Frequently Asked Questions

The questions and answers found here are legal information. They are not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal advice you should register on the site and submit a ticket on our Contact a Whatcom County Attorney page. For more information about that program just follow this link. Remember, there is no substitute for the knowledge and experience of a professional attorney.

Court Records

Follow this link for a complete set of instructions and forms used to vacate certain types of criminal records.

There are several ways to do this and how you go about it depends on several things.

If you already know the case number then simply follow this link. Enter the case number in the search field and press the submit button. (NOTE: Only enter the numbers, no dashes or spaces) The case docket will be displayed. A docket is simply a list of the documents filed in the case. Select the document you want and it will be displayed. At this point you can’t print the document but if you press the PDF button on the toolbar the document will be converted into a Adobe Acrobat PDF which you can easily print.

The best thing about this process is that, unlike most other counties, it is completely free!

Category: Court Records

Follow this link for a complete set of forms used to vacate or seal court records.

Courts

Legal Advice
The District Court staff is not permitted, by law, to give legal advice. The staff cannot help you complete your paperwork. Please consult with one of the community resources noted below or an attorney for assistance.

Superior Court
If you think that your case should be processed through Superior Court, contact:
Office of Assigned Counsel / Court Services
Whatcom County Courthouse
311 Grand Avenue
3rd Floor
Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone: 360-676-6803

Shelters

If your case involves domestic violence or sexual assault, and you are not in, or in need of, shelter, call this agency first:
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services
1407 Commercial Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone: 360-715-1563 or 877-715-1563 (24-Hour Hotline)
Phone: 360-671-5714 (business Line)

Other Agencies
Other agencies that may be able to assist you:
Whatcom County Law Library
311 Grand Avenue
Basement
Bellingham, WA 98225
Phone: 360-676-6556
Library staff can assist in using legal research materials but cannot help with completing paperwork nor provide legal advice. Open part-time; call ahead for current schedule.

Northwest Justice Project
Project Safer
Phone: 888-201-1014 (CLEAR line)
You must call the CLEAR line to be screened for services

Information source: Whatcom County District Court website
Updated: 03-18-2016

Go to Washington Administrator of Courts Website by following this link: http://dw.courts.wa.gov/index.cfm?fa=home.home

Click on “Find My Court Date,” accept the disclaimer, select the court, and enter your first and last names.  You must hit the “Submit” button for it to work, it won’t work if you only hit the enter/return key.

Posted May 11, 2016 by
Kathleen J. Marshall, PLLC
119 N. Commercial St., Ste. 310
Bellingham, WA  98225-4447
Telephone:        (360) 676-0355
Toll Free Fax:    (888) 880-8310
Email:               Kathy@KJMarshallLaw.com

Follow this link for a complete set of instructions and forms used to vacate certain types of criminal records.

There are several ways to do this and how you go about it depends on several things.

If you already know the case number then simply follow this link. Enter the case number in the search field and press the submit button. (NOTE: Only enter the numbers, no dashes or spaces) The case docket will be displayed. A docket is simply a list of the documents filed in the case. Select the document you want and it will be displayed. At this point you can’t print the document but if you press the PDF button on the toolbar the document will be converted into a Adobe Acrobat PDF which you can easily print.

The best thing about this process is that, unlike most other counties, it is completely free!

Category: Court Records
The Bellingham Municipal Court has jurisdiction over parking infractions allegedly committed in the City of Bellingham in violation of the Bellingham Municipal Code.  These non-criminal violations are punishable by a fine in a presumptive amount set by City Council.  Special rules govern infraction hearings, and procedures are different from criminal cases.You must respond to the notice of infraction within fifteen (15) days from the date it was issued.  A mailed response must be postmarked no later than midnight on the day the response is due.

Choices available:

If you receive an infraction, you have three options:

  1. Pay your ticket without a court hearing. If you choose to pay your ticket without requesting a court hearing, simply pay the ticket amount online, in person at the clerk’s window, or by mail.  Pay within 15 days of issue date to avoid additional late fees.
  2. Mitigation Hearing. Request within 15 days of issue date.  In a mitigation hearing, you admit that you committed the violation, but ask the judge to reduce your ticket based upon mitigating circumstances. A mitigation hearing is an informal hearing where you may explain the circumstances of your case to the judge, who considers your explanation and may review your driving record in setting an appropriate fine.  There is no appeal from a mitigation hearing.
  3. Contested Hearing.Request within 15 days of issue date.  In a contested hearing, you do not admit you committed the violation. The City bears the burden of establishing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you committed the violation. The City meets this burden if the judge, after hearing all of the evidence, determines that it is more likely than not that the violation was committed. A defendant in a contested hearing has the right to the assistance of an attorney at the defendant’s own expense, the right to present evidence and examine witnesses in court, the right to request a witness list and copy of the officer’s sworn statement from the City Attorney’s Office (which must be requested in writing at least 14 days before the hearing; the City should provide you with these materials at least 7 days before the hearing), and the right to subpoena witnesses, including the officer who issued the citation (if you wish to subpoena witnesses, you must apply to the Court in person at least 14 days prior to the hearing; witnesses should be served at least 7 days prior to the hearing). If no witness is requested, the judge will read the officer’s sworn statement and then consider any testimony and/or evidence presented by the defense before deciding the case. If the City prevails, you may appeal the Court’s determination to the Superior Court upon payment of the Superior Court filing fee.

