Traffic Infractions and Deferrals

 
     

Frequently Asked Questions

Infractions

Deferrals

Infractions

What is an infraction?

In 1981, the Legislature decriminalized many minor traffic offenses to promote public safety and to facilitate the implementation of a uniform and expeditious system for the disposition of such offenses.

Common traffic infractions are speeding, seat belt and liability insurance violations. Since 1989, other types of minor offenses have been decriminalized, including certain parks, wildlife, and fisheries offenses.

These offenses are called infractions and are considered civil cases.

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What must I do if I receive an infraction?

Your infraction citation/ticket will be one of two formats given you by the police officer at the time you are cited.

If you receive a paper citation (5 3/4" x 9") green double-sided form, start by reading the entire back side of that cite.

For electronic citations (8 1/2" x 11") single-sided black and white form, start by reading the information listed on the bottom right side of the cite.

In either instance, you must respond to the court within fifteen (15) days of the date the infraction was issued to you. An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in an increase of the amount you must pay and in the suspension of your driver's license. Your response must be made in one of three ways listed on the Notice of Infraction.

A more detailed explanation of each type of response follows:

1. Respond by payment in full.

If you select box one (1), you are choosing to pay the amount of the penalty as shown on the front of the infraction. Check the box, verify your address and sign the infraction on the back where indicated. You can either mail the infraction and your payment to the court or bring it in person to the court office. A payment in cash, by check or money order is acceptable. It is recommended that you do not send cash by mail.

2. Respond by requesting a hearing to explain the circumstances.

If you select box two (2), you are requesting a hearing to explain the circumstances. Check the box, verify your address and sign the infraction on the back where indicated. You can either mail the infraction to the court or bring it in person to the court office. Called a "mitigation" hearing, this is for cases where you are admitting the violation, but wish to explain the circumstances to the judge. Typical requests are for either a reduction in the amount of the penalty, a monthly payment plan, or to perform community service work instead of paying the amount due. For example, if you were issued an infraction for "speeding, 74 in a 60 zone" and you believe you were only going 68, you could request a hearing to explain that to the judge. The judge may (or may not) reduce the amount of the penalty and make a finding of a lower speed. However, the traffic infraction will be reported to the Department of Licensing, and it will appear on your driving record.

3. Respond by requesting a contested hearing.

If you believe you did not commit the infraction then you may select box three (3) and have a contested hearing. State law allows the judge at a contested hearing to consider the officer’s written report made under oath, unless you request the officer be present in court for your hearing. The judge will hear the officer’s testimony or read the officer’s sworn statement. Then you may testify and present other witnesses and evidence in your behalf. The judge will decide whether or not the infraction was committed based on the preponderance of the evidence. If the judge finds the infraction committed, a reduced penalty may still be imposed. If the judge finds the infraction not committed, the infraction will be dismissed.

Please note that any photo citations cannot be contested by mail and do require an in person court hearing.

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Must I appear in person if I want a Contested or a Mitigation Hearing?

Contested Hearings:

If you are requesting a “Contested Hearing,” then you must appear in person at the court for that hearing. District Court does not allow Contested Hearings to be conducted via fax, mail, email or other electronic means. There are no exceptions to this policy.

To request a “Contested Hearing,” within fifteen (15) days from the date that you received your citation, you must check the “Contested Hearing” block on the copy of your citation and mail that copy to the address shown below. Within two weeks you will receive a hearing notice with the date and time of your hearing.

Thurston County District Court
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502

Mitigation Hearings (Hearing to Explain Circumstances):

If you are requesting a “Mitigation Hearing” you have three options.

 - Your first option is to appear in person before the judge conducting your hearing. If you choose this option, then within fifteen (15) days from the date that you received your citation, you must check the “Mitigation Hearing” block on the copy of your citation and mail that copy to the address shown below. Within two weeks, you should receive a hearing notice with the date and time of your hearing.

