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AGO 1952 No. 255 - March 05, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

OPERATORS' LICENSES ‑- SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION THEREOF ON CONVICTION IN MUNICIPAL COURT FOR HIT AND RUN.

The director of licenses is not required to revoke the defendant's operator's license on judgment and conviction of a municipal court on a hit and run which contained a municipal ordinance taken from state law.

The offense itself, as shown by the municipal court judgment and conviction, requiring under state law that the driver's license be revoked, the director in his discretion may suspend the defendant's operator's license.

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                                                                   March 5, 1952

Honorable Della Urquhart
Director of Licenses
Olympia, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 255

Dear Madam:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request for an opinion of January 5, 1952, in which you have posed two questions, both of which arise by reason of a municipality taking advantage of the power granted under section 1, chapter 213, Laws of 1943 (§ 9199-1 Rem. Supp. 1943) and by the enactment of an ordinance whereby the motor vehicle code of Washington appears to have been adopted by reference.

            Your questions are:

            "Where a person is convicted in Municipal Court of failure to identify himself after an accident resulting only in damage to the other vehicle, would [the director] 'under the provisions of this section' revoke the operator's license of the defendant?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "In the event that your answer to this question is in the negative, under the same circumstances would you suspend the defendant's operator's license under the provisions of Section 66, which provides that in your discretion you may suspend an operator's license whenever you have reason to believe that he has committed an offense for which mandatory suspension or revocation is provided by law?"

            Our conclusions are stated as follows:

            Where the municipality has adopted as a part of its laws the state law commonly known as the "hit and run" act (§ 9199-1 Rem. Supp. 1943) and a motor vehicle operator is convicted of the violation thereof in the municipal court, the violation is of a city ordinance and is not of "this section" which is contained in the state law.  Hence, the director of licenses is not required thereby to revoke the operator's license.

            The director of licenses in his discretion may suspend an operator's license whenever reason exists to believe that he has committed an offense for which mandatory suspension or revocation is provided by law, namely conviction of the state "hit and run" act as embodied in a municipal ordinance by a municipal court.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            It appears that this office has never been asked to interpret section 1, chapter 213, Laws of 1943 (§ 9199-1 Rem. Supp. 1943) as it applies to the problems you have concerning the powers and duties of the director of licenses.  The pertinent part of the section is quoted as follows:

            "* * * That ordinances may by reference adopt Washington State statutes and codes, and ordinances relating to the construction of buildings, * * * or other objects, may adopt by reference any printed code or compilation or portions thereof, * * *"

            The particular statute to which you have reference, RCW 46.52.020 (§ 6360-134 Rem. Rev. Stat.) as derived from § 134, chapter 189, Laws of 1937, contains a requirement that the operator of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] damage to a vehicle shall stop at the scene of the accident and remain there until he has fulfilled requirements set forth in another part of said act.  Upon conviction of failure to do so, he shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than thirty (30) days nor more than one (1) year or by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500 or by both fine and imprisonment.  This section further provides:

            "(5) Upon notice of the conviction of any person under the provisions of this section, his vehicle operator's license shall be revoked by the director."

            It would follow that if such municipality enacted as its ordinance the above statute, its municipal court would then be empowered to try persons charged with being guilty of a violation of said ordinance and upon conviction, the penalties enforceable by said court would follow.

            This does not mean, however, that the municipal court's judgment of conviction would result in requiring the director of licenses to revoke the operator's license of the defendant; furthermore, the state act is not itself involved.  Rather, it is a municipal ordinance and "this section" as above quoted in the state act would not apply.  The answer to your first question is in the negative.

            The offense, however, was committed and since under the state law revocation of an operator's license was required, the director of licenses may, in his discretion, and based upon the municipal court conviction, pursuant to the authority granted by RCW 46.20.290 (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 6312-66 (a)), suspend said operating privilege.  The fact that the conviction was not in a superior court or justice court under the state law, per se, does not deprive the director of grounds to suspend under his discretionary power.  The answer to your second question is, therefore, that there being an offense brought to the director's attention by the conviction in the municipal court which, under state law requires revocation, the director has the discretionary power to suspend the operator's license of the convicted defendant.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

PHILIP W. RICHARDSON
Assistant Attorney General

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