Failure to Appear or Pay Fines:

Failure to respond in a timely manner to a citation or failure to appear in Court for a scheduled hearing will result in a finding that the infraction was committed, and imposition of the fine amount listed on the citation including late fees based on ticket issue date.  There will be no further hearings.  Additionally, your unpaid debt will be referred to a collection agency and may adversely affect your credit rating.

Updated 05/07/2016

Categories: Courts, Parking Tickets

This link will take you to a great document which explains a debtor’s rights in a lawsuit.

About the Court
The Whatcom County District Court consists of 2 Judges, elected for 4 years, 1 appointed Commissioner, and professional and paraprofessional staff. The court hears criminal, civil, infraction and miscellaneous cases.

Criminal Cases
Criminal misdemeanor cases carry a maximum penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. Criminal gross misdemeanor cases carry a maximum penalty of up to 1 year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Some examples of criminal cases heard by the court are:

  • Assault (Including Domestic Violence)
  • Driving While License Suspended
  • DUI
  • Theft and Miscellaneous Property Crimes

Civil Cases
Civil cases including both general civil actions and small claims actions. General civil actions with damage claims in the maximum amount of $100,000. The court does not hear cases involving title to or possession of real property. Small claims actions with money claims in the maximum amount of $5,000. The small claims court may only grant a judgment for monetary damages. The court may not order the other party to return property or do any action except the payment of money.

Infractions
Infractions including traffic and code violations.

Miscellaneous
Miscellaneous proceedings including:

  • Anti-harassment Petitions
  • Domestic Violence Petitions
  • Name Change Petitions
  • Vehicle Impound Hearings

Information source: Whatcom County District Court website
Updated here: 03-25-2016

Categories: Courts, Miscellaneous

All civil filing fees are cash, money order or cashier check. No personal checks are allowed; however, business and practicing attorney checks are acceptable.

Fees

  • Civil filing: $83
  • Small Claims: $29
  • Counterclaim: Civil $83
  • Small Claims $29
  • Writ of Garnishment $12
  • Supplemental $20
  • Jury Demand $125
  • Ex parte fee $15
  • Impounds/ Dangerous Dog $83
  • AH Protection Orders $83
  • CD’s $10
  • Name Changes $166

Appeal Fees

  • Filing fee: $230
  • Prep fee $40
  • Transcript $20

Civil Motions
Civil Motions are heard every Friday @ 1:30p.m. Aside from DV, antiharassment/Stalking and Sexual Assault Protection Order Petitions, any civil motions may be calendared for hearing, including defaults judgments, supplemental proceedings, summary judgments, exparte motions.

Civil Trials
Trials are heard on the 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. Non Jury or Jury trials expecting to be one full day or more will need to set a trial setting hearing on the Friday motion calendar. Trial dates less than one full day (for example, brief debt collection cases) can be obtained by calling the civil coordinator at (360) 778-5408 Trial dates for Judges Grant and Elich must be confirmed by noon the Friday of the week before the scheduled trial date.

Small Claims
Small claims are heard every Thursday @ 9:00 a.m. Motions for reconsideration, new trial, to vacate a default, removal, to allow appearance of counsel, etc. which relate to a small claims matters are also heard on that Thursday morning calendar (unless otherwise authorized to be heard at a different time and date by order of the court.) Please note that mediators from the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center are usually available each Thursday Small Claims session to provide free mediation services, if both parties agree. If mediation fails, there is often still time available to have a Small Claims trial conducted the same morning. Additional information concerning mediation can be obtained at http://www.whatcomdrc.org/

Information Source: Whatcom County District Court website
Updated: 03-25-2016

Category: Courts
Types of Cases Superior Court handles:
  • Adult Felonies
  • Civil cases – (includes cases involving real property and/or claims in excess of $35,000)
  • Divorce/Child Custody/Child Support matters
  • Probate/guardianships
  • Paternity actions
  • Adoptions
  • Juvenile cases
  • Mental Illness cases

Information source: Whatcom County Superior Court website
Updated: 03-25-2016

Categories: Courts, Miscellaneous

Follow this link for a complete set of forms used to vacate or seal court records.

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