City Services

Traffic Infraction Procedures

Being cited with a traffic offense can be a traumatic and upsetting experience. Hopefully, the information below will be helpful in guiding you through the process and take some of the mystery out of the procedures. I have tried to anticipate and answer your more frequently asked questions. Neither the staff nor myself are able to give you legal advice, so please consult an attorney for information of that nature.   - Judge Gehlsen

Infraction Procedures FAQs

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What is an infraction?

Previously many traffic charges were crimes in the state of Washington. The State Legislature has decriminalized many traffic, parks, wildlife, and fisheries offenses.  These offenses are now called infractions and are civil cases.  An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in the suspension of your driver’s license, an additional $52 failure to appear penalty and your case
referred to a collection agency. 

What must I do if I receive an infraction?

Start by reading the entire back side of your notice of infraction (your ticket).  You should note that you must respond within fifteen (15) days of the date that the ticket was issued.  You can respond by either mailing the green ticket to the Court or bringing it in person to the clerk’s office at the court. Select one of the boxes on the back of the ticket and verify your address. If you select one (1) you are electing to pay the amount of the penalty shown on the front of the ticket.  The Court accepts personal checks payable to ‘Bothell Municipal Court’ and Visa or MasterCard.

What is a mitigation hearing?

A mitigation hearing is where you admit that you committed the violation, but wish to explain the circumstances of the infraction.  To request a mitigation hearing you should check box two (2).  You will appear before a magistrate or Judge for a hearing or you may request a hearing by mail.  Your hearing will be scheduled for a specific date. If you request a hearing by mail your letter of explanation must be received before your hearing date.  The Judge, depending on your explanation and your record, may adjust the penalty.  If you have not had a deferred finding within the last 7 years, you may qualify for a deferred finding, whereby your infraction would be dismissed on the condition you pay court costs.  If you do not qualify for a deferred finding, the Judge will not dismiss your ticket.  The Court is required to forward all committed traffic tickets to the Department of Licensing; this will appear on your driving record.  The State Legislature does not allow the Court to reduce the penalty for “speeding in a school zone” or “speeding in a construction zone.” Mitigation hearings are not an option for those two charges. You must either pay the penalty or contest the ticket.

Who qualifies for a deferred finding?

A deferred finding may be an option if the following conditions are met:

  • You have not had a deferred finding in the last seven years.
  • Your infraction was not the result of an accident.
  • You are not charged with ‘Negligent 2’.
  • You are not charged with Using a Wireless Communication Device (RCW 46.61.667).
  • You do not have a commercial driver’s endorsement or were driving a commercial vehicle at the time of the infraction.
What is a contested hearing?

If you believe you did not commit the violation then you should select box three (3) and have a contested hearing.  Unless you request the citing officer to be subpoenaed, the procedure at the hearing will be as follows: the Judge considers the sworn statement filed by the citing officer,   then you may testify, present evidence or witnesses.  If you want to have the citing officer or any technician present, please advise the Clerk at the time you request a contested hearing or as soon thereafter as possible so the hearing can be appropriately scheduled.  If the Judge finds the infraction was committed, the full amount of the penalty will be imposed.  If it is found not committed, the infraction will be dismissed.  In the event you have subpoenaed witnesses, you may also be required to pay court costs.  A contested hearing is a civil case and the Judge will decide the case by a preponderance of the evidence, that is, is it more likely than not that the infraction was committed. You may not request to have your finding deferred or mitigated after a contested hearing has been held and the Court has found the infraction was committed.

What should I wear and how should I act in court?

Suitable attire is required.  Shoes and shirts are necessary, and hats are to be removed upon entering the courtroom unless for medical or religious reasons.  No smoking, food or drink will be allowed.  Weapons are prohibited.  Court proceedings are important and all litigants appreciate the Judge giving full attention to their case without interruptions from other people in the courtroom. The Court does not provide childcare.  Upon your arrival and after clearing security, take a seat in the courtroom.  When your name is called, come forward as instructed by the clerk or judge.

May I have a lawyer at my contested hearing?

You may, at your own expense, have a lawyer appear and represent you at your contested hearing.  If you are represented by counsel, the lawyer is required to file a notice of appearance with the Court and the prosecuting attorney prior to the hearing date.  If you appear without giving prior notice of representation, your case may be rescheduled.

What happens if I can't appear on the court date?

The Court gives ample notice for you to make arrangements to appear for your hearing.  If you are unable to appear for the date of the hearing the Court allows only one continuance.  To obtain a continuance, you must file a Motion to Continue Traffic Infraction Hearing at least 5 days before the scheduled hearing. If the hearing is a contested hearing you must also file the motion with the city prosecutor.  Failure to follow this procedure will result in the waiver of your right to a hearing, a committed finding entered and a failure to appear penalty assessed.

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 or you default on a deferred finding, Washington state law requires that the infraction be reported to the Department of Licensing. The infraction will then appear on your driving record. The Court does not have the authority to keep the infraction off your record.  If you qualify for a deferred finding and comply with all conditions, or win at your 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 respond to my ticket (fail to pay or appear for a hearing)?

A failure to respond to a ticket within 15 days of issuance results in an order that the infraction was committed.  If you asked for a hearing and do not appear, a penalty will be assessed and a committed finding will be entered.  When an infraction is not paid in a timely manner or a hearing is missed, the Court notifies the department of licensing and a $52 late penalty is added to the amount shown on the ticket. Your account may also be referred to a collection agency. Your failure to respond to a ticket may result in the suspension of your driving privilege and is a misdemeanor that may be punishable by a fine or imprisonment in jail if you drive while suspended.

What about a 'No Liability Insurance' ticket?

If you receive a ticket for no insurance and you had insurance at the time you received the ticket, you may file proof of insurance with the Court Clerk within the 15 days, pay the $25 administrative fee, and the charge will then be dismissed and will not go on your driving record.  If you obtain insurance within 15 days after the issuance of the ticket, you may file proof with the Clerk, pay a $125 penalty for a first offense, $225.00 for a second offense, $325.00 for a third offense, $425 for a fourth offense, and $525.00 for a fifth offense and you will then avoid the necessity of a hearing.  The $550.00 penalty is mandatory (may not be reduced) except for those who had insurance on the date of the violation or who obtain insurance and file proof with the court.  There is no point in requesting a mitigation hearing unless you have insurance.

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 King County or Snohomish County.  The notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judgment from the Bothell Municipal Court. The Clerk will provide you with forms and information about this process.  There are various appeal costs which are payable at this Court upon filing the notice of appeal, including a $240 Superior Court filing fee and a $40 processing fee. If you appeal, the Superior Court will review the record that was made at the Bothell Municipal Court, but there will not be a new trial.  Remember, our clerical staff is not allowed to give legal advice. If you have questions about your appeal, you should consult legal counsel.

What if I can't pay my penalty all at once?

The Court expects you to pay your fine on the day of your hearing.  Visa, MasterCard, cash or personal checks are accepted.  If you can’t pay your entire penalty at the time of your hearing, the Clerk will allow 30 days to pay in full.  If you are unable to pay in full within 30 days you will be given an application for a payment agreement with Signal Credit Management. Read the time-pay agreement carefully, as failure to follow this agreement can result in late fees, a possible suspension of your license, and assignment of the account to a collection agency.