More people in Washington State are fighting – and beating – traffic tickets than ever before, says the Seattle Times. More than 158,000 traffic charges were dismissed last year, twice as many as a decade ago. The dismissal rate grew over 10 years from fewer than nine out of every 100 traffic charges in 1996 to more than 13 out of every 100 last year. One reason is the emergence of a cottage industry of lawyers who handle such cases. Last December, Washington judges changed many rules, which has potential to reverse the trend. The changes, which closed some procedural loopholes defendants could take advantage of, went into effect in January.
A 2000 state law allows motorists to ask a court to erase a moving or nonmoving violation once every seven years – a kind of second chance for drivers to clear their record. If a judge grants the request, the motorist pays a fee to the court and must not commit another offense for up to a year. The fact that more people are choosing to fight traffic tickets – nearly 122,000 last year, a 43 percent increase over 1996 – is likely affecting the increase in dismissals. While it’s not clear why more people are fighting tickets, one thing is clear: More people are hiring lawyers to represent them.