Today we are discussing traffic ticket deferral’s. This is our first post in our new series that focuses on the different ways you can respond to a traffic ticket in Washington State. If you are pulled over and given a traffic infraction you have several options for how to handle it. In our last post, we shared our recommendations for what to do when you are stopped for committing a traffic violation. For more information, you can take a look at that post here. But, if you are short on time, here’s the Cliff Notes version — ultimately our best recommendation for handling a traffic infraction is to contest the citation if at all possible.
However, you may have heard of another option out there called a Deferral or Deferred Finding. A lot of folks think that this is an easy way to get out of their ticket with minimal effort, but there is a lot more to it than that. In this post, we wanted to pass along a few key points to keep in mind regarding a deferred finding for a traffic ticket and share our thoughts on why you should use a deferral as your last resort.
Deferring a traffic infraction in Washington State — What does a Deferral mean?
A deferred finding is a way for you to Potentially keep a traffic infraction from becoming part of your driving record. If you are eligible, you can request a deferral from the court once every 7 years. Essentially, it’s your one get out of jail free card for a traffic ticket. Most drivers are eligible for 1 moving violation deferral and 1 non-moving violation deferral every 7 years. If you are granted a deferral by the court, your original traffic infraction will be dismissed following the completion of a 6 to 12 month driving period with no additional traffic violations.
However, if you do receive another traffic citation within the 6 to 12 month period, the original infraction will be found committed and will be reported to the Department of Licensing and added to your driving abstract. In order to enter into a deferred finding with the court, an administrative fee must be paid as well. Also, if your deferral is revoked due to a 2nd infraction in many Courts throughout Washington State you will be expected to pay the original fine associated with the ticket too.
Key Points to Keep in Mind Regarding a Deferral
Remember that a deferred finding is essentially a contract you entered into with the court.
- With this contract, you have agreed not to commit any additional traffic infractions for a set amount of time (usually 6 to 12 months from the date that the deferral was granted, depending on the Judge).
- In turn, the court has agreed to dismiss your original citation if follow through with those conditions.
Getting a 2nd ticket while you are still on a deferred finding can result in a committed finding for the original ticket.
- If you do get a 2nd ticket before your deferral period ends, the court may enter a committed finding on the original ticket.
- It doesn’t matter if the 2nd ticket occurred in a different jurisdiction than the original ticket.
- Even if you decide to contest the 2nd ticket and it gets dismissed or amended, the original ticket may still be found committed. For some courts, the mere fact that you were charged for a 2nd infraction is enough for them to revoke your deferred finding, regardless of the result of a contested hearing.
You only get to use a deferred finding once every 7 years.
- Whether you successfully complete a deferred finding or not, once you choose to enter into this agreement you cannot do so again for 7 years.
- In the state of Washington, you have the privilege of 1 deferred finding for a moving violation, such as a speeding ticket, and 1 deferred finding for a non-moving violation, such as an expired registration ticket, every 7 years.
You still have to pay a fee to the court.
- Every court’s costs are different but for most, a $150 fee will need to be paid within 30-60 days of entering the deferred finding.
- Failure to pay the deferral fee within the allotted time frame can result in a revocation of the deferral option.
- This deferral fee is non-refundable. Whether you successfully complete the deferral or not, you will not receive a refund of the fee amount.
- If you get a 2nd ticket before your deferral period ends and the court decides to revoke your deferred finding, you may have to pay an additional amount to the court to take care of the fine for the original ticket.
Not everyone is eligible for a deferral.
- CDL holders are not eligible for a deferral. Since they drive for a living, they are held to a higher standard. It’s not always fair, but it’s just the way it is.
- The choice to grant a deferral is ultimately up the judge and the court. Every judge sees every case differently. Some judges will not grant a deferral if there is an accident involved in the case. Some judges will not allow a driver with an intermediate license to enter into a deferred finding.
Now, you may be thinking: “Okay, I don’t have a CDL and I can afford to pay a $150 fee — that’s lower than the cost of my ticket anyway. Using my deferral seems like a pretty good choice, so why not?” In my experience, using your deferral is likely not your best option. While in some cases it may seem like it’s the easier way to handle your ticket, rather than contesting it yourself or hiring an attorney to help but I promise you, it is not!
3 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Defer Your Traffic Ticket
- When it rains, it pours. You may be thinking: “Hey, I haven’t gotten a ticket in years! This was just a fluke. I can easily go 6 or 12 months without getting another one. I hardly ever speed anyway.”Okay, I know you’ve probably heard that statement before, but I cannot tell you how many times I have seen it come true for folks that decide to go with a deferred finding on their ticket. The harsh reality is that many folks who use their deferral end up getting a 2nd ticket before their deferral period ends. Even the most careful drivers have gotten their deferral revoked because they received a 2nd ticket. Let’s be real here, even if you are a very cautious driver yourself you can’t control how other drivers behave on the roads. Even getting a ticket that wasn’t necessarily your fault can result in the revocation of your deferral.
- It is not always easy to get a deferral. As we mentioned before, the decision of whether to grant you a deferral or not is ultimately up to the judge of the court. Every judge chooses to handle cases differently, and their policies vary from court to court. For example, some judges will require you to attend a defensive driving class before allowing a deferral. In addition, you may be required to appear in court to request the deferral. There are a few courts that will accept a request for deferral by mail or online, but most require that you attend a court hearing to ask for a deferred finding at a mitigation hearing. You will have to rearrange your schedule and possibly take time off of work just to attend the hearing in court. That can be a huge inconvenience for some and can also mean losing out on pay too.
- You have a better option. You may not think so, but you do have a better option than choosing a deferral for your traffic infraction. You can (and should) contest the infraction if possible. While choosing to fight the ticket might be a bit intimidating for some, contesting the infraction doesn’t mean you have to study all of Washington’s traffic laws and memorize court procedures. You can hire a local traffic ticket lawyer (like us) to help you fight the ticket and keep the infraction from becoming part of your driving record without even going to court yourself. Our firm’s success rate for keeping traffic infractions off of the driver’s record is over 98%. We don’t mean to brag, but there are very few (if any) other firms that can boast that kind of success rate with their clients. Simply put, we know what we are doing. If you are cited with a traffic infraction in Tacoma, WA or throughout the greater Puget Sound don’t just use your deferral — call us instead. We have an unmatched level of experience handling traffic ticket cases specifically, and our customer service is top notch. If you use your deferral, you are choosing to take a big risk. I don’t know about you, but as much as I would like to, I can’t predict the future. Sometimes things happen and even if you haven’t gotten a ticket in years you could get another ticket after entering into a deferred finding and then your 1 “get out of jail free” card is gone for 7 years. Don’t roll the dice with your driving record! Give us a call instead, and you can be confident that you’ll have the best traffic ticket attorney in the area fighting your infraction in court.
In Closing …
We hope that we’ve clarified some of the frequently asked questions related to deferrals but if you’ve still got a question feel free to give us a call at (253) 201-2001 or enter your information below. We’ll explain your options and clarify the process of successfully handling your traffic infraction.
Stay tuned for our next installment in our Ways to Respond to a Traffic Ticket blog post series where we’ll discuss the ins and outs of a mitigation hearing.