Driving in Washington state almost always means getting some kind of traffic ticket. That could be a simple equipment violation or a felony traffic violation. But, for many people, it just means getting a speeding ticket.
According to a study by Insurify, Washington state had the 10th largest number of speeding tickets per capita over a seven-year period. Almost 19% of all drivers reported getting at least one speeding ticket. That amounts to at least 206,000 speeding tickets each year on average.
That might not sound like much, but keep in mind that speeding tickets are only a piece of the pie. There are countless other traffic violations that can leave you with a ticket. In fact, Washington's 10,000-plus police officers write an average of 2,300 traffic tickets every single day. That's a whopping 839,500 traffic tickets every year!
That's enough for one out of ten people to get at least one. The phrase "at least," makes it even worse. If you get more than five traffic tickets for moving violations within a 12-month period, you'll be in for higher fines, license suspension, and more.
For criminal traffic tickets, things are even worse. Fines, fees, and jail time are only the tip of the iceberg. Since around 82% of all traffic tickets in Washington are considered criminal, it's important to do everything you can to keep them off your record.
WinIt can help you do just that.
If you own a car, odds are you've gotten your fair share of parking tickets. Especially if you live in Seattle. Washington parking tickets aren't just reserved for the big cities. Just about every jurisdiction in the state is authorized to issue and collect upon parking tickets. However, these are not the same as traffic infractions.
Parking tickets are what we call "non-moving violations." What this legalese means is pretty simple. Parking tickets are tickets you receive when your vehicle is not in motion. Since your vehicle is not moving, you get a ticket for a non-moving violation.
A common misconception is that parking tickets and non-traffic tickets are the same. You might think so because parking violations happen when you're not in traffic. However, that's not always the case. The state of Washington classifies parking tickets in their own category: Parking tickets. Non-traffic tickets are their own category entirely.
Here are a few examples of parking tickets in Washington. Keep in mind that these violations can change from town to town:
Here are a few examples of non-traffic tickets in Washington:
Parking tickets, traffic tickets, and other kinds of tickets are handled in municipal courts around the state. Seattle Municipal Court is one example. But the fact that they're handled in the same place doesn't mean that they're handled in the same way. Washington traffic tickets are in their own unique category.
Washington traffic tickets range in severity from traffic infractions to felonies. The majority of traffic tickets fall right into the middle category: misdemeanors. We'll explain these three categories in the next couple sections.
Traffic tickets almost always have some kind of monetary penalty. "Monetary penalty" is just the state's way of saying "fine." A traffic conviction can sometimes also come with fees, surcharges, and non-monetary penalties. Those potential penalties include license suspension/revocation, civil suits, and jail time.
Traffic infractions are at the bottom end of the severity spectrum. They tend to have the lowest monetary and non-monetary penalties. In other words, they're a lot more affordable than criminal traffic tickets. They're also a lot less common.
Traffic infractions make up only a small percentage of all Washington traffic tickets. The overwhelming majority of traffic tickets are criminal tickets. Misdemeanors and felonies are far more severe and carry far worse penalties. Still, infraction traffic tickets cost quite a bit.
You will usually pay a base fine of $124.00 for traffic tickets in Washington. However, that price can fluctuate quite a bit when courts add in local penalties.
Misdemeanor and felony traffic tickets in Washington state are criminal traffic tickets. These tickets are a bit similar but also a bit different.
Misdemeanors are in the middle between infractions and felonies. As such, they tend to have more penalties than infractions but less penalties than felonies. Even so, misdemeanor traffic tickets can still cost hundreds of even thousands of dollars. The worst kind of misdemeanor is the gross misdemeanor. They're severe crimes but still not felonies.
To put the wide range of misdemeanor violations into perspective, everything from speeding to reckless driving is a misdemeanor.
Felonies, on the other hand, are the worst of the worst. These violations usually don't result in an officer handing you a ticket. Instead, the officer hands you a pair of handcuffs. Then it's straight to jail. In addition to arrest, a felony could land you in prison for life and up to $50,000 in monetary penalties. You could also be sued for civil penalties after your conviction.
Washington state traffic tickets don't have just one cost. They have nearly a dozen. That's because there are many different ways that Washington courts can apply penalties. These penalties can also be monetary or non-monetary.
Monetary penalties include fines and surcharges. Sometimes, the court will tack on extra fees if your case meets certain requirements. The statewide fine standard is set by the Supreme Court. However, additional Assessment Fees are set by the State Legislature.
