Fight Traffic Ticket in Washington
Do you think you undeservedly received a traffic ticket in Washington State? Do you have the means to prove your innocence?
If so, keep reading to find out how you can contest your WA citation in court.
Plead Not Guilty to Your WA Ticket
To begin the process of contesting your Washington traffic ticket, you'll need to plead “not guilty" with the municipal OR district court handling your case.
The amount of time you have to submit your plea will depend on if your traffic ticket was served to you:
- In person: 15 days.
- By mail: 18 days.
The methods by which you can enter your plea differ from court to court. You could have the option to plead:
- In person.
- By mail.
- Through e-mail.
The specifics on how AND where to plead will be printed on your traffic ticket. If you lost your citation, take a look at our guide regarding lost traffic tickets in Washington.
Once you've successfully pleaded “not guilty," the court will schedule your pre-hearing conference. Mark your calendar—if you miss ANY court dates, you could face consequences like:
- Automatic guilty verdict for the traffic charges.
- Driver's license suspension.
What Does a Not Guilty Plea Mean?
When you plead “not guilty," you're exercising your legal right to stand before a Washington state judge and make a case for your innocence. You're also affirming that you:
- Understand that points could be added to your WA driving record.
- Can devote the necessary time to appearing in court, possibly on multiple occasions.
- Are aware you could face jail time if convicted of a serious crime like DUI or DWI.
Still not sure if you want to plead not guilty? Check out our page on When to Fight a Traffic Ticket for more guidance.
Fight Your WA Citation in Court
The steps to contesting your Washington traffic ticket in court will typically include:
- Pre-hearing conference.
- You can submit a written request to waive the pre-hearing conference, any time before the date you're scheduled to appear.
Depending on the charges you're facing, it may be a good idea to hire a traffic ticket attorney. Remember, if you represent yourself you'll be expected to follow all procedures of WA traffic court to a tee.
Some Washington courts will appoint you counsel if you meet the following criteria:
- Your traffic violations could result in prison or jail time.
- You can prove indigence to the court and a lack of money to hire an attorney of your own.
If you aren't sure whether you should hire a lawyer or not, review our guide, When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer, for more information on which traffic violations might call for legal representation.
At the pre-hearing conference, you (or your attorney) and the Washington state prosecutor will try to negotiate a settlement. A pre-hearing settlement will usually require:
- You change your plea to “guilty".
- Reduced penalties for your traffic violations.
If a settlement is agreed upon, you won't have to go to trial. On the other hand, if you can't reach a settlement, the court will assign you a date to return for trial.
Even though you can avoid having to go to trial, pleading guilty to your traffic charges could raise your insurance rates!
Before consenting to a pre-hearing settlement, make sure you're fully aware of how traffic violations can affect auto insurance rates.
Traffic Ticket Trial
Depending on the court, you'll go to trial before either a judge OR a jury. Regardless, Washington traffic court procedure will typically include the following:
- You (or your lawyer) and the Washington state prosecutor give opening statements.
- Presentation of:
- Cross-examination of witnesses and rebuttals.
- Both sides make closing arguments.
- Judge or jury give a verdict.
- If you're found guilty, the judge will then administer your sentence.
If you want to try and appeal a conviction, you'll need to file a written notice of appeal with the WA court handling your traffic case no more than 30 days after receiving the verdict. For specifics on what to include on your appeal, take a look at the Washington State Courts' guide to writing a notice of appeal.
Consequences of Fighting Your WA Ticket
The outcome of your traffic case will determine whether your future faces potentially long-lasting positive OR negative consequences.
If you're convicted of the traffic violations, the punishment you'll face could include any of the following:
- Loss of driving privileges.
- Usually, you'll need to pay all fines on the day you're found guilty, though the court may allow you to pay in installments if you can prove indigence.
- Points added to your WA driving record.
- Required enrollment in a defensive driving course.
- Community service.
- Jail time.
NOTE: If you hold a Washington commercial driver's license (CDL) you're required by federal law to inform your employer of any non-parking traffic violations within 30 days of conviction.
DID YOU KNOW: Completing a Washington defensive driving course can get you discounted car insurance rates!
If you're facing an increase in auto insurance rates as a result of a guilty verdict, enroll in a WA defensive driving course today!
Not Guilty Verdict
If you win your case, you'll be relieved to know:
- Your ticket and all charges are dismissed.
- No points are added to your record.
- You don't have to deal with fines or penalties.
- Your insurance rates won't increase.
Following the conclusion of your traffic case, it's important to check on the accuracy of your driving record. Any errors could lead to major and unnecessary penalties, fines, and stress down the road for you.