Law School Case Brief
State v. Lopez - 93 Wash. App. 619, 970 P.2d 765 (1999)
A breach of a duty imposed by statute, ordinance, or administrative rule shall not be considered negligence per se, but may be considered by the trier of fact as evidence of negligence; however, any breach of duty as provided by statute, ordinance, or administrative rule relating to electrical fire safety, the use of smoke alarms, or driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug, shall be considered negligence per se.
The State charged 14-year-old defendant with vehicular homicide, in violation of Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.520, due to an incident in which defendant drove a car, rolled it, and killed one of her passengers. The trial court dismissed the charge, finding that the State failed to show that defendant's lack of a driver's license proximately caused the accident and failed to prove that defendant acted with reckless disregard for the safety of others. On appeal, the court affirmed the dismissal, holding that defendant's status as an unlicensed driver was not enough by itself to establish beyond reasonable doubt a disregard for the safety of others. The court found that the State presented no evidence that defendant actually was an inexperienced driver or that she participated in speeding, horseplay, or driving under the influence of intoxicants. The court determined that defendant's violation of the licensing statutes was not conclusive on the issue of negligence, although it was admissible. The court concluded that proximate cause was no longer an explicit element of § 46.61.520.
Was defendant's violation of licensing statutes, without other evidence, sufficient to establish a disregard for the safety of others?
The court affirmed the dismissal of the charge because defendant's violation of licensing statutes, without other evidence, was insufficient to establish a disregard for the safety of others.
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