Many violations have specific state-wide standards for fines, but many others rely on local courts to decide the fines. Parking tickets are a great example of this. Surcharges also work in a similar way. Although, some surcharges are used to generate revenue for state-wide programs.
Non-monetary penalties include driving record notes, jail time, and penalties related to your driving privilege. These penalties are explicitly spelled out in the Washington state Chapter 46.61 RCW and the Washington state penal code. There is little, if any, wiggle room for local jurisdictions in regard to non-monetary penalties.
The cost of traffic tickets in Washington state varies quite a bit. For a simple traffic infraction, you might pay only $48. Then again, for a class A felony, you could pay up to $50,000 plus civil costs. Of course, that's all just technical information. In practical terms, you usually won't have to pay less than $48 or more than $300. Anything outside of that range is uncommon.
Most fines are held to a statewide standard. The overwhelming majority of traffic tickets for infractions will have a fine of $124. That's a lot in and of itself, even before all the other penalties. For misdemeanors, that price can go up quite a bit. For example, speeding at more than 40 miles per hour over the speed limit can get you a $423 fine.
However, keep in mind that there are two types of speeding tickets in Washington state. Those two types are basic speeding law and absolute speed limits. Basic speeding law allows police officers to write you a ticket for going at any speed not "reasonable and prudent." The absolute speed limits refer to the posted speed limit on that stretch of road.
The Washington State Legislature issues assessment fees for many different traffic violations. These assessment fees are a de-facto surcharge, which stack on top of the official fine amount. Let's use an example:
You drive 60 miles per hour in a 45-mph zone. An officer writes you a traffic ticket for speeding. The fine for going 15 over in that zone is $58.
On top of the $58 comes the assessment fee. It's official name is the Public Safety and Education Assessment fee. Washington state's RCW 3.62.090(1) states that an extra fee of 70% of the base fine will apply. Then comes another fee, which is 50% of that 70%. The math comes out to 105% of the base fine. So your $58 speeding ticket now costs $118.90.
Then come the traffic ticket fees . All of these fees apply to traffic violations, driver licenses or records, or court processes. You can pay these fees via cash, check, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover at most locations or online.
Let's go back to our previous example (See: Surcharges). Before fees, you're looking at a ticket of roughly $119. The next thing you'll have to pay is a batch of other fees totalling $37. That brings the price up to $156.
Here are a few of the fees that the Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) can apply:
|Obtaining a Learner's Permit||See:Instruction (learner's) permits. Also called Instruction permit.||$25 for 1 yr|
|Renew learner's permit||Visit:driver license office.||$25 for 1 yr|
|Replace your learner's permit||See:Replace your lost or stolen permit.||$20|
|Motorcycle learner's permit||See:How to get your endorsement or permit.||$15 for 180 days.|
|Renew motorcycle learner's permit||Renew your permit at a driver license office.||$15 for 180 days.|
|Commercial learner's permit (CLP)||See:Steps to getting your CDL. Also called Commercial Driver License Learner's permit.||$40|
|Obtaining your first driver license||See:Steps to getting your first license. Also called First Washington driver license.||$35 application fee + $54 issuance fee = $89 for six years.|
|Obtaining your enhanced driver license (EDL)||See:Steps to getting your EDL/EID. Also called Original Enhanced driver license (EDL).||$35 application fee + $78 issuance fee = $113 for six years.|
|Upgrade your Washington driver license to an EDL||See:Steps to getting your EDL/EID. Not available for military licenses.||$4 per year (maximum of 6 years).|
|Knowledge test||Look up driver license testing locations.||Varies by location.|
|Driving test||Look up testing locations.||Varies by location.|
|CDL knowledge test||See:Knowledge test (CDL).||$35|
|CDL skills test||See:Skills test (CDL).||$250|
|2-Wheel motorcycle knowledge tests (permit and endorsement tests)||Look up motorcycle safety training school locations.||Varies by location.|
|2-Wheel motorcycle riding skills tests (permit and endorsement tests)||Look up motorcycle safety training school locations.||Varies by location.|
|3-Wheel motorcycle knowledge test||Look up motorcycle safety training school locations.||Varies by location.|
|3-Wheel motorcycle riding skills test||Look up motorcycle safety training school locations.||Varies by location.|
|Obtaining your first ID Card||See:Get your WA ID card.||$54 for 6 years.|
|Obtaining your first enhanced ID card (EID)||See:Get your EDL/EID.||$78 for 6 years.|
|Upgrading your Washington state ID card to an EID||Lasts until your license expires.||$4 per year (maximum of 6 years).|
For the complete list of Washington state DOL fines, click here.
