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State v. Roggenkamp - 153 Wash. 2d 614, 106 P.3d 196 (2005)

Rule:

The "rash or heedless manner, indifferent to the consequences" definition is the proper definition of the term "reckless manner" as it appears in Wash. Rev. Code §§ 46.61.520(1)(b), 46.61.522(1)(a).

Facts:

Two cases involving vehicular homicide and vehicular assault were consolidated for appeal. In State v. Roggenkamp, defendant Michael Roggenkamp was charged with one count of vehicular homicide and two counts of vehicular assault, when the vehicle driven by Roggenkamp collided with the vehicle driven by JoAnn Carpenter. When the collision occurred, Roggenkamp was traveling in the wrong lane of traffic at more than twice the speed limit in an attempt to pass another vehicle. Carpenter and a passenger in her car, Andrew Strand, were both severely injured. Another passenger, Carpenter's son, Michael, died from injuries he received in the accident. The charges against Roggenkamp were premised on the "in a reckless manner" alternative of the vehicular homicide and vehicular assault statutes. In finding Roggenkamp guilty, the Washington trial court determined that driving or operating a vehicle "in a reckless manner" meant to "operate a motor vehicle in a rash and heedless manner, indifferent to the consequences." Similarly, in State v. Clark, defendant Jason ray Clark was charged with three counts of vehicular assault. The charges arose out of a June 2001 car crash in Vancouver, Washington in which Clark's speeding vehicle struck a vehicle driven by Deborah Pratt. Pratt and two of Clark's passengers were seriously injured in the incident. Like the charges against Roggenkamp, the charges against Clark were premised on the "in a reckless manner" alternative of the vehicular assault statute. In jury instruction 10, the trial court indicated that "to operate a vehicle in a reckless manner" meant driving in a "rash or heedless manner, indifferent to the consequences." Both defendants were convicted; consequently, both appealed their convictions, arguing that the respective trial courts erred in their interpretation of the term "in a reckless manner."

Issue:

Was the term "in a reckless manner," which appeared in the vehicular homicide and vehicular assault statutes, Wash. Rev. Code §§ 46.61.520(1)(b), 46.61.522(1)(a), defined by the "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property" language of the reckless driving statute, Wash. Rev. Code § 46.61.500(1)?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

For more than four decades, the Supreme Court of Washington defined the term "reckless manner," as used in the vehicular assault and vehicular homicides statutes, as meaning to operate a vehicle in a "rash or heedless manner, indifferent to the consequences." According to the court, the express language of the aforementioned statutes, as well as legislative history and then-recent case law, did not provide any basis for departing from the traditional definition. Therefore, the court reaffirmed that the "rash or heedless manner, indifferent to the consequences" definition was the proper definition of the term "reckless manner" as it appeared in RCW 46.61.520(1)(b) and RCW 46.61.522(1)(a). Defendants convictions were affirmed.

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