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Criminalization of Traffic Infractions in Seattle

Posted by Steve Karimi | Apr 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

A couple weeks ago, K5 News did an investigative piece on the parking situation in the greater Seattle area, and discovered over the course of three days that vehicles owned and operated by city department workers “camped out” at loading zones, stayed well beyond the posted limits on signs, and even took up commercial loading spaces in which others needed in order to do their jobs.  After many complaints from citizens that city cars were monopolizing the disappearing parking spots, K5 News was alarmed to discover that city workers were not being ticketed by the enforcement agency, but the rest of the American citizenry was.  Additionally, commercial truck drivers must pay to park in a loading zone in order to do their jobs, but city vehicles were also monopolizing those spots without paying the fee.

Seattle's Criminalization of Parking

While you may be scratching your heads wondering why a criminal defense attorney has decided to write about parking tickets, the issue goes much deeper than that.  What is happening is the criminalization of what used to be our right to use the public streets as taxpayers.  The new policies in place have very real effects on the livelihoods of the middle class and working poor.

Seattle like most cities, is growing exponentially, and the use of streets and parking has also decreased exponentially.  This means that as the parking fees increase, Seattle generates $37 million a year just in parking costs in addition to untold millions on tickets.  Since 2011, The Seattle Police Department's Parking division has increased from 30 officers to 113.  There are only about 1820 officers in the entire Seattle PD.  For more than 19 hours a day, SPD has 50 officers at any given time out patrolling the streets, writing ticket after ticket.  These parking fines and consequences may be just as steep as moving violations (both infractions) or amount to the fines of criminal charges.

  • Base fines start at $47 and move up to $250 (parking in a handicapped spot). See RCW 11.31.121.
  • Additional fines will be added if payment is late.
  • A convenience charge of $4.00 will be charged each time you pay a ticket online.
  • As of 2014, Seattle adopted the Scofflaw Ordinance, which gives the city the authority to put a boot on your car after a certain number of unpaid parking tickets.  If booted, the owner of the vehicle will then be responsible for the costs of the default penalties of the parking infractions, late fees, court costs (including but not limited to collection agency remuneration authorized under RCW 3.02.045), towing fees (authorized under RCW 11.30.290), immobilization administrative fees (authorized under RCW 11.35.020(H)), and accrued interest.  This can result in thousands of dollars worth of fines.
  • If you have an unpaid ticket, you will be unable to renew your car registration and tags. See RCW 46.16.216(1).  Failure to have registration will result in additional traffic infractions and fines.
  • Failure to pay parking tickets may also result you being sent to collections.  When a ticket is referred to collections, additional fees will be applied, along with a delinquency which will lower your credit score.

Skilled Infraction Defense in the Greater Seattle Area

To some, traffic and parking citations may seem like a relatively minor annoyance.  Oftentimes you may think it best to pay the fine and move forward with your life.  However, ‘penalties' for both moving and nonmoving traffic violations nowadays are not merely infractions.  While there is no “jail time” involved for most traffic infractions, the consequences now mimic the slippery slope and downhill spiral of those with actual criminal charges against them. Those who do not have the money to front the cost of high parking fines may find themselves without a car and thus a way to get to a job, damaged credit (which will affect housing opportunities), and high Court costs.  At the Law Offices of Steve Karimi we have the knowledge and experience to help get your traffic tickets dismissed.  Contact a Seattle traffic violations defense attorney online or call 206-621-8777 to schedule a free initial consultation. 24-hour-a-day call service is available at 206-660-6200.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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If you were arrested or a loved one has been charged with a crime in Seattle or surrounding areas of Washington State, the Law Offices of Steve Karimi can help. Call 206-660-6200 24 hours a day for a free consultation.

Seattle Defense Lawyer

Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.