Traffic Tickets - Basics
More than ninety percent of the people in this country over the age of sixteen are licensed to drive, and there is more than one car registered for each one of them. These figures translate into trillions of miles driven each year with millions of traffic infractions, making traffic control an issue of immense proportions. The first traffic laws and regulations began to appear in the 1920s, and they now constitute a huge part of most state codes.
The primary purpose of traffic-violation regulations is to deter unsafe driving and to educate and reform bad drivers. Studies have shown that traffic offenders generally keep amassing traffic violations, and that most people obey the laws, even when there is no perceived safety reason for doing so, such as waiting for a green light at 2:00 a.m. Compliance with the laws increases when drivers believe they will be caught and decreases when they perceive they can get away with a specific infraction.
Traffic Tickets: "Strict Liability Offenses"
The majority of traffic tickets are issued for "strict-liability" offenses. This means that no particular criminal intent is required to convict a person of the offense. The only proof needed is that the person did the prohibited act. Strict-liability traffic offenses typically include such offenses as:
- Failure to use turn signals
- Failure to yield
- Turning into the wrong lane
- Driving a car with burned-out headlights
- Parking in a handicap spot without the required sticker, and
- Overdue parking meters.
Moving Violations vs. Non-Moving Violations
A moving violation occurs whenever a traffic law is violated by a vehicle in motion. Some examples of moving violations are speeding, running a stop sign or red light, and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A non-moving violation, by contrast, is usually related to parking or faulty equipment. Examples include parking in front of a fire hydrant, parking in a no-parking zone, parking in front of an expired meter, and excessive muffler noise.
Processing Traffic Tickets
Many jurisdictions provide for administrative processing of most traffic tickets as minor offenses or "infractions," thereby removing them from criminal court altogether. In those cases, an offender is not subject to incarceration or large fines and is not entitled to a lawyer or a jury trial. (Note: The fine for speeding tickets can be quite large, as some states impose a fine based on the rate at which the offender was exceeding the speed limit.) Even though most traffic tickets are handled in an expeditious manner in the court system, a "conviction" for a traffic infraction can have a negative effect on a person's driving privileges, and insurance rates.
Certain traffic violations are considered more serious than infractions, and can rise to the level of a misdemeanor crime (or felony), especially if the offense involves injury to a person or destruction of property (such as leaving the scene of an accident). People accused of these more serious traffic violations are entitled to all constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants, including the right to a court-appointed attorney and a jury trial.
Traffic Tickets: Get Help Now
Even good, safety-focused drivers can be charged with a traffic violation. If you have been charged with breaking a traffic law and would like to learn more about your rights to "fight" the ticket, the best place to start is to speak with an experienced traffic ticket attorney in your area.