Negligent Driving (First Degree)
Negligent Driving in the 1st Degree
RCW 46.61.5249 defines Negligent Driving in the First Degree. The definition is highly complicated. In short, Washington State criminalizes driving in a manner that is “negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property” after the driver has consumed alcohol and/or drugs. There a number of distinguishing features between negligent driving and DUI. Although they are both driving offenses that involve alcohol or drugs, the nature of the offenses are entirely different for two key reasons: (1) any amount of alcohol or drug consumption, regardless of quantity can result in a negligent driving conviction; and (2) there is no need to prove a causal connection between the negligent driving and the alcohol or drug consumption.
Another key difference between the two offenses is the severity of the consequences. Negligent Driving in the First Degree is classified as a simple misdemeanor, meaning that it is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. There is no license suspension for negligent driving and there are no mandatory jail sentences. Courts can impose up to two years of probation for negligent driving.
Negligent Driving in the First Degree is seldom charged in isolation; in almost all cases, negligent driving convictions result from reduced DUI charges. However, cases originally filed as Negligent Driving in the First Degree do occur, especially where the law enforcement believes that evidence of DUI is lacking.