How to get a Traffic Ticket Deferral in Washington State

Getting the courts to defer your traffic ticket in Washington State is pretty easy but the process is different from county to county. Here is what I figured out through deferral process, insert a disclaimer here that I am not an attorney and this is  not legal advice, just about what happened in my case:

Basically, a deferral is an agreement between you and the courts that you will not have any other traffic tickets within a certain time period and give the court a fee for this, in my case about $150. In exchange the court will not report the infraction to the Washington State Department of Licensing (for insurance purposes but rest assured it will always be there on some level) and at the end of the period your infraction will be taken off the records like it never happened – or something like that.

How do I ask for a deferment?

This will vary by jurisdiction so the best way is to call and ask the office prior to your court date. In my experience in Washington state at the beginning of the court session the judge lets everyone know at the start if they are able to get a deferral: if you have had any infractions in the past 7 years you aren’t eligible (at least in my county, in grays harbor it is only three months!). Then you have the choice of accepting deferral or pleading for a reduced fine.

Should I get a deferral for my traffic ticket?

So you haven’t had a traffic ticket in a long time and think this is going to give you a free ride? Think again. In my county the deferral period is seven years, meaning that if you get ANY infractions in that period you have to pay the ticket in full anyway, plus you lose the deferral fee.

This is where I whine about what happened in my case but it was my own fault:

What happened to me was after the deferral I got a “non-moving” violation  in a different county with some tabs I forgot to renew (only two weeks overdue, I had no idea!). I asked the court in the new jurisdiciton for forgiveness for the new violation (mitigation hearing) and they told me that  – in their jurisdiction – it wouldn’t count against my deferral cause it wasn’t a moving violation but that ended up not being true (apparently the definition of that varies according to the court’s whim). Whew…I thought. Also it was interesting that the other county’s period for a deferral was only 90 days! Wow – by comparison I had really gotten the short end by promising to be good for 7 years.

Fast forward a few weeks and I get a letter in the mail saying I violated deferral and owe them the original FULL sum of money for the ticket. Furthermore, they wanted it in two weeks which was before my next payday! So I was stuck paying the whole fine plus deferral fees plus court fees plus all the wasted time, travel expenses and lost wages going to hearings – not to mention the increase in my car insurance.

Lessons learned:

  • had I originally just asked for a reduction in the original fine I would have been better off, in time spent and money wasted
  • not all deferrals are equal, driving with fear for 7 years – is it worth it to you?
  • do you want to support a jurisdiction that has a 7 year deferral period when the neighboring county’s is only 90 days?
  • check the snail mail more often for tab renewal notices
  • for a $750 infraction the “nice” county reduced my fine to only $250 – not bad!

So if the period for deferral is short in your jurisdiction, I say go for it.  It is a nice option because the court gets their money and you don’t have to pay ridiculously increased insurance rates. Otherwise, save your $150 fee and plead for mitigation.

In my opinion the whole traffic ticket system is a sham because the courts get a couple hundred dollars and you end up paying ten times that much to a private insurance company that jack up your rates for then next 5 years or so. I would much rather pay the court $1000, knowing that my money stays in my local community and not end up in the hands of a fat cat insurance company.

Hope this helps, comments and notes on your experiences appreciated!


5 thoughts on “How to get a Traffic Ticket Deferral in Washington State

  1. This story is absolutely incorrect. The probationary period is up 365 days, shorter in some cases, but NEVER 7 years. A second infraction five years after your deferral would NOT result in having to pay the original fee.

  2. OP- The 7 year period your talking about is how long you have to wait before you can defer an infraction again. from the date of deferrment to 365 days later, any type of vehicle infraction received would result in the deferrment going away (as was your situation). On a sidenote, theres no excuse for a vehicle you drive to fail an inspection if its on the road. lastly, you were only two weeks late… you can order new tabs 6 months before they expire.

    • Jack, that sounds 100% logical but that is not what either judge told me. The infraction was in a separate county and I distinctly remember the honor’s shock at the other county’s period, noting that the period is determined by each county in his county the “no infraction” period was only 6 months and further the other county may never even find out about me being 2 weeks late on my tabs. Well, they did.
      As for the tabs, why doesn’t the state allow autorenewal and autosend our tabs? that is well within the realm of technological possibility, bordering silly easy. I had at the time owned three vehicles and two motorcycles, each with a different renewal date. why doesn’t the great state of Washington allow vehicle-tab renewal date consolidations at an option, for a fee to generate revenue and for convenience of their citizens who are forced to spend their valuable free time on busy work multiple times rather than once per year? that is well within the realm of technological possibility, bordering silly easy.

      Let me say that for business professionals working 12 hr days or longer(especially bachelors); fetching mail from a remote PO box (i am lucky to check mine once a week, more often twice a month), sorting through the 80% junk mail, opening mail, reading mail, looking up info needed, filling forms as needed BY HAND, finding and inserting this into an envelope, buying a stamp (vending machines t for stamps are extinct in my area, the post office isn’t open when i am working and retailers don’t sell them in my area) , affixing stamp & depositing envelope at a post office location (mail drop boxes are extinct, offices are 10 to 15 miles apart in my area) five times randomly through the year IS the responsibility of the owner to maintain the privilege of driving on public roads, BUT the state wasting their time serves no useful function. Yes, tab renewal online is possible but the workload differs only by degree. Yes, someone working that much should be able to afford personal assistant.
      Bottom line is: for someone juggling 1000 things at once, being whipped into submission by the state to buy stickers randomly throughout the year is absurd and insulting. from the state’s perspective making the purchase of stickers a manual chore rather than a charge-to-your-card-and-mail-automatically-as-needed-until-notified process like every e-business out there allows for a lot of oversight (5 stickers times 40 years is 200 chances to drop the ball – while how much total time is stolen from our short lives?) and unintentional infractions (with minuscule fines relative to your now-risen insurance rates all on account of a STICKER, and not how safe you drive)
      This unarguably a revenue generating process, not a safety process or anything else. Automation could be programmed by a few people in a week or two at most. No excuses for the state rated #1 in online accessibility for years on end. shame on potential voters not pressuring change, it is ll our fault!

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