Most people realize that while driving a car, failure to comply with traffic laws carries a risk of being pulled over and issued a citation. Receiving a traffic ticket is usually a minor event that involve less than two hundred dollars and possibly traffic school to prevent a conviction on one’s record. However, some do not fully consider the fact that certain indiscretions behind the wheel can lead to criminal conviction and possible jail time.


Perhaps the most insidious threat on the roadways is driving under the influence of alcohol. The effect of alcohol impairment begins with the distortion of good judgment long before it erodes the physical coordination and spatial-temporal perceptions. The resulting poor judgment allows some who are impaired beyond reliably safe ability to make the dubious decision to drive rather than hire a transportation service.

Reckless Driving

Reckless driving is defined by RCW 46.61.500, which provides that ”[a]ny person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” Reckless driving is a gross misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of one day shy of a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. Reckless driving charges can arise out of acts such as driving off the roadway, driving in excess of 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, and driving in such a manner as to launch the vehicle with tires off the ground, as by speeding over the crest of a hill or other incline. In simple terms, any driving of any vehicle that endangers others can constitute reckless driving.

Negligent Driving—First Degree

Negligent driving-first degree is the driving of any vehicle in a manner that endangers persons or property, coupled with intoxication by drugs or alcohol. The behavior that poses a danger to others is judged by a lower threshold of risk than that established for recklessness. Also, the amount of drugs or alcohol in the blood of the driver can be any amount for charges of negligent driving to attach.

Driving without a valid license (DWLS)

A person must possess a valid and active driver’s license to drive a motor vehicle. Four charges exist with regard to driving without a valid license. DWLS in the third degree can result from driving after statutory suspension associated with ignoring the obligations arising out of a traffic ticket. DWLS in the second degree pertains to situations in which the driver’s license has not only been suspended but also is ineligible for reinstatement. DWLS in the first degree is the most serious charge resulting from lack of licensure and applies to those who drive while under an order of revocation under the Habitual Traffic Offenders Act. Of course, driving while never having gained a driver’s license is also criminal.

Protect your privilege to drive, your freedom, and your finances

While driving offenses might seem less serious than other criminal offenses, criminal driving offenses can send you to jail, cost thousands in fines, and blemish an otherwise impeccable criminal record. Criminal convictions arising from driving offenses can also inhibit your ability to find employment. If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle, contact the criminal defense attorneys at The Nahajski Firm at (206) 621-0500 for a free and confidential initial consultation.