What are Washington Public Traffic Records?
Washington public traffic records are documents that contain a motorist's driving and traffic history. As such, these records typically include information about a person's traffic violations, driver license suspensions, traffic convictions, and adjudications.
In Washington, the Department of Licensing works with other agencies such as the Traffic Safety Commission and the traffic courts (the municipal and district courts) to create and maintain traffic records.
Are Traffic Records Public in Washington?
Yes, traffic records fall under the category of public records in Washington. The Washington Public Records Act authorizes public access to records created and maintained by local and state agencies. For this reason, interested persons need not provide a reason when requesting such records from the applicable agencies.
Washington prohibits the release of personal information to the public under RCW 42.56.23. As a result, details such as an individual's age, home address, social security number, and other personal data required when applying for a license are restricted. Anyone who wants to access personal information must obtain approval from the court before applying to the Department of Licensing.
What do Washington Traffic Records Contain?
Washington traffic records contain the following information:
- Driver license details: Number, type, class, restrictions, endorsements
- Issue and expiration dates
- Traffic violations
- Suspensions and revocations
- Deferred prosecutions
- Failures to appear (FTA)
Does a Citation Go on Your Record in Washington?
Yes. The Washington Department of Licensing (DOL) records citations for both moving and non-moving violations in the traffic records of offenders. However, parking and red camera citations are not recorded. The DOL does not also report demerit points on offenders' records in Washington as the state does not operate a point system.
Types of Traffic Citations in Washington
In Washington, road users can be cited for different traffic violations. The state categorizes these violations into two main groups: moving and non-moving violations.
State and local police officers issue citations (also called traffic tickets) for moving violations when an individual breaks a traffic law while operating a vehicle. These citations are usually more severe when compared with the non-moving violations, as they will remain on the traffic record of the offender and lead to an increase in insurance premiums. Also, since Washington does not operate a point system, having a minimum of 6 citations for moving violations could lead to a driver's license suspension. Examples of these citations include speeding tickets and other misdemeanor tickets.
Usually, citations for non-moving violation tickets are caused by faulty vehicle equipment or incomplete paperwork. However, a person may still receive a citation for a non-moving violation while their vehicle is in operation. Examples of such citations included a parking ticket and a ticket issued for driving without insurance.
Unlike moving violation citations, non-moving violation citations are not reported to the DOL and do not affect an offender's insurance premiums.
Washington Traffic Citation Lookup
To look up traffic citations/tickets in Washington, an individual can contact or visit the court in the county where the citation or ticket was issued. Generally, the presiding court depends on the law enforcement officer who issued the citation. When a city law enforcement officer is the issuer, the presiding court will be a municipal court. Meanwhile, the district court becomes the apt search point when a deputy sheriff or state patrol trooper is the issuer.
In cases where the issuer is unknown, an individual can contact the courts in the county where a ticket was issued.
How to Lookup my Washington Traffic Records
The Department of Licensing (DOL) is the go-to agency for people interested in looking up personal traffic records in Washington. The DOL provides three ways to obtain the records: in person, via mail, and online.
In-person: An individual can stop by any DOL office to obtain their traffic record. However, the requester may need to present a means of identification before receiving the document. The DOL's locations directory can be used to locate the nearest DOL office.
Mail: The DOL provides a mailing address for persons who want to acquire their traffic records via mail. However, a requester must download, complete, and mail a request form, along with a record fee, to the agency at:
Department of Licensing
Seattle, WA 98124-3907
The processing time for mail requests is 10 working days.
Online: Interested persons can sign up or log into the DOL's License eXpress (LX) platform to look up their traffic records. Out of the three record request methods, the online option is the fastest and most convenient: record-holders are able to review their records within 24 hours of payment. Also, once the report is ready, the requester may print it immediately or save it for future reference. The report is stored online for 30 days.
Regardless of the request option selected, a requester must pay a non-refundable fee of $13 before their record is released.
Washington Traffic Violations
A Washington traffic violation is an offense, typically pertaining to erring road users. The most common traffic violations are speeding, running a red light, and failure to yield. More serious crimes, such as reckless driving or DUI, can result in jail time, license suspension, etc.
In some cases, traffic violations can also lead to points on the offender's driver's license. If they accumulate enough points, they may be required to take a driving safety course or have their license suspended.
