Just a little over two years ago, we reported on a new trend in some courts: allowing people to fight their traffic tickets by mail. That was a departure from the traditional choices of paying your ticket, or having to go to court in person to fight it. Yet only two months later, we reported on a newer trend in some courts: allowing people go fight their parking tickets online. Tellingly, we closed that post with the observation that “[a]s with any innovation that makes life easier, more are sure to follow. ”
In the last two years, much more has followed. In the traffic ticket post, we noted a few Washington State courts that allowed ticket contests by mail; now there are many more. Along with the increased use of hearings by mail, several Washington courts now allow hearing requests to be submitted by e-mail – not only for parking tickets, but also for traffic tickets and other minor offenses. These minor offenses are called “infractions” in Washington. In order to respond to an infraction ticket, you can of course choose to simply pay the fine. But you can also request a mitigation hearing to explain the circumstances in hopes of convincing the judge to reduce the charges; or you can request a contested hearing in hopes of getting the charge dismissed.
The procedure adopted by many Washington courts starts with an online form on the court’s website, which you fill out with your contact information and a statement as to why you think the ticket should be reduced or dismissed. This form generates an e-mail which is sent to the court; the court then makes a decision and replies via e-mail. Some examples include Clallam County District Court, Douglas County District Court, and Cheney Municipal Court.
Spokane County District Court even has an “eDeferral” program: You can request a deferral of your traffic ticket online; if granted, and you complete traffic school and stay ticket-free for a year, the charge will be dismissed. All this without leaving the comfort of your keyboard or touchscreen. Thurston County District Court even allows online deferral requests for non-traffic offenses, in addition to its online mitigation hearing request.
But wait! There’s more! If you are within the Jurisdiction of Pierce County District Court, you can request a mitigation or contested hearing by mail for an infraction, schedule a court date for an infraction, petition for an anti-harassment order or name change, and even start a small claims case – all online. Once you start a petition or small claims filing online, you can stop in the middle and then go back and finish it later. You can check the status online too.
Check CourtReference for your own state, county, and court, and check our Online Resources links (or the court’s own website) to see if your local court offers any of these technological time-savers.