Understanding Traffic Hearings In Washington

At Heritage Law Office, we are often asked by clients about hearings and the process of contesting a traffic ticket.  When you receive a traffic ticket, you may challenge it at a contested hearing.  If you do not wish to contest the ticket, you may request a mitigation hearing to seek a lesser fine.

DUI charges and other traffic violations that rise to the level of a misdemeanor or higher-level crime are handled in the same manner as other criminal cases.  Please see below for further information about the hearing process for traffic tickets and traffic crimes.  To learn more, call our law office in Cle Elum, Washington:  509-899-5375 or 425-397-9400.

Mitigation Hearings

If you do not want to contest your traffic ticket, you may choose a mitigation hearing.  People elect this option if they wish to admit that they committed the infraction and want to explain the circumstances to a judge to seek a lesser fine.  The judge may choose to reduce your fine, but is not required to do so.  If you have many tickets, even those dismissed, the judge may not lower your fine.  You are admitting that you committed the driving infraction and you will still have the traffic violation on your driving record.

Contested Hearings

A contested hearing is similar to a trial, but on a smaller scale.  A judge will hear motions and arguments from the prosecutor and your attorney (or from you directly if you have not retained counsel).  Thereafter, the parties will present testimony or other evidence.  The court may dismiss the ticket at this point.

The prosecutor may call the officer who wrote the ticket to testify, but often the prosecutor will rely on the officer's report.  Your attorney may challenge the sufficiency of the report and offer evidence on your behalf, and you may testify if you choose to do so.  After hearing all of the evidence, the court will make a committed finding or not committed finding (like guilty or not guilty, but these terms are not used for minor traffic infractions).

The state has the burden of proof, but unlike a traditional criminal trial, in which the state must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the state must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (more than 50 percent likely) that you committed the traffic infraction.

Helpful Tips

If you have already chosen a mitigation hearing rather than a contested hearing, we may be able to help you request a contested hearing, but time is of the essence, so please contact us immediately to protect your rights.  Please also note that once a court finds that you have committed a traffic infraction or once you start arguing at a hearing that you did not commit the infraction, you may lose your opportunity to obtain a deferred prosecution (Washington allows a person to defer one nonmoving and one moving violation every seven years).  There are exceptions.

Don't wait until you receive a court date to hire an attorney, as this may prevent your attorney from subpoenaing witnesses or using other tools of the profession.  Visit our frequently asked questions page to learn more.

DUI And Other Traffic Crimes

Some traffic violations, such as DUI and reckless driving, are crimes and will likely result in a jail sentence, probation and other criminal penalties if you do not have legal representation.  While legal representation in any traffic matter is a decided advantage, obtaining highly qualified representation in these cases is essential.

The process in these cases is the same as in other criminal cases.  You will have a right to a trial, your attorney may make pretrial motions to seek a dismissal of your charges and your attorney may also negotiate a plea agreement on your behalf.  If your case goes to trial, the state must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

We defend clients charged with DUI, reckless driving, driving while license suspended (DWLS) and other traffic crimes.  Our skilled negotiator and trial lawyer can provide the vigorous representation you require.  We are committed to protecting your freedom, record and rights.

Contact A Lawyer To Protect Your Rights Today

We serve clients in Kittitas County and throughout Eastern, Central and Western Washington.  To speak with a traffic defense attorney in a free phone consultation, call 509-899-5375 or 425-397-9400.  You may also contact us by email.