In the United States, most traffic laws vary among the states, counties and municipal laws, with most minor violations classified as infractions, misdemeanors or felonies. The classification of the charge depends on the violation itself and the jurisdiction, relating to different standards of proof, trial rules and punishments.
Traffic violations can range from a traffic ticket for illegally parking to even reckless driving charges. Some traffic violations won’t go on your driving record, but if you have unpaid tickets, you can get arrested. Many traffic violations can require legal advice, especially if you have multiple traffic tickets or violