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AGO 1955 No. 122 - July 29, 1955
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

MOTOR VEHICLE CODE ‑- VIOLATIONS ‑- VENUE ‑- JUSTICES OF THE PEACE

The venue provision of RCW 46.52.100 (§ 2, chapter 393, Laws of 1955, applies to all violations of the motor vehicle code.

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

                                                                    July 29, 1955

Honorable Ella Wintler
State Representative
800 East 24th Street
Vancouver, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 122

My Dear Miss Wintler:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on a question which may be stated as follows:

            Do the provisions of section 2, chapter 393, Laws of 1955 (amendatory of RCW 46.52.100), relating to venue in justice courts, apply only to persons charged with driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor or narcotic drugs?

            We answer your question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 2, chapter 393, Laws of 1955, which amends section 15, chapter 196, Laws of 1949, and RCW 46.52.100, is a ten-paragraph section; the seventh paragraph with which we are concerned reads:

            "Venue in all justice courts shall be before one of the two nearest justices of the peace in  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] incorporated cities and towns nearest to the point the violation allegedly occurred:  Provided, That in counties of class A and of the first class such cases may be tried in the county seat at the request of the defendant."

            Except for minor changes, not here pertinent, the first seven paragraphs of the new section are identical with the 1949 act, and the paragraph on venue, above set out, is exactly the same in both acts.

            The last three paragraphs are new in the 1955 act; the first imposes a duty on the prosecuting official to obtain a transcript of the record of persons charged with driving while under the influence, the second fixes an increased penalty for subsequent convictions if "the operator has a record" of previous convictions, and the third provides the penalty for operating a motor vehicle while the operator's license was suspended or revoked.

            It is to be noted that these new paragraphs in the 1955 act do not define a violation; they merely prescribe the penalty for certain violations.

            Section 15, chapter 196, Laws of 1949 (formerly Rem. Rev. Stat., § 6360142), is amendatory of section 142, chapter 189, Laws of 1937, the original Washington motor vehicle act.  This section merely provided for the reporting of certain violations of the act on forms prescribed by the director of licenses.  In its inception the primary purpose of this particular section was the reporting of certain violations.  The venue provision was added in 1949, and the last three paragraphs above referred to in 1955.

            Our supreme court, inGraffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn. (2d) 390, set out the rules governing the construction of statutes, including the following:

            "In construing statutes which re‑enact, with certain changes, or repeal other statutes, or which contain revisions or codification of earlier laws, resort to repealed and superseded statutes may be had, and is of great importance  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] in ascertaining the intention of the legislature, for, where a material change is made in the wording of a statute, a change in legislative purpose must be presumed.  In re Phillips' Estate, 193 Wash. 194, 74 P. (2d) 1015, and cases therein cited;Great Northern R. Co. v. Cohn, 3 Wn. (2d) 672, 101 P. (2d) 985;Longview Co. v. Lynn, 6 Wn. (2d) 507, 108 P. (2d) 365."

            And, as our court said, inMartin v. Tollefson, 24 Wn. (2d) 211, at page 222:

            "* * * When statutory language is plain and unambiguous, and its meaning clear and unescapable, there is no room for construction.  * * * "

            To the same effect isState v. Houck, 32 Wn. (2d) 681.

            In 50 Am.Jur. 481, Statutes, § 468, it is said:

            "Strictly speaking, an amendatory act is not regarded as an independent statute.  Of course, the statute in its old form is superseded by the statute in its amended form, the amended section of the statute taking the place of the original section, for all intents and purposes as if the amendment had always been there.  The amendment should be considered as if embodied in the whole statute of which it has become a part.  * * *"

            Applying these rules to the situation here, we find that each of the three acts is entitled "An Act relating to motor vehicles . . . "  The 1937 act is a complete, integrated act of 151 sections.  The 1949 act contains nineteen sections, some of which are new, and many of which are amendatory of specific sections in the original act.  The 1955 act contains only four sections, two of which, including the section in question, are amendatory of the 1949 act, which amended the particular sections of the original 1937 act.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            When the venue provision was added in 1949 there was no reference whatsoever in the section to driving under the influence of liquor or drugs.  Thus, although driving under the influence was a crime under another section of the motor vehicle code in 1949 as it is today (see RCW 46.56.010), it would have been impossible to conclude in 1949 that the effect of the venue provision was restricted to that or any other specific violation.  Venue for all violations of the motor vehicle code was therefore controlled by that provision in 1949.

            Section 3, chapter 393, Laws of 1955, which is amendatory of section 4, chapter 196, Laws of 1949, and RCW 46.56.010, is the basic section defining the violation, making it "unlawful for any person who is under the influence of or affected by the use of intoxicating liquor or of narcotic drugs to drive, or be in actual physical control of any vehicle upon the public highways."  If a special venue for such a violation were to be provided, here would have been the proper place for the expression of such a legislative intent.  Not being expressed here, but being expressed in section 2, where it has been previous to the addition of the penalty provisions, it would logically follow that it retained the same meaning it did in the original section before the amendment by the addition of the new paragraphs.

            It is further to be noted that section 4, chapter 206, Laws of 1953 (RCW 3.20.131), is a general venue statute.  After its enactment in 1953, following the enactment of section 4, chapter 196, Laws of 1949 (RCW 46.52.100), this office had occasion to consider the effect of the different provisions relative to venue, and we held that RCW 3.20.131 impliedly repealed the venue provision of RCW 46.52.100 (AGO 53-55 No. 159) [[to R. E. Conner, Prosecuting Attorney, Chelan County on October 30, 1953]].  Now, with a re‑enactment [[reenactment]]in 1955 of the 1949 provision the enactment of the general venue statute in 1953, it follows consistently that, in so far as violations of the motor vehicle code are concerned, the venue provision contained in section 2 supersedes the general provision of RCW 3.20.131.

            The repassage of a provision with the same wording and precisely the same relative position in its section certainly does not indicate an intent to alter or restrict its effect.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            The title of chapter 393

            "AN ACT relating to motor vehicles; altering procedure and penalties where defendant is charged with driving under the influence of liquor or drugs; * * *" (Emphasis supplied.)

            is perfectly consistent with the changes made in section 2 of the act (RCW 46.52.100) by the addition of the three new paragraphs.

            On the other hand, if we assume for the sake of argument that the quoted portion of the title effectively restricts everything in section 2 we find that it conflicts with the first paragraph, requiring records of

            "* * *every traffic complaint, traffic citation or other legal form of traffic charge * * *"  (Emphasis supplied)

            and

            "* * *every conviction, forfeiture of bail, judgment of acquittal * * *" (Emphasis supplied.)

            and with the second paragraph requiring a report of

            "* * * the conviction or forfeiture of bail of a person upon a charge of violatingany provisions of this chapter or other law regulating the operating of vehicles on highways * * * to the director of licenses * * * " (Emphasis supplied)

            Carried to its logical conclusion, that theory would mean that such records and reports are now required only in cases of driving under the influence of liquor or drugs.  We cannot believe that the legislature intended such a result.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 6]]

            It is axiomatic that in construing a statute we must, if possible, give consistent and harmonious effect to all of its parts, including the title.  We feel that the foregoing interpretation does so, and we therefore conclude that the venue provision of RCW 46.52.100 applies to all violations of the motor vehicle code.

            We trust that the above analysis will prove helpful to you.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

MITCHELL DOUMIT
Assistant Attorney General

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