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
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.
- 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.
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.