Page updated: December 18, 2015
WHAT IS AN INFRACTION?
Previously, many traffic and criminal charges were crimes. The Legislature has decriminalized many traffic, parks, wildlife, and fisheries offenses. The offenses are now called infractions and are civil cases.
WHAT MUST I DO IF I RECEIVE AN INFRACTION
Start by reading the entire backside/front of your notice of infraction (ticket). If you follow the instructions you can’t go wrong! You should note that you must respond within fifteen (15) days of the date that 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 green ticket to the Court or bringing it in person to the Clerk’s office. Select one of the boxes on the back /front of the ticket and verify your address. If you select box one (1) you are electing to pay the penalty as shown on the front of the ticket. If you need to have the ticket cleared quickly, please pay by cash or money order.
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 childcare. 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.
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 (2). 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.
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 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. Pursuant to the Infraction Rules for Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (IRLJ), you are entitled to a list of witnesses the plaintiff intends to call at the hearing and a copy of the citing officers sworn statement if it will be offered into evidence at the hearing. A copy of the officer statement/affidavit has been enclosed. You must make your request for any other Discovery to the Stevens County Prosecutor, 215 S. Oak Street, Room # 114, Colville, WA 99114 in writing at least 14 days prior to the hearing. In many cases, the plaintiff will offer the officer’s sworn statement into evidence to prove the plaintiff’s case. If you wish to have the officer and any other witness present for your case, you must serve a subpoena upon the officer and other witnesses at least seven (7) days prior to the hearing. The subpoena may be signed by a judge, court commissioner, clerk of the court, or prepared and signed by a party’s lawyer. If the subpoena is for a witness who resides outside Stevens County, a judge must sign it. A subpoena may be served by any competent witness over the age of eighteen (not a party to the action) or by the sheriff or peace officer of the jurisdiction in which the witness resides. However, it may be served by first class mail ten (10) days prior to the hearing. Proof of service must be filed with the court prior to the hearing. As a result of a contested hearing the penalty may stay the same, be reduced, or the ticket dismissed. In the event you have subpoenaed a witness 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 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 THE 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 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 missed, a $52 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.
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 Stevens 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 $200 Superior Court filing 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.
WHAT IF I CAN’T PAY MY PENALTY ALL AT ONCE?
If you can’t pay your entire 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. Read the contract carefully as failure to follow the contact can result in late fees, a possible suspension of your license, and assignment of the account to a collection agency. There is also a one-time payment fee of $10 - $25.
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