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Previously, many traffic and criminal charges were crimes. The Legislature has decriminalized many traffic, parks, wildlife, and fisheries offenses. The offenses are now called infractions and are civil cases.
You should note that you must respond within 15 days of the date that the ticket was issued. An infraction is not a crime, but failure to respond can result in the suspension of your driver's license. You can respond by either mailing the green ticket to the Court or bringing it in person to the Clerk's office. Select one of the boxes on the back of the ticket and verify your address. If you select box one you are electing to pay the penalty as shown on the front of the ticket.
Suitable attire is required. Shoes and shirts are necessary. Halter-tops, tank tops, and shorts are not permitted. Hats are to be removed upon entering the Courtroom. No smoking, food, or drink will be allowed. Children may be present in the Courtroom but if they disturb the proceedings you may be requested to remove them. The Court does not provide childcare. Upon your arrival, find your name on the calendar outside the District Court Office, and then have a seat in the proper Courtroom until the session convenes. You do not need to check with the Clerk unless your name is not on the list. When your case is called, come forward and stand behind one of the counsel tables until instructed otherwise by the Judge.
A mitigation hearing is where you admit you committed the violation, but wish to explain the circumstances of the infraction. To request a mitigation hearing you should check box two. The Judge, depending on the explanation and your record, may adjust the penalty. However, the Judge will not dismiss your ticket. As the Court is required to forward all committed traffic tickets to the Department of Licensing, it will appear on your driving record.
If you believe you did not commit the violation then you should select box three and have a contested hearing. Unless you request the officer to be subpoenaed, the procedure at the hearing will be for the Judge to read the sworn statement of the officer. If you wish to have the officer and any other witness present for your case, you must serve a subpoena upon the officer and other witnesses (s) at least seven days prior to the hearing. Contact the District Court Infraction Clerk if you plan to subpoena witness(s). As a result of a contested hearing, the penalty may stay the same, be reduced, or the ticket dismissed. In the event, you have subpoenaed a witness you may be required to pay court costs. A contested infraction hearing is a civil case and the Judge will decide the case based on the preponderance of the evidence.
You may, at your own expense, have a lawyer appear and represent you at your hearing. If you are to be represented by counsel, the lawyer is required to file a notice of appearance with the Court, and the prosecutor, prior to the hearing date. A separate hearing is held when lawyers are involved and it is necessary to have sufficient notice for scheduling.
When you pay the penalty, mitigate, or if the Judge finds you have committed a traffic infraction at a contested hearing, the state law requires that the infraction be reported to the Department of Licensing. The infraction will then appear on your driving record. Neither the Court Clerk, nor the Judge, has the authority to keep the infraction off your record. If you win at a contested hearing and the infraction is dismissed, it is not reported to the Department of Licensing and will not appear on your driving record.
A failure to pay or respond to the ticket within 15 days results in an order that the infraction was committed. If you asked for a hearing and do not appear your payment is due immediately. When an infraction is not paid in a timely manner or a hearing missed, a $52 late penalty is added to the amount shown on the ticket. Your license may then be suspended if the penalty is not paid following a notice to pay the increased penalty, and the account may be assigned to a collection agency.
Rather than go through a hearing, the court has a policy allowing you to have your charge deferred (continued for a period and dismissed if you comply with certain requirements) in certain circumstances. A deferral may be available if you have not had an infraction deferred for seven years. If you wish to avoid a trial and have your charges deferred, you must request a deferral of the infraction rather than having a hearing. If the deferral is granted, you will be required to pay the penalty imposed of $200; may not have any driving offenses for the period of the deferral; and, if at the end of that deferral period you have complied with the requirements, the charges will be dismissed and not be on your driving record. If on the other hand, you receive another ticket, the charge will become a "committed infraction" on your record and you will have to face the consequences of the new infraction as well. Also, you will not be able to use the deferral right again for 7 years since a deferral is available only every 7 years. If you choose to use the deferral, you will not be required to return to court at the end of the period; the clerk will check your driving record and enter it as a "dismissal" or "committed" depending on the results of the record check.
If you do not win at a contested hearing you have the right to appeal to the Superior Court of Franklin County. The notice of appeal must be filed within 30 days of the judgment. There will be various appeal costs, payable in advance, including a $200 Superior Court filing fee. If you appeal, the Superior Court will review the record that was made at the District Court, but there will not be a new trial. The Clerk's office will provide you with information about the appellate process.
If you are unable to pay your entire penalty at the time of the hearing the court will allow up to 30 days to pay in full. If you are unable to pay within 30 days you may set up a time pay agreement with the court.
There will be a one-time fee of $10 to $25 added to the account, and first payment is required at the time the account is set up for payments.