Where does the fine amount on an infraction come from?

When a person receives an infraction, such as a speeding ticket, there is a fine amount listed on the face of this infraction. This fine is the maximum fine that can be assessed against the person for that particular infraction. Infractions can only be punished with a fine, not jail (like a criminal offense). So the maximum fine amount is the worst case scenario for an infraction.

For some infractions, the maximum fine amount is listed in the statute. For instance, RCW 46.61.525 outlines the elements of the infraction of Negligent Driving in the Second Degree, and it also states that a violation “is subject to a penalty of two hundred fifty dollars.” However, anyone who has ever received an infraction for Negligent Driving Second Degree knows that the maximum fine amount on the infraction was not listed as $250 but instead, $550. So why does the fine of $250 mandated by the statute increase up to $550?

RCW 3.62.090(1) and (2) both require additional fines on top of the base fine. Specifically, RCW 3.62.090(1), requires a public safety and education assessment of 70% of the fine amount. RCW 3.62.090(2) requires an additional public safety and education assessment, this one is 50% of whatever the public safety and education assessment is in subsection (1). And finally, RCW 46.63.110(7) and (8) add an additional $37. These extra fees do not apply to parking infractions and some only apply to vehicle related infractions.

So for Negligent Driving in the Second Degree, you take the $250 base fine, add 175 (.70 x 250), add 87.5 (.5 x 175), and add 37 = 549.50. The government apparently rounds this figure up to $550.

Again, keep in mind the $550 fine is the worst possible thing that could happen. If you hire a competent infraction attorney, the fine will likely be dramatically reduced (or dismissed entirely) and the infraction could be amended to one that does not affect your insurance rates.

If you’re curios, IRLJ 6.2 lists all in the infraction base fine amounts. If an infraction does not have a specific amount listed, IRLJ 6.2 says the default base fine is $42.