Negligent Driving

One driving offense that few people are initially charged with but many end up pleading to is Negligent Driving in the First Degree. This crime is a misdemeanor - meaning a person can be sentenced up to 90 days and a $1000 fine. This crime is also commonly called, "Neg One," "Neg Driving One" or just "Neg Driving."

The official definition of Negligent Driving in the First Degree is: a person operates a motor vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property, and exhibits the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug. RCW 46.61.5249. This charge is rarely filed against a person upon arrest because it is not as easy to prove as either Driving Under the Influence or even, Reckless Driving. The charge itself can be difficult to prove because it requires the prosecution to show a person was driving in a negligent manner and that they were exhibiting the effects of having consumed liquor or an illegal drug. Since there is not a clear rule as to how "exhibiting the effects of alcohol" is defined, as opposed to the DUI standard which defines a .08 standard, there is plenty of room to interpret a driver's actions.

Negligent Driving in the First Degree allows the prosecutor and the defense to come to a fair conclusion when a driver is charged with Driving Under the Influence. This is because, unlike DUI, Negligent Driving in the First Degree does not carry a mandatory license suspension or, for first time offenders, an ignition interlock requirement. A Neg Driving conviction usually carries a fine and perhaps some jail (although it is not mandatory as it is with a DUI conviction). A Neg conviction will avoid the license suspension that a DUI or reckless driving conviction requires, it also avoids the SR-22 (high risk and expensive) insurance that a DUI or Reckless Driving conviction requires, and has a lower ceiling of conviction. A person convicted of a DUI or Reckless Driving may have as much as 364 days in jail imposed; compared to a conviction for Negligent Driving in the First Degree, the most a driver can have imposed is 90 days and a $1000 fine. Generally, a Negligent Driving in the First Degree conviction avoids the high fines, significant license suspension and other dangers that come with a conviction for DUI or Reckless Driving.

The infraction of Negligent Driving in the Second Degree is not a criminal offense, just a traffic ticket. It is basically a glorified speeding ticket with huge consequences for a person's automobile insurance. The fine of $538, however, is the greatest punishment the court can enforce on such an offense.

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