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AGO 1951 No. 025 - April 25, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

CONSTABLES ‑- CLASS "A" CITIES.

Constables of precincts consisting of first class cities in Class "A" counties, being limited in their official duties almost entirely to service of summonses, orders and warrants of Justices of the Peace, are not entitled to travel expenses to and from their homes unless such travel is pursuant to the service of such orders and not for the convenience of the constable.

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                                                                   April 25, 1951

Honorable Hugh H. Evans
Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane County
Spokane, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 25

Attention:  !ttEarl W. Foster, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Dear Mr. Foster:

            We acknowledge receipt of your letter of March 8, 1951, in which you request an opinion on the following question:

            Should constables elected in a precinct consisting of a first-class city in a Class "A" county be reimbursed for their expenses of travel by automobile from their homes to the Court House and return, each day?  That is, should these constables get mileage for travel to and from work?

            Our conclusion is:

            Constables of precincts consisting of first class cities in Class "A" counties, being limited in their official duties almost entirely to service of summonses, orders and warrants of justices of the peace, are not entitled to travel expenses to and from their homes unless such travel is pursuant to the service of such orders and not for the convenience of the constable.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            A study of the statutory provisions generally concerning constables demonstrates that at one time constables were in the position of law enforcement officers similar to a sheriff, and they formerly had broad powers of arrest.  However, under section 1, chapter 64, Laws of 1941, (section 7560-1 Rem. Supp. 1941) amending earlier acts, the legislature has provided:

            "In a Class "A" county no constable shall have jurisdiction to serve a warrant for any criminal offense committed outside of the boundaries of his precinct or to serve a search warrant for the seizure of property located outside his precinct, nor shall he as such make any arrests or detain any person or persons for any violation of any law or laws concerning motor vehicles and the operation thereof, except when serving a warrant duly issued by the justice of the peace upon a complaint regularly filed with the justice of the peace."

            Constables' duties are thus limited almost entirely to the service of process and orders of the justices of the peace, coroner, or possibly, a superior court judge.

            The remuneration of constables in cities having a population of over 80,000 population (Spokane's population is 160,473), is by salary, and in addition, is allowed his transportation expenses.  Under section 9, chapter 7, Laws of 1891, (section 7584, Rem. Rev. Stat.) the county commissioners shall pay actual traveling expenses of said constable while on official duty, to be audited by the board of county commissioners, and under section 1, chapter 56, Laws of 1907 (section 7561, Rem. Rev. Stat.), it was provided that for all services other than for serving an arrest warrant, in criminal actions or making an arrest without a warrant, the constable receives the same mileage paid to a sheriff for like services.  This act has been amended from time to time and presently under section 1, chapter 200, Laws of 1949 (section 4200-5A, Rem. Supp. 1949), it is provided that all county officers shall be entitled to their necessary reasonable traveling expenses in the performance of their official duties and shall be allowed not to exceed eight cents per mile for each mile of necessary travel.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It, therefore, appears that constables are entitled to not more than eight cents a mile for necessary travel, and said travel charges are subject to audit of the commissioners.

            Whether or not travel is in the performance of official duties and is necessary as the two statutes above referred to provide, is a question of fact, and a constable's charges, therefore, are subject to the scrutiny of the commissioners.  Analysis of the official duties of a constable of a precinct of a first-class city in a Class "A" county reveals that his power of arrest does not include any violations of the laws of the road or in connection with motor vehicles so that his duties now are generally no more than to serve summonses, warrants and orders of the justices of the peace, and is, therefore, acting solely pursuant to the orders of the justice of the peace except for occasional acts for the coroner, or possibly, a superior court judge, and the conclusion must, therefore, follow that unless the fact demonstrates that travel to or from the constable's residence is part of his official duties, they would be for his own affairs rather than pursuant to his duties as constable.  This conclusion is consistent with what generally obtains with reference to officers and servants of the public.

            The effect of this opinion is limited to such constables only as are elected in first-class cities in a Class "A" county.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

PHILIP W. RICHARDSON
Assistant Attorney General

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