Vehicular Assault in the State of Washington: Understanding the Charge, Penalties, and Legal Implications.
Vehicle assault not only carries serious penalties in the State of Washington, but it is also a highly prevalent occurrence. Hiring a qualified and experienced attorney will benefit you and the outcome of your case since the defenses can be highly technical, requiring a certain amount of intuition and knowledge. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer handles dozens of vehicular assault cases a year, and has a number of talented attorneys ready to defend you to the utmost of their ability in a court of law.
What is vehicular assault in Washington?
Washington State laws have various elements that may occur in a vehicular assault case. Washington has three different flavors or prongs of vehicular assault that you could be charged with under RCW 46.61.522 Those are vehicular assault – DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol), vehicular assault – reckless driving, and vehicular assault- disregard for the safety of others.
Vehicular Assault- DUI
A person is guilty of vehicular assault – DUI (driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol) when a person operates of drives a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and or any drug, and causes substantial bodily harm to another.
Vehicular Assault- Reckless Driving
A person is guilty of vehicular assault – reckless driving when a person operates of drives a vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of others. This is more than mere negligence or a mistake, reckless can involve high speeds, running lights or stop signs, aggressive driving, or even committing multiple simple infractions prior to the accident.
Vehicular Assault- Reckless Disregard for the Safety of Others
A person is guilty of vehicular assault – Disregard for the Safety of others is when a person operates of drives a vehicle in a manner that is an aggravated kind of negligence or carelessness, falling short of recklessness but constituting a more serious dereliction than ordinary negligence. Ordinary negligence is the failure to exercise ordinary care. Ordinary negligence is the doing of some act which a reasonably careful person would not do under the same or similar circumstances or the failure to do something which a reasonably careful person would have done under the same or similar circumstances. An example of this might be distracted driving
What is Substantial Bodily Harm?
Substantial bodily harm means bodily injury which involves a temporary but substantial disfigurement, or which causes a temporary but substantial loss or impairment of the function of any bodily part or organ, or which causes a fracture of any bodily part. For example: this could be as little as hitting another car which its airbags deploy giving the other driver black eyes from the deployment of the airbag.
Vehicular Assault is a Strict Liability Crime.
Vehicular assaults like vehicular homicides, are strict liability crimes. State v. Frahm, 193 Wn.2d 590, 444 P.3d 595 (2019). The only causal connection the State is required to prove is the connection between the defendant’s act of driving and the accident or collision. State v. Rivas, 126 Wn.2d 443, 451-52, 896 P.2d 57 (1995).
There may be more than one proximate cause of an injury; however, a concurring or contributory cause does not shield a defendant from a vehicular assault conviction. To constitute a defense, there must be an intervening and superseding cause without which the defendant’s negligence would not have caused the accident. The defendant’s actions need not be the sole proximate cause of a victim’s injury.
Ultimately this means that that you only need to be part of the cause of the accident as a result of the crime of vehicular assault to be found guilty. Other causes may exist or contribute to the accident, however, if you were drunk, driving recklessly, or carelessly and were “a” cause of the accident you will be found guilty of vehicular assault. For example: if you were driving recklessly at a high rate of speed or under the influence of drugs or alcohol and another car runs a stop light and you hit the rear end of the vehicle while you had the green light which then in return hits a motorcycle and injures the rider you would a cause of the accident but not the only cause of the accident; however, you would still be guilty of the crime of vehicular assault.
Given this is a strict liability crime the only defense is there must be an intervening and superseding cause. An example of this would be in the same scenario as above the car that ran the red light did so because the light wasn’t operating correctly and both directions had a green light which caused the accident. This usually comes down to foreseeability and whether a reasonable person would have foreseen the intervening cause coming or not. In this example, a reasonable person would not expect a malfunctioning light to show green in both directions so each driver would expect it is clear to drive through it.
Penalties for vehicular assault in Washington
The State of Washington considers vehicular assault to be a class B felony, with penalties ranging up to 10 years in prison and fines of $20,000. Suspension or restrictions on your driver’s license may also be placed if the state deems it necessary. Additionally, the penalties can be even steeper if the victim suffers permanent or life-threatening injuries after the accident. If drugs or alcohol were involved, you may also be assigned mandatory treatment in addition to other penalties.
Defending against a vehicular assault charge in Washington
The complications that can arise in vehicular assault cases are a major reason why having an attorney you can depend on and trust to defend you is important. A careful evaluation of your case can and often do lead to reductions in charges and dismissal of charges. Given these crimes strict liability application they can be quite technical in nature and require an experienced practitioner and often accident reconstruction experts to defend properly. Additionally, effectively challenging the underlying assertion that you may have been drunk or driving in a reckless or careless manner often determine the outcome of the case. The Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer has a wealth of experience in representing people in vehicular assault cases and are committed to their clients, defending them to the fullest extent of the law.
Committed to help you
Understanding the complexities of vehicular assault is crucial in establishing a defense as a conviction carries significant consequences and can affect future permanently. That is why it is important to work with one of the experienced and knowledgeable lawyers at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer. We are dedicated to your case, and will commit ourselves to working with you diligently and planning our strategy in order to give you the best defense possible.
Call us today for a free consultation at the Law Office of Erin Bradley McAleer. Located on Fourth Plain in Vancouver, Washington.