What is Mitigation?
This is when you agree you have committed the infraction(s), but want a hearing to explain the circumstances. The committed infraction WILL APPEAR ON YOUR OFFICIAL MOTOR VEHICLE RECORD WITH THE DEPARTMENT OF LICENSING. The court may allow time payments or reduce the penalty where allowed by law.
What is a Deferral?
The opportunity for a deferral was created by the legislature and is outlined in RCW 46.63.070. One deferral is allowed every seven years for a non-moving violation and one deferral is allowed every seven years for a moving violation. Please note that this statute allows a judge to grant you a deferral but does not require a judge to grant a deferral. Each judge is allowed to follow their own criteria in offering a deferred finding.
A judge or commissioner MAY allow you to keep the infraction off your traffic record that gets reported to insurers and employers IF: 1) you have a traffic record that the judge feels is deserving of this option (some judges will allow anyone to get a deferral, some judges require that you have NEVER had a traffic infraction – most judges are somewhere in the middle); 2) you pay a fee (generally $150 to $250) to the court to monitor your record; 3) you do not commit another infraction for a set period (usually six months to one year) and 4) you are not a commercial driver. Some judges will also require traffic school.
If you comply with the judge's conditions of deferral, the traffic infraction will not appear on your record. However, if you get a second infraction within the time period specified, or fail to make your payment, the first infraction will appear on your record and you will have to pay the full fine for the first infraction as well. As stated previously, a person is entitled to only one deferral every seven years. The tricky thing about a deferral is that unless you have a completely clean record, you do not know when entering the court room if a judge will grant one to you. In addition, there are a few judges who refuse to grant a deferral to anyone. Our firm can help, in that we are familiar with area judges and their policies regarding deferral.
What is a Contested Hearing?
By requesting a contested hearing you are using your constitutional right to have the plaintiff (The State, County, or City) prove their case against you (the defendant).
This is similar to the trial process you may see on television. In many courts, a prosecutor will be at the contested hearing to present the case against you.
Generally the parties will be given an opportunity to make legal motions prior to the beginning of the case. Sometimes these motions relate to jurisdictional or evidentiary issues. For example, the defendant may make motions to dismiss the case based on jurisdictional or procedural errors. If the judge grants the defense motions the case would be dismissed. If not, the plaintiff will present a case against you, either by affidavit of the officer or through witness testimony. The defendant will be given an opportunity to cross examine the witnesses and at the end of the plaintiff's case may make a motion to dismiss. If the judge does not grant the motion to dismiss the defendant is then allowed to present their case through witness testimony. Both sides are allowed to make a closing argument. The judge will then rule on the evidence and make a decision.
Under Washington State law, traffic infractions have been decriminalized. Therefore the burden of proof in traffic infraction cases is by a preponderance of the evidence (some use the term “more likely than not”) rather than “beyond a reasonable doubt”. In any case, the plaintiff is required to prove their case against you. You are not required to prove you have not committed the infraction unless and until the state proves by a preponderance of evidence that you have committed the infraction.
We always recommend that you obtain legal counsel if you are planning to fight your infraction at a contested hearing. Knowing the traffic laws, rules of evidence and rules of procedure greatly enhances your opportunity to protect your traffic record. In addition as many jurisdictions have prosecutors who prepare and present the case against you it only seems logical to have an attorney on your side. An experienced traffic attorney will understand your case, the rule of law, and be knowledgeable about the court you are appearing in.
How do I protect my record?
If you have an experienced traffic attorney you increase your chances to protect your record. Vinny Randhawa will work to protect your record by attempting to have your ticket dismissed or found not committed. If it is not possible to obtain a dismissal or a finding of not committed we will attempt to negotiate with the prosecutor to protect your traffic record and your insurance rates.
What should I do if I am pulled over?
If you are pulled over by a law enforcement official, always be polite and respectful. Do not make any admissions. We talk to folks every day who tell us the officer's first question is “Do you know why I pulled you over?” Many people respond with “Speeding?” or “Because the light turned red?”. The best response is “No officer” because you really do not know why they pulled you over until they tell you. In addition, this can not be interpreted as an admission. You may politely ask why you were pulled over, but don't expect to see the actual radar readout if the violation was speeding. Unlike what you read on some sites, it is not a requirement of Washington law that they show you the radar. In addition, you are not required to sign the citation.
If you are pulled over, never give a statement to the police without first contacting an attorney. You do have a duty to identify yourself to the officer and provide your license, registration and proof of insurance. You have the right to remain silent, exercise that right and ask for an attorney as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the weaker your defense may become.
Vinny Randhawa works to successfully defend our clients facing speeding charges and other traffic infractions in Washington. Contact us immediately if you or someone you know has been charged with a traffic violation. You need the support of a legal professional who is experienced with Washington traffic laws, procedures, and rules of evidence.
Protect your future. Contact us now so that your best defense can begin today.