Limits on Over Charging

Pursuant to a recent Washington State, Court of Appeals, Division One case, State v. Rich, it is now clear that a DUI charge, in and of itself, does not mean that someone is also guilty of reckless endangerment; in short, there has to be some additional factor(s) to show that someone else’s life was put in danger in order for such a charge to be upheld.

In Rich, the defendant was pulled over by a King County Sheriff’s Deputy after the deputy spotted her driving. The vehicle she was driving had been reported stolen about a week earlier. Shortly after stopping the defendant’s car, the deputy noticed a “seven to nine-year old boy” sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle. After the stop the Defendant underwent two blood alcohol tests. The test results revealed breath alcohol concentration levels of .188 and .183. The Defendant was charged with DUI and Reckless Endangerment. Eventually she was convicted of both charges. The verdict was subsequently appealed and ultimately Division One found that the state did not successfully prove reckless endangerment because there was no evidence of erratic or dangerous driving, nor was there any evidence of endangerment of any other motorists or pedestrians.

The Rich ruling is very important because over the years prosecutors have resorted to adding Reckless Endangerment charges to DUI cases when there are passengers in the car. It is a tactic that prosecutors have used throughout King County to ‘encourage’ defendants to plead guilty to the primary charge of DUI in exchange for a dismissal of the Reckless Endangerment charge. Division One of the Washington Court of Appeals has now seemingly put an end to this charade, and is putting prosecutors on notice that they should not file charges that have insufficient facts to pursue.

If cited for DUI in Washington state be smart and immediately seek the assistance of a Seattle DUI lawyer. A qualified and respected Seattle DUI attorney can quite possibly save a person thousands of dollars in court and insurance fees. Washington DUI laws are far too complicated for any ol’ attorney to handle. Be smart … hire a qualified and skilled Seattle DUI attorney when arrested for DUI in Washington State.

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