An arraignment is a hearing, usually the first appearance, in which a person accused of committing a crime is told of the charge and asked to plead guilty or not guilty.


Bail is money or other security (bail bond) given to the court to allow a person's release from jail and to assure their appearance in court at a hearing. The accused may forfeit (lose) the money by not appearing for the hearing.

Civil Case

A civil case is an action to protect private rights, whether for personal injury, damage to property or contract disputes. District Court hears civil cases where the amount in controversy is not greater than $100,000. Civil cases must be filed with the court prior to service on the defendant. Individuals may represent themselves in civil proceedings or they may retain an attorney.

Contested Hearing

A contested hearing is a hearing to argue that you did not commit a traffic infraction. You may request that the officer or other witnesses be present.

Criminal Case

A criminal case is an action where an individual is accused of committing a crime. The State of Washington commences the action. District Court hears criminal cases involving misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor cases. These cases have penalties respectively, of no more than 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine and one year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine.


In a civil case, the person being sued is called the defendant. In a criminal case, the person accused of the crime.


Washington state law (RCW Chapter 10.14) defines unlawful harassment as a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, harasses or is detrimental to such person, and serves no legitimate or lawful purpose. The course of conduct shall be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotion distress, or when the course of conduct would cause a reasonable parent to fear for the well-being of their child.

Impound / Vehicle Impound

If you have received a notice of vehicle impound and want to contest the actual tow or the fees charged by the tow company, you must request a hearing within 10 days from the date you attempted to retrieve or did retrieve the vehicle. To request a hearing you must complete an Impound Petition and Notice of Hearing Form, which is available at the Operations Division (CCB). You will need the badge number, name of law enforcement agency and the officer's name who authorized the impoundment or the company name, address and name of the party who authorized the impoundment and a copy of the tow bill. If the vehicle has been sold, contact the Pierce County Auditor's Office:
2401 S. 35th St.
Tacoma, WA
Ph: (253) 798-7427


An infraction is a violation of law not punishable by imprisonment. Speeding, fail to yield, no insurance, expired vehicle license, defective equipment and parking in a disabled parking zone are examples of infractions.

Limited Jurisdiction

Limited jurisdiction refers to courts that are limited in the types of criminal and civil cases they may hear. District Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. It handles misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor criminal cases and small claims actions and civil matters where the amount in controversy is no more than $75,000.


Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which the parties bring their dispute to a neutral third party, who helps them agree on a settlement.

Mitigation Hearing

A mitigation hearing is a hearing to explain the circumstances, not to argue that you did not commit the traffic infraction. If you agree that you committed the infraction but would like to explain the circumstances, request a mitigation hearing. The District Court will notify Department of Licensing that you committed the infraction.

Name Change

To change your name, or the name of your minor child, you must complete a Petition for Change of Name form and apply at the District Court in the county where you reside. The Name Change Information Packet is available for more information. You may complete the interview process for a name change petition online. Please review the additional information available on the Forms page.

Small Claims

A small claims case filed without the assistance of an attorney for the recovery of money damages only (up to a maximum of $5,000). The Small Claims Information Packet is available for more information.


A notice to a witness that they must appear in court to present testimony in an action.


Summons is a notice to a defendant that he or she has been sued or charged with a crime and is required to appear in court. A criminal defendant who fails to appear in court will have a warrant issued for their arrest.


A warrant of arrest may be issued for failure to appear at a hearing or failure to comply with court ordered requirements. You must appear in person to request a hearing to quash (cancel) the warrant.