If you've been driving for a long time, chances are you've received a traffic ticket. And, if you haven't received one, you might wonder what happens when you do get a traffic ticket. Most traffic tickets, which can also be called citations, are "infraction" level offenses. Infractions are less severe than misdemeanor or felony crimes. Infractions usually require the offender to pay a fine and don't become a part of a person's criminal record. However, some traffic tickets can have more severe consequences. FindLaw's Traffic Ticket Basics section provides an overview of infractions that often result in traffic tickets, a section on how to avoid traffic tickets, and the point system used in traffic offenses. There is also information in this section about more serious traffic offenses that can result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.
An Overview of Traffic Offenses
It's important to realize that the primary purpose of traffic violation regulations is to deter unsafe driving and educate and reform bad drivers. The majority of traffic violations don't require criminal intent, which means the only proof necessary is that the person committed the prohibited act. Some examples of such traffic violations are speeding, failure to use a turn signal, unpaid parking meters, and parking in a handicap spot without a valid handicap permit.
There are basically two types of traffic offenses: moving and non-moving violations. As one would assume, a moving violation occurs when the car is in motion, such as speeding or running a red light. A non-moving violation occurs when the car isn't in motion, usually parking violations.
Serious Traffic Offenses
While most traffic offenses are classified as infractions, it's possible for a traffic offense to be a more serious offense in certain situations. Generally, a traffic offense becomes more serious than an infraction if it causes injury to another person or property damage. It can also be a more serious offense if the violation creates a real threat of injury or property damage.
Traffic offenses are regulated at the state level, so each state will have its own laws for what constitutes an infraction and what is a more serious traffic offense. Some common examples of misdemeanor traffic offenses are driving without a valid license and driving without insurance. A misdemeanor traffic violation can result in fines and/or up to a year in county jail. Some felony traffic offense examples include multiple DUIs and vehicular homicide. A felony is punishable by fines and/or prison sentence of at least one year. A felony conviction can also lead to various restrictions on his or her rights. For example, felons can't serve on juries, buy a gun, or serve in the military.
Hiring a Lawyer
A simple traffic ticket usually doesn't require the assistance of a lawyer. Even if you wish to fight the traffic ticket, the process is pretty simple and can be done yourself. However, if you have questions or feel that your situation is complicated, you might want to contact a traffic ticket attorney. If you've been charged with a more serious traffic violation, it's in you best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney.