My question involves a traffic ticket from the state of: Washington
Hi, I have just a few questions and will try to explain them as concisely as possible.
1. Mens rea...
Does it apply to a DWLS? Or is DWLS a strict liability charge (like a sex offense)? If mens rea applies, then is it a good defense at trial for me to show that I (mistakenly) thought I had met the conditions of the suspension and whole heartedly believed I was driving legally? And thus there would be no mens rea. I had no idea I was committing a crime. I innocently drove, believeing my license was not suspended. I know ignorance of the law is not a defense, but this is different. I wasn't ignorant of the law, I know it is illegal to drive while suspended, but I did not realize I was still suspended. I thought everything was cleared up, specifically because instructions given to me by a court clerk telling me that everything was cleared up.
2. Spirit/Letter of Law
The law I am charged with is posted below....
- RCW 46.20.342
- Driving while license invalidated — Penalties — Extension of invalidation.....
I am charged under 46.20.342 because of conditions referenced and listed in 46.20.289. Law 46.20.289 is posted below, and please pay special note to the sentence in bold.
- RCW 46.20.289
- Suspension for failure to respond, appear, etc.
- The department shall suspend all driving privileges of a person when the department receives notice from a court under RCW 46.63.070(6), 46.63.110(6), or 46.64.025 that the person has failed to respond to a notice of traffic infraction, failed to appear at a requested hearing, violated a written promise to appear in court, or has failed to comply with the terms of a notice of traffic infraction or citation, other than for a standing, stopping, or parking violation, provided that the traffic infraction or traffic offense is committed on or after July 1, 2005. A suspension under this section takes effect pursuant to the provisions of RCW 46.20.245, and remains in effect until the department has received a certificate from the court showing that the case has been adjudicated, and until the person meets the requirements of RCW 46.20.311. In the case of failure to respond to a traffic infraction issued under RCW 46.55.105, the department shall suspend all driving privileges until the person provides evidence from the court that all penalties and restitution have been paid. A suspension under this section does not take effect if, prior to the effective date of the suspension, the department receives a certificate from the court showing that the case has been adjudicated.
[2005 c 288 § 5; 2002 c 279 § 4; 1999 c 274 § 1; 1995 c 219 § 2; 1993 c 501 § 1.]
My question based upon the laws listed has 2 parts.
Part 1 (letter of the law): In the sentence in bold above, the law says that the suspension remains in effect until the Dept of Licensing receives a certificate of adjudication from the court. I was pulled over and cited for DWLS on the same day I had my case adjudicated by the court. I received my ticked around 11PM at night on 1/13/2012. Earlier the same morning, at 8AM 1/13/2012, I paid the fine to achieve the adjudication and have my license suspension lifted. Since the transmission is digital, then the notice from the court to the DOL is virtually instant. So it is fair to say that the DOL did in fact receive the notice from the court before I got my ticket, they just had not processed it yet. The law as written does not say a single thing about the DOL processing the notice, only that they receive it. My argument is that they received the notice much sooner than their system reflects having processed it, but received is received, and the law says received - not received AND processed. Also note, I had a hard copy of the adjudication in my pocket when I was pulled over. I had proof of the date/time of the adjudication, and have found out from court clerks that they electronically update a system that is shared with DOL, meaning technologically speaking the DOL receives adjudications near instantly. But they take up to 24 hours to "process" them. The time stamp that should be most relevant is the time stamp from the court showing when I paid the fine, since, as previously stated, the DOL would have received the notice of adjudication almost instantly. The time stamp for when the DOL processes the notice is completely irrelevant, because the law says nothing about waiting for them to do that.
Part 2 (spirit of the law): Regardless of the lettering of the law, I think the spirit of the law is totally being disregarded by the procescutor persuing this case. The point of the suspension was to get me to pay a $500 fine I had neglected. I had paid the fine, and thought that was my all clear, 11-12+ hours before receiving a ticket for DWLS. A DWLS which was only in place to get me to pay a fine I had already paid. The spirit of the law was to get me to pay my fine, and I did. I missed a few technicalities aftwards, but who was hurt by that? How is justice served by persuing the technicalities when the intended goal was long ago reached (the $500 extortion I paid to have the suspension lifted).