About

About Seattle Municipal Court photo

The word cloud above represents the court's values and their importance as identified by court staff.

Seattle Municipal Court is the largest limited jurisdiction court by case volume in Washington State with seven elected judges and five appointed magistrates.

Our Mission

To provide a forum to resolve alleged violations of the law in a respectful, independent and impartial manner.

What the Court Handles

Seattle Municipal Court handles all misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor crimes, civil infractions, and other offenses authorized under the Seattle Municipal Code and certain Revised Code of Washington Statutes.

Misdemeanors: Crimes where the maximum sentence is 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine.
Gross Misdemeanors: Crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, including offenses such as driving under the influence (DUI), domestic violence, theft, and trespass.
Infractions: Acts that are prohibited by law but are not legally defined as a crime like parking tickets and traffic or non-traffic infractions.
Civil Offenses: Filed with the court when the City of Seattle seeks enforcement of its fire code, housing, and other City ordinance violations.

History

The first judicial officer for Seattle was appointed by the City Council in 1875 from among the King County Justices of the Peace serving the Seattle Precinct. In 1886, a charter amendment made each Seattle Precinct Justice a Police Justice with jurisdiction over ordinance violations. The 1890 Freeholders Charter officially established a Police Court in the city. This provision was repealed in 1892, after an 1891 state law created a Municipal Court system that included a Justice Court and Police Court. The Police Court was a court of limited jurisdiction under the purview of the City of Seattle. In contrast, the county was the parent agency for the Justice Court. One of the justices of the peace in the Seattle Precinct was appointed to serve on the Police Court in addition to his duties on the Justice Court. The Police Court heard violations of state law that occurred within the city limits, as well as violations of City ordinances. It dealt with misdemeanors, traffic offenses, minor civil suits, and small claims, and also heard liquor-related cases during Prohibition.

The Police Court was called by varying names over the years. Before 1891, it seems to generally have been known as the Police Court. From 1891 to 1897, it was called the Municipal Court, and then again was referred to as the Police Court until 1928, when it was once again called the Municipal Court. It retained that name from then on, except for 1954-1955, when it was called the Municipal Police Court. The currently constituted Municipal Court was created in 1955 under Chapter 290 of Washington State laws. It has exclusive original jurisdiction over violations of all city ordinances, collects fines and forfeitures relating thereto, and hears cases related to misdemeanors defined by State statute that occur within the city limits. Municipal Court judges are elected by the qualified electors of the City of Seattle.

The Justice Court, also created by the 1891 state law, was a court of limited jurisdiction under the purview of King County. The justices of the peace on the bench of the Justice Court dealt with misdemeanors, traffic offenses, minor civil suits, and small claims, and also heard liquor-related cases during Prohibition. More serious cases were referred to the county's Superior Court. In 1961, the Washington State Justice Court Act combined the Justice Court and the District Court into one entity, a change that was adopted by King County in 1962.