Biff Crane | ATTORNEY AT LAW | 206.937.5930
Drivers License Problems

Biff Crane

4050 SW Admiral Way

 Suite A

Seattle, WA 98116

tel: 206.937.5930

fax: 206.937.5911

Driving Offenses

A criminal charge for a driving offense can be a disturbing event and the effects of a conviction can be devastating. A conviction can mean jail time, loss of driving privileges, increased auto insurance rates, a criminal record, negative points on your Department of License driving record, denial of admissions into foreign countries, and employment consequences. A person’s lapse in judgment can have significant and unattended consequences, but it is not the end of the world. You may need to fight the charge at trial to prove your innocence or accept alternatives that either eliminate or reduce jail time. A driving offense handled improperly can disrupt an otherwise law-abiding life. Contact us at 206.937.5930 to determine your options.

Criminal Driving Offenses

There are numerous traffic crimes that are misdemeanors and/ or felony offenses. They are all serious charges and most carry license suspensions and high risk insurance requirements. The list below provides a sample of the most common criminal traffic violations. You should seek legal advice to learn the options and the consequences of each charge.  

Driving Under the Influence  (see DUI page)  

Reckless Driving   

This charge is a gross misdemeanor and is punishable up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Your license will be suspended for a minimum of 30 days if you are convicted. Reckless driving is defined as “driving in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” It does not take much to be charged with this offense.  For example, weaving in and out of traffic or driving in excess of the speed limit is sufficient, to cite you for a criminal offense. In fact, law enforcement officers have charged individuals with Reckless Driving for driving 25 miles over the speed limit. Unfortunately, some courts impose jail time for first time offenders. This type of case is often times a difficult one for the prosecution to prove because of the definition of "Reckless" so it can often be negotiated to a traffic infraction. Click below to see the law on this offense.(RCW 46.61.500.) 

Negligent Driving First Degree  

This charge is a misdemeanor and is punishable up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. A person is guilty of this offense is he / 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.” Generally, law enforcement officers will charge you with driving under the influence before they cite you with this offense.  Ironically, Negligent Driving does not have as sever punishments, but is harder to prove than driving under the influence.  If you are charged for this offense, there is likely a valid defense. Click below to see the law on this offense.(RCW 46.61.5249.) 

Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) 

Washington State recognizes three levels of suspension: First, Second and Third. 

Third Degree DWLS 

Driving while license suspended in the third degree is the least serious of the three levels. It is punishable up to 90 days in jail. These cases are often tragic as many people unknowingly commit this offense.  For example, if a person forgets to pay a ticket then the Department of License (DOL) will suspend his/ her privilege to drive and send the suspension notification to their last known address. The person may never receive the DOL suspension notification if they move residences or if their mail is misplaced. Unfortunately, the first time it is brought to his/ her attention is when they are stopped for a minor traffic infraction and the officer cites them for a criminal offense. Often, you must pay a heavy fine to get your license reinstated. Most cases can be negotiated to a traffic infraction if your license is reinstated. Some jurisdictions have re-licensing programs that give you extra time to pay off the fines and dismiss the charge upon relicensing. Contact Biff at 206.937.5930 to determine what you need to do to avoid a conviction and to re-instate your driving privileges.   

Second Degree DWLS

Second degree charges generally comes about as the result of being convicted of a crime (like DUI or Felony Eluding) or an Administrative Action (DUI). Conviction for DWLS 2nd carries with it the likelihood of jail time and 12 months of license suspension in addition to existing suspensions. It is punishable up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Your privilege to drive will be suspended for a second time if you are convicted of this offense; the problem needs to be addressed immediately. Contact Biff at 206.937.5930 to help reduce the charges and negative effects of a conviction.   

First Degree DWLS

Those suspended in the 1st degree are labeled Habitual Traffic Offenders. Conviction for DWLS 1st degree carries with it mandatory minimum sentences: 10 days, 90 days, and 180 days for the first, second, third convictions. There is also an additional 12 months of license suspension for each conviction. People at this suspension level tend to "stack" these charges by continuing to drive and getting caught. This means that when they are finally taken into custody, they can be looking at significant time behind bars. It is punishable up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. If you find yourself in a situation like this, call Biff immediately at 206.937.5930, the longer you wait - the more trouble you will get yourself into.

Hit and Run Unattended 

This is a misdemeanor offense and is punishable up to 90 days in jail without any type of license suspension. A person is guilty of this offense if he / she operates a vehicle and strikes another car that is unattended and leaves the scene without providing identifying information in a conspicuous location. Unfortunately, some people driving large automobiles do not realize they struck an unattended vehicle. For example, police have cited individuals after they bumped into a vehicle when parallel parking their own vehicle. Clearly, those facts are not what the legislature intended by passing this law. There are likely favorable resolutions, including a dismissal, that are available to you.        

Hit and Run Attended 

This is a gross misdemeanor and is punishable up to a year in jail and, a one year license suspension. A person is guilty of this offense if he/ she operates a vehicle and strikes an attended vehicle and leaves the scene without providing identifying information.  It will become a felony if the victim is injured as a result of the accident. Again, some individuals driving large automobiles may not realize they clipped a car when they switched lanes. Or a person may not stop and exchange identifying information if he/ she thought the vehicles were not damaged after the vehicles “clipped” each other. The law was not intended for these situations. There are dispositions available to you that will mitigate the consequences of a conviction. It is best to immediately contact a criminal defense attorney.  

Attempting to Elude Pursuing Police Vehicle

A driver who willfully fails to stop and who drives in a wanton or willful disregard for the lives of other while attempting to elude a police vehicle is guilty of a class C felony. DOL will suspend your license upon conviction. However, depending on the facts, a jury or judge can find a person guilty of a misdemeanor charge of failing to obey a police officer instead of felony eluding. It is a misdemeanor offense if a driver refuses or neglect to stop when signaled by a police officer. Call an experienced defense attorney at 206.937.5930 to determine your options.  

Consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer is essential if you are charged with a driving offense. Biff has handled hundreds of driving cases as a defense attorney. He knows how the criminal justice system works and the best defenses available for your case. He can successfully navigate the criminal courts and the Department of Licensing systems on your behalf. Biff will take the time and effort to explain “the system” and to discuss all of the options that are available to you during this emotional time.   

Disclaimer: this information is not intended as legal advice and is provided for illustrative purposes only. Call an experienced defense attorney at 206.937.5930 before making assumptions about your case.

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