I requested a trial by jury in WA state for a traffic ticket (I know not a standard or suggested move as I understand, but I figured if I was going to court, I might as well have the satisfaction of at least seeing my rights in action.)

However, the judge denied my request for jury, and even went so far as to say that no such right to trial by jury existed for civil cases. (which appears to be a direct violation of Washington State code http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.display&group=sup&set=CR&ruleid=supcr38 in addition to being unconstitutional claim.)

That said, I have no idea how to go about appealing the ticket & penalty payment, or if I even should, and instead directly sue the court for ignoring my rights (and how to go about that).

  • The Washington state laws have no provision for juries in traffic court unless the violation is one of 67 exceptions listed in RCW 46.63.020. Otherwise, traffic infractions are administrative violations that may be handled in "courts", but have been declared "non-criminal" and thus outside the constitutional right to request a jury.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 2:03
  • @Upnorth If you don't mind me asking, why did you put "courts" in quotes?
    – lilHar
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 17:06
  • 2
    Not all traffic infractions need to be handled in courtROOMs in WA. They may be dealt with at administrative offices of the court clerk, such as when a person submits proof of insurance after having been cited for operating without it. Some rules also authorize a "court commissioner" to dispose of certain matters, under judicial guidelines.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 18:04
  • 1
    I am suspecting that the best option is to file the appeal based on lack of jury trial and encourage everybody else showing up that day to do the same.
    – Joshua
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 3:53

1 Answer 1


You do not automatically have the right to trial by jury in traffic court. The government only requires courts to allow trials by jury when it is not a petty offense.

Refer to Duncan v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 145 (1968):

Crimes carrying possible penalties up to six months do not require a jury trial if they otherwise qualify as petty offenses, Cheff v. Schnackenberg, 384 U.S. 373 (1966).


In the federal system, petty offenses are defined as those punishable by no more than six months in prison and a $500 fine.

Since most traffic violations do not involve jail time and do not exceed a $500 fine, most traffic violations are also not eligible for jury trials as defined by the government. Presumably the law is built this way so as not clog the courts with a bunch of people demanding jury trials for very minor infractions that need not be tried by jury.

The Washington State Civil Rules you reference do not grant any further rights to trial by jury not already granted otherwise. It can be quickly summed up as saying that trial by jury rights cannot be revoked, and outlines how one should go about requesting a trial by jury.

If you were fined more than $500 and were denied a jury trial, consult an attorney in the area about the situation.

  • 3
    Your conclusion is probably correct, but your reasoning is not. The statute in question refers to a right to a jury trial granted by the state constitution and not the federal constitution, which could be more expansive, and if a traffic violation is a civil matter rather than a criminal one (which Cheff and Duncan involve), there is no federal right to a jury trial at all, only a state right, often arising under court rules, state statutes or a state constitution.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 1:06
  • 2
    The statutes of WA (i.e., RCW - Revised Code of WA) specifically determine which violations are "infractions" to be handled administratively and without juries. One would need to challenge the constitutionality of such a law by appeal of a proper case to the highest levels. Good luck with that.
    – Upnorth
    Commented Aug 22, 2017 at 2:07
  • 2
    Some states such as Texas consider moving violations to be criminal, and someone getting one in Texas has a right to a trial by jury.
    – mark b
    Commented Aug 23, 2017 at 21:53

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