Seeing red and blue lights flashing in the rear view mirror is enough to ruin anyone's day. To make matters worse, however, if this happens in a "School Zone" in Washington State then several things happen: First, your fine is doubled from the amount listed in RCW 46.63.110. Second, the fine can not be waived, reduced or suspended – so do not waste your time asking for a Mitigation Hearing or a Deferred Finding.
This article will focus on the definition of a "school zone" and we will leave the question of how your speed was determined for another time. A School Zone is defined by RCW 46.61.440. You are required to slow down to 20 mph (unless directed to drive slower) when "passing any marked school or playground crosswalk when such marked crosswalk is fully posted with standard school speed limit signs or standard playground speed limit signs." The law also allows the speed zone to extend three hundred feet in either direction from the marked crosswalk. The speed zone is limited by RCW 46.61.440 (2) to "only include area consistent with active school or playground use."
Although the law requires the area to be "fully posted" with "standard school speed limit signs," RCW 46.61.440 does not tell you what those signs look like. For that you have to turn to Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-151-035. Since I can not post pictures here, you will have to look at the WAC itself to see the drawings.
Issues to watch:
Do the signs meet the design criteria of WAC 392-151-035?
Does the discovery show the Defendant was within 300 feet?
Is the area consistent with active school or playground use?
When Children are Present
WAC 468-95-350 governs School Zone Signs indicating, "When Children are Present." Under the WAC, these signs are in force under any of the following conditions:
(1) School children are occupying or walking within the marked crosswalk.
(2) School children are waiting at the curb or on the shoulder of the roadway and are about to cross the roadway by way of the marked crosswalk.
(3) School children are present or walking along the roadway, either on the adjacent sidewalk or, in the absence of sidewalks, on the shoulder within the posted school speed limit zone extending 300 feet, or other distance established by regulation, in either direction from the marked crosswalk.
Issue to watch:
Does the discovery merely say "children were present" or does it actually comply with WAC 468-95-350?
Since the law eliminates alternatives like Mitigation or Deferrals, it makes sense to fight School Zone tickets as zealously as possible. Emotional pleas may not work on a Judge but showing that the State's evidence does not establish critical facts, like whether or not this area met the definition of a school zone, will work. Remember, if you do not fight your ticket then you can not win.