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The Washington Supreme Court case, State v. Rich, 193 Wn.2d 1043, 186 Wn. App. 632, 347 P.3d 72 (2016), has significant implications for DUI and reckless endangerment laws. This case addresses the nuances of proving reckless endangerment when the defendant is also charged with driving under the influence (DUI).

Case Overview

In State v. Andrea Marie Rich, the defendant was convicted of DUI and reckless endangerment. The case stemmed from an incident on May 27, 2012, where Rich was observed speeding and driving erratically while heavily intoxicated. A young child was present in the front passenger seat, raising severe concerns about the child’s safety.

The primary legal issue in this case was whether evidence of DUI alone was sufficient to establish reckless endangerment. The Court of Appeals initially reversed the reckless endangerment conviction, arguing that the state failed to prove that Rich’s driving created an actual, substantial risk of death or serious physical injury. However, the Washington Supreme Court disagreed and reinstated the conviction.

Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court held that the combination of Rich’s high blood alcohol concentration, excessive speed, and the presence of a young child in the vehicle was sufficient to prove reckless endangerment. The court emphasized that reckless endangerment does not require proof of actual harm but rather the creation of a substantial risk of serious injury or death.

Implications for DUI and Reckless Endangerment Laws

This ruling clarifies that DUI offenses, when accompanied by additional risky behaviors such as speeding and endangering a child, can meet the threshold for reckless endangerment. The case sets a precedent for how courts interpret the relationship between DUI and reckless endangerment charges, emphasizing the importance of the totality of circumstances in such cases.


State v. Rich underscores the importance of considering the broader context of DUI incidents when assessing criminal liability. This landmark case illustrates the judicial approach to balancing evidence and underscores the seriousness of endangering others while driving under the influence.

You can read the text of the opinions here: State v. Rich, 193 Wn.2d 1043 State v. Rich, 186 Wn. App. 632

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