Pierce County District Court Judges hear misdemeanor criminal, criminal traffic, and infraction cases. Although the court also handles civil matters including small claims, name changes and lawsuits, this page only deals with criminal and traffic matters. A misdemeanor is often regarded as a minor criminal offense. A simple misdemeanor carries penalties of up to 90 days in custody and a fine of up to $1,000.00. RCW 9A.20.021. A gross misdemeanor is a more serious offense and carries up to 364 days in custody and a $5,000.00 fine. Crimes like DUI have mandatory jail sentences and potential driver license suspension. RCW 46.61.5055.
Criminal and traffic cases heard in District Court begin with an investigation by either a Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputy, or Washington State Patrol Trooper. Once the investigation is done the Deputy/Trooper either issues a citation, or prepares and forwards to the Pierce County Prosecutor a report. A deputy prosecuting attorney (DPA) then reviews the report and decides whether to charge a crime. DPAs in Pierce County do not prosecute traffic infractions like speeding tickets, overweight violations, etc.
District Court Judges
Pierce County District Court currently has eight elected judges with their respective backgrounds:
- Franklin L. Dacca – Army Res. Veteran; Former Criminal Defense Attorney and Former Federal Prosecutor.
- Claire Sussman – Former Deputy Prosecutor; Court of Appeals Law Clerk.
- Kevin A. McCann – Former Deputy Prosecutor.
- James R. Heller – Air Force Veteran; Private Practice Attorney.
- Judy Rae Jasprica – Instructor and Former Dean of Washington State Judicial College.
- Margaret Vail Ross – Former Deputy Prosecutor.
- Karla E. Buttorff – Private Attorney.
- Jeanette Lineberry – Former Deputy Prosecutor; Legal Advocate for victims of Domestic Violence.
- Reckless Endangerment – A person is guilty of reckless endangerment when he or she recklessly engages in conduct not amounting to drive-by shooting but that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person. Reckless endangerment is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.36.050
- Brandishing – It shall be unlawful for any person to carry, exhibit, display, or draw any firearm, dagger, sword, knife or other cutting or stabbing instrument, club, or any other weapon apparently capable of producing bodily harm, in a manner, under circumstances, and at a time and place that either manifests an intent to intimidate another or that warrants alarm for the safety of other persons. Any person violating the provisions of subsection (1) above shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor. If any person is convicted of a violation of subsection (1) of this section, the person shall lose his or her concealed pistol license, if any. There are exceptions for home and business, law enforcement, self-defense, and military service. RCW 9.41.270
- Criminal Trespass – A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the first degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in a building. Criminal trespass in the first degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.52.070. A person is guilty of criminal trespass in the second degree if he or she knowingly enters or remains unlawfully in or upon premises of another under circumstances not constituting criminal trespass in the first degree. Criminal trespass in the second degree is a misdemeanor. 9A.52.080. Defenses: A building involved in an offense under RCW 9A.52.070 was abandoned; or The premises were at the time open to members of the public and the actor complied with all lawful conditions imposed on access to or remaining in the premises; or The actor reasonably believed that the owner of the premises, or other person empowered to license access thereto, would have licensed him or her to enter or remain; or The actor was attempting to serve legal process… 9A.52.090.
- Assault – A person is guilty of assault in the fourth degree if, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first, second, or third degree, or custodial assault, he or she assaults another. Assault in the fourth degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.36.041
- Harassment – A person is guilty of harassment if: Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens: to cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or to cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or to subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. “Words or conduct” includes, in addition to any other form of communication or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication. A person who harasses another is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. 9A.46.020.
- VPO/VNCO Whenever an order is granted under this chapter, chapter, or there is a valid foreign protection order as defined in RCW 26.52.020, and the respondent or person to be restrained knows of the order, a violation of any of the following provisions of the order is a gross misdemeanor… RCW 26.50.110.
- Shoplifting/Theft 3 – A person is guilty of theft in the third degree if he or she commits theft of property or services which (a) does not exceed seven hundred fifty dollars in value, or (b) includes ten or more merchandise pallets, or ten or more beverage crates, or a combination of ten or more merchandise pallets and beverage crates. Theft in the third degree is a gross misdemeanor. 9A.56.050.
- Disorderly Conduct – A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if the person: Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault; Intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority; Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority; or Intentionally engages in fighting or in tumultuous conduct or makes unreasonable noise, within five hundred feet of…funeral activities.
- Traffic Tickets – Speeding, Speed Unsafe for Conditions, Following Too Closely, Negligent Driving in the Second Degree, Red Light Tickets, CDL Matters, Overweight Tickets, Log Violations.
- Reckless Driving
- Negligent Driving
- Hit and Run
Traffic matters are heard on the first floor of the City/County Building at 930 Tacoma Avenue South in downtown Tacoma. Criminal matters, except for Domestic Violence (DV) cases, are arraigned in Room 839, and then assigned to Courtrooms on the 6th Floor or 9th Floor. DV cases are arraigned in 604 and remain there.