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AGO 1974 No. 7 - March 25, 1974
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- JUSTICE ‑- ARREST ‑- WARRANTS ‑- CITIES AND TOWNS ‑- POLICE ‑- EXECUTION OF WARRANT

A municipal peace officer may not execute a warrant issued by a municipal court under RCW 3.50.180 outside of the territorial boundaries of the peace officer's municipality.

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                                                                  March 25, 1974

Honorable Earl F. Angevine
Prosecuting Attorney
Skagit County Court House Annex
Mount Vernon, Washington 98273

                                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 1974 No. 7

Dear Sir:

            This is written in response to your letter requesting our opinion on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            May a municipal peace officer execute a warrant, issued by a municipal court under RCW 3.50.180, outside the territorial boundaries of the peace officer's municipality?

            We answer your question in the negative for the reasons set forth in our analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            When the 1961 justice court act was enacted by the legislature, a portion of that act (§§ 50-96, chapter 299, Laws of 1961) applied to municipal courts in cities, having populations of 20,000 or less, located in counties which adopted or were otherwise governed by the provisions of the act.  That portion of the act, now codified as chapter 3.50 RCW, authorizes those cities of 20,000 or less in population to establish municipal courts in accordance with the provisions of the act.

            The particular section of chapter 3.50 RCW which must be analyzed in responding to your question is RCW 3.50.180, codifying § 56, chapter 299,supra.  This section relates  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] to the issuance of arrest warrants by municipal courts in those cities which have opted to establish their municipal court systems under that RCW chapter.  The statute provides (in material part) as follows:

            "The warrant shall be directed to all peace officers in the state and shall be executed only by a peace officer.  It shall be executed by the arrest of the defendant and may be executed in any county or municipality of the state by any peace officer in the state. . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            We should emphasize at the outset that the question is simply WHO may make an arrest, pursuant to a warrant issued by a municipal court under RCW 3.50.180, when the arrest occurs outside the territorial boundaries of the municipality.

            We have on a number of occasions made clear that courts under the 1961 justice court act have statewide jurisdiction for the issuance of criminal process.  See, AGO 63-64 No. 105 [[to Alf M. Jacobsen, Prosecuting Attorney, Klickitat County on May 26, 1964]]; 63-64 No. 110 [[to Sid Buckley, Prosecuting Attorney, Stevens County on June 25, 1964]]and 65-66 No. 109 [[to John G. McCutcheon, Prosecuting Attorney, Pierce County on October 4, 1966]].  The first of those opinions, AGO 63-64 No. 105, construed RCW 3.50.180, the same statute which is the subject of your inquiry, as permitting municipal courts under that statute to have statewide jurisdiction for the issuance of criminal process,supra, at p. 6.  The same opinion also considered court rule CrR 2.2 (d) (1), which relates to the issuance of warrants and states:

            "The warrant shall be directed to all peace officers in the state and shall be executed only by a peace officer."

            It should be noted that this provision of the rule is exactly the same as the first sentence of RCW 3.50.180, set forth above.  We concluded,supra, at page 7, that the rule did not grant substantive authority to police officers to exercise the powers of arrest outside of their own geographical area.

            As a general rule, a peace officer has no general power to arrest beyond the territorial boundary of the state, city, county or bailiwick for which he is elected or appointed.  See,Irwin v. Dept. of Motor Vehicles, 10 Wn.App. 369 (1974), and cases cited therein.  This rule is extensively discussed in AGO 61-62 No. 15 [[to Clayton Farrington, State Senator on February 24, 1961]], a copy of which is enclosed.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            When the legislature has intended to expand a peace officer's authority to permit extraterritorial arrests, it has done so explicitly.  For example, RCW 35.23.132 permits police officers of cities of the second class to pursue and arrest violators of city ordinances beyond the city limits.  Similar authority is provided peace officers of third class cities (RCW 35.24.160) and fourth class cities (RCW 35.27.240).  It should be noted that a second class city is one having 10,000 or more population at the time of its organization.  RCW 35.01.020.  The comparable population requirement for third class is 1,500 (RCW 35.01.030) and for fourth class it is from 300 to 1,500 (RCW 35.01.040).  Similar pursuit authority has been granted to the campus police of the state institutions of higher education (RCW 28B.10.555).

