Traffic and Other Infractions
Being accused of an infraction can be an upsetting experience. We hope this information will be of help in guiding you through the infraction process and take some of the mystery out of the procedures. We have tried to answer the most frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions, don't hesitate to ask a staff member.
What is an infraction?
Infractions are non-criminal violations of the law. An infraction case is a civil proceeding initiated by a Notice of Infraction (ticket).
What must I do if I receive an infraction?
Start by reading the entire back side of the notice of infraction (or "ticket") given to you by the law enforcement officer. Your copy of a notice of infraction is green in color. If you were issued an E-ticket (electronic ticket) your copy is white in color and your options are in the lower right hand corner. If you follow the instructions you can't go wrong! 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 in the amount you must pay and in the suspension of your driver's license or driving privileges. You can respond by either mailing the ticket to the Court or bringing it in person to the clerk's office. Your response must be made in one of three ways listed on the infraction. A more detailed explanation of each type of response follows:
- Respond by payment in full. If you are choosing to pay the amount of the penalty as shown on the front of the infraction, you should select box one. 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 counter. A payment in cash, by check, or money order is acceptable. It is recommended that you do not send cash by mail.
- Respond by requesting a hearing to explain the circumstances. If you are requesting a hearing to explain the circumstances, you should select box two. 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 counter. Called a mitigation hearing, this is for cases where you are admitting you committed the violation, but wish to explain the circumstances to the judge. The Court, depending on the explanation and your record, may adjust the penalty but the violation will be found committed. If it is a traffic related violation, the Court will notify the Department of Licensing of the committed finding and the violation will appear on your driving record. Mitigation hearings may be conducted by mail. In other words, you may send a letter to the Court explaining the circumstances you believe justify a reduction of the penalty.
- Respond by requesting a contested hearing. If you believe you did not commit the violation, then you should select the third box and appear 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. Then you may testify and present other witnesses and evidence in your behalf. If you want to have the officer or any witnesses 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 contested infraction hearing is a civil case and the Judge will decide the case based on the preponderance of the evidence.
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, 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 stand behind one of the counsel tables until instructed otherwise by the Judge.
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.
Will a traffic infraction appear on my driving record?
When you pay or mitigate the penalty for a traffic infraction or 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. The traffic infraction will then appear on your driving record. If you win at a contested hearing the infraction is dismissed, it is not reported to Department of Licensing and it will not appear on your driving record.
How can I avoid having a traffic infraction appear on my driving record?
Upon your request, the Court may defer findings to up to one year upon appropriate conditions, including your payment of an administrative fee. If all conditions are met and you have not committed any new traffic infractions, the Court will dismiss the infraction. You may receive only one deferral within a 7 year period for moving violations and one for non-moving violations. If you have a commercial driver's license or you were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the violation, you are not eligible for a deferred finding.
What about a ticket for not having liability insurance?
If you receive a ticket for no insurance and you had insurance at the time of the ticket, you may file proof of your insurance with the Court clerk, pay a $25 administrative cost fee, and the charge will then be dismissed and not appear on your driving record. If you obtained insurance after you were issued the ticket, you may request a mitigation hearing (box 2) to explain the circumstances and show your insurance policy to the judge. However, you must do either of the above within the 15 days required by your notice of infraction.
What if I cannot afford to pay the penalty in full?
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. 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.
What if I can't pay my penalty all at once?
If you can't pay your penalty in full at the time of the hearing, you may work out a payment plan. This is a contract for installment payments with which you must strictly comply. Read the contract carefully, as failure to follow the contract can result in late fees, a possible suspension of your driver's license, and assignment of the account to a collection agency.
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.
Partial payments are not acceptable at this point. The Court may reconsider its decision if good cause is shown for your failure to respond, appear, or pay. To schedule a good cause hearing you must file a written request for a good cause hearing and personally appear at the scheduled hearing date. If more than 90 days has passed since your failure to respond, appear, or pay, the court may not allow a good cause hearing.
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 Chelan County. A written notice of appeal must be filed with the court within thirty (30) days of the Court's decision against you. There will be various appeal costs payable in advance. 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. Instructions and forms to appeal a case are available from the District Court counter.
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 citation. If you have lost your copy of the citation or infraction ("ticket"), you need to call the District Court between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm.