What is a Mitigation Hearing versus a Contested Hearing?
The difference between a Mitigation Hearing and a Contested Hearing is if you elect to 'mitigate' your Washington traffic ticket, you admit that you committed the traffic violation. You are telling the judge that you admit you did what the police officer said you did but want an opportunity explain the circumstances.
Once you admit to the Court that you committed the traffic infraction, the traffic ticket will go on your driving record. At best, the judge may reduce your fine. Do not seek to mitigate your traffic ticket with the hope that a judge will dismiss it. A mitigation hearing is not the forum to fight your traffic ticket. If you want to try to get your ticket dismissed, you need to request a Contested Hearing instead.
A Contested Hearing is the opposite of a Mitigation Hearing. By requesting a Contested Hearing, you are telling the judge: 'I did not do what the police officer said I did.' A Contested Hearing is like a small trial. Often, a prosecutor is present to argue the State or City's case before the judge. In some jurisdictions, no prosecutor appears. Nick George is familiar with over seventy Washington State Courts.
At a Washington Contested Hearing, the defendant does not have to appear
. A defendant has the right to have his or her attorney appear on his behalf. Often, it is in a defendant's interest not to appear at the Contested Hearing. If the defendant is present, the prosecution can call a defendant to the witness stand and he or she must testify. Unlike a criminal trial, there is no Fifth Amendment right not to testify against yourself in a Contested Hearing.
At the hearing the judge first hears preliminary legal motions from both sides. In many Contested Hearings, legal motions brought by defense result in dismissal of the traffic ticket.
If legal motions are unsuccessful, the hearing proceeds. The City or State presents its case because, as the government has the burden of proving you committed the traffic infraction. Both the prosecution and defense have the right to call witnesses and present testimony. Frequently, defense will question the police officer who wrote the ticket or the speed measuring device (RADAR or LIDAR) experts who maintain the speed measuring device. The defendant also has the right to testify. Finally, both sides make final argument to the court, and the judge renders a decision. The standard of proof in a Contested Hearing is a 'preponderance of the evidence.' Preponderance of the evidence is a much, much lower
burden of proof than the criminal standard of :beyond a reasonable doubt.' It means, whether the judge believes it is more than likely than not that you committed the traffic infraction (about 50% and a feather).
Should I Mitigate or Contest by Traffic Ticket?
If you mitigate your Washington traffic ticket, it will go on your driving record. Further, it will cause an increase in insurance premiums. Thus, you may pay much more in the long run.
I've Already Requested a Mitigation Hearing. Can I Contest my infraction instead?
Yes, if you've requested a Mitigation Hearing from the court but now realize that your interests are better served by fighting your traffic ticket, Nick George can help. He can contact the Court and request that your hearing be changed to a Contested Hearing.