The mission of the Bellingham Municipal Court is to administer the operations of the judicial branch of City government in a neutral and effective manner and ensure access to justice for all citizens. ~ Judge Debra Lev
Every visitor who enters the Bellingham Municipal Courthouse will go through security and weapons screening overseen by Court security staff. At this time, the only persons exempt from screening are sworn Law Enforcement Officers and attorneys who have applied for and been issued by-pass photo ID badges. (Note: By-Pass badges are only issued to practicing attorneys upon completion of a criminal history records check by the Bellingham Police Department and payment of a $75 issue fee. Applications can be obtained from the Court Clerk public window.)
Items not allowed in the Courthouse (including but not limited to):
- Potential weapons including: pocket knives, pepper spray, corkscrews, laser pointers, tools, etc.
- Contraband and illegal items including: knives, brass knuckles, tasers, drugs, drug paraphernalia, etc.
- Vaping devices, lighters, food and drink
If You Bring Contraband Items
To ensure a smooth entry into the Courthouse Building, do not bring any of the above listed items. If you do bring any of these items to the Courthouse Building, you will not be allowed to enter the building. All persons with a valid concealed weapons permit may check in their firearms to a locked storage box while they are in the Courthouse.
The most common criminal cases heard in the Bellingham Municipal Court include assault, malicious mischief, theft, driving under the influence of intoxicants (“DUI”), trespassing, violation of protective orders, driving with a suspended license, disorderly conduct, and minor in possession or consumption of alcohol. Many of the Court’s cases involve domestic violence. The Court also hears thousands of civil infractions, primarily involving traffic and parking violations, each year.
The Bellingham Municipal Court currently holds seventeen regular court sessions, or calendars, each week. Search the state database to Find My Court Date.
The Bellingham Municipal Court has jurisdiction over violations of the Bellingham Municipal Code, including both criminal matters and civil infractions, committed in the City of Bellingham. The Court also has appellate jurisdiction over impoundment decisions of the City’s Hearings Examiner. The Whatcom County Superior Court has jurisdiction over felonies committed within the City of Bellingham.
Judge Debra Lev
Judge Lev became Bellingham’s first elected Municipal Court Judge in January, 2002. She previously served as the Court’s Commissioner for four years. Judge Lev has also managed a private law firm and served as a Deputy District Attorney. She has lived and practiced law in the Bellingham area since 1990. Judge Lev received a degree in Communications from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and graduated from Stetson University’s College of Law.
Commissioner Nicholas Henery
Commissioner Henery was appointed by Judge Lev in January, 2022. He previously served as a Law Clerk and then as a Deputy Public Defender for Skagit County. Commissioner Henery received a degree in History from Western Washington University and graduated from the Gonzaga University School of Law.
Judges Pro Tem
Judges pro tem are appointed by Judge Lev to serve as substitute judges. Judges Pro Tem for the Bellingham Municipal Court include:
- David Jolly, a local attorney in private practice
- Pat Lackie, a local attorney in private practice
- Jeffrey Lustick, a local attorney in private practice
- Tom Lyden, a local attorney in private practice
- Julie Walters, an attorney in private practice
Domestic Violence Court
- Domestic Violence (DV) Court is the first of its kind in northwest Washington.
- It focuses all community resources on domestic violence cases, the most difficult cases in Municipal Court.
- Victims, defendants, attorneys, treatment providers, probation officers, and law enforcement officers all participate in a multi-disciplinary approach to help solve complicated issues in domestic violence cases.
- Probation officers report better compliance by convicted offenders in DV Court.
- Emphasis is placed on close judicial supervision of convicted domestic violence batterers to ensure accountability, enforce treatment requirements, and protect victims.
Mental Health Court
- Therapeutic court program provides an alternative to traditional prosecution by promoting mental health treatment, reducing substance abuse, providing close supervision by specialized probation officers and mental health professionals, and requiring frequent judicial reviews.
- Defendants interested in becoming members of the mental health court are carefully screened by licensed mental health professionals using established criteria to promote effectiveness and public safety.
- Team of mental health professionals, attorneys, judicial officers, probation officers, program manager, and case workers meet before court to determine appropriate rewards and sanctions to encourage positive choices and compliance with treatment plans. During the “wellness calendar,” a judicial officer presides over a court session with the team and members present to discuss compliance issues, support members’ progress, and ensure accountability.
- Studies have shown mental health courts dramatically reduce crime, incarceration rates and costs while promoting public safety.
Alternatives to Incarceration
- Court allows Electronic Home Monitoring for all eligible defendants in lieu of jail.
- Court allows most non-violent offenders to perform community service in lieu of jail.
- Court allows Whatcom County Jail Alternatives for eligible defendants.
