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A mitigation hearing is where you admit you committed the violation, but wish to explain the circumstances of the infraction and ask the Judge to consider reducing the penalty. 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.
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Read the entire front and back of your ticket. You should note that you must respond within 15 days from the date the ticket was issued. An infraction is not a criminal offense, 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 or bringing it in person to the court office. Select one of the boxes on the ticket (payment or request for a mitigation or contested hearing) and verify your address. If you have lost your copy of the ticket, you may use the infraction response form.
If you would like to contest your ticket, you must mail in your ticket within 15 days and select a contested hearing. Unless you request the officer to be subpoenaed, the officer will not be present. The Judge will 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 court clerk at the time you present your ticket or as soon as possible so the hearing can be appropriately scheduled. (Requests must be made in writing and received in the court office no later than 30 days before your hearing.)
As a result of a contested hearing, the penalty will either stay the same or the ticket will be dismissed. In the event you subpoenaed witnesses, you may be required to pay costs incurred by that party. A contested infraction hearing is a civil case and the Judge will decide the case based on the preponderance of the evidence.
You may, at your own expense, have a lawyer appear and represent you at your hearing. If you are represented by counsel, the lawyer is required to file a Notice of Appearance with the court and the Prosecutor prior to the hearing date.
You may mitigate your ticket by mail by filing out and sending in the mitigation form prior to your hearing or with your initial response to the ticket. However, you must appear in person if you would like to contest your ticket.
You must respond to the court about whether you would like to mitigate, contest or pay your ticket within 15 days of the date that the ticket was issued. An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in your fines going to collections and the suspension of your driver's license.
Mitigation by Mail Form (PDF)
If you have received a traffic infraction, you may be eligible for a Deferred Finding. You may qualify for a Deferred Finding under RCW 46.63.070 if you have not taken this option on a traffic ticket within the last seven years. Upon successful completion of the deferral conditions your ticket will be dismissed. You may defer only one moving infraction and one non-moving infraction every seven years.
The Judge cannot grant a Deferred Finding if you have a commercial driver's license or were operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time of the violation. The Judge also may not grant a Deferred Finding if the infraction is Negligent Driving in the Second Degree.
You must fill out and return the request for a Deferred Finding form (PDF), or request a court hearing, within 15 days from the date your ticket was issued if you want to request a Deferred Finding.
If you request a court hearing and then decide to pay the ticket, the court clerk will cancel your court hearing upon payment of the ticket or you signing a payment plan.
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 successfully complete a deferred finding agreement or the infraction is dismissed at a contested hearing, it is not reported to the Department of Licensing and will not appear on your driving record.
Failure to pay or respond to the ticket within 15 days results in an order that the infraction was committed. If you ask for a hearing and do not appear your payment is due immediately. When an infraction is not paid in a timely manner, a hearing is missed, or you did not respond within the 15 days to request a hearing or make payment arrangements, a $52 late penalty is added to the amount shown on the ticket. Your license may 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.
Note: Driving on a suspended driver's license is a criminal offense.
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 and pay a $25 administrative fee pursuant to RCW 46.30.020(2). The ticket and proof of insurance will then be reviewed by the judge and dismissed. It will not go on your driving record. However, you must respond within the 15 day response time.
If you did not have liability insurance at the time of the ticket, the court is still interested to know if you obtained liability insurance since that time. Provide proof of liability insurance at your mitigation hearing or with your mail mitigation request.
If you cannot pay all of your penalty at once, the court clerk will explain the process for a time payment agreement with Signal Credit Agency. If you don't pay and don't set up a time payment agreement, your account is turned over to a collection agency. Once this occurs, you will have to deal directly with the collection agency in regards to payment. Failure to pay fines can also result in the suspension of your driver's license. Driving on a suspended driver's license is a criminal offense.