            The legislature has specifically provided, by RCW 10.34.010, the sheriff or other officer to whom a warrant may be directed the authorization to pursue and apprehend a party charged with a criminal offense when it appears that he has escaped from or is out of the county in which the offense occurred.  We construed that statute in AGO 61-62 No. 15 and concluded that in light of a related statute, which was separated in the codification process, the statute only has reference to warrants issued by the superior court.  In reaching that conclusion, supra, at page 3, we recognized the general rule that a peace officer does not have jurisdiction beyond the bounds of the sovereignty which has conferred upon him the power of arrest.  In the same opinion we construed RCW 35.22.490 for first class cities, which provides as follows:

            "All criminal process issued by such police judge shall be in the name of the state of Washington and run throughout the state, be directed to the chief of police, marshal or other police officer of any city or to any sheriff or constable in the state and shall be served by him."

            We note that identical language is found in RCW 35.23.610 for second class cities.  In examining that statute, we concluded, supra, at pages 6-7,

            "As we interpret this provision, it means that if a warrant of arrest for violation  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] of municipal ordinances cannot be served within the city because of the defendant's absence, the warrant may be executed by the chief of police of the city, or marshal of the town, or sheriff or constable of the county wherein the defendant may be found.  We do not believe that the legislature intended by this section that the police chief of the city wherein the warrant was issued would have state‑wide jurisdiction for execution of the warrant, nor do we believe that a town marshal to whom such warrant was directed would be authorized to execute such warrant beyond the territorial limits of the town in which he serves and in any other city or county in this state.

            "Accordingly, it is our considered opinion that a municipal police officer is without authority to execute a warrant for arrest charging a misdemeanor violation of municipal ordinance beyond the corporate limits of the city in which he serves, notwithstanding the fact that such warrant is valid for service throughout the state."

            With this discussion in mind, we should return to a consideration of RCW 3.50.180, which we again quote for ease in reading:

            "The warrant shall be directed to all peace officers in the state and shall be executed only by a peace officer.  It shall be executed by the arrest of the defendant and may be executed in any county or municipality of the state by any peace officer in the state. . . ."

            This statute lends itself to two possible constructions.  The first is that the statute simply provides state‑wide jurisdiction for the service of criminal process.  The second is to construe the statute as permitting the municipal court to confer on peace officers throughout the  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] state an arrest power they otherwise would not possess.  We realize that the first construction is subject to the charge that it renders the second sentence as superfluous and that it is a fundamental premise of statutory construction that a statute should not be read so as to render any clause, sentence or portion thereof as superfluous.  See,Groves v. Meyers, 35 Wn.2d 403, 213 P.2d 483 (1950).  We, however, do not believe that contention is valid.  Although the first sentence of the statute could be construed, and has since the passage of the act been construed (see, AGOs cited on page 2), as sufficient to confer state‑wide jurisdiction for the service of criminal process, there may have been some doubt at the time of its enactment as to whether the first sentence would be so construed.  In that context the second sentence makes it explicit that not only can warrants be directed to all peace officers; but furthermore, they can be executed in any county or municipality of the state.  Thus, the second sentence is not surplusage, but rather serves as an explicit statement making clear that a defendant may be arrested outside of the geographical boundaries of the municipality pursuant to the court warrant.

            As we indicated above, a second possible construction of the statute is that while the first sentence provides for state‑wide jurisdiction for the service of criminal process, the second sentence affirmatively confers upon the court the ability to authorize peace officers to make arrests outside the geographical boundaries of the sovereignty which conferred the officer with the arrest power.  Such a construction would mean that municipal courts in cities operating under chapter 3.50 RCW, which are cities under 20,000 in population, would be authorized to permit any peace officer in the state to make arrests outside of their normal jurisdictional limits provided they acted in accordance with the warrant issued by that municipal court.  No similar provision exists for the justice court, other municipal courts or superior courts of this state.  Such a construction would mean that those municipal courts would have the ability by the issuance of warrants to substantially expand the arrest powers of police officers located throughout the state, not simply the officers of that municipality.  This construction would mean, for example, that a Seattle police officer would be permitted to make an arrest pursuant to a warrant issued by the municipal court of a city  [[Orig. Op. Page 6]] of less than 20,000 operating under chapter 3.50 RCW anywhere in the state even though he would not have that authority under a warrant issued by the Seattle municipal court, King county justice court or King county superior court.  We cannot believe that the legislature could have intended that result by the passage of the 1961 act and the enactment of what is now codified as RCW 3.50.180.  We further believe that that construction would be distinctly at odds with the general rule of construction which is to narrowly construe authorization for extraterritorial arrest powers.

            We therefore conclude that a warrant issued pursuant to RCW 3.50.180 does not confer upon peace officers of this state the authority to make arrests outside of the territorial boundaries of the jurisdiction in which the peace officer is otherwise authorized to exercise arrest powers.

            We trust the foregoing answers your inquiry.

Very truly yours,


SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


EDWARD B. MACKIE
Deputy Attorney General

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