- Court permits citizens to defer findings on their traffic infractions in exchange for payment of court costs and good driving behavior.
- Reduces insurance costs for citizens, increases revenues for City, and promotes safer driving.
Proactive Compliance Reviews
- Focusing use of probation services and implementing frequent compliance/status court reviews to reduce probation bill and increase compliance with probation conditions.
Before you enter a courtroom please follow these simple expectations: no food or drinks are permitted in the courtroom, remove hats, remove gum, turn off cell phones and pagers, keep feet off the furniture, rails, or benches. Proper attire is appreciated. Please be on time and be courteous to other participants while waiting for your case to be called. If possible, please try to arrange for child-care outside of court for any infants or young children.
There are two courtrooms in the Bellingham Municipal Court Building. Courtroom One is the large courtroom on the ground floor. Courtroom Two is the smaller courtroom on the second floor. The bulletin board near the public entrance indicates which courtroom will be used for each case. Additionally, in-custody cases are typically heard at the Whatcom County Jail’s courtroom starting at 8:45 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, with exception to defendants who are being held at Yakima County Department of Corrections. Victims and other parties who are interested in watching the in-custody cases may do so via two-way closed circuit television from the In-Custody Viewing Room on the basement floor of the Whatcom County Courthouse at 311 Grand Avenue. All Yakima cases are heard on Thursdays at 9:45 a.m. by video conference at Bellingham Municipal Court.
It is not necessary to check in at the clerk’s window before your case is called. However, the clerk’s window, located on the ground floor near the public entrance to the Bellingham Municipal Court Building, is available for people who would like to ask questions, file pleadings including applications for the appointment of assigned counsel, or to arrange or make payments.
If you are unable to attend a scheduled court session or are unsure of the scheduled time or date for your hearing, please contact the court clerks at the Municipal Court as soon as possible. Failure to appear in court for a required appearance typically results in the issuance of a bench (arrest) warrant in criminal cases and a finding of “committed” in infraction cases.
Court Frequently Asked Questions
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax: (360) 778-8151
- Mail: Bellingham Municipal Court, 2014 C Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
- In person: at the clerk’s window in the Municipal Court lobby
You may also contact the court by phone and speak with the records clerk for additional information.
The Municipal Court Judge performs weddings at Bellingham Municipal Court. You need to make arrangements directly with the Judge by calling the court during business hours.
You need to call the bond agency.
When you have failed to respond within the proper time period, you have waived your opportunity for a hearing. In order to avoid the failure to respond fee and assignment to a collection agency, you must pay the monetary penalty. If you need payment arrangements, contact the clerk’s office immediately.
Traffic and criminal tickets can be paid through the following methods:
- Paid at or mailed to the Bellingham Municipal Court
- By phone at (877) 753-2048
- Online at http://www.bellinghamtix.com/
Parking tickets can be paid through the following methods:
- Paid at or mailed to the Bellingham Municipal Court
- Online at http://www.cob.org/pay
A deferred finding may be requested in one of the following ways:
- Court Hearing: Please check the “Mitigation” box on your citation and mail in the ticket. The court must receive your request within 15 days from the ticket issue date. You will receive a court hearing date and time by return mail. You may ask the judge at your court hearing for a deferred finding in your case.
- By Mail: Request a court hearing as above. Print and complete the Request for and Deferred Order for Traffic Infractions Form (PDF) and mail it with your citation and check for the fine amount listed on the citation. If your deferred finding request is approved, you will receive a copy of the Court Order by return mail. If your deferred finding request is not approved, you will receive a court hearing date and time by return mail. Your payment will be held for you in the court trust account.
- In Person: Request a court hearing as above. You will be given a copy of the deferred finding request form to complete and a receipt for the fine amount payment. If your deferred finding request is approved, you will receive a copy of the Court Order by return mail. If your deferred finding request is not approved, you will receive a court hearing date and time by return mail. Your payment will be held for you in the court trust account.
- Know your case number:
- Be sure to have your case number available; you will be asked for it every time you contact the court.
- Courtroom Etiquette:
- Turn off all cell phones, pagers or electronic devices before entering the courtroom.
- Throw away gum, food, and drinks before you enter the courtroom.
- Do not smoke in court buildings.
- Follow posted instructions.
- Enter and leave the courtroom quietly, so you do not disturb others.
- Stand when the judge or commissioner enters the courtroom.
- Address the judge or commissioner as “Your Honor.”
- Listen carefully to what each person says in the courtroom and respond clearly since your words are being recorded
- It is important to be clean and dress appropriately, to show respect for the court.
- Children in the courtroom:
- Please try not to bring children to the courtroom, unless they have been ordered to be present. If you feel you have no other option, bring a responsible adult who is not part of the court proceedings to watch the children while you are in court.
