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.
- 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!