Washington’s Municipal Courts are the lowest trial courts in the state and limited jurisdiction courts. Many have their own websites to help patrons navigate the legal system. Municipal Courts focus mainly on local ordinance violations and issues that take place within city limits.
Municipal Courts can try cases of gross misdemeanors only and civil infractions. These courts do not handle any small claims cases or other civil disputes. Instead, they process traffic and non-traffic violations, parking tickets, domestic violence, protective orders, and anti-harassment orders. These courts may hold jury trials except with cases involving traffic violations.
Municipal Court judges are elected and serve four-year terms. In some cities, they are appointed by the city government. All limited jurisdiction judges must attend 45 hours of continuing education training every three years.
These courts also have the authority to order probation for up to two years as sentencing. The only exception to this rule is for DUIs, and then the limit jumps to five years.
The Washington State Courts website has many resources to help the self-represented litigant in Washington. Since most cases in Municipal Courts are parking tickets and ordinance violations, they will need to rely on those supports. These types of cases are not allowed to use attorneys. The court's website has all the necessary forms to file cases, publications, and guides to help patrons with the process, rules of the court, treatment and rehabilitation programs for repeat offenders and other problem-solving programs. Additionally, users can review court fees, fines, and other charges online as well.
More than 2 million cases are filed in Municipal and District Courts each year. Of those, the majority are for traffic violations and parking tickets. The second highest number is for civil lawsuits and small claims.