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AGO 1953 No. 159 - October 30, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

JUSTICE COURTS ‑- VENUE IN TRAFFIC CASES ‑- TIME WITHIN WHICH OPTION FOR CHANGE OF VENUE MUST BE EXERCISED.

1. The justice court venue provision of RCW 46.52.100 has been superseded by section 4, chapter 206, Laws of 1953.

2. A defendant may defer the exercise of his option to be tried before a justice of the peace at the county seat until such time as he appears for trial.

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                                                                October 30, 1953

Honorable Robert E. Conner
Prosecuting Attorney
Chelan County
306 Savings and Loan Building
Wenatchee, Washington                                                                                                    Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 159

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter of October 9, 1953, in which you pose two questions relating to justice court venue in traffic cases for our consideration.  You specifically ask:

            1. Is RCW 46.52.100 which provides for justice court venue in traffic cases considered repealed by section 4, chapter 206, Laws of 1953?

            2. May a defendant requesting trial before a justice of the peace in the county seat, as provided in the 1953 act, make that request at the time he appears for trial or must he claim the privilege at the time the citation is issued?

            In our opinion:

            1. The justice court venue provision of RCW 46.52.100 is no longer the law, and,

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2. A defendant may defer the exercise of his option to be tried before a justice of the peace at the county seat until such time as he appears for trial.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Section 4, chapter 206, Laws of 1953, provides as follows:

            "All criminal actions before justices of the peace shall be brought before either of the nearest two justices of the peace to the place where the alleged violation occurred, or upon request of the defendant before a justice of the peace of the county seat."

            That this language is broad enough to include traffic violations admits of little doubt.  The language is sweeping enough to cover the entire field of justice court venue in criminal cases.

            We conclude that the traffic violation venue provision of RCW 46.52.100 has been superseded or impliedly repealed by the 1953 act.

            Under the same section of the 1953 act, a defendant is granted an option, as a matter of right, to be tried either before one of the two nearest justices of the peace, or by a justice of the peace of the county seat.  We find no legislative requirement that this election must be exercised immediately upon issuance of the citation.

            RCW 3.20.100 permits a defendant to file a motion for change of venue by means of an affidavit of prejudice at any time previous to the commencement of the trial.  In the absence of a legislative declaration to the contrary, the same rule should be applicable to the exercise of the option accorded a defendant as a matter of right.  To hold otherwise would place an alleged violator in the untenable position of having to compile in advance an information bulletin on all justices of the peace in the state in order to make the choice of venue provision of any value to him, or to rely upon the recommendations of the arresting officer.  The legislature, in enacting this provision relating to election of venue, must be given credit for an intention leading to a more realistic result than to have the provision's value to defendants diluted by imposing as an implied but silent proviso that "he who hesitates is lost."

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

ANDY ENGEBRETSEN
Assistant Attorney General

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