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AGO 1951 No. 041 - May 18, 1951
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS VENUE.

Where a traffic offense has been committed outside the city limits of an incorporated city or town in a county other than a Class A or a first class county, the offender may be cited into the justice court at either (a) the incorporated city or town nearest to the point the violation allegedly occurred or (b) to the justice court at the next nearest incorporated city or town at the option of the arresting officer.

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                                                                   May 18, 1951

Honorable Robert E. Connor
Prosecuting Attorney, Chelan County
Fuller-Quigg Building
Wenatchee, Washington                                                                                            Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 41

Attention:  !ttMr. Jon H. Phelps, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney

Dear Sir:

            On April 17, 1951, you wrote us as follows:

            "1. Where a traffic offense has been committed outside the city limits of an incorporated city or town in a county other than a Class A or a first class county, may such offender be cited into the justice court at either

            (a) The incorporated city or town nearest to the point the violation allegedly occurred, or

            (b) to the justice court in the next nearest incorporated city or town, at the option of the arresting officer?

            "2. Is the failure to cite the offender into the correct justice court a matter of venue or jurisdiction?"

                                                                     ANALYSIS

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]                                                                             

            We give an illustrative example:                                                                          

            Whatcom County is a county of the third class.  Bellingham is a first class city and is the county seat of Whatcom County.  Ferndale is located some eight miles northwest of Bellingham and Blaine some twenty miles northwest of Ferndale.  Both Ferndale and Blaine are incorporated cities or towns, although much smaller in population than is Bellingham.  Highway 99 runs through Whatcom County in a general northwesterly and southeasterly direction, and runs through Bellingham and Blaine, and very close to the eastern limits of Ferndale.  If a traffic violation occurred on Highway 99 at any point between Ferndale and Blaine, the venue of any criminal action resulting from such violation would require that the charge be laid before a Justice of the Peace in either Ferndale or Blaine under section 15, chapter 196, Laws of 1949 (6360-142, Rem. Supp.; 49, 46.52.100 RCW [[RCW 46.52.100]]).  The charge could be laid in the Justice Court of either Ferndale or Blaine.

            Therefore, the answers to questions:

            1. (a) and (b) should both be "Yes."

            Your second question might appear to be more difficult.

            Using the illustration that we used for the answers to your first question we would express the thought that if the criminal charge were filed before the Justice of the Peace in Bellingham, that such charge would be improperly filed as outside his venue and contrary to the above statute.

            It would seem to us that it would be a dangerous practice to charge an alleged traffic violator with a violation occurring between Ferndale and Blaine before the Justice of the Peace in Bellingham.  We do not approve of such a practice.  While the following cases are not directly in point we refer to them as throwing some light upon the question involved:  State ex rel. Wagner v. Superior Court, 144 Wash. 71, 256, Pac. 784;State v. Yelle, 4 Wn. (2d) 327, 103 P. (2d) 372;State v. Hardamon, 29 Wn. (2d) 182, 186 P. (2d) 634.

            We trust this answers the questions submitted.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

GEORGE DOWNER
Assistant Attorney General

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