Can a sheriff assume a person is guilty in an auto collision without completing an investigation?

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Can a sheriff assume a person is guilty in an auto collision without completing an investigation?

The investigating officer kept telling my dad he
already knew he was at fault while attempting to take
his statement. My dad was compliant and not hostile
at all but the officer seemed to be hostile. After the
investigation the officer just left my entire family at
the scene with a vehicle that had all the airbags
deployed. He did not offer to call a tow truck or
attempt to make sure we were okay.

Asked on March 7, 2019 under Accident Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

The sheriff's opinion as to fault is just that: an opinion. It is not a judicial or court determination and has no legal or binding effect. At most it is evidence of fault--the opinion of someone who is (presumably) knowledgable about this--and so may have some weight in a trial or lawsuit, but again, has no actual legal effect. So since it is just his opinion, he can come to it without an investigation.


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