Thurston County District Court
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502

 - Your second option is to request a “Mitigation Hearing” by mail. If you choose this option, then within fifteen (15) days from the date that you received your citation, you must check the “Mitigation Hearing” block on your copy of the citation, prepare a statement to the court explaining those circumstances for the offense(s) which with you were charged and mail both your copy of the citation along with the letter explaining your circumstances to the address shown below. A judge will review your statement and driving record and then make a ruling. You should receive a response form the court within 60 days.

Thurston County District Court
2000 Lakeridge Drive SW
Olympia, WA 98502

 - Your third option is to request an e-Mitigation hearing. If you choose this option, then within 15 days from the date that you received your citation, you must, via this web page, select the following button and provide the court with specified information which will be electronically forwarded to the court. A judge will review your information and driving record and make a ruling. Within 60 days, you should receive an email response from the court advising you of the judge’s ruling on your request along with other pertinent information.

If you choose to request an e-mitigation hearing, please click the button below. Thereafter, make sure that you complete all required information before clicking on the “submit” button.

 

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May I have a lawyer at a Contested Hearing?

You may have a lawyer appear and represent you at your hearing. The lawyer fees would be your responsibility. The court does not appoint lawyers at public expense in infraction cases.

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Will a traffic infraction appear on my driving record?

When you are found to have committed a traffic infraction, either by paying the penalty, having a hearing to explain the circumstances, or after a contested hearing, state law requires the court to report the conviction to the Department of Licensing (DOL). The traffic infraction will then appear on your driving record, which DOL maintains for three years for insurance purposes. If the infraction is dismissed by the court, it will not be reported to DOL and it will not appear on your driving record.

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What about a "No Liability Insurance" ticket?

If you were cited for violating RCW 46.30.020 (not having proof of mandatory liability insurance), please review this court's policy for dismissal or reduction of the fine:

If your auto insurance policy provided liability coverage effective on or before the date and time that you were cited, for the vehicle that you were driving, your charge may be dismissed upon payment of a $25 fee.

If your auto insurance policy provided or now provides liability coverage effective after the date and time that you were cited, for the vehicle that you were driving, you may quality for a reduction as follows:

  • 1st offense: reduction to $200.00
  • 2nd offense: reduction to $250.00
  • 3rd offense: reduction to $450.00
  • 4th or subsequent offense: no reduction

Adequate proof of insurance may be in the form of a letter from the insurance company, proof of insurance card, or copy of your policy, but it must include the following information:

  • The name of the individual listed on the infraction
  • The make and model of the vehicle listed on the infraction
  • The effective dates of the auto insurance policy
  • The name of the insurance company
  • A broad form policy which states that you have valid vehicle insurance

If you prefer, you may request a mitigation hearing to explain the circumstances and show your insurance proof to the judge. However, you must respond as described above within the 15 days required by your notice of infraction.

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What about traffic school?

District Court does not allow Traffic School as an alternative disposition to your traffic citation.
However, you may qualify to have your traffic infraction deferred. Please CLICK HERE for more information.

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What if I cannot afford to pay the penalty in full?

You are expected to pay any penalty of $110 or less in full following your hearing.

If you need to arrange to make time payments for greater amounts, or need to arrange for community service instead of payment, you will need to make these arrangements with the court clerk immediately following your hearing.

Check the box indicating whether you want a mitigation or contested hearing, verify your address, sign the infraction and mail or deliver it to the court, within the 15 day time period.
(And be sure to appear for your hearing.)

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What happens if I don't respond?  I don't appear in court?  I don't pay?

Failure to pay or respond to an infraction within 15 days will result in a finding that the infraction was committed and an order that the penalty listed on the infraction is due immediately.

If you asked for a court hearing and do not appear at the scheduled hearing, the court will find that the infraction was committed and order the penalty listed on the infraction due immediately. A $52 late penalty is added when no response is made, payment is not made in a timely manner, or a hearing is missed.

For traffic infractions, the Department of Licensing is notified of your failure to respond, pay or appear, resulting in suspension of your driver’s license. Delinquent payments may also be assigned to a collection agency with collection costs added.

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I forgot about my ticket.  What do I do now?

Paying the amount due in full, including late penalties and collection costs, will clear the matter with the court.

Hearing requests will not be granted if a case FTA (failure to appear, respond, comply or pay) has been issued.

