Traffic tickets in Washington are handled like those of many other states. While there are certainly consequences to getting Washington traffic tickets, you can minimize the damage to your driving record and personal finances by recognizing your options and taking appropriate steps.

What to Do If You Get a Traffic Ticket in Washington

You should act quickly upon getting your traffic ticket in Washington State. You will have 15 days to take one of three specific actions. You must choose to make a payment, request a mitigation hearing, or you can request a contested hearing. Washington State also offers a ticket deferral option.

If you forget to take action, or ignore the ticket your situation is likely to get worse, and get worse fairly quickly. If you do not respond, the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) will mail to you a suspension notice, giving you 45 days to respond. Failure to respond to this notice will result in the DOL suspending your license. Ignoring your citation should not be considered an option.

Is a Court Appearance Required?

If you get traffic tickets in Washington, you may have to appear in court. Be sure to check your citation for specific instructions, which may vary according to the severity of the infraction. Minor violations will not require an in-person appearance in court. Failure to show up in court for a violation that requires a court appearance will likely lead to additional charges. If you cannot appear on the date on the citation, contact the appropriate court and request a different date. If done with enough notice, they will generally accommodate you.

For lesser offenses, the ticket may be resolved by paying a fine. This can be done in Washington State in a variety of ways including online, mail, telephone and in person.

Your Options

There are options in proceeding with your traffic tickets in Washington. Consider these following choices:

Option 1 - Pay Your Ticket

If you know you were in the wrong, simply paying your fine and moving on may be your best choice. Your fine will be listed on your citation. It will vary according to jurisdiction and severity of the violation. Keep in mind that paying a fine is considered as an admission guilt and could potentially lead to further problems down the road if you acquire frequent violations. Washington State does not use a point system but does have a program that punishes frequent violators. Getting six violations in a one year period will result in license suspension.

Option 2 – Request a Mitigation Hearing

By asking for a mitigation hearing you will need to make a court appearance but you may be eligible for a ticket deferral. A deferral means that the court will not have to report your traffic ticket to the Department of Licensing.

With a deferral, you will have to pay an administrative fee which is the same as the ticket penalty amount. You will also need to keep your driving record clean for the next year, and you will have to attend a traffic safety school within a six month period. If you do not meet all of the requirements the deferral will be rescinded. Be aware that deferral requests should be made several days before your appearance date.

A person is only eligible for deferral once every 7 years.

Option 3 – Request a Contested Hearing

In Washington State, requesting a contested hearing is the same as pleading not guilty. This will result in a court date being set for your case. You should notify the court of your intention to request a contested hearing prior to your court date, and hiring an attorney would be prudent.

Be aware that if you are found guilty of the charge you will have penalties and court costs to pay. It could also result in license suspension if the charges are serious enough. Even if you gain a not guilty verdict, you will still have court fees to pay.

Option 4 - Appeal Your Case

If your contested hearing results in a guilty verdict you and your attorney may wish to file an appeal. An appeal will add to your expenses but might be worthwhile if you feel mistakes were made in your particular case.

Option 5 - Taking on Online Driving Course

Remember, in Washington State, you may be eligible for a ticket deferral by taking an approved traffic school. Check with your specific court for details. Taking traffic school will not only increase your driving knowledge and skills, but it may also prevent your ticket from being reported to the Washington State Department of Licensing. Taking a Washington defensive driving course may also save you money on your auto insurance premiums. Contact your specific insurance company to see if taking a traffic course online may improve your rates.