Frequently Asked Questions
- Can a citizen receive legal advice from the Law Department?
- I have a legal question/problem, who can I speak to?
- What kinds of cases does the City Attorney prosecute?
- How should I report a crime?
- What number do I call to file a police report?
- Does the Law Department write the City's laws?
- Where can I find City ordinances?
- How do I file a claim for damages against the City?
- Where can I get legal advice if I cannot afford an attorney?
- I am having difficulty with my landlord. Where can I find assistance?
- I have questions regarding domestic violence and need phone numbers.
- I missed my court date and I think I have a warrant out for my arrest. Who should I call?
- I have a suspended license and my car was towed. Who should I call?
- Where should I take complaints about the City?
- Where should I take complaints about Law Department employees?
Can a citizen receive legal advice from the Law Department?
Generally, no. Attorneys in the Law Department serve as the attorneys for City government and City officials, rather than for individual citizens. Individuals normally must retain their own attorneys for legal advice and representation.
I have a legal question/problem, who can I speak to?
Contact the Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (206) 267-7010.
What kinds of cases does the City Attorney prosecute?
The Criminal Division prosecutes violations of the Seattle Municipal Code in Seattle Municipal Court. Both misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors are prosecuted. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and gross misdemeanors are punishable by up to 365 days in jail and $5,000 in fines. The Criminal Division also prosecutes DUIs, which can carry up to 5 years probation.
How should I report a crime?
Crimes should be reported to the local police. In Seattle, crimes should generally be reported to the Seattle Police Department through the "911" phone system.
What number do I call to file a police report?
- East Precinct (206) 684-4300
- North Precinct (206) 684-0850
- South Precinct (206) 386-1850
- West Precinct (206) 684-8917
- Non Emergency Line (206) 625-5011
Does the Law Department write the City's laws?
The Law Department generally helps City departments, the Mayor, and the City Council with all types of important legal documents, including proposed ordinances to change City law. In most cases, these departments and elected officials shape their own policies and proposals for new laws, with the Law Department providing technical assistance and review.
Where can I find City ordinances?
The City Clerk's office maintains, updates, and publishes the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC). Copies of the SMC are found in most local public libraries and is also available on the internet at Seattle City Clerk's Online Information Services.
How do I file a claim for damages against the City?
Claims for damages against the City must be filed with the City Clerk within the applicable statute of limitations. A claim form can be obtained by calling (206) 684-8213. You can also obtain a Claim For Damages form by downloading it from the Risk Management section of the Department of Executive Administration web site.
Where can I get legal advice if I cannot afford an attorney?
If the matter is CRIMINAL in nature and to see whether you qualify for having a public defender appointed, call:
Seattle Municipal Court Indigent Screening Program , (206) 733-9753.
You may also call:
- Associated Counsel for the Accused (206) 624-8105
- The Defender Association (206) 447-3900
- Northwest Defender Association (206) 674-4700
Here are some other helpful resources:
- The Office of Public Defense (206) 296-7662
- Lawyer Referral Service (206) 623-2551
- Northwest Justice Project (206) 464-1519 - Domestic Violence only
- Society of Counsel Representing Accused Persons (206) 322-8400
If the matter is CIVIL in nature, you may call one of the following numbers:
- Columbia Legal Services (206) 464-5911
- Neighborhood Legal Clinics (206) 340-2593, 9:00-12:00 noon.
- Lawyer Referral Service (206) 623-2551
- Legal Voice (Northwest Women's Law Center) (206) 621-7691
- Northwest Justice Project (206) 464-1519
I am having difficulty with my landlord. Where can I find assistance?
One of the following organizations may be able to help:
- Landlord-Tenant Association (Tenant's Union) (206) 723-0500
- Rental Housing Association of Puget Sound (206) 283-0816
- Landlord/Tenant Services (206) 241-1550
- King County Dispute Resolution Center (206) 443-9603
- Tenant-Landlord Coalition (206) 283-1342
- Catholic Community Services, Legal Action Center (206) 324-6890
- Solid Ground Tenant Services Hotline (206) 694-6767. Tenant Counselors provide information on the Washington State Residential Landlord Tenant Act and other laws impacting renters.
Housing code violations may be reported to the City by calling (206) 684-7899.
Discrimination in housing may be reported to the City by calling (206) 684-4500.
If you are 55 or older, the Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens may be reached at 206-684-0500 (TDD/TTY 206-233-2778).
I have questions regarding domestic violence and need phone numbers.
Some resources include:
- Domestic Violence Unit Information Line (206) 684-7770
- 24 Hour Crisis Line (425) 656-7867
- New Beginnings Community Advocates (206) 783-2848
- Consejo Counseling & Referral (206) 461-4880
- Refugee Women's Alliance (206) 721-0243
- Ina Maka Family Violence Intervention Program (206) 325-0070
I missed my court date and I think I have a warrant out for my arrest. Who should I call?
The Seattle Municipal Court at (206) 684-5600. More Court Hearings Information.
I have a suspended license and my car was towed. Who should I call?
The Washington State Department of Licensing at (360) 902-3900.
Where should I take complaints about the City?
In general, if you think a City department is doing something it should not, or not doing something it should, you should contact the head of that department, the Customer Service Bureau, or the Mayor's Office. Because other City departments are not supervised by the City Attorney, "the Law Department" can typically address complaints only about our own employees. The Customer Service Bureau can be contacted at:
- City Hall
- 600 Fourth Avenue, First Floor
- Seattle WA 98104-1858
- Phone: 684-CITY (2489)
- Fax: (206) 684-5529
- Hearing and Speech Impaired (TTY) only: (206) 615-0476
Where should I take complaints about Law Department employees?
Complaints or concerns about the performance of Law Department employees may be made by writing the City Attorney's Office at:
- 600 Fourth Avenue, 4th Floor
- PO Box 94769
- Seattle WA 98124-4769
Telephone calls to the office's main number, (206) 684-8200, can also be routed to the employee's supervisor for handling. You may also contact the Customer Service Bureau, 684-CITY (2489).