If your account is assigned to the collection agency, you must contact that agency to arrange payments.

Click here for more information about this Court's Driver's Re-licensing Program.(missed-court-payments.htm)

Click here for more information about missed court dates and missed payments.(missed-court-payments.htm)

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Is there a legal right to appeal?

You may appeal if the court finds you committed the infraction after a contested hearing. A written notice of appeal must be filed with the court within thirty (30) days of the court’s decision against you. You will be responsible for the costs of an appeal, which include a $220 Superior Court filing fee, payable in advance. If you appeal, the Superior Court will review the record that was made at the District Court. The Superior Court will not provide a new trial. Instructions and forms to appeal a case are available from the District Court office.

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How do I know what court to go to for my traffic ticket? 

The court’s name, address and telephone number should be printed on your copy.

If you have lost your copy of the citation or infraction ("ticket"), use this general rule to locate the right court:

  • If you were ticketed by a city police officer (black/navy uniform), contact that city’s municipal court
     
  • If you were ticketed by a county deputy sheriff (green uniform) or a trooper for the Washington State Patrol (blue uniform), contact the county district court

Most courts now have computer access to an index of cases filed in most limited jurisdiction courts in the state. Even if you go to the wrong court office, court staff should be able, in most cases, to direct you to the correct court.

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Deferrals

Can I Keep My Traffic Ticket “Off My Record”?

If you have received a traffic infraction, 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 traffic infraction each seven years.
     
  • The length of deferral is one year.
     
  • To complete your deferral, you must (1) pay an administrative fee and (2) 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.
     
  • Four infractions listed below do not qualify for this Court’s deferral program.
     
  • 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.

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How Do I Ask the Court to Defer My Infraction?

To request a deferral, you may appear in person at the Main Clerk’s Window or send in a mail request using the downloadable form at the end of this page. The fee is $150.00 for one charge (with an additional $70 for each additional infraction).

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When Must I Appear to Request a Deferral?

Please request the deferral at least 5 working days before any scheduled hearing on your traffic infraction. By appearing before your scheduled hearing, the Court can cancel witnesses who may be subpoenaed for your hearing. The Court will not consider deferral requests on the day of a scheduled traffic infraction hearing if witnesses have been subpoenaed for and appear at your hearing.

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What Does It Cost to Defer My Infraction?

Instead of paying the face amount of your traffic infraction, within 90 days from the Court granting you entry into an infraction deferral program, you must pay a $150 Administrative Fee (please add an additional $70 for each additional charge on your traffic ticket). The Court uses this fee to check your eligibility for deferral and to monitor your compliance with deferral terms.

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What If I Fail to Pay the Administrative Fee for my Deferral within the Required 90 Day Period?

The Court will end your deferral and will report to the Department of Licensing (DOL) that you committed your traffic violation. In addition, a $52.00 penalty will be assessed against you, a case FTA ordered and notification sent to DOL to begin processing your driver's license for suspension. There are no exceptions to this policy.

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What If I Commit a New Traffic Infraction?

The Court will end your deferral and will report to DOL that you committed your traffic infraction. There are no exceptions to this policy.

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What Infractions Do Not Qualify for Deferral?

The Court does not allow deferral for these four infractions:

  • Passing a School Bus
  • Speeding in a Construction Zone
  • Any Infraction Where a Fatality Occurred
  • Any photo red light or photo radar citation
  • Approaching Emergency Zone / Fail to Yield - Stationary Emergency Vehicle

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Do I Qualify to Enter a Deferral?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you do not qualify to defer your infraction:

  • Have you entered a deferral program on any infraction in any jurisdiction within the last 7 years as of June 2000?
     
  • Do you possess a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) in any State?

(Due to recent legislation enacted to comply with Federal regulations, any driver that possesses a Commercial Driver’s License in any State and is cited for any infraction shall not be allowed to defer an infraction.)

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May I Download the Deferral Form and Fill it Out at Home?

Yes.

Click here to read the FAQ regarding deferring your traffic infraction.

Click here to view and download the Request to Defer Traffic Infraction form.

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