Seattle Municipal Court Updates - May 2022


Seattle Municipal Court

News and Updates

May 2022

New Seattle Ticket Debt Reduction Hearings

A parking officer places a ticket on a SUV's windshield

Seattle Municipal Court now offers debt reduction hearings for people who can’t afford to pay their debt from Seattle parking, traffic, or camera tickets. You are eligible if you are:

  • Low income
  • Have debt from parking, traffic, or camera infraction tickets in Seattle Municipal Court that you can't afford to pay
  • Have tickets that are past their due date*

The hearings are an opportunity for people to speak with a court magistrate to reduce their fines and recall their tickets from collections. After the hearing, court staff help participants set up a monthly payment plan or other option to pay off any remaining debt.

Hearings are held by phone every Thursday from 11 AM-1 PM. Participants can register online or by calling (206) 684-8747 during business hours (Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM- 4 PM).

Learn more about the program on the court's news blog.

*Tickets issued during the pandemic (March 2020-present) have not been charged late fees and are eligible for a regular court hearing. Please request a mitigation or contested hearing instead of a Debt Reduction hearing.

2022 Probation Evolution Updates

Screenshot of Probation Evolution City Council Presentation

In 2020, we began redesigning our approach to probation as a result of stakeholder and community feedback and our desire to eliminate disproportionate impacts on those we serve. We’ve incorporated the findings and recommendations in the 2020 Vera Institute of Justice Probation Services report and the 2021 City Auditor’s assessment into our Probation Evolution project plan. We've made headway, and this effort remains a work in progress. Transforming the way we do our work isn't easy, and it takes time!

We had the opportunity to present to the Seattle City Council's Public Safety and Human Services committee last month to share updates on the Probation Evolution project. You can watch or listen to that presentation on YouTube, or check out this project updates blog post for a written summary of what we shared with the City Council.

Eliminating Risk Assessment Tool in Probation Services

black and white scales of justice made up of binary code

In March, Presiding Judge Willie Gregory directed Probation Services to eliminate use of risk assessment tools for determining probation clients’ reporting frequency.

Risk assessment tools are used in many courts to address the risk of humans’ implicit bias in decision making. However, these tools often include questions or consider factors that perpetuate bias towards people of color.

The court’s previous tool was found to be failing to differentiate between risk levels and had especially adverse effects on Black/African American and American Indian/Alaska Native clients. Based on the court’s research on tools used in other jurisdictions, community feedback, and concerns with the court’s existing risk assessment tool, Judge Gregory made this decision to eliminate use of a risk assessment tool in Probation Services effective March 21, 2022.

Probation Services is required by state court rule to use a standardized classification system to determine community risk levels, with a minimum of monthly face-to-face interviews required for cases classified at the highest level.

Judge Gregory has directed the court to create and implement a new standardized classification system. In the interim while we develop the new classification system, all new probation clients are required to report to probation once per month. Clients are currently reporting by phone or video call.

We don’t know what the new classification system will look like yet. We are working to design the system with input from community members and stakeholders. We will share more updates this summer.

Judges Agree to City Attorney’s Proposed Changes to Seattle Community Court

The Seattle Municipal Court judges have agreed to the Seattle City Attorney’s proposed changes to Seattle Community Court. The City Attorney requested that certain individuals they have identified as ‘high utilizers’ be excluded from participating in the program. The Community Court agreement already provided the judges with discretion to screen defendants out of Community Court. The changes approved will allow the City Attorney to decline to refer a case to Community Court even if it is technically eligible.

Seattle Community Court was launched in August 2020 to assist individuals booked into jail on low level misdemeanor charges through access to services in the community instead of sitting in jail waiting for a court date. The court intended to accomplish this through a series of “warm handoffs” from the jail to the court’s pre-trial services unit who can connect individuals to services utilizing the Community Resource Center.

As a pandemic response, the King County Jail implemented booking restrictions, and individuals accused of low-level crimes are no longer booked into the jail. Instead, they are cited by the police and then released, many times without a future court date. When a court date is set for these cases, many cannot be reached by mail because of housing insecurity, mental health issues, and substance abuse issues; all issues that Community Court was meant to address.

The Seattle Municipal Court shares the City Attorney’s goal of addressing the root causes that lead people to be frequent utilizers of the court system. The court proposes a workgroup with representatives from the City Attorney’s Office, the King County Department of Public Defense, and other stakeholders to explore how best to ensure this population stays engaged in their court case while also helping connect them to services and supports to address underlying behavioral health concerns. 

Learn more about Seattle Community Court

COVID-19 Operations at Seattle Municipal Court

We're continuing to center health and safety in our operational decisions as we move forward in this new phase of the pandemic. Masks are still required in our building. We continue to offer virtual hearings in all of our criminal and infraction courtrooms. 

People assigned to probation and pre-trial reporting are still checking in with their counselors remotely, unless they are specifically asked to appear in person. Our Community Resource Center recently reopened to offer services three days a week, now on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. 

Judges Issue En Banc Ruling in Response to Washington State Toxicology Lab Methamphetamine Contamination Motion

Seattle Municipal Court judges ruled that the court will suppress all blood toxicology results for amphetamine and methamphetamine if the tests were conducted by the Washington State Toxicology Lab in its Main Lab or the Annex between March 2018 and October 2021. This ruling (PDF) does not affect tests for alcohol or any other drug.

The court held an en banc hearing on behalf of three cases on January 12-14, 2022. Although the court denied the defendants’ motions to dismiss their cases, the court granted defendants’ motion to suppress amphetamine and methamphetamine blood results in these three cases.

The en banc ruling will also result in the suppression of blood toxicology tests related to amphetamine and methamphetamine in other Seattle Municipal Court cases. It is unclear how many tests are affected by this ruling. Cases will be identified by prosecutors and defense attorneys on a case-by-case basis. Read more in the press release

Community Outreach Events to Resume in 2022

SMC in the Community Outreach Event

Before the pandemic, Seattle Municipal Court brought court services along with supportive social services and resources from our Community Resource Center to Seattle neighborhood community centers. These in-person events were put on hold due to COVID, as we moved more court services online. Now, we are planning for how we can safely resume our outreach events later this year. 

These outreach events are an opportunity for community members to receive assistance with resolving Seattle Municipal Court warrants, learn about options for addressing Seattle  tickets, and access supportive services. Court staff are present to answer questions about court processes, schedule hearings, and provide information on resources and programs available.

We'll share details about the time and location of the 2022 event when we have it. For now, you can access court services online at, and feel free to call customer service at (206) 684-5600 if you need help. 

New Positions at SMC


We have welcomed two new employees to Seattle Municipal Court who are both in brand-new roles for our organization.

First, we welcomed Victoria Moreland as our Community Outreach and Engagement Strategic Advisor. We’re excited to have Victoria on board to expand our engagement efforts and help us ensure our policies and programs center the community we serve. Victoria joined us in early April and will help lead our community outreach efforts across the court, including in the Probation Evolution Project.

In April we also welcomed a Community Resource Center Systems Navigator, who is working with us on contract from the YWCA. We’ve hired Nicole Oman, who has worked closely with the CRC in her role as a Community Health Worker and Health Plan Finder Navigator with YWCA over the past three years. As the Systems Navigator, Nicole will provide counseling, community provider referrals, and direct services to the clients we serve through the Community Resource Center.

Welcome, Victoria and Nicole!