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Tigard Municipal Court

"Rules of the Road"

What is a Traffic Arraignment?
By Judge Emily Oberdorfer
July 2021

Now that I’ve had some time to settle into my new position, I’ve realized that most folks don’t know what to expect at a traffic ticket arraignment. Here in Tigard they are relatively informal appearances where the defendant lets the court know whether they want to enter a no contest plea or have a trial. Cases are not dismissed at arraignment.

The first step is to look at your ticket to find the arraignment date. Most people find it easiest to contact the court prior to their arraignment at 503-718-2478 to speak with a clerk rather than waiting to talk with a judge. No matter what, you must either contact the court on or before the date listed on your citation or you must appear in court. If you don’t, the court can convict you by default and enter a fine.

The court clerks can take a no contest plea and determine whether you are eligible for a fine reduction or Traffic School Diversion Program. The clerks can also take a not guilty plea, set your case for trial, explain certain aspects of procedure and are great at directing you to other helpful information. The clerks cannot give you legal advice. 

The only thing a judge can do that a clerk can’t is reduce fines and fees a little more. The judge can take your financial status and the circumstances of the violation into account when issuing a fine. If you received multiple photo citations in a two-week period, a judge may be able to help reduce fines without regard to financial status.

If you come to court hoping to get into the traffic school diversion program when you aren’t technically eligible, you should be prepared to tell the judge what makes your situation different than everyone else who doesn’t want a ticket on their record. The law tells judges that we need to treat similarly situated people similarly, so you need to explain why you are dissimilar to the other nice people afraid that they will get an insurance increase or get in trouble at work.

Judges do not have the authority to dismiss cases based on information provided during the arraignment. If you’re hoping to have your case dismissed, you must enter a not guilty plea with the clerks or by mail so we can set your case for trial so the judge can hear from both sides. We are happy to hear your case.

We know that no one intends to get a traffic ticket and that very good drivers sometimes get caught at the worst moments. We will do what we can to make the process as simple as possible and to ensure that you have a chance to be heard.

Below are a collection of articles written by Tigard’s former presiding judge Michael J. O’Brien for Cityscape, the city’s official newsletter.

Bikes / Pedestrians

Growing Risks for Pedestrians
March 2020

The most recent update on pedestrian traffic fatalities, both in Oregon and nationwide, contains some disturbing news: during the ten-year period ending in 2018, the number of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. increased by more than half. By comparison, the total number of traffic fatalities increased by two percent during the same period.

Nationally, an estimated 6,590 pedestrians were killed in 2019. About one in six victims of all traffic collisions was a pedestrian – the highest percentage in 35 years. 

A similar pattern emerged in Oregon, with an estimated 40 pedestrian fatalities in 2019. With an increase of 22 percent from 2018 to 2019, Oregon was among the top third of states with the highest fatality rates.

In recent years, only two percent of crashes in Tigard involved pedestrians, but 93 percent of those crashes resulted in injuries – and 23 percent were fatal. Fortunately, Tigard experienced no pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2019.

After decades of decline, the national increase in pedestrian deaths since 2011 reflects an overall upward trend in fatal collisions. What are the reasons for this dramatic increase? Studies cite factors such as a growing population, more traffic on the roads, and an increase in economic activity over the last decade.

But there’s another likely cause: the enormous increase in the number of mobile devices like smartphones, now used by 94 percent of the U.S. population. A driver engaged in a cellphone conversation approaching a pedestrian listening to music on headphones can be a dangerous combination, especially at night.

In response to rising fatalities, Oregon has acted aggressively to improve pedestrian safety in recent years. Laws governing the use of mobile devices by drivers have become stricter. The Oregon Department of Transportation’s “Oregonian Crossing” program, with the slogan “Every Intersection Is A Crosswalk,” has presented ads, videos, brochures and speakers on the subject.

The Tigard Police Department and many other police agencies regularly conduct crosswalk enforcement operations.  Fortunately, Tigard experienced no pedestrian traffic fatalities in 2019.

A few cities in California and Hawaii have responded to “distracted walking” incidents by prohibiting smartphone use in crosswalks by pedestrians. No Oregon city has yet adopted such laws, which are controversial. 