If you have a pending matter and are represented, please contact your attorney. If you do not have an attorney you may print a Request for Discovery (PDF). After you complete the Request for Discovery form it must be served on an employee of the City Attorney’s Office, Criminal Division, (located on the first floor of the Municipal Court Building). If you do not have a pending matter, you may contact the Bellingham Police Department at (360) 778-8800.
If your tickets are in collections, you may contact AllianceOne at (800) 456-8838. The Court can recall any debts that have been assigned to a AllianceOne under the following conditions:
- Payment in Full: Except as provided in paragraph 2, a defendant may pay the full amount of any delinquent debt(s) owing on one or more civil or criminal case(s), including fines, late fees, court costs, and other court-ordered obligations directly to the court. Payment must be made by cash only. Upon acceptance of payment, the clerk shall recall the matter(s) from collections and, for traffic related tickets, notify the Department of Licensing that the debt(s) has been paid. No person may utilize this incentive more than once per year without written permission from the Judge or Commissioner.
- Persons against whom the collection agency has initiated legal action to collect a delinquent debt owed to the court are not eligible to have debts recalled.
Parking ticket debts are not eligible to be restored. If you are unable to pay in full as noted above, please contact AllianceOne at (800) 456-8838 to arrange payments which, if needed, will provide for the release of the suspension order against your driver’s license.
Arraignments may be reset upon request at the clerk’s window, at least one day prior to the scheduled arraignment and may be continued up to five court days. This does not apply to any cases pertaining to domestic violence, assault in the fourth degree, harassment, indecent exposure, driving under the influence or physical control. No other criminal hearings may be rescheduled. In the event of an emergency which prevents you from appearing, please contact the court during business hours. Traffic infraction or parking hearings may be rescheduled one time. You must contact the court before your hearing to avoid additional fees from failure to respond in a timely manner.
Failure to appear to a criminal court date may result in a warrant issued for your arrest. If you fail to appear to your traffic or parking hearing, your infraction will be found committed and you will be subject to late fees and selected for collections.
You must appear in court in person to quash (cancel) your warrant. Warrant review hearings are held every Thursday and Friday at 10:30. Your request to schedule a warrant review hearing may be made in person at the clerk’s window or by calling the court at (360) 778-8150 between 9:00 – 12:00 and 1:00 – 4:00. Your hearing must be scheduled at least two days prior to the hearing date. Your bondsman will need to provide a letter of reinstatement if a bond has been forfeited or post a new bond or cash bail in the amount of the bail required by the court.
Appearing at the clerk’s window or writing/calling the court does not quash (cancel) your warrant. Your warrant will remain active so you may be arrested at any time before your scheduled hearing.
Contact information for the victim’s advocate: 360-778-8285 or 360-393-1930 or email@example.com or in person at the City Attorney’s Office, Criminal Division, located on the first floor of the Bellingham Municipal Court Building.
You may request a hearing for infractions and parking violations. Your request must be made within fifteen days or eighteen days if your ticket was mailed to you (on traffic infractions). You must return your copy of the ticket to the court via mail or in person. Please be sure to designate which hearing you are requesting by checking the appropriate box. A court date will then be assigned. You may also request an Online Mitigation Hearing for mitigated traffic infractions only. Please review the instructions carefully.
You may request review hearings for jail, community service, and restitution. In addition, you can appeal the court for a public defender. Such hearing requests can be made at the clerk’s window to be heard on Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays at on 9:45.
Contact Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3900 or go online to Washington State Department of Licensing for more information.
Contact the Whatcom County Jail at (360) 778-6500, or go online to Whatcom County Jail at https://apps1.whatcomcounty.us/jaildata/roster.html
Contact the Whatcom County Jail at (360) 778-6500. If there is bail set, you must pay bail to the appropriate court or to the jail after court hours.
You can go to the Whatcom County Health Department at 1500 N State St, Bellingham or contact them at (360) 778-6000. If you are on probation, you may contact your probation officer at (360) 778-5450.
Contact Whatcom County Jail Alternatives 360-676-6909
The court always encourages defendants to be represented by an attorney. If you are not represented you may contact the City Attorney’s Office, Criminal Division, to discuss your case. They are prosecuting your case and cannot provide legal advice nor can the clerks of the court.
You may request a No Contact Order rescission or modification hearing by completing the paperwork at the following locations:
- If you are the defendant: Print a Request to Rescind or Modify No Contact Order (PDF) and submit at the clerk’s window located at the Bellingham Municipal Court
- If you are the defendant and have an attorney: Contact your attorney
- If you are an alleged victim: Contact the victim’s advocate at the City Attorney’s Office at (360) 778-8290.
