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Changes in Reckless Driving Sentencing

Hughes Robbins, P.S. June 25, 2012

In an effort to increase accountability of those who drive impaired, Washington has amended the penalties for such offenses, effective August 1, 2012. In particular, the amended penalties will apply to drivers who are convicted of negligent driving in the first degree or reckless driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug.

Reckless driving is defined as driving with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. It is a gross misdemeanor, and may be punishable by imprisonment for up to one year and by a fine of up to $5,000. Additionally, a conviction of reckless driving can result in license suspension for up to thirty days. Under the new amendment, if the reckless driving conviction is a result of an alcohol-related offense, such as DUI or physical control of a vehicle while under the influence, then the driver will be required to install an interlock device on any vehicle they operate for six months.

A person is guilty of negligent driving in the first degree if 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. First degree negligent driving is also a gross misdemeanor. A person who is convicted of negligent driving in the first degree who has one or more prior alcohol-related driving offenses within seven years will be required to install an ignition interlock device on all vehicles they operate.

An ignition interlock device is attached to the car’s ignition system. It requires the driver to blow into the device before starting the car. If alcohol is detected, the car won’t start. A notation will be made on the driver’s license, stating that he or she may only operate a motor vehicle equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device.

Installing an interlock ignition device can be a frustrating and expensive process. It is important to be aware of these changes in the law.