Oregon’s new “Stop as Yield” law for bicycles
January 2020

Oregon’s new “Stop as Yield” bicycle law went into effect on January 1, 2020. The law now allows bicyclists to proceed without stopping through intersections controlled by stop signs or flashing red lights if they first:

Under previous law, bicycles were treated just like a motor vehicle. Riders were required to come to a complete “foot down” (or “track stand”) stop at stop signs or flashing red lights. Oregon law defines a “stop” simply as “cessation of movement” under ORS 801.510.

Bicycles at stop signs, like cars, are still required to stop and yield to vehicles, pedestrians, flaggers, and others “if necessary for safety.” The new law doesn’t affect traffic signals: bicyclists are required to stop and obey all existing rules for red lights. 

The “Stop and Yield” concept is based on an Idaho statute that was enacted in 1982 and later adopted by several other states. Bicyclists supporting the change in Oregon argued that a full stop at stop signs causes them to lose momentum and accelerate unsafely from a standstill across intersections. Bicycles can be unstable and harder to maneuver at low speeds, and constant stopping makes riding more tiring and inefficient. Bicyclists also argued that the law gives them an incentive to ride on quieter side streets rather than in heavy traffic on major avenues, improving traffic safety for all.

Violations of the new law (“Improper entry into an intersection”) are punishable by a maximum fine of $250.    

Traffic Safety

When in doubt, yielding may be the safest practice
Failure to yield the right of way was the second most common reason for collisions on Oregon highways in 2018 (the last year for which complete records are available). When do drivers have a legal duty to yield?

While most situations that require yielding are clear – at stop signs and traffic lights, or to pedestrians and bicyclists – others may not be. For example, consider the evidence presented in a trial involving an alleged failure to yield the right of way. Two cars were converging on a four-way residential intersection at the same time and at right angles to one another. Neither driver stopped nor yielded to the other, and there were no stop signs or other traffic-control devices. The result was a collision that badly damaged both vehicles, but fortunately resulted in no injuries.

At trial, the driver who was charged – the defendant – testified that he reached the intersection several seconds before the second vehicle and therefore had the right to proceed. The other driver, coming from his right, agreed that the defendant arrived first. However, she argued that he had the duty to yield to her under Oregon law because she was coming from his right at the intersection.

Under the statute (ORS 811.275), she was right.

But the defendant then claimed that the other driver nonetheless lost her legal right of way because she was clearly driving too fast. He pointed to another subsection of the same statute which provides: a vehicle “entering an intersection at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right of way.” However, a witness – the driver of a car behind the defendant – testified that there was no evidence of excessive speed on her part.

The defendant was found guilty of Failure to yield at an uncontrolled intersection, a violation subject to a $265 presumptive fine under ORS 811.275. The law requires drivers to “look out for and give right of way to any driver on the right… regardless of which driver first reaches and enters the intersection.” While a driver forfeits the right of way by exceeding the speed limit, in this case the evidence failed to support that claim.

While the right of way is an important concept in Oregon law, the safest strategy for drivers may be to yield to another vehicle whenever safety requires it. Maybe it’s better to lose a few seconds of one’s time to avoid a crash even if we have the legal right to proceed. Yielding could produce a far better result than insisting on a right of way that results in a collision.

JUNE 2020
Turning at Red Lights

During court arraignments for traffic violations, judges often hear a version of the same question from those cited for failing to obey a traffic light: “Isn’t it okay to turn right on a red light?” The short answer is, “Yes, sometimes, but it’s a bit more complicated than that.”

The general rule is that drivers must always stop at a red light, whether going straight or turning. The legal definition of a “stop,” in ORS 801.510(1), is simple: “complete cessation from movement.”

How can an officer or defendant verify if a vehicle has stopped? There are a number of ways, but officers often testify at trial that they look closely at a vehicle’s hubcaps to confirm if the driver has complied. At intersections with photo enforcement, still pictures and videos are quickly made available to officers and cited drivers.  The pictures and videos can also be offered in evidence at trials. 

Oregon law, in ORS 811.360(1), describes how drivers can safely and lawfully proceed into an intersection, but only after stopping, on a red light or red arrow:  

  • Turn right onto a two-way street
  • Turn left or right onto a one-way street in the direction of traffic.

