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City of Seattle v. Wandler

January 22, 1991

THE CITY OF SEATTLE, RESPONDENT,
v.
CASPER SCOTT WANDLER, PETITIONER



Winsor, J.*fn* Webster, A.c.j., and Baker, J., concur.

Author: Winsor

Casper Scott Wandler petitioned for review of his conviction for hit and run of an attended vehicle. The court granted his petition on the following issues: (1) whether Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 11.56.420 unconstitutionally conflicts with state law; and (2) whether the charging document is constitutionally defective. We affirm.

On February 3, 1987, the City of Seattle (City) charged Wandler with violation of SMC 11.56.420, entitled "Hit and run (attended) -- Duty in case of accident with occupied vehicle."*fn1 The charging document, which was signed by the arresting officers at the scene of the accident and by an assistant city attorney, describes the offense as "11.56.420 Hit/Run; Attended." The word "refused" appears in the space provided for the defendant's signature.

A jury convicted Wandler on the hit-and-run charge. Wandler appealed to King County Superior Court, arguing that SMC 11.56.420 unconstitutionally conflicts with RCW 46.52.020, the state statute prohibiting hit and run of an attended vehicle. The Superior Court affirmed Wandler's conviction, holding, inter alia, that the slight differences in

language between the Seattle ordinance and the state statute are inconsequential and do not create an unconstitutional conflict. Wandler then sought review in this court, arguing that the trial court erred in finding no constitutional conflict and, for the first time, that the document under which he was charged was constitutionally defective.*fn2 This court granted Wandler's petition.

[1] The first issue before the court is whether SMC 11.56.420, which prohibits hit and run of an attended vehicle, unconstitutionally conflicts with RCW 46.52.020, the state statute prohibiting hit and run of an attended vehicle. Wandler relies on article 11, section 11 of our constitution which authorizes municipalities to make and enforce "all such local police, sanitary and other regulations as are not in conflict with general laws." (Italics ours.) In Bellingham v. Schampera, 57 Wash. 2d 106, 356 P.2d 292, 92 A.L.R.2d 192 (1960), the Washington Supreme Court explained the standard for determining whether an ordinance impermissibly conflicts with state law:

"'"In determining whether an ordinance is in 'conflict' with general laws, the test is whether the ordinance permits or licenses that which the statute forbids and prohibits, and vice versa." . . . Judged by such a test, an ordinance is in conflict if it forbids that which the statute permits' . . . .

"'The statute, as well as the ordinance, in the case at bar, is prohibitory, and the difference between them is only that the ordinance goes farther in its prohibition -- but not counter to the prohibition under the statute. The city does not attempt to authorize by this ordinance what the Legislature has forbidden; nor does it forbid what the Legislature has expressly licensed, authorized, or required. * * * Unless legislative provisions are contradictory in the sense that they cannot coexist, they are not to be deemed inconsistent because of mere lack of uniformity in detail. . . ."

(Citations omitted.) 57 Wash. 2d at 111. A local ordinance does not unconstitutionally conflict with a state statute merely because one prohibits a wider scope of activity than the other. Seattle v. Eze, 111 Wash. 2d 22, 33, 759 P.2d 366, 78 A.L.R.4th 1115 (1988); see also Lenci v. Seattle, 63 Wash. 2d 664, 670-71, 388 P.2d 926 (1964) (ordinance may be more restrictive than statute so long as statute does not forbid the more restrictive enactment).

[2, 3] Wandler argues that six differences between RCW 46.52.020 and SMC 11.56.420 render the Seattle ordinance unconstitutional under the standards set forth above.*fn3 None of these differences is significant enough to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the Seattle ordinance unconstitutionally conflicts with the state statute. See Seattle v. Shin, 50 Wash. App. 218, 220, 748 P.2d 643 (party challenging ordinance bears burden of establishing unconstitutionality beyond reasonable doubt), review denied, 110 Wash. 2d 1025 (1988). With respect to most of the differences in language noted by Wandler, the ordinance and the statute merely lack uniformity in detail or vary slightly in the scope of duties assigned to the driver. Such slight variances do not create a conflict in the ...


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