District Court

INFRACTION PROCEDURES
(Traffic tickets and other infractions)

WHAT IS AN INFRACTION?
Many violations of law that were previously classified as crimes have been decriminalized by the Legislature. This includes many traffic, parks, fish and wildlife offenses as well as some others. These offenses are now called infractions and are civil cases.

WHAT MUST I DO IF I RECEIVE AN INFRACTION?

Start by reading the entire notice of infraction (ticket). If you follow the instructions you can't go wrong! You should note that you must respond in person or in writing within fifteen (15) days of the date the ticket was issued. An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in increased costs to you, and the suspension of your driver's license. You can respond by mailing your copy to the District Court, or by delivering it in person. Select one of the boxes on the back of the ticket and verify your address. If you select box one (1) you are electing to pay the amount of the penalty as shown on the front of the ticket. If you have lost your copy of the ticket or wish to retain it, you may request a hearing in writing on a separate sheet of paper making sure you list your entire name, date of birth and if available, your ticket number.

WHAT IS A MITIGATION HEARING?
A mitigation hearing is where you admit you committed the violation, but you wish to explain the circumstances. To request a mitigation hearing, you should check box two (2). The Judge, depending on the explanation and your record, may adjust the penalty. However, the Judge will not dismiss your ticket. With very limited exceptions, the Court is required to forward all committed traffic tickets to the Department of Licensing, and the violations will appear on your driving record.

WHAT IS A CONTESTED HEARING?
If you believe you did not commit the violation then you may check box three (3) for 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. You may then testify or present any evidence or witnesses that you wish. If you want to have the officer or other witness present, please advise the Clerk at the time you request a hearing or at least 30 days prior to your scheduled date. (Service of subpoenas is your responsibility. The court will not serve it for you.) As a result of a contested hearing, the penalty may stay the same, or the ticket may be dismissed. Only in very rare cases will the penalty be reduced if the infraction is found committed at a contested infraction hearing. 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.

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 Skagit County Prosecutor, prior to the hearing date.

WHAT IF YOU CANNOT OR DO NOT WISH TO COME TO COURT?
You may request that your hearing (contested or a mitigation) be conducted by mail. You must submit your request in writing and the request must be filed within 15 days of the date the ticket was issued. The court will mail you a hearing-by mail packet to be completed by you and returned within 30 days. The rules for a hearing by mail will be in the packet, and you must agree to abide by those rules. The court will review your written sworn affidavit as well as the citing officer's report and make a decision. You will be provided with a written judgment and, if a fine is imposed, given 30 days from the date of judgment to pay. A $10 time pay fee will be assessed. If more time is needed to pay you must clearly make that request in your written submission. (Note: If you responded to the notice of infraction within 15 days but did not ask for a trial by mail, you may complete and submit the trial by mail forms, so long as they are received by the court prior to the date of any scheduled hearing.) DO NOT USE THIS PROCEDURE IF YOU WILL BE APPEARING IN PERSON IN COURT.

CAN THE HEARING BE DONE ON LINE?
The "trial by mail" forms may also be submitted on line. You may follow the link above. Again, you must agree to abide by the rules for a trial by mail. DO NOT USE THIS PROCEDURE IF YOU WILL BE APPEARING IN PERSON IN COURT.

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, state law requires that the infraction be reported to the Department of Licensing (with a few, rare exceptions). 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.

WHAT IF I DO NOT PAY MY TICKET OR APPEAR FOR A HEARING?
A failure to pay or respond to the ticket within 15 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 $52 State imposed late penalty is added to the amount shown on the ticket. In traffic cases, your license may then be suspended. The account may also be assigned to a collection agency.

WHAT ABOUT A NO LIABILITY INSURANCE TICKET?
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 a $25 administrative cost, and the charge will then be dismissed and not go on your driving record. This must be done within the 15 day response time. If you obtained insurance after you were given the ticket, and you request a mitigation hearing (box 2), be prepared to provide proof of insurance (preferably the Washington Insurance Identification Card) at the hearing or attach such proof with the trial by mail forms.

IS THERE ANY OTHER WAY TO KEEP A TRAFFIC INFRACTION OFF OF MY DRIVING RECORD? (DEFERRED FINDING)
You may be eligible to have a traffic infraction dismissed, on certain conditions, without contesting the facts of the case. This process is called a "deferred finding." If you wish the court to grant a deferred finding you must specifically request it. A person may not receive more than one deferral within a seven-year period for traffic infractions for moving violations and more than one deferral within a seven-year period for traffic infractions for nonmoving violations. A person who is the holder of a commercial driver's license or who was operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of the violation may not receive a deferral. A person who commits negligent driving in the second degree with a vulnerable user victim may not receive a deferral for this infraction. The court may impose conditions, such as successful completion of a period of probation, successful completion of a traffic safety school, or other conditions at the discretion of the judge. In every case you will be required to pay court costs of $100, or $200 if the case requires monitoring for completion of conditions. By requesting a deferred finding, you will be agreeing that in the event there is not full compliance with all of the conditions of this order, a finding of committed shall be entered, and a penalty in the amount shown on the face of the ticket shall be imposed, payable within fifteen days of notice mailed to the address of record, and without further hearing. If the deferred finding involves a probationary period, you also agree that the filing of any notice of traffic infraction or criminal traffic citation with an offense date after entry of the deferred finding shall be considered a finding of committed, unless the case is dismissed with prejudice prior to the end of the deferral period.

IS THERE A RIGHT TO APPEAL?
If you do not win at a contested hearing you have the right to appeal to the Superior Court of Skagit 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 $220 Superior Court filing fee plus a $40 prep fee and a $100 appeal bond. 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 Clerk's office will provide you with information about the appellate process. If you do a trial by mail, there is no right to appeal the decision.

HOW DO I MAKE PAYMENT ARRANGEMENTS?
If you choose to pay the original penalty but are unable to pay it in full within the 15 day time period, you may send or deliver a written request for time pay to the court within the 15 day time period. Your request should include your current address and the length of time you need to pay the fine in full. In the case where you have scheduled a hearing, at the conclusion of your mitigation or contested hearing where a penalty is imposed, you may ask the Judge for time pay. If time pay is granted there will be an additional $10 fee added to the total amount due.

MAY I MAKE A PAYMENT ON LINE OR BY PHONE?
Credit Card payments may be made online through nCourt, There is a service fee for processing payment(s) online or over the phone. The total charge amount will be displayed prior to submitting the payment. To make a payment by phone, please call (877) 793-8935 Mon-Fri 7am-9pm and Sat-Sun 9am-6pm EST.

Once you have submitted your payment, you will receive an email letting you know if the court has accepted or rejected your payment.

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 may be present in the Courtroom. 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 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 at the podium until instructed otherwise by the Judge.