Before making any turn on a red signal, a driver must also:

  • Make sure there’s no sign prohibiting turns on red
  • Exercise caution to avoid an accident
  • Yield the right of way to traffic already in the intersection “or approaching so close to the intersection as to constitute an immediate hazard.” ORS 811.360(3).
  • Yield to pedestrians

Failure to exercise caution or yield the right of way can result in a citation for improperly proceeding at a stop light.

Some defendants, when pleading “no contest” to a violation, add: “I failed to stop before turning, but there were no other cars nearby.” If an unlawful turn didn’t endanger anyone directly, that fact is proper for a judge to consider as a mitigating factor in determining a fine. However, the law is designed to promote safe driving habits even if there’s no immediate danger in turning or failing to stop.

The purpose of red traffic lights and stop signs is not to regulate speed, by making vehicles slow down, but to require complete stops. These devices allow safe interactions between vehicles and encourage drivers to automatically scan intersections, while stopped, to be sure there’s no danger before proceeding.

Some defendants wonder whether they were cited for failing to follow the “three-second rule” before proceeding at stop signs or turning on red. There is no such rule in Oregon: “complete cessation from movement” is all that’s required.

Both failure to obey a traffic control device and improperly proceeding at a stop light are Class B violations under Oregon law, subject to a presumptive fine of $265.

The Importance of Turn Signals
While drivers are aware that the law requires them to signal turns and lane changes, a national study showed that nearly half fail to signal lane changes.

Under Oregon law, failing to signal a lane change, a turn, or an exit from a roundabout “from any position” are serious violations, carrying a presumptive fine of $265. Drivers must signal a turn even if they’re in a required turn lane.

Oregon law also prohibits any turn or lane change if the movement cannot be made “with reasonable safety” or the driver fails to “signal continuously for at least 100 feet” in advance. Violations are subject to a presumptive fine of $115.

National surveys show a wide range of reasons for failing to signal, but the most common were laziness and “I didn’t have time.” Violators simply don’t seem to understand the importance of turn signals. Younger drivers are less likely to signal than older drivers, while men are less likely to comply than women.

Changing lanes within an intersection isn’t specifically prohibited in Oregon, but it can be dangerous in busy areas – even with a signal. Another driver could pull into the same lane, resulting in a crash. The lane-changing driver could be ticketed for failing to make the change “with reasonable safety.” The better practice is to activate the signal and change lanes after the intersection.

Apart from drivers’ legal duties, signaling a turn or lane change is a necessary precaution and a vital habit to develop. As a rule of thumb, drivers should signal a lane change for at least five seconds at freeway speeds. A sudden lane change, even with a signal, can cause hard braking and rear-end collisions. It’s a basic courtesy to other drivers to communicate one’s intentions, giving them a chance to adapt, with a simple push of the blinker.

Studies also show that signaling causes drivers to focus more on their turn or lane change, making it more likely that they’ll check surrounding traffic and their blind spots before completing it. 


Crashes in Tigard: Where and Why?
Every year the City of Tigard submits detailed reports on traffic crashes to the Oregon Department of Transportation, where data from all cities in the state is eventually compiled into an annual report. The state’s latest annual report, for 2017, provides some helpful insights into the common reasons why collisions occur and where they take place.

There were 972 traffic crashes on city streets and highways in Tigard during 2017. The result was four fatalities, including two pedestrians, and nearly a thousand injuries.  The most common locations and reasons for these crashes included: 

