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AGO 1972 No. 26 - December 04, 1972
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Slade Gorton | 1969-1980 | Attorney General of Washington

COURTS ‑- JUVENILE ‑- MOTOR VEHICLES ‑- LICENSES ‑- REPORTS OF JUVENILE TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS

A juvenile court is required by RCW 13.04.120 to forward to the department of motor vehicles the record of its handling and disposition of all juvenile traffic violation cases coming before such court.

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

                                                                December 4, 1972

Honorable Al Henry
State Senator, 17th District
Rio Vista
White Salmon, Washington 98672

                                                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 1972 No. 26

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested an opinion of this office on the question of whether a juvenile court is legally required to forward to the department of motor vehicles the record of its handling and disposition of a juvenile traffic violation case.

            We answer this question in the affirmative for the reasons set forth in our analysis below.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Washington's juvenile courts operate under chapter 13.04 RCW, the "juvenile court law."  Pursuant to RCW 13.04.010, this law applies ". . . to all minor children under the age of eighteen years who are delinquent or dependent; . . ."  A "delinquent child" is defined by this statute as including

            ". . . any child under the age of eighteen years who violates any law of this state, or any ordinance of any town, city, or county of this state defining a crime . . . and whose case has been referred to the juvenile court by any jurisdiction whatsoever."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            As derived from § 10, chapter 160, Laws of 1913, RCW 13.04.240 provides, however, that

            "An order of court adjudging a child delinquent or dependent under the provisions of this chapter shall in no case be deemed a conviction of crime."

            Thus, even though the violation of a statute or ordinance regulating the operation of motor vehicles on the public highways may be (and ordinarily is) a crime, an order of a juvenile court adjudging a child within its jurisdiction to be delinquent because of his violation of such a statute or ordinance does not constitute a conviction.  Nonetheless the legislature, in 1959, provided (by an amendment to RCW 13.04.120, enacted pursuant to § 1, chapter 58, Laws of 1959)

            ". . .  That whenever a child is arrested for a violation of any law, including municipal ordinances, regulating the operation of vehicles on the public highways, a copy of the traffic citation and a record of the action taken by the juvenile court shall be forwarded by the court to the director of licenses in the same manner as provided in RCW 46.20.280."

            At the time of this enactment the statute referred to therein, RCW 46.20.280, required that:

            "Every court having jurisdiction over any of the offenses committed under this title or any other act of this state or under the ordinance of any incorporated city or town of this state regulating the operation of vehicles on any of the public highways, shall forward to the director of licenses a record of the conviction of or forfeiture of bail by any person in said court for the violation of any provisions relating to the licensing of vehicle operators or of any act of this state regulating the operation of vehicles on any of the public highways and a record of the conviction of or forfeiture of bail  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] by any person in said court for the violation of any municipal ordinances which violation would also be an offense under the provisions relating to the licensing of motor vehicle operators or any act of this state regulating the operation of vehicles on any of the public highways in which case such court may in its discretion revoke or suspend the vehicle operator's license of such person."

            It must, of course, be presumed that the 1959 legislature which added the foregoing proviso to RCW 13.04.120 was aware of its own prior (1913) act stating that an order of delinquency is not to be deemed a conviction. Graffell v. Honeysuckle, 30 Wn.2d 390, 191 P.2d 858 (1948).  It must also be presumed that this legislature did not thereby indulge in a vain or useless act.  Guinness v. State, 40 Wn.2d 677, 246 P.2d 433 (1952).  Accordingly, we read this 1959 proviso as requiring a juvenile court, in dealing with a juvenile traffic violation, to forward the records referred to therein to the (then) director of licenses ". . . in the same manner as provided in RCW 46.20.280," even though the court's disposition of the case did not constitute a "conviction" in the ordinary sense of this term.

            This leaves us only with the question of whether this requirement remains currently in force in view of the later, 1965, legislature's (a) creation of the department of motor vehicles1/ and (b) repeal of RCW 46.20.280.2/

             Section 4 of chapter 156, Laws of 1965, provides us with the answer to the first part of this question.  This section states that:

            "The department of motor vehicles is vested with all powers, functions, and duties of the director of licenses with respect to and including the following:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            ". . .

            "(13)  operators' licenses as provided in chapter 46.20 RCW;"

            As for the repeal of RCW 46.20.280, we note that while this section was technically repealed by § 46, chapter 121, supra, it was in substance merely replaced with an amended version of RCW 46.20.270 as enacted by § 22 of this same act.  Subsection (2) of this section, now codified as RCW 46.20.270 (2), provides (in much the same language as did RCW 46.20.280,supra) that:

            "Every court having jurisdiction over offenses committed under this chapter, or any other act of this state or municipal ordinance adopted by a local authority regulating the operation of motor vehicles on highways, shall forward to the department within ten days an abstract of court record in the form prescribed by rule of the supreme court, showing the conviction of any person in said court for a violation of any said laws other than regulations governing standing or parking, and may recommend the suspension of the driver's license of the person so convicted."

            We think it hardly plausible to attribute to the legislature an intent, by merely altering the RCW designation of the statute under which reports of traffic violations are filed with the state, to abrogate the basic, substantive requirement in this regard which was imposed upon juvenile courts through the proviso which was added to RCW 13.04.120, supra, by § 1, chapter 58, Laws of 1959.  Moreover, we believe that ample proof that this wasnot the legislature's intent is to be gleaned from its even more recent, 1967, enactment of two additions to chapter 46.20 RCW which are now codified as RCW 46.20.292 and 46.20.293.  The first of these two new sections, enacted as § 9, chapter 167, Laws of 1967, provides that the department of motor vehicles

            ". . . may suspend, revoke, restrict or condition any juvenile driver's license upon a showing of its records  [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] that the juvenile licensee has been found by a juvenile court, chief probation officer or any other duly authorized officer of a juvenile court to have committed any offense or offenses which under Title 46 [[Title 46 RCW]]constitutes ground for said action."

            The second new section, enacted as § 10 of this same 1967 act, states that:

            "The department is authorized to provide juvenile courts with the department's record of traffic charges compiled under RCW 46.52.100 and 13.04.120, against any juvenile upon the request of any state juvenile court or duly authorized officer of any juvenile court of this state.  Further, the department is authorized to provide any juvenile court with any requested service which the department can reasonably perform which is not inconsistent with its legal authority which substantially aids juvenile courts in handling traffic cases and which promotes highway safety."

            We think these two provisions clearly evidence a legislative construction of the 1959 amendatory proviso to RCW 13.04.120, supra, as continuing to require a juvenile court to provide the state with ". . . a copy of the traffic citation and a record of the action taken by [such] juvenile court . . ." in all juvenile traffic violation cases ‑ albeit now by forwarding such record to the subsequently created department of motor vehicles rather than to its predecessor the "director of licenses" specified in the statute.  On the basis of this proviso we therefore answer your question in the affirmative.

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,


SLADE GORTON
Attorney General


JAMES R. SILVA
Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/See, chapter 156, Laws of 1965.

2/See, § 46, chapter 121, Laws of 1965, Ex. Sess.

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