Vehicular assault is a serious offense. In Washington State, it is a class B felony that can carry lengthy prison time as well as hefty fines. If charged with any crime, especially, vehicular assault, it is always a good idea to seek out the advice of an experienced attorney.

What is Vehicular Assault?

The term, assault, in Washington, varies by several different degrees (first degree assault, second degree assault, etc.). Generally, though, assault means a physical attack on another. In Washington State, the Revised Code of Washington — commonly referred to as the RCW — details the laws of the state. The RCW includes the law that outlines whether a person is guilty of vehicular assault.

According to Washington’s RCW, a person is guilty of vehicular assault when they operate any motor vehicle and cause substantial bodily harm to the victim in one of three situations. 

These three situations are:

  1. Driving in a reckless manner;
  2. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; or
  3. Driving without taking the consideration of the safety of others.

The RCW also defines substantial bodily harm. With regard to vehicular assault, substantial bodily harm is a type of injury that is categorized in three possible ways:

  1. An injury that is non-permanent but causes substantial disfigurement; or
  2. An injury that is non-permanent but causes major loss or disablement of a body part or organ; or
  3. An injury that results in the fracture of a body part.

Vehicular assault injuries can often be serious and life-changing for the victims. Thus, the punishment for the crime of vehicular assault in Washington state can be harsh and also life-changing for defendants.

What is the Punishment for Vehicular Assault?

As in most jurisdictions across the country, crimes are categorized as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are viewed as less serious offenses, and include such crimes as shoplifting and prostitution.  Someone convicted of a misdemeanor can face up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

In Washington there exists another category for misdemeanors. More serious crimes that are not considered felonies are referred to as gross misdemeanors. If charged with a gross misdemeanor, in Washington, a person can face up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Examples of gross misdemeanors include trespassing and reckless driving.

Felonies are the most serious type of crime. In Washington felonies are classified into three groups:  class A felonies, class B felonies and class C felonies. Vehicular assault is a class B felony.

  • Class A Felonies: These are the most serious offenses, such as murder and rape. The maximum penalty for a class A felony is life in prison and/or a fine of $50,000.
  • Class B Felonies: In addition to vehicular assault, other examples of class B felonies include manslaughter and burglary. The maximum penalty for a class B felony, including vehicular assault, is 10 years behind bars in a state penitentiary and/or a fine of $20,000.
  • Class C Felonies: Examples of class C felonies are driving under the influence and some drug offenses. The maximum penalty for a class C felony is five years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.

The penalties mentioned here apply to adults, different punishments may apply to juvenile offenders in Washington state.

No matter the offense, any criminal charge can greatly impact and change lives. 

Are there any Defenses to Vehicular Assault?

A defendant in a criminal case may bring up defenses to the crime that is charged. A defense is a challenge to, or sometimes, an excuse for the alleged crime.

If the victim’s substantial bodily injuries are the result of defendant’s alleged driving under the influence, a possible defense is to challenge the validity of the sobriety test that was conducted. Any doubt cast upon the test that supposedly shows the defendant’s intoxication works in favor of the defense team.

Another challenge that the defense team may present is the sobriety or mental state of the victim. Showing that the victim may have somehow contributed to their own injuries can, in some instances, mitigate (lessen) the crime that is charged against the defendant.

Other mitigating factors that should be looked at are the weather and road conditions. The defendant’s attorney will basically ask and answer the question, “Are there any other factors that may have caused or contributed to the accident?” Once presented, these defenses and mitigating circumstances will be closely considered by the judge and/or jury. 

Do I Need to Hire a Washington State Attorney?

If you or someone you know has been charged with vehicular assault, it is imperative to contact an experienced and knowledgeable Washington state defense attorney as soon as possible. The criminal defense legal system is complex and can be difficult to navigate. An experienced attorney will assist in finding the best possible outcome and preserve your rights.