  • About six of every ten collisions occurred on freeways and state highways in Tigard, the rest on city streets. This finding reflects the high volumes of commuter traffic on major routes through the city.
  • Rear-enders were the most common type of collision, often occurring when one car was already stopped in traffic. Whether due to tailgating or inattention, following too closely caused nearly half the collisions in Tigard. Many of them involved multiple vehicles in chain reactions.
  • Speeding, failure to yield the right of way, and failure to stop at a traffic light were other common reasons for crashes.
  • Drivers between the ages of 25 and 44 were the most likely to be involved in crashes, and the most likely to be injured.  Only six percent of drivers in Tigard crashes were 65 years of age or older.
  • More than two out of three crashes occurred on dry pavement during daylight hours.
  • Only about half of all collisions involved drivers who were Tigard residents.
  • Impaired drivers caused 14 crashes, resulting in two fatalities and ten injuries.
  • Statewide, the most common reasons for traffic fatalities were driving while impaired by drugs or alcohol, speeding, and failing to wear a safety belt.
  • In a separate study, two of the ten most dangerous highways in Oregon were identified in the metro area near Tigard: the approach to the Vista Ridge tunnel on Highway 26, and Canyon Road at Highway 217 in Beaverton.
  • To date in 2019, the number of statewide fatal collisions has declined from 270 to 250 compared to the same period last year, a reduction of over seven percent.

Distracted driving due to smartphone use is difficult to assign as a specific cause of crashes, so it’s not included in ODOT’s study. However, experts suspect that smartphones have been a major contributor to the national and statewide increase in collisions and fatalities since 2014. In response, Oregon and many other states have adopted enhanced penalties for unlawful use of mobile electronic devices.


In the Courtroom...

August 2020
Oregon courts and agencies adapt to the pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing need for social distancing have greatly affected normal operations of traffic courts and other public agencies in Oregon through most of 2020.

Until further notice, the Tigard Municipal Court, like many others in Oregon, is conducting business remotely – online, or by telephone, email and regular mail. In the near future, the court will be offering traffic trials by teleconferencing with defendants, witnesses, police officers, attorneys, judges and court staff.

Tickets for nonmoving violations, including license and registration offenses, are normally a part of every traffic court’s caseload. Due to greatly reduced operations since March, however, DMV has been unable to provide access for most drivers and vehicle owners to do business in person at its offices. As a result, many Oregonians have been unable to obtain or renew licenses, registrations and permits.

In their June special session, Oregon legislators recognized that the temporary reductions in DMV services are likely to continue, adding to a large backlog. For that reason, they enacted Senate Bill 1601, which creates a moratorium on traffic citations for various nonmoving violations, including:

  • No valid driver license or identification card
  • No valid registration for a passenger or commercial vehicle
  • No valid trip permit or temporary registration
  • No valid disabled parking permit

The moratorium will continue until December 31, 2020. If law enforcement officers issue any citations for these types of violations prior to that date, courts are required to dismiss them.

The state is encouraging public agencies and private businesses to be flexible in accepting Oregon licenses, registrations and permits even if they expired, or will expire, between March 1st and December 31st.  

The moratorium doesn’t affect other kinds of filings required under Oregon law. For example, all drivers must continue to file a DMV Traffic Accident and Insurance Report by email or regular mail if they’re involved in a collision that causes injuries or more than $2,500 in damages, or if any vehicle is towed.

Limited in-person appointments at DMV are available for certain purposes, but many transactions can be completed electronically or by regular mail. For complete information, visit:

Based on developments relating to the pandemic, courts and other public agencies will adjust their levels of in-person and remote services. Anyone with a pending matter can visit the court’s website or contact court staff. For more information about Tigard Municipal Court’s operations, visit

February 2020
Photo Red Light Citations in Tigard’s Court
The main function of courts is to provide an impartial forum for resolving disputes under broad principles of law that are established in advance. In doing so, judges, administrators and court staffs must balance the needs of individual litigants with pressures created by large caseloads. Backlogs in processing cases can create long delays that frustrate everyone and undermine fair adjudications. Courts are engaged in a constant effort to increase efficiencies while providing due process and individual consideration to those who use their services. 

Tigard’s municipal court serves a city with a population of approximately 55,000 in a large metro region. The court’s caseload consists mainly of traffic citations under Oregon’s Vehicle Code. Because some city streets and highways are major thoroughfares for the whole metro region, a large number of those cited into Tigard’s court are not city residents. 

In 2019, Tigard police filed 5,250 traffic citations in municipal court. The three most common charges were Speeding, Operating a motor vehicle while using a mobile electronic device (cellphone), and Failure to obey a traffic control device such as a traffic light or stop sign.   

