District Courts have jurisdiction concurrent with the Superior Courts to hear violations of all misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors and all violations of city ordinances. However, although District Court has concurrent jurisdiction with the Superior Court, the District Court has limited punishing powers. Crimes or violations committed within their county are cognizable by the District Court.
Crimes that are traffic related are set forth in R.C.W. 46.63.020. Examples would be DUI, DWS, Fail to Register, No Valid Driver's License and Negligent Driving I.
In 1981, minor traffic or motor vehicle offenses were decriminalized to allow the better use of the resources of the legal system. The legislature established a system of civil infractions. This system provides a more expeditious and less expensive method of disposing minor cases. District Court commissioners usually hear and adjudicate infractions.
Any person requested or signaled to stop by a law enforcement officer for a traffic violation has a duty to stop, identify himself/herself and provide their current address. Failure to comply with these duties is a misdemeanor.
A person has three options when he/she receives an infraction: (1) He/she can contest the ticket by requesting a court hearing; or (2) admit the violation and request that the penalty be reduced; or (3) pay a non-refundable administrative fee and request Deferred Findings. To qualify for the Deferred Findings program, you must pay a non-refundable administrative fee, regardless of the ticket amount, and not commit another infraction for 12 months. The following violations cannot be deferred: Negligent Driving II, No Valid Operator’s License, Failure to Register Vehicle, School Zone Violation, School Bus Violation, Construction Zone Violation, No Liability Insurance and Driver’s with CDL license. The court will retain your infraction for one year. If you pay court costs as promised and do not commit another infraction for 12 months, the infraction will be dismissed and will not appear on your driving record. Failure to pay and/or receiving any additional infractions during the next 12 months will cause this ticket to be reported to the Washington Department of Licensing, and the original amount of the ticket will be added to the administrative fee. You can only defer one moving and one non-moving infraction once during a seven year period.
In Clark County, the citizens are given the option of requesting their case to be heard in night court. In addition, for people opting to mitigate, contest or defer their tickets, they can do this through the mail. Tickets contested by mail cannot be appealed.
Examples of infractions are: Speeding violations, Expired Tags, Fail to Stop and No Liability Insurance.
District Court has jurisdiction to hear civil cases if the amount in controversy does not exceed seventy-five thousand dollars ($75,000). The causes of action can arise from contractual obligations, damages for personal injuries, personal property, real property provided the issues do not involve title or possession, etc.
The limitation on jurisdiction would be actions which involve title to property, foreclosure of mortgage, enforcement of a lien on real property, false imprisonment, libel slander, malicious prosecution, a person in his or her capacity as executor or administrator of an estate. Forms are not available. Filing fee is $83.00.
In Small Claims the jurisdictional amount involved is less than $5,000. A plaintiff who allegedly suffered damages in excess of $5,000 may still file a small claim, but by doing so waives the right to recover anything in excess of the jurisdictional amount.
Small Claims is the venue where legal technicalities are relaxed. A person or business can easily navigate the legal process without hiring an attorney. There are no juries, and lawyers are not allowed to represent either party unless permission is granted by a judge.
Forms for this type of action are provided by the Court. You are required to sign the notice in the presence of the clerk, unless otherwise instructed by the court. The clerk may assist the parties with procedure, but are not allowed to give legal advice or to predict how the judge might rule in a given situation.
At the time of filing, the plaintiff must pay a filing fee of $29.00, which is non-refundable. This can be paid by check, payable to District Court, or in cash. If you win your case, you are entitled to judgment. You may request, in writing, that the judgment be entered on the civil docket for the court. There is a $20.00 fee to transfer the case. When the case is transferred, you will receive a civil case number.
Any person desiring to change his or her name may file the action in the District Court of his or her residence. A person is free to choose any name that he or she wants provided that it is not done for fraudulent purposes. Forms are available at the District Court Administration Office. The filing fee is $165.00 cash for individual, family or minor name changes.
Name changes may also be filed in Superior Court. Any person requesting that their name change be sealed should file with Superior Court.
This is another form of a restraining order. Persons who are seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed by a course of conduct which serves no legitimate purpose may file this petition. The person filing doesn't need to have any relationship with the person harassing them. The judge can order any or all of the following:
- Prohibit harassment and contact of any kind
- Restrain party from coming within a specific distance from the petitioner's workplace, school, residence, etc.