As Billy Mays famously said, "But wait! There's more!" The government-imposed monetary penalties of Washington traffic tickets are bad enough as is. But if you end up with a traffic ticket conviction, you might have even more financial burdens to bear.
In addition to the government-imposed penalties, you're most likely going to see your insurance premiums increase.
The average rate a person pays for insurance in Washington state is $1,205. That includes people who pay for full coverage and people who pay for minimum coverage. On the bright side, that's more affordable than 37 other states in the country. On the dark side, your rates can go up by as much as 82% for a single violation.
Let's go back to our previous example of the speeding ticket (See: Surcharges and Fees). Between the fines, fees, and surcharges, you're paying $156 upon conviction. But the costs don't stop there. Every traffic conviction remains on your record for five years and insurers can examine the three most recent years of that record.
If the court convicts you of that 15-over speeding ticket, your insurance may go up by 20.9%. Instead of paying just about $100 per month, you'd then have to pay around $121 per month. The total extra cost over three years would be around $756.
That brings the total financial burden of your ticket up to $912 ($156 paid up front and $756 paid over 36 months).
Monetary penalties are only half of the havoc that a Washington traffic ticket can cause. On top of hemorrhaging cash, you'll also be at risk of non-monetary penalties. It all comes down to your specific circumstances and the disposition of the court. Your driving record, location, and a load of other factors all come into play.
There are many ways in which a Washington traffic ticket can lead to the suspension of your driver license. If courts convict you of six moving violations within a 12-month period, that's one way. The same goes if courts convict you of seven violations within a 24-month period. In other words, you need to do what you can to prevent those tickets from appearing on your record.
A license revocation is a more severe version of a suspension. When your license is suspended, you can get it back after the suspension is lifted. Doing so costs you $75 in reissue fees, but at least you'll be able to drive again. If your license is revoked, you cannot get it back at all. Instead, you'll have to go through the process of getting a new one—with extra fees.
There are two kinds of suspensions and revocations, though they're very similar. The first is an administrative suspension or revocation. Administrative suspensions and revocations happen when you are arrested for a severe crime. They go away if you're found not guilty. The second is an official suspension or revocation. That's what happens when you are convicted of the crime.
A court might suspend or revoke your license for any misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor. Courts will almost definitely suspend or revoke your license for any felony. Eligible crimes include vehicular homicide, vehicular assault, hit and run, and eluding police.
Many Washington state traffic tickets can impose jail time. Once again, it depends on your personal circumstances, the facts of your case, and the court's disposition. For example, a speeding ticket might just be a speeding ticket. Or, it could serve as prima facie evidence for a reckless driving conviction.
Knowing what "prima facie" means is only part of your problem at that point. It's legalese for an assumed fact. In other words, your speeding ticket could be used to assume that you are guilty of reckless driving. Reckless driving can have serious consequences, including $5,000 in fines and a year in prison.
Don't forget, fines are only a fraction of the total cost of Washington state traffic tickets.
First off, Washington state traffic tickets do not add points to your Washington state driver license. In fact, Washington state doesn't have a driver license point system at all. Instead, the Department of Licensing looks at your driving record to determine effective penalties.
That said, these no-point violations can still increase your insurance premiums. Insurance providers often have their own point systems. Many times, these run parallel with the states in which the coverage is effective. Other times, the insurer's point system is entirely unique.
Either way, a Washington state traffic ticket conviction may still result in a significant increase in your automobile insurance premiums.
And don't think you're in the clear just because you don't live in Washington. Washington traffic tickets can still add points to an out-of-state license if the DOL reports the conviction to your home state. A few states will reduce the total number of points for an out-of-state traffic conviction. But, at the end of the day, points are points and you don't want points.
Many states allow for you to go to traffic school in lieu of a traffic ticket conviction. Washington is one of those states. If you find yourself fighting a losing battle against a Washington state traffic ticket, you may be able to have your case dismissed on the condition that you attend traffic school.
Many of these courses are online, easy to use, and more affordable than a speeding ticket. The only real setback is that it can be difficult to set the legal grounds to make this deal happen. Typically, a lawyer would be a great way to get this deal. Better yet, lawyers will usually try to have the ticket dismissed outright. More on that later.
Once you've completed traffic school, you should get a certificate of completion. Send a copy of that certificate of completion to the court where you got your ticket and the court should dismiss your case.