After nearly two years of detailed planning, photo enforcement of red lights at three intersections on Pacific Highway is now underway. Automated enforcement at those locations is expected to increase the court’s monthly caseload by about 250 percent in 2020. 

The projected volume of cases is unprecedented in the court’s history. In order to accommodate it, the court has taken the following steps:  

  • Increased staff, including court clerks with experience in processing photo citations
  • Relocated to an expanded office space, with new artwork from Tigard sources on display
  • Increased dockets and added parking spaces
  • Improved efficiencies, including the use of Imaging software to create a paperless court operation that offers fast document retrieval and requires less physical storage space
  • Improved service to Spanish-speaking customers by translating court forms, brochures, website pages and other documents  

Despite the expected increase in caseload, the court will continue to offer diversion and education programs that have drawn many participants in recent years. Drivers with clean five-year driving records will still be able to take traffic-safety classes in return for dismissal of their citations. Those convicted of a first cellphone violation will be able to take a Distracted Driver Awareness Class in order to avoid payment of a $265 presumptive fine, though the conviction will still be entered on their records under Oregon statute.


May 2020
Tickets for license and registration violations during the Covid-19 pandemic

The Tigard Municipal Court frequently receives citations for traffic violations relating to licenses and registrations, including:

  • Driving without a valid license
  • Driving while suspended
  • Driving outside the restrictions on a hardship permit
  • Expired vehicle registration

Defendants who plead “no contest,” or are found guilty at trial, are usually given time to restore their driving privileges or obtain a valid registration. If they succeed and present proof of compliance, fines are reduced. In some cases, depending on the driving record, a citation may be dismissed.

But now, due to the pandemic, it’s no longer possible to drop by a DMV office in person and take care of a problem with a license or registration. 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, Oregon DMV has joined other government agencies in cutting back its operations to limit exposure of its employees and the general public to illness. Until further notice, the agency will be processing only one type of in-person application for driving privileges: a Commercial Driver License (CDL). While most DMV offices are closed, six DMV field offices remain open for CDL applications only, and an appointment is required. No tests for other types of licenses will be available until May 15th or possibly later.

Other DMV services are available by phone, by mail, and online at The website is updated frequently with news about the availability of testing and other in-person services. With planning, customers can complete their business with DMV without ever going to an office in person.

For now, applicants for approved hardship driver permits will receive DMV letters that they can carry in their vehicles, allowing them restricted driving privileges without first getting a new license in person.

Like DMV officials, law-enforcement officers and judges are aware that it’s difficult for many drivers and registered owners to come into compliance at a time when social distancing is so important to public health. The economic impacts of the pandemic have been severe for many drivers, and judges may take that into consideration upon request in determining fines for violations.

For Oregon courts, the highest priority in citations involving licenses and registrations is compliance. In the current pandemic, judges are willing to be flexible in working with defendants to achieve that goal.

If you any questions concerning a pending ticket in the Tigard Municipal Court, contact a court clerk by email or call 503-718-2478, Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The holiday season brings many families together, often requiring travel by car over long distances. Such lengthy drives can be especially challenging for older drivers, requiring many hours behind the wheel in darkness and wintry road conditions.

As Boomers reach retirement age, the number of older drivers is increasing rapidly across Oregon and the U.S. In fact, one out of every five drivers will be over the age of 65 by 2030. Yet older drivers, who represent 15 percent of all licensed drivers, only cause seven percent of two-car crashes. But aging poses special safety challenges to drivers, so Oregon imposes requirements like vision testing for drivers over 50. 

Age isn’t the only factor, though. Under Oregon law, the driving privileges of any driver, of any age, can be reviewed by DMV if there’s reason to believe that the driver is no longer qualified to operate a vehicle safely.  

A DMV review of a driver’s abilities can be initiated by filing a “Driver Evaluation Request.” A law-enforcement officer, relative, friend, physician, court, or other person may file the form.  The filer’s name can remain confidential unless the driver asks for a hearing or sues DMV. However, anonymous requests will not be investigated.  

A person’s age or medical diagnosis alone isn’t enough to trigger a response by DMV. The filer must provide specific information – including date, time and location – that questions “the individual’s ability to drive safely.” 

