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AGO 1956 No. 347 - November 29, 1956
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington


Embracing and racing are defined as reckless driving and the statutory provisions requiring suspension of operator's license and the furnishing of financial responsibility before reinstatement are applicable.

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                                                               November 29, 1956

Honorable Della Urquhart
Director of Licenses
General Administration Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 55-57 No. 347

Attention:  !ttJoe C. Peters, Administrator

            Operators License and Financial

            Responsibility Division

Dear Mrs. Urquhart:

            You have asked our opinion on the following question:

            Do the violations prescribed by RCW 46.56.100, embracing another while driving, and RCW 46.48.050, racing of vehicles, constitute reckless driving and subject the violator to the same penalties provided by RCW 46.56.020 for reckless driving?

            We answer your question in the affirmative.


            As a preface to our conclusions, we quote the statutory provisions mentioned in your question.

            RCW 46.56.100 Embracing another while driving.

            "It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle upon the highways of this state when such person has in his embrace another person which prevents the free and unhampered operation of the vehicle.  Any person so doing shall be deemed guilty of reckless driving."

            RCW 46.48.050 Racing of vehicles on highways prohibited.

            "No person or persons shall race a motor vehicle upon any public highway of this state.  Any person or persons guilty of comparing or contesting relative speeds by simultaneous operations shall be guilty of reckless driving whether or not such speed is in excess of maximum speed prescribed by law."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            RCW 46.56.020 Operating motor vehicle in reckless manner.

            "It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle in a reckless manner over and along the public highways of this state.  For the purpose of this section to 'operate in a reckless manner' means the operation of a vehicle upon the public highways of this state in such a manner as to indicate either a wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property."

            The question is directed at ascertaining if the penalties which apply to reckless driving will likewise apply to embracing and racing, because of the statutory definitions above set out.  It is to be noted that suspension of the operator's license for reckless driving is required by the court (RCW 46.20.260), or the director of licenses (RCW 46.20.290).  Such suspension continues until proof of financial responsibility is made (RCW 46.24.040).

            Both statutes, RCW 46.56.100 (embracing) and RCW 46.48.050 (racing), provide that the person "shall be guilty of reckless driving."  These provisions are unlike those in RCW 46.48.026 and 46.48.060 where the unlawful act (speeding in the one case, and the advertising of speed in the other) "shall beprima facie evidence" of reckless driving.  These later instances provide a rule of evidence, while the two under consideration define particular acts constituting reckless driving.

            As was said inState v. Friedlander, 141 Wash. 1:

            ". . . It is within the province of the legislature in creating an offense to define it by a particular description of the acts constituting it, or to define it as an act which produces a certain defined or described result. . . ."

            Thus, crimes may be defined by describing the acts which constitute them ‑ here, embracing and racing ‑ or as acts which produce certain results.  An example of the latter is the type of statute wherein reckless driving is defined as driving "in such a manner as to indicate either a wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property."

            Consequently, it must be concluded that the motor vehicle code specifies in the three sections quoted different acts which constitute reckless driving.  This is somewhat similar to those provisions of our code which define specific acts as, for example, larcenies or perjuries, separate from the general statute designating such crimes.  (Larceny, RCW 74.08.330; Perjury, RCW 63.08.060.)  These specific  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] designations nonetheless constitute such a crime, even though part of a special statute not related to the general one.

            Obviously, it is within the power of the legislature to prescribe specifically, as well as in general terms, what acts shall constitute reckless driving.  In the statutes quoted it has clearly indicated that the specific acts of embracing and racing are reckless driving, and that in general every other act which indicates a "wilful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property" shall also constitute the violation.

            Therefore, we conclude that the commission of the offense of embracing (RCW 46.56.100), and of racing (RCW 46.48.050), constitutes reckless driving and is to be regarded, in so far as penalties are concerned, the same as any violation under the general reckless driving statute (RCW 46.56.020), requiring suspension of the operator's license and furnishing of financial responsibility before reinstatement.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General

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