It is important that you remember not to plead guilty to a traffic ticket if you want to go to traffic school instead. If you plead guilty, the court will convict you without hesitation. In order to get this deal, you have to contest your ticket. That means pleading not guilty.
Washington state traffic tickets go through a process known as traffic court. Traffic courts are usually part of the state's municipal court system, meaning they're county or city courts. These courts handle dozens or even hundreds of cases every day. That leaves only a few minutes for you to lay out your case, argue against a lawyer, and hope the judge sees your side.
There are three important contacts to have when dealing with a Washington state traffic ticket: the court, the DOL, and your lawyer.
The court is where your ticket hearing will take place, which is why it's important. Knowing who to contact with questions about the process (e.g. where to go, when to arrive, etc.) is crucial to beating your ticket. Each court has its own contact information. You can find it by Google-searching for the court listed on your ticket or by going there in person.
You can call the Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3900 . If you need a TTY, call 711. The DOL has jurisdiction over the majority of traffic court processes in the state. There, you can get information on fees, fines, penalties, services, and many other things.
Last but not least, you should always have a way to contact your lawyer. Being able to ask your lawyer questions, and vice versa, makes the process much smoother. If you don't have a Washington state traffic lawyer, you can find one through the WinIt app.
The best way to find more information is to comment at the bottom of this webpage. You'll see a comment box just below a list of frequently asked questions about Washington state traffic tickets. Type in your question, submit the form, and our traffic ticket experts will answer your questions as soon as possible.
In the meantime, if you've got time to kill, you can use the following sources to hunt down your answers:
Washington state traffic courts run on a rapid-fire system. Like many other states, there are far more tickets than there are judges. That leaves each judge handling a high volume of traffic tickets each day. To make matters worse, many of those same judges are also responsible for handling parking tickets.
In a few jurisdictions, those judges are responsible for all traffic infractions, parking tickets, non-traffic tickets, and so on. If it's non-criminal, it goes to the court's traffic division. The main difference between misdemeanors and infractions is that infractions don't offer jail time.
The first part of the ticket process is getting the ticket. You need to know how to read it in order to know how to respond to it. Next, take note of your hearing date and go to court a few hours early. Once you're there, you'll probably have to wait awhile before your hearing. In the hearing, you'll only have a few minutes to present your case against skilled officers of the law.
If your ticket is for a misdemeanor or a felony violation, you can then request a formal jury hearing. If your ticket is for an infraction, you do not have the right to a jury. After the judge or jury have rendered their verdict, you either remit payment or get off scot free. That depends on whether you get convicted or dismissed.
Check out this sample ticket for Seattle Municipal Court. Keep in mind that other court jurisdictions may use slightly different ticket formats:
That looks like a lot of information—and it is—but only a few parts of it are crucial to understanding what the rest means. At the very top, you can see information about the court. The sample shows "SEATTLE MUNICIPAL COURT" alongside other information.
Next up is your information. The officer of the court—usually a police officer—will fill that out the best they can. That includes your vehicle's information as well. One thing to note is that it is a common misconception that a small error there will result in a dismissal. While certain specific errors might result in dismissal, others can simply be amended.
Along the right-hand side, you'll see information about the total penalty, the issuing officer, and the legal code. Aside from the penalty amount, that information is more important for your lawyer. Either way, it helps you do a little research on the law and the person who wrote you the ticket.
That's pretty much it. Unlike New York City TVB tickets, Washington state traffic tickets are relatively simple.
Washington state traffic tickets come with three traffic ticket plea options: guilty, no contest, and not guilty. Each of these plea options has its own costs and benefits. That being said, a guilty plea has the most costs and the fewest benefits.
Some people think that they can pay the ticket and then enter a plea to go see the judge in court. That is wrong. If you pay the ticket, the court considers that an admission of guilty. If you admit guilt, you are essentially pleading guilty.
To plead guilty is to admit to the charges as written and accept all of the consequences. That means opening your wallet up to the high fines, fees, and surcharges of Washington state traffic tickets. It also means potentially giving up your driving privileges and going to jail (for criminal tickets).
This might be the best option for somebody who was caught dead to rights with stacks of evidence. If there is virtually no way that you could ever beat the ticket, it might be best to simply plead guilty and get it over with. However, that's almost never the case. Although a ticket might look hopeless to you, a skilled Washington state traffic lawyer might still be able to get you out of it.