Examples of impaired driving abilities may include:

  • Failure to see or react to other cars, pedestrians, traffic signals or stop signs
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road or on a sidewalk
  • Turning from the wrong lane or cutting off other cars
  • Driving too slowly or stopping for no reason
  • Difficulty controlling a car
  • Slow reaction times or falling asleep while driving

In response, DMV can require the driver to submit to an examination, including vision, knowledge or driving tests. The driver may also need to obtain regular medical clearances from a doctor. To improve safety, DMV can impose additional requirements such as larger outside mirrors, no nighttime driving, or hand controls. If DMV determines that there’s an immediate threat to public safety, it can suspend the driver’s license immediately.

A DMV filing and review can be a time-consuming and humiliating process for any driver, so it should be used only if there’s no alternative. A respectful family discussion over the holidays, looking at ways to improve safety or find alternatives to driving, might better accomplish the same goal.


Traffic Control Devices & Intersections

Photo Speed Enforcement at Tigard Intersections
November 2020

Photo enforcement at red lights began at three Tigard intersections earlier this year. Using technology already installed, the program expanded over the summer to include automated photo citations for speeding at two of the same three intersections:

  • Pacific Highway/99W at Hall Boulevard
  • Pacific Highway/99W at 72nd Avenue

Both intersections have experienced high collision rates in recent years, including 114 from 2012 to 2016 alone.

As with photo enforcement of red lights, the process for issuing photo citations for alleged speed violations at intersections is strictly controlled by state law (Oregon Revised Statutes Section 810.437). A photo speeding ticket is similar to a standard traffic citation issued in person by a police officer, with these exceptions:

  • Citations can be issued if the driver exceeds the speed limit by 11 mph or more.
  • A police officer does not need to be present when the alleged violation occurs.
  • Automated citations may be issued for both speeding and red-light violations.
  • Within 10 business days of the alleged violation, each citation must be reviewed, authorized by an officer, and sent by regular mail to the registered owner. Owners will also receive high-resolution still photographs and a link for online access to a video of the incident.
  • Drivers do not need to be personally served with a citation; it will be mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner within ten business days of the alleged violation.
  • Oregon law assumes that the registered owner was the driver at the time of the alleged violation.
  • The registered owner has until the date and time of the scheduled court appearance, as stated at the bottom of the citation, to respond to the court by mail or online. The owner also has the option of appearing in court at the scheduled time.
  • A “not guilty” plea will result in the case being set for trial.
  • If the registered owner fails to respond to the court by the date and time noted on the citation, a license suspension may be ordered by the court. A default money judgment may also be entered.

If the driver of the vehicle was not the registered owner, the owner may submit a “certificate of innocence.” The certificate requires the owner to swear or affirm that he or she was not the driver, and a photocopy of the owner’s driver license must also be filed. The citation will be dismissed by the court upon receipt of the certificate, though an officer may reissue the citation if the officer believes the registered owner was the driver.  

If the registered owner is a business or public agency, a representative can file a “certificate of nonliability” if a renter or employee was the driver at the time of the alleged violation. The citation will be dismissed by the court upon receipt and may be reissued in the name of the employee or renter identified in the certificate.

As with other speeding violations, the presumptive fine on the front of a ticket is set by Oregon statute (ORS 153.019) based on the alleged speed over the posted limit. For drivers who plead “no contest,” or are found guilty after trial, the court may reduce the fine based on the driver’s DMV record and any circumstances presented to the court.

Photo Enforcement Comes to Tigard
December 2019

Photo-enforcement cameras will soon start operating at three Tigard intersections to enhance public safety and reduce violations.

  • Pacific Highway/99W at Hall Boulevard
  • Pacific Highway/99W at Durham Road
  • Pacific Highway/99W at 72nd Avenue

Signs alerting drivers to the cameras will be posted at each intersection and on major routes entering the city.

For several weeks, warnings for alleged violations will be mailed by the Tigard Police Department whenever a red-light violation is detected. Each will be plainly labeled “warning” and it will not be necessary to reply. Warnings will not be filed with any court or DMV, nor will they appear in any database.

