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Seattle Municipal Court: Pre-Hearing Conference v. Contested Hearing

Posted Friday, November 11, 2016 by Andrew Charles Huff

I have represented hundreds of people cited by Seattle Police for various infractions that are naturally filed in Seattle Municipal Court.

Seattle Municipal Court has a traffic hearings procedure that includes a type of hearing you should be aware of, in part because it might be a waste of your time and not lead to the results you want. The hearing I’m referring to is the “Pre-Hearing Conference.” Seattle Municipal Court will automatically schedule your case for a “Pre-Hearing Conference” even though you requested a “Contested Hearing” by checking that option on the ticket. The purpose of the “Pre-Hearing Conference” is to request a court magistrate simply lower the fine to your ticket. The ticket would still be found “committed” and therefore appear on your record but at a lower fine. I have spoken with many people over the years who decided to handle tickets on their own. They requested the court set their matter for a “Contested Hearing,” only to find themselves waiting in a crowded room for a magistrate whose only duty is to lower the fine.

However, most people want to fight their ticket so it does not appear on their record and raise insurance rates. Let me be clear this is not an option at the “Pre-Hearing Conference” and we therefore typically waive that hearing and ask that the matter be set directly for a “Contested Hearing.” And because traffic tickets are civil matters, you do not have to appear at any hearing if you have an attorney representing you.

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