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AGO 1960 No. 158 - November 18, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

JUSTICE OF THE PEACE - AREA WITHIN WHICH ARREST WARRANT FOR VIOLATION OF TRAFFIC, LIQUOR, GAME OR FISHERIES STATUTE IS VALID.

The territorial jurisdiction of a justice of the peace in issuing warrants for violation of a traffic, liquor, game or fisheries statute is limited to the county in which he acts as justice.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                               November 18, 1960

Honorable Arnold R. Zempel
Prosecuting Attorney
Snohomish County
Everett, Washington                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 158

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you requested an opinion of this office on a question which we paraphrase as follows:

            Is an arrest warrant issued by a justice of the peace for a violation of a traffic, liquor, game or fisheries statute valid throughout the state?

            We answer your question in the negative subject to the qualifications found in the analysis below.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Article IV, § 6, of our State Constitution, as amended by the 28th Amendment, sets the original criminal jurisdiction of the superior courts of this state to cases amounting to a felony and in all cases of misdemeanor not otherwise provided for by law.  By § 10 of this amended article the legislature may prescribe the "powers, duties  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] and jurisdictions of justices of the peace," except that the jurisdiction granted may not entrench upon the jurisdiction of the superior courts.

            From these articles it is apparent that the justice of the peace must depend upon a grant from the legislature for all jurisdiction and powers which he may wish to exercise.  It is equally apparent that the legislature is limited in the jurisdiction which it may confer upon justices of the peace.

            RCW 3.20.050 defines the territorial jurisdiction of justices of the peace as "coextensive with the limits of the county in which they are elected or appointed."  Moreover, our supreme court has held that warrants of arrest issued by such justices for crimes over which they have trial jurisdiction are valid only within the county of issuance.  In re Crawford, 148 Wash. 265, 268 Pac. 871, 61 A.L.R. 374 (1928), 150 Wash. 698, 273 Pac. 751 (1929); cf.  State v. Noah, 150 Wash. 187, 272 Pac. 729 (1928).

            Having generally prescribed the criminal jurisdiction of justices of the peace in the foregoing statute, the question arises whether our legislature has expanded such jurisdiction in a territorial sense by the enactment of the following statutes or portions thereof:

            (1) RCW 46.08.190, contained in the motor vehicle code, reads:

            "Every justice of the peace and police court judge shall have concurrent jurisdiction with superior court judges of the state for all violations of the provisions of this title and may impose any punishment provided therefor."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            (2) RCW 66.44.180, pertaining to violations of the state liquor code, provides in pertinent part:

            "Every justice of the peace and magistrate shall have concurrent jurisdiction with superior court judges of the state for all violations of the provisions of this title, and may impose any punishment provided therefor."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            (3) RCW 75.08.270, relating to violations of the fisheries code, reads:

           "Every justice of the peace shall have jurisdiction concurrent with the superior court of all misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors committed in violation of the fisheries code and of the rules, regulations, and orders made by the director in accordance with existing law and to impose any penalty or confiscation provided for such offenses."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            (4) RCW 77.16.240, pertaining to violations of the state game code, provides in pertinent part:

            "Every justice of the peace shall have jurisdiction concurrent with the superior courts of all misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors committed in violation of the provisions of this title and may impose any punishment in this title provided for such offenses."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            It is significant to note that these statutes are substantially identical in language and that each contains a clause authorizing the imposition of punishment.  (See clauses underscored above.)

            Our supreme court has stated that ". . . a court may not place a narrow, literal, and technical construction upon a part only of a statute and ignore other relevant parts.  In the process of construction, the intention of the lawmakers must be extracted from a consideration of all of the provisions of the act."  In re Cress, 13 Wn. (2d) 7, 15, 123 P. (2d) 767 (1942).  Also, DeGrief v. Seattle, 50 Wn. (2d) 1, 297 P. (2d) 940 (1956).

            Moreover, "legislative intent must be gleaned from a consideration of the whole act by giving effect to the entire statute and every part thereof."  DeGrief v. Seattle, supra, p. 11; cf. State v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681, 203 P. (2d) 693 (1949).  In so doing, it is a well established principle that "a statute should, if possible, be so construed that no clause, sentence or word shall be superfluous, void, or insignificant."  Groves v. Meyers, 35 Wn. (2d) 403, 407, 213 P. (2d) 483 (1950).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Since each of the pertinent statutes expressly confers upon justices of the peace "concurrent jurisdiction" with superior courts, or judges thereof, the concluding clauses in each would be insignificant and mere surplusage if they were not construed to limit the grant of concurrent jurisdiction.  This is so because superior courts are courts of general jurisdiction which may impose any punishment provided by law and have statewide jurisdiction.  Article IV, § 6, Washington constitution as amended by Amendment 28; In re Crawford, supra; Nadeau v. Conn, 142 Wash. 243, 252 Pac. 913 (1927).  Thus, unless the final clauses of these statutes are considered as limitations upon the broad grant of "concurrent jurisdiction," they cannot be given any force or effect.  Accordingly, and consistent with the rules of statutory construction above mentioned, we must conclude that these clauses limit the grant of concurrent jurisdiction to the imposition of such penalties provided for violations of the motor vehicle, liquor, fish and game codes, thus expanding the general power granted to justices of the peace in this respect as provided in RCW 3.20.040.  This conclusion is in accord with that rendered by this office in a recent opinion to the prosecuting attorney of Kitsap county dated June 25, 1959 (AGO 59-60 No. 47) a copy of which is hereto attached.

            So construing these statutes it becomes apparent that the territorial jurisdiction of justices of the peace, normally county-wide in cases triable before them (RCW 3.20.050), was not expanded thereby.  (See letter of October 11, 1960 to the prosecuting attorney of Grant County interpreting RCW 77.16.240, which is in accord with this conclusion.)

            Another rule of statutory construction which adds support to the foregoing conclusion is that the expression of one thing excludes others not expressed expressio unius est exclusio alterius.  See,DeGrief v. Seattle, supra, p. 12.  Since the concluding clauses of the above quoted statutes clearly limit the delegation of "concurrent jurisdiction" to the imposition of punishments provided in the respective codes, this expression of legislative intention must be deemed to imply the exclusion of any grant of expanded territorial jurisdiction to justices of the peace.  In other words, if the legislature had intended to increase the territorial jurisdiction of justices of the peace and their jurisdiction to impose penalties in excess of those  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] prescribed in RCW 3.20.040, it could have done so simply by omitting the underscored clauses in each of the statutes quoted.

            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

R. TED BOTTIGER
Assistant Attorney General

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