Columbia County Courthouse

230 Strand Street, St. Helens, OR 97051 • Phone: (503) 397-7210 • Toll Free: (888) 397-7210

Columbia County

Justice Courts FAQ

FAQ’S – Justice Court

Traffic violations

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Q.  
Can I change my court appearance date to a later date?

A. You may not change your court date unless arrangements are made to appear prior to your scheduled date.  We will not schedule past your court date except in rare instances and with prior arrangements.

Q.  What is the difference between an arraignment and a trial?

A.  An arraignment is the court appearance date and time the police officer entered on the bottom of your citation.  This is the time you will enter your plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty.  A trial is the date you and the citing officer will appear if you plead not guilty.

Q.  Will the citing police officer be there for my arraignment?

A.  The citing police officer will not be at your arraignment.                   

Q. What should I plead?

A.  The Court Clerks cannot give you legal advice or influence your choice of plea.  Entering a plea of guilty or no contest may result in a fine and a conviction on your driving record.  A not guilty plea will result in a trial.


Q.  What is the difference between guilty and no contest?

A. A plea of guilty means that you are admitting to the violation.  A no contest plea means that you are not admitting to the violation, but accept that you will be treated the same as if you had plead guilty and may result in a fine and a conviction on your driving record.


Q. What happens if I plead not guilty?


A. If you enter a plea of not guilty, a trial will be scheduled with the citing officer present.  


Q.  What happens if I miss my court date?

A. A missed court date will result in the full fine amount of the violation(s) or may result in an enhanced fine amount, and a conviction(s) on your driving record.  If you do not pay the full fine by no later than the business day before your scheduled court date and do not appear on your court date; the court may enter a conviction and judgment for more than the presumptive fine amount.  (See #5 on the back of your citation under “NOTICE.”)


Q.  Do you offer traffic school to keep the violation off my driving record?

A. Traffic School may be offered to youth, and adults who appear at their court date, and who have no traffic convictions in the past ten years.  For out of state defendants, you will need to bring a certified copy of your driving record.   You may not participate if you have already participated in a traffic diversion program.  You must also meet eligibility requirements set forth by the Court as determined at your Court appearance.  


Q.  Can I pay for my ticket without having to appear?

A.  You may pay your ticket by mailing a check or money order and a copy of your citation to: Columbia County Justice Court, P.O. Box 128, Vernonia, OR. 97064; OR you may call the Court office between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday thru Friday and pay by Visa, Mastercard, or Discover card.  You may also check Columbia County’s website, as we will have an option to pay on-line very soon.


Q. How can I pay my ticket if the Court has sent a notice of suspension to DMV?


A. If a notice of suspension has been issued, you must pay the full amount owed before the Court will clear the hold on your driver’s license.  The Court will not accept personal checks in this case.