Infractions & Traffic Court
- What is an Infraction?
Previously, many traffic and other charges were crimes. The Legislature has decriminalized many traffic, parks, wildlife, and fisheries offenses. These offenses are now called infractions and are civil cases.
- Will a traffic infraction appear on my driving record?
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 prevail 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.
- What must I do if I receive an Infraction?
Read the entire notice of infraction (ticket). You should note that you must respond within thirty (30) days of the date the ticket was issued. An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in the suspension of your driver's license. You can respond by either mailing the ticket to the court, bringing it in person to the District Court Office, or fill out a response to infraction on the Public Infraction Response for Mitigation Form. Select one of the boxes on 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. You can also take advantage of our credit card payment system by calling 1-866-844-1123 or pay online.
- What if I do not pay my ticket or appear for a hearing?
A failure to pay or respond to the ticket within 30 days results in an order that the infraction was committed. 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 $53 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.
- What is deferred finding?
You may elect to defer 1 moving and 1 non-moving infraction each 7 years. To make this election, bring your ticket to the District Court I counter for the proper application forms.
- What should I wear and how should I act in court?
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 over age 6 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 outside the courtroom and then have a seat in the proper 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 take a seat at one of the counsel tables until instructed otherwise by the Judge.
- What is a mitigation hearing?
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 on the infraction. 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. See Mitigation of Infractions.
- What is a contested hearing?
If you believe you did not commit the violation then you should select box three on the infraction 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, please advise the Clerk at the time you present your ticket or as soon thereafter as possible so the hearing can be appropriately scheduled. A subpoena will need to be served on the witness Contested Infractions.
- May I have a lawyer at a contested hearing?
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 appropriate 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.
- Is there a right to appeal?
If you do not win a contested hearing you have the right to appeal to the Superior Court of Clallam 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 and a $40 Court Costs preparation fee. If you appeal, the Superior Court will review the record that was made at the District Court, but there will not be a new trial. The District Court Office will provide you with information about the appellate process.
- What if I can not pay my penalty all at once?
If you can not pay all of your penalty at the time of the hearing, the Judge or the Clerk will work out a time payment agreement. This is a contract with the Court for installment payments and must be strictly adhered to. Failure to follow the contract can result in late fees, a possible suspension of your license, and assignment of the account to a collection agency.
- How does assignment to a collection agency happen?
When your case is referred to a collection agency, you receive a letter from the agency. The letter will tell you the status of your case and give you the actual assignment to collections date. You have approximately 30 days to pay the court before assignment. Once your case is assigned to the collections agency, you must pay the principal owed on the case, collection fees and interest (if any) directly to the collections agency. If there is a lien on your driver's license, once the case is paid to the collections agency, you may contact the court to have the case adjudicated with the Department of Licensing and your driver's license cleared for reinstatement.
Please be advised that collection fees are in addition to the principal amount owed.
- What is a mitigation of infractions?
If you wish to mitigate an infraction, the court will set an "in-person hearing" before a judge by returning your copy of the infraction to the court with the mitigation request. You may, however, mitigate by email. If you decide to submit your case to the Court by declaration, your presence is not required, but your declaration, and that of your witnesses, must be received prior to 30 days from the date of the infraction. If your declaration has not been received within 30 days, the infraction will be deemed to have been committed and will be turned into the Department of Licensing with a $53.00 penalty. The penalty can directly affect your driving privileges and may result in collection proceedings. Use the form for your sworn statement and sworn statements from any witnesses you may have. After the Court has reviewed your statements it will render a decision. If the Court finds mitigating circumstances regarding the infraction, it will impose a reduced penalty. You will be notified by email at the address you provide.
- What are contested infractions?
If you wish to contest an infraction, the court will set an "in person hearing" before a judge. Please mail in, or bring, your copy of the infraction to the court with this request by checking the Contested Hearing box on the bottom right side of your copy of the infraction. A notice with the date and time of your hearing will be sent to the address you provide directly below the request for a Contested Hearing on the infraction. The request for a Contested Hearing should be received by the court within fifteen days, and must be received within thirty days, of the date the infraction was issued. If you fail to appear for the scheduled hearing the infraction will be deemed to have been committed and turned into the Department of Licensing with a $53 penalty. The penalty can directly affect your driving privileges and may result in collection proceedings.
If you decide to contest in person, you and your witnesses must personally appear in court at the date set. If, after the hearing, the Court finds you have committed the infraction, you will have a right to appeal both the finding of guilt and the amount of the penalty.