After the warning period is over, formal citations will be issued by the Tigard Police Department. Photo enforcement has been common in Oregon for over twenty years, and the procedures for handling tickets are strictly regulated by state statute. All citations will be processed by the Tigard Municipal Court in the same way as other traffic tickets, with these exceptions:

  • Drivers do not need to be personally served with a citation: it will be mailed to the vehicle’s registered owner within ten business days of the alleged violation.
  • With each ticket, registered owners will receive high-resolution still photographs and a link for online access to a video of the incident.
  • The citation will include the date and time for a “first appearance” in court.  The date will be at least 30 days after the citation is mailed.
  • Oregon law assumes that the registered owner of the vehicle was the driver at the time of the alleged violation.
  • The registered owner has until the time of the first appearance to respond to the court by mail or online. The owner also has the option of appearing in court at the scheduled time. A “not guilty” plea will result in the case being set for trial.
  • If another driver was behind the wheel, the registered owner can file a “certificate of innocence” prior to the scheduled first appearance. The certificate requires the owner to swear or affirm that he or she wasn’t the driver, and a photocopy of the owner’s driver license must also be filed.
  • Upon receipt of the certificate of innocence, Oregon statute (ORS 810.436) requires the court to “dismiss the citation without requiring a court appearance” by the owner. However, the citation may be reissued if a police officer “verifies that the registered owner appears to have been the driver.”
  • A cited business or public agency can file a “certificate of nonliability” if an employee or renter was the driver at the time of the alleged violation. The citation will be dismissed and may be reissued in the name of the employee or renter identified in the certificate.

For drivers who plead “no contest” or are found guilty at trial, the presumptive fine for failing to stop for a red light is $265. The court may reduce the fine based on the driver’s DMV record and any circumstances presented to the court by mail or in person.  If the owner fails to respond to a citation by the time of the scheduled first appearance, a default money judgment may be entered and a license suspension ordered by the court after notice is given.

Oregon Courts

Traffic Fines in Oregon Courts
Suppose “Pat” gets a ticket for failing to stop at a red light in Tigard. A presumptive fine of $265 and his court date are entered on the front of the citation. What are his options?

Pat can plead “not guilty,” of course, and contest the ticket at trial. But he prefers not to challenge it and understands that Oregon law gives some discretion to judges in imposing fines for traffic violations. How are fines determined?

All drivers charged with running a red light will be given a ticket with the same $265 “presumptive fine” in cities and counties across the state. That’s because legislators have determined, by statute, that failure to obey a traffic signal is a Class B violation, on a scale of A to D. Presumptive fines range from $435 for a Class A violation, like speed racing, to $115 for a Class D violation, like expired tags. (Criminal misdemeanors and felonies are ranked in a similar way, though they have much greater penalties.)

All traffic citations contain the same detailed description of the ways that drivers can respond under Oregon law. For example, one simple option is to mail in the presumptive fine before the date and time set for a court appearance on each ticket.

Drivers who choose, like Pat, to plead “no contest” can appear in court at the time set or write a letter to the judge explaining the circumstances. If the driver has a good DMV record, the presumptive fine can be reduced. In Tigard and many other cities, court clerks at the front counter have the authority under written court rules to reduce a fine without appearing in front of a judge.

What happens when a driver simply ignores a ticket and lets the court date pass without taking any action? The short answer is: traffic tickets don’t just go away. Many courts will mail out a reminder, but drivers who don’t respond can soon face a conviction, an increased fine, a DMV suspension of their driving privileges, and other consequences provided by law.

Judges recognize that fines, including the $265 presumptive fine for Pat’s red-light ticket, may create a financial hardship for some people. On request, courts offer monthly payment agreements that reflect a driver’s ability to pay. As long as timely payments are made, the court will not suspend a driver license or take other action to collect the fine.   

Court Clerks
503-718-2478 | Email

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Municipal Court Location

Located inside City Hall
13125 SW Hall Blvd; Tigard, OR 97223


Disclaimer: The information provided on this site does not constitute legal advice. It is offered for your information only. While we make every effort to provide reliable information, there is no guarantee as to its accuracy. For legal advice specific to your situation, contact your lawyer or call the Oregon State Bar's Lawyer Referral Service at 503-684-3763 or toll-free in Oregon at 800-452-7636. 


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