Traffic & Non-Traffic Infractions
An infraction is an act which is prohibited by law but which is not legally defined as a crime. In Washington State, many traffic violations are classified as infractions Traffic infractions are tickets received from State or local law enforcement agencies for offenses such as speeding, failure to have liability insurance, and seat belt violations. Non-traffic infractions are also issued by State or local law enforcement agencies for a variety of offenses such as illegal parking, entering or remaining in a State park after hours, littering, or failure to license a pet. If the individual cited for the infraction is found by the Court to have committed it or admits to having committed it, the Court may impose a penalty. However, infractions are not criminal violations. The Court cannot commit the defendant to jail. A defendant may choose to be represented by counsel; however, a defendant is not entitled to court-appointed counsel.
Responding to a Citation
There are 4 ways to respond to a citation. The instructions are printed clearly on the back of your green copy of the citation. You must respond by mail or in person within 30 days from the date the ticket was issued. Be sure your response is mailed on time. The Court accepts no responsibility for mail it does not receive. Failure to respond will result in an additional State mandated $52 penalty.
You may request a mitigation hearing, a contested hearing, pay the fine in full or request a time payment plan from the court.
If you choose to pay the fine, the amount payable is indicated on the face of the citation. If you wish to set up a time payment plan, please contact the court by phone at 360-385-9135, in person or via email at email@example.com and request a payment plan.
If you want a hearing, check the appropriate box on the back of the green copy of the citation or the lower right hand corner of a white citation and mail it to the Court. A hearing may also be requested by appearing at the District Court clerk's office to have a date assigned. If you have lost your copy, you may request a replacement by contacting the Court.
When the Court receives your request for a hearing you will be sent information about your court date and how to proceed. You may choose to appear in court for a hearing on the designated date or submit a written statement by mail or email using our Mitigation by Email form detailed below.
A mitigation hearing is one way to determine whether there were mitigating circumstances surrounding the commission of the infraction in order to decide whether a reduction in the penalty will be granted. When this type of hearing is requested, the infraction will appear on the defendant's driving record. By requesting a mitigation hearing you are automatically admitting guilt. You will be permitted to explain the circumstances surrounding commission of the infraction under oath for the purpose of asking for leniency in regard to the amount of the fine. It will not help to argue that an error was made by the officer as you will have already admitted the infraction. To save you the inconvenience of a court appearance, you may choose to submit a written explanation of the circumstances after requesting a mitigation hearing by mail or email, view the Mitigation by Email Form. The judge will read your statement and impose the appropriate fine. The violation will appear on your driving record. No appeal is allowed from a mitigation hearing.
In some cases, if you have a good driving record, you may be eligible for a deferral. By successfully completing a deferral, the Court will not report your ticket to the Department of Licensing (DOL). You may defer only one moving and one non-moving infraction each seven years. The length of deferral is one year. To complete your deferral, you must pay an administrative fee determined by the court, not commit a new traffic infraction for one year. If you commit a new traffic infraction at any location during your deferral or fail to pay the administrative fee, the Court will report your deferred ticket as a conviction to DOL. The Court does not allow deferral for these four infractions:
- Passing a School Bus
- Speeding in a School Zone
- Speeding in a Construction Zone
- Any Infraction Where a Fatality Occurred
Additionally, the infraction of Operating a Motor Vehicle Without Liability Insurance may be deferred only if you show proof that you are now insured at the time you request a deferral. If you are licensed to drive in a state other than Washington, you will be required to provide a certified copy of your driving record from the state where you are licensed.
A contested hearing is one to determine whether the defendant committed the infraction. By requesting a contested hearing you are stating that you did not commit the infraction and will be able to provide proof to support that statement during your hearing. Traffic infractions are not criminal matters, they fall under the civil jurisdiction of the Court. The State or City must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you committed the alleged infraction. A defendant may subpoena the officer to appear for a contested hearing, but must do so 15 days before the scheduled hearing. The Court issues the subpoena, but the defendant has the responsibility to serve the officer and file a return of service with the Court on or before the date of the hearing. Unless you requested that the officer be subpoenaed to appear at the hearing, the officer's declaration sworn under penalty of perjury will be submitted as evidence. You will be provided a copy of that declaration prior to the hearing. On the day of the hearing, there will be a number of other hearings scheduled. Your name will be called in alphabetical order. You will approach the bench and be sworn under oath to offer your testimony. Simply saying that you did not do it will not cause the infraction to be dismissed. You must have evidence to support your contentions. If you wish to present testimony of witnesses, they must be present in court. Generally, the Court will announce an oral judgment following the hearing. If you prevail, the violation will not appear on your driving record. In a contested hearing by mail, you and the officer submit sworn statements regarding the incident. The Court reads those statements and considers any other documentary evidence submitted and rules whether or not the infraction was committed.
If the judge rules against you, the violation will appear on your driving record and you will have to pay the fine as assessed by the Court. Payment is due immediately unless you set up a payment plan with the court. If your hearing is via mail, payment is due upon your receipt of the judge's finding. You have fourteen days from the date of the ruling to submit your payment or contact the court for a payment plan. Failure to respond will result in an additional State mandated $52 penalty and possible license suspension through DOL. Infractions that are not paid are referred to a collection agency with additional costs assessed by the collection company. Any payment must then be made to the collection agency.
A defendant may appeal the judgment entered after a contested hearing. In order to appeal, you must follow the proper procedure. You will be provided with information on the appeal process upon request. You must file a notice of appeal within 30 days of the date the judgment was signed.
If you need to request a continuance of your hearing, you must call the Court. You cannot continue your hearing over email. Clerks are authorized to continue hearings only for good cause. Please have your name, case number, and date of hearing ready.