If pulled over for a traffic violation, the officer will usually give the offending motorist a ticket with the specific offense and fine amount listed. The offender can either pay the fine or contest the ticket in court. If they choose to contest the ticket, they will need to appear before a judge to make their case. The judge will then decide whether or not to dismiss the charges against them.
Washington License Plate Lookup
Washington traffic records usually feature license plate information because of their relevance for identifying vehicles involved in a traffic incident or offending motorists. To look up Washington license plate information, requestors may visit the Washington State Department of Licensing website. They can search by license plate number or vehicle identification number (VIN).
Using the license plate number of a vehicle, requestors can find out the registered owner's name and address. They can also use the license plate number to determine if the car has been involved in traffic incidents.
With the VIN of a vehicle, requestors can find out the vehicle's make, model, and year. They can also use the VIN to find out if the car has been recalled or if there are any open safety recalls.
For further information about license plate lookup in Washington, requestors may contact the Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3770.
How to View Traffic Case Records for Free in Washington
In Washington, the municipal and district courts create and maintain traffic case records, which, for the most part, are publicly accessible under the state's Public Records Act. As such, anyone who wants to view a traffic case record for free must query the appropriate court (the court that heard the case) in person or online.
To conduct a physical search, an individual must visit the court having jurisdiction over the case. Typically, the court will not charge an amount to view the traffic record. A fee is only applied when a person wishes to obtain a copy of a record or asks the staff to carry out the search for them.
Alternatively, an individual can use the online search portal on the Washington courts website to obtain traffic case information for free. The platform offers three methods of accessing case information in the district and municipal courts: case search, attorney search, and name search. However, the information provided is limited to a defendant's name, the presiding court, the case number, and the case's filing date. For the comprehensive traffic case record, the interested party must contact or visit the court with physical custody of the record.
How Long do Traffic Offenses Remain on a Public Record in Washington
The major determining factor for the length of time that a traffic offense remains on a public record in Washington is the severity of the offense. Most violations (e.g., speeding, reckless driving, racing, and other traffic infractions) stay on an offender's traffic record for a maximum of 5 years before being deleted. However, when the accused person fails to appear in court to respond to a traffic infraction, the offense will stay 10 years on record. If the accused resolves the FTA, the DOL will delete it and retain the original conviction.
It is worth noting that some traffic violations remain on a public record forever. For example, severe traffic violations like vehicular homicide, DUI, and other alcohol-related convictions are lifetime records. Also, when an offender charged with a traffic violation chooses to defer prosecution, the offense will remain permanently on their record.
Another factor that influences how long a traffic offense stays on record in Washington is the class of a driver's license. When a non-commercial vehicle is involved in an accident (even when the vehicle owner is not at fault), the crash report stays on record for 5 years from the collision date. For commercial vehicles, the violation will remain 10 years from when the accident occurred. Also, while administrative penalties such as license suspension and revocation stay on the records of non-commercial drivers for 5 years, these records remain listed for life on commercial driver records.
How to Remove Traffic Records from Public Websites in Washington
The most effective way to remove a traffic record from public websites in Washington is to seal or expunge the record.
The Washington judiciary hardly considers petitions to seal or delete adult misdemeanor or felony convictions. For instance, citizens cannot expunge DUI, vehicular assault, and hit and run offenses that resulted in a conviction. However, the court may expunge a record when the subject is a juvenile. In the same vein, if an adult was falsely accused or convicted of an offense, the court may favor a motion to seal indictment and conviction records. Washington laws also authorize individuals who were arrested for a traffic violation but not convicted to petition the court to seal their records from public access.
Furthermore, individuals can use a new mailing address and dedicated telephone number to fill forms or in their records at the Department of Licensing (DOL) and the court offices. This action may help prevent personal information from appearing in public search results or on public websites.
Do Motoring Offenses Affect Criminal Records in Washington?
Motoring/traffic offenses are either civil infractions or criminal offenses. Usually, civil infractions are minor offenses that do not warrant imprisonment. They are also not added to an offender's criminal record. However, when a motorist is convicted for a misdemeanor or felony, Washington includes the charge in the individual's criminal record. As a result, vehicular assault, vehicular homicide, hit and run, reckless driving, and DUI offenses appear on an offender's criminal history record.
Criminal motoring/traffic offenses often come with consequences that are not only harsh but long-term. From an increase in vehicle insurance premiums to the loss of driving privileges and difficulties in securing a job, the impact on the offender could be considerable.