First, you must have been the operator of a motor vehicle. Second, the manner of your operation must have been both negligent and endangered or was likely to endanger any person or property. Lastly, they must prove that you were exhibiting the effects of having consumed alcohol or marijuana.

The biggest tool you possess to combat the pitfalls of a reckless driving charge is to hire a knowledgeable Yelm criminal defense attorney. You need someone who has experience dealing with this type of charge, and who will use the specific details of your case to mount a personal defense.

The facts of every case are different. If you've been arrested for or charged with reckless driving, get in contact with an experienced Thurston County criminal defense lawyer. A qualified attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on how best to handle your situation. Reach out to our team today for a free case evaluation. Our firm is available to provide thorough representation to any reckless driving charge issued in Thurston County.

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