Go to https://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/?fa=forms.contribute&formID=38. Print the first four documents (Motion and Declaration for Vacating Conviction, Notice of Hearing, Order on Motion Re: Vacating Conviction, and Vacation of Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor Conviction-Information Sheet) or obtain the forms from the cashier’s window of the Bellingham Municipal Court. Follow the directions on the Information Sheet. The Motion to Vacate must be submitted to the court. The court staff cannot assist you in completing the documents or provide any legal advice.
Court hearing times and room numbers are located on the hearings board in the lobby of the Municipal Court. You may also check in with the clerks at the cashier’s window.
The final decision of a Municipal Court judge may be appealed in the following types of cases: Civil matters; criminal traffic or criminal non-traffic matters; and contested hearings on an infraction. A Notice of Appeal (PDF) must be filed with the Municipal Court within 30 days after the decision of the Municipal Court Judicial Officer.
You may print the Appeal Instructions (PDF) or pick up an Appeal Packet at the cashier’s window of Municipal Court. The instructions are intended to give you an overview of the procedures to appeal your case. You could also consult the Rules for Appeal of Decisions of Courts of Limited Jurisdiction (RALJ). These govern the appeal process and can be found in the Whatcom County Law Library located in the County Courthouse.
Anyone facing a criminal charge, in Bellingham Municipal Court, may apply for a public defender. The determination of eligibility is based upon several variables which may include income, public assistance, expenses, assets, as well as other criteria.
A Public Defender is available to you at your arraignment hearing. If you choose to seek the services of a Public Defender after arraignment, your Application for a Public Defender (PDF) must be screened at the cashier’s window of Municipal Court during business hours.
Please bring the following items with you to the cashier’s office:
- Your court summons. This should show your case number, charge, next court date and type of hearing
- Pay stubs from the last three months
- Food stamp award letter
- Financial aid award letter
- SSI/SSD award letter
- Proof of unemployment compensation
After screening your application the clerk will either: appoint you a public defender; ask you to provide more information; ask you to contribute a monetary amount towards defense costs; or deny you public defense services and inform you how to appeal their determination before a Judicial Officer.
Officer Subpoena forms for contested infractions must be completed at the clerk’s window of Municipal Court. The court clerk will date stamp and indicate the correct time and date for the officer to appear on the subpoena. Upon completion, the subpoena must be served on an employee of the City Attorney’s Office, Criminal Division, (located on the first floor of the Municipal Court Building) no less than 7 days before your scheduled hearing. All subpoenas must comply with Local Rule 11(4)
The main objective of Court Security is to maintain a safe and secure environment. This procedure is done as a matter of safety. The security screening includes passing through a metal detector and all bags going through an x-ray machine. It is not meant to harass or exclude anyone. Cooperation is the key to maintain a secure atmosphere for everyone in the building.
Vehicles are towed when there are four or more outstanding tickets. Contact the towing company directly to redeem/claim the vehicle. Aside from the cost associated with claiming the vehicle, you will be responsible for arranging to pay the outstanding tickets. Failure to do so may subject you to another tow.
If the vehicle cited is registered in your name and the disabled permit is issued in your name, your ticket will be dismissed if you provide the court with the following items WITHIN 15 DAYS from the date the ticket was issued:
- A signed and dated copy of the valid blue or red placard (the card placed on the rear view mirror) AND
- A signed and dated copy of the valid permit holder’s state-issued permit identification card (wallet-size).
If the vehicle cited is registered in your name and the disabled permit is not issued in your name, your ticket will be dismissed if you provide the court with the following items:
- A signed and dated copy of the valid blue or red placard (the card placed on the rear view mirror) AND
- A signed and dated copy of the valid permit holder’s state-issued permit identification card (wallet-size) AND
- A signed and dated note from the permit holder stating that you were transporting that person on the date/time that the ticket was issued.
If neither of the above descriptions fits your situation, either pay or request a hearing within 15 days from the date the ticket was issued.
Tickets issued today will not be available to pay until the next business day. Please try submitting your payment the next day. Tickets that have been paid previously, or that have been assigned to a collection agency, will not be available online. Also, tickets issued to a VIN# rather than a plate are not available online. Please contact the court staff and they will be happy to identify the problem.
The court is responsible for providing interpreters for court proceedings. If you or someone you know requires an interpreter for a pending case, please contact the court during business hours. For traffic infractions, please indicate what language you are requesting when submitting your hearing request.
- Message from Judge Debra Lev (PDF)
- Independent Investigation Report (PDF) – Identifying information has been redacted to protect individuals’ privacy.
- Summary of Findings (PDF)
- Settlement Agreement and Statement – Approved by Bellingham City Council, September 27, 2021.