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Understanding vehicular assault

An assault charge can stem for all kinds of incidents, not just violent fights. This criminal charge may also stem from a motor vehicle accident. According to Washington State law, vehicular assault charges can be filed against any driver in Washington State if the driver causes injury to another due to his or her operation of a vehicle. However, several factors are considered to determine if a driver should be charged with vehicular assault.

The reckless operation of a vehicle is a factor in determining whether vehicular assault charges should be filed. Another factor would be driving under the influence of alcohol, marijuana or any drug, illegal, over the counter or prescribed. A breathalyzer test can be used to identify a driver's blood alcohol content as long as two hours after a driver leaves a car. If the driver's BAC level exceeds the state's legal limit of 0.08, charges can be filed against the impaired driver in addition to vehicular assault. A driver's THC concentration may also determine if the driver is under the influence. Most tests must be performed within two hours of driving, but analyses of breath and blood samples obtained more than two hours after the alleged drunk driving can be used as evidence, depending on the levels identified.

Further tests performed on a defendant in a vehicular assault case can be used as evidence by the prosecution. If tests confirm that the driver was indeed intoxicated, more charges can be expected. Potential penalties may be greater as charges are added. In the event that the victim of the accident dies as a result, a vehicular assault charge may escalate to vehicular homicide.

However, a defendant accused of vehicular assault has the right to refuse any test that would be conducted by the law authorities. Although there are penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test or providing blood samples, defendants can refuse a test until they have secured legal representation.

Source: Washington State Legislature, "Vehicular Assault-Penalty", Accessed Nov. 24, 2014

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