Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGO 1954 No. 307 -
Attorney General Don Eastvold


1. The police court of a town does not have jurisdiction over traffic violations on a state highway contiguous but not within, a newly annexed area.

2. Upon removal of the highway from the state system, it may become the responsibility of the county within which it is located.

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                                                                 August 26, 1954

Honorable W. A. Gissberg
State Senator, 39th District
315 State Street
Marysville, Washington                                                                                               Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 307

Dear Sir:

            In your letter of August 3, 1954, previously acknowledged, you request our opinion on the following questions:

            1.  Does the police court of Marysville have jurisdiction over traffic violations which occur upon Highway 99, or any part thereof, immediately adjacent to and abutting property annexed to the town?

            2.  Upon the removal of said highway from the state highway system, will the town of Marysville or Snohomish County be required to maintain it, or any part thereof?

            Our conclusions are:

            1. The police court of Marysville has no jurisdiction over such violations.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            However, if the police judge is also a justice of the peace, he will have jurisdiction over certain offenses occurring in his precinct.

            2. Snohomish County will be obligated to maintain the highway when it is abandoned as a state highway.


            Two separate parcels were annexed to the town of Marysville.  One description is as follows:

            "That part of the S-1/2 of the SW-1/4 of Section 21, Township 30 North, Range 5 EWM,lying West of Highway 99."

            The other description is similar.  Both parcels lie to the west of the highway; therefore, this is not a case of the highway running through a portion of the town, but along it.  Legal descriptions are strictly construed and their language is strictly followed if unambiguous.  The language here is clearly that the highway and the land under it were not part of the annexation to the town.  Thus, the portion of the highway in question is not subject to the rule that annexation of an area ipso facto extends existing ordinances and regulations over the whole of the new territory.  If the highway itself had been used as a boundary of the annexation rather than expressly excluded, the rule would probably be otherwise.

            The legislature has absolute control over the highways of the state, both rural and urban.  Cities and towns can exercise only such control as is delegated to them.  Chapter 47.24 RCW confers concurrent control of a municipality with the state as to streets within a town which the director of highways shall determine are a part of a state highway.  No statute gives a town control over state highways running along but outside its boundaries.

            RCW 35.27.530, defining the jurisdiction of police courts, provides:

            "The police justice in addition to his powers as justice of the peace shall have exclusive jurisdiction over all offenses defined by any ordinance of the town * * *"

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            It being our opinion that ordinances of Marysville do not apply to the portion of the highway in question, the police court of Marysville has no jurisdiction.  However, since the police judge of a town is appointed from among the regularly elected justices of the peace of the county, he may, in this capacity, have jurisdiction over certain offenses committed in his precinct.

            Upon removal of the highway from the state system, no responsibility for maintenance can be placed upon the town of Marysville since it is not within the town limits.  As to the liability of the county, RCW 36.75.090 1953 Supp. provides:

            "All public highways in this state which have been a part of the route of a state highway and have been or may hereafter be no longer necessary as such, if situated outside of the limits of incorporated cities or towns, shall, upon certification thereof by the state highway commission to the board of the county in which any portion of such highway is located, be and become a county road of such county, and if situated within the corporate limits of any city or town shall upon certification thereof by the state highway commission to the mayor of the city or town in which any portion of such highway is located be and become a street of such city or town, and upon such certification the state highway commission may certify to the governor the abandonment of such highways, giving a description thereof and the governor may execute and the secretary of state shall attest and deliver to the county or city as the case may be a deed of conveyance on behalf of the state to such abandoned highways or portions thereof."

            The abandoned state highway would be subject to the statutory obligations of the county commissioners with respect to county roads and highways, including the duty to maintain it, under the statute quoted above.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Assistant Attorney General