No contest pleas are officially called nolo contendere pleas. Pleading no contest to a Washington state traffic ticket is the same as pleading guilty thereto, but with one key difference.
If you plead guilty to a traffic violation that resulted in harm to person or property, your plea can be used as evidence of your guilt in the pursuant civil case. If you plead no contest, however, the civil case will have to start from scratch.
No contest is generally a better option than guilty, when available. The only issue is that it is not available everywhere. There may also be circumstances specific to your case that make a guilty plea more valuable.
Not guilty is what kicks off the dispute process for Washington state traffic tickets. This plea tells the court that you are not going to accept the charges and that you wish to defend yourself in court. Entering a plea of not guilty is one of the only ways to get your ticket dismissed.
Of course, a not guilty plea isn't simply a get out of jail free card. The plea just opens the door. The judge and (when applicable) the jury will ultimately decide whether you're guilty or not guilty.
Keep in mind that a not guilty is not the same as an innocent plea. You may have broken the law, but if you didn't break that law, then you should still plead not guilty.
Washington state traffic tickets are open for negotiation. If you happen to have been gifted with a silver tongue, you just might be able to talk your way down from a serious speeding ticket to a simple non-moving violation. For most people, however, the only way to get that kind of deal is to hire a lawyer.
Plea bargaining is the process of negotiating with the judge or prosecutor. In exchange for reduced penalties, you offer to plead guilty to a lesser crime. That saves the court time and saves you a bit of money. Granted, you still have to deal with the consequences of the lesser ticket.
Washington state also has another kind of plea bargaining: the mitigation hearing. This option is only available for traffic infractions, not for criminal violations. To get a mitigation hearing, plead guilty to the ticket and check the box for mitigation hearing. Then you'll have a chance to explain to the judge why you broke the law in hopes that they will reduce your penalties.
First things first, plead not guilty. The only way you can fight Washington state traffic tickets in their entirety is to plead not guilty and schedule a contested hearing. The processes for infractions and criminal violations are a good bit different. We'll explain both below.
Traffic infractions are minor ticket violations. The officer will usually hand them to you and then let you go on your way. Then you plead not guilty, schedule a contested hearing, and go before the judge. Sometimes, the officer who wrote you the ticket will also go to court to argue against you. After a few minutes, the judge will render their verdict.
Misdemeanor and felony violations might result in you being arrested on the spot and taken to jail for booking. When you finally go to court, you have the option of requesting a trial by jury. That process can take significantly longer than the process for traffic infractions. However, you have a Constitutional right to a speedy trial, so it can't take too long or else your charges will be dismissed.
It is incredibly rare for criminal violations to expire due to a long wait time.
One secure and efficient way to pay Washington state traffic tickets is through the WinIt app. Winit uses advanced technology to facilitate the transfer of funds from you to the state/your lawyer.
If you'd prefer to handle things yourself, there are a few options. Some jurisdictions will allow you to pay over the phone using debit or credit cards. You also might be able to go down to the court and manually remit payment. Sometimes, you can even go online, find your ticket in the system, and then pay through online portals.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to which payment methods your court accepts and how much time you're willing to spend.
We at WinIt try to be as comprehensive as possible when it comes to the law. We want to see you all succeed, save money, and prevent the consequences of traffic ticket convictions. With that in mind, our traffic ticket experts are just chomping at the bit to answer any questions you may have. While thinking of your own, check out these frequently asked questions:
If you have any unpaid or unknown traffic tickets in Washington state, contact the Department of Licensing (DOL). You can reach them by phone here: (360) 902-3900.
Washington state does not use a point system. If you have DMV points from another state, you will have to go through that other state's process for clearing DMV points.
That varies from ticket to ticket. It could be $48 or it could be more than $5,000. See here for details.
Go to the Department of Licensing's website and enter your information. However, it may be easier to use WinIt's in-app payment system.
Washington state traffic tickets stay on your record for five years, but insurers can only use that against you for three years.
By submitting an application to the Traffic Infraction Deferral Program. This option is only available for traffic infractions, not criminal violations.
No. Deferred tickets have had judgement postponed. That means no conviction has yet been entered. In other words, the ticket is hanging in purgatory until the deferment date is over.
You can get your motor vehicle record (MVR) from the Washington state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
No. The Washington State Driver Record Request Form Data Sharing Agreement - General Form explicitly states that driver record information is "confidential information."
Five in a 12-month period or six in a 24-month period.
A traffic ticket. The word "citation" is a synonym for ticket. It is the official legal term for ticket.