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Previously, many traffic and criminal charges were crimes. The Legislature has decriminalized many traffic, parks, wildlife and fisheries offenses. These offenses are now called infractions and are civil cases.
Start by reading the entire back side of your notice of infraction (ticket). If you follow the instructions you can’t go wrong! You should note that you must respond within fifteen days of the date that the ticket was issued. An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in the suspension of your driver’s license and you may be charged with a misdemeanor.
You can respond by either mailing the green ticket to the Court or bring it in person to the Clerk’s office. Select one of the boxes on the back of the ticket and verify your address. If you select box one, you are electing to pay the amount of the penalty as shown on the front of the ticket. If you need to have the ticket cleared quickly, please pay by cash or money order. A personal check will not close your case and adjudicate the ticket until the check has cleared (approximately 14 days).
Suitable attire is required. Shoes and shirts are necessary. Halter tops, tank tops, and shorts are not permitted. Hats are to be removed upon entering the Courtroom.
No smoking, food, or drink will be allowed. Children may be present in the Courtroom, but if they disturb the proceedings you may be requested to remove them. The Court does not provide child care.
Upon your arrival, find your name on the calendar on the Courtroom door, then have a seat in the Courtroom until the session convenes. You do not need to check with the Clerk unless your name is not on the list. When your case is called, come forward and stand behind one of the counsel tables until instructed otherwise by the Judge.
A mitigation hearing is where you admit you committed the violation, but wish to explain the circumstances of the infraction. To request a mitigation hearing you should check box two. The Judge, depending on the explanation and your record, may adjust the penalty. However, the Judge will not dismiss your ticket. As the Court is required to forward all committed traffic tickets to the Department of Licensing, it will appear on your driving record.
You may present your circumstances to the Court by mail. Please use the Declaration for Mitigation form (PDF). The Court must receive your written statement before the date of your mitigation hearing. You will be notified by mail of the Court’s decision, the penalty amount, and the date that the penalty is due.
If you believe you did not commit the violation then you should select box three and have a contested hearing. Unless you request the officer to be subpoenaed, the procedure at the hearing will be for the Judge to read the sworn statement of the officer. Then you may testify or present any evidence or witnesses that you wish.
If you want to have the officer or any technician present, you must advise the Clerk at the time you present your ticket or as soon thereafter as possible so the hearing can be appropriately scheduled. As a result of a contested hearing, the penalty may stay the same, be reduced, or the ticket dismissed. In the event you have subpoenaed witnesses you may be required to pay court costs. A contested infraction hearing is a civil case and the Judge will decide the case based on the preponderance of the evidence.
You may present your circumstances to the Court by mail. Please use the Declaration for Contested form (PDF). The Court must receive your written statement before the date of your contested hearing. If the infraction is found committed, you have no right to appeal the court’s decision. You will be notified by mail of the Court’s decision, the penalty amount, and the date that the penalty is due.
A deferred finding allows for the dismissal of the infraction. Not all cases are eligible for a deferred finding and dismissal. If eligible, the infraction will be dismissed at the end of the time period imposed by the judge if you do not commit any traffic violations and you pay the costs imposed to monitor your case by the due date.
A person is only allowed one deferral in a seven-year period for moving violations and only one in a seven-year period for non-moving violations. A finding of committed will be entered with the Department of Licensing if you receive a new violation during the deferral period or you fail to pay the costs by the due date.
You may, at your own expense, have a lawyer appear and represent you at your hearing. If you are to be represented by counsel, the lawyer is required to file a notice of appearance with the Court, and the prosecutor, prior to the hearing date. A separate hearing is held when lawyers are involved and it is necessary to have sufficient notice for scheduling.
If you do not win at a contested hearing you have the right to appeal to the Superior Court of Pierce County. The notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judgment. There will be various appeal costs, payable in advance, including a $230 Superior Court filing fee, a $40 record processing fee, and the possibility of an appeal bond. If you appeal, the Superior Court will review the record that was made at the Municipal Court, but there will not be a new trial. The Clerk’s Office will provide you with the information about the appellate process and the forms necessary to fill the appeal.
When you pay the penalty, mitigate, or if the Judge finds you have committed a traffic infraction at a contested hearing, the state law requires that the infraction be reported to the Department of Licensing. The infraction will then appear on your driving record. Neither the Court Clerk, nor the Judge, has the authority to keep the infraction off your record. If you win at a contested hearing and the infraction is dismissed, it is not reported to the Department of Licensing and will not appear on your driving record.
A failure to pay or respond to the ticket within 15 days results in an order that the infraction was committed and you may be charged with a misdemeanor. If you asked for a hearing and do not appear, your payment is due immediately. When an infraction is not paid in a timely manner or a hearing is missed, a $52 late penalty is added to the amount shown on the ticket. Your license may then be suspended if the penalty is not paid following a notice to pay the increased penalty, and the account may be assigned to a collection agency.
If you receive a ticket for no insurance and you had insurance at the time of the ticket, you may file proof of insurance with the Court Clerk, pay $25 administrative costs, and the charge will then be dismissed and not go on your driving record. If you obtained insurance after you were given the ticket, you may file proof of the insurance with the Court Clerk and your penalty will be reduced to $250 or you may request a mitigation hearing (box 2) to explain the circumstances and show your policy to the Judge. However, you must do either within the 15 day response time.