The Bellingham Municipal Court has jurisdiction over parking infractions allegedly committed in the City of Bellingham in violation of the Bellingham Municipal Code. These non-criminal violations are punishable by a fine in a presumptive amount set by City Council. Special rules govern infraction hearings, and procedures are different from criminal cases.
You must respond to the notice of infraction within fifteen (15) days from the date it was issued. A mailed response must be postmarked no later than midnight on the day the response is due.
If you receive an infraction, you have three options:
- Pay your ticket without a court hearing. If you choose to pay your ticket without requesting a court hearing, simply pay the ticket amount online, in person at the clerk’s window, or by mail. Pay within 15 days of issue date to avoid additional late fees.
- Mitigation Hearing. Request within 15 days of issue date. In a mitigation hearing, you admit that you committed the violation, but ask the judge to reduce your ticket based upon mitigating circumstances. A mitigation hearing is an informal hearing where you may explain the circumstances of your case to the judge, who considers your explanation and may review your driving record in setting an appropriate fine. There is no appeal from a mitigation hearing. You may request a mitigation hearing online, in person, or by filling out the back side of your citation and mailing it to the Court.
- Contested Hearing. Request within 15 days of issue date. In a contested hearing, you do not admit you committed the violation. The City bears the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you committed the violation. The City meets this burden if the judge, after hearing all of the evidence, determines that it is more likely than not that the violation was committed. A defendant in a contested hearing has the right to the assistance of an attorney at the defendant’s own expense, the right to present evidence and examine witnesses in court, the right to request a witness list and copy of the officer’s sworn statement from the City Attorney’s Office (which must be requested in writing at least 14 days before the hearing; the City should provide you with these materials at least 7 days before the hearing), and the right to subpoena witnesses, including the officer who issued the citation (if you wish to subpoena witnesses, you must apply to the Court in person at least 14 days prior to the hearing; witnesses should be served at least 7 days prior to the hearing). If no witness is requested, the judge will read the officer’s sworn statement and then consider any testimony and/or evidence presented by the defense before deciding the case. If the City prevails, you may appeal the Court’s determination to the Superior Court upon payment of the Superior Court filing fee. You may request a contested hearing online, in person, or by filling out the back side of your citation and mailing it to the Court.
Failure to Appear or Pay Fines
Failure to respond in a timely manner to a citation or failure to appear in Court for a scheduled hearing will result in a finding that the infraction was committed, and imposition of the fine amount listed on the citation including late fees based on ticket issue date. There will be no further hearings. Additionally, your unpaid debt will be referred to a collection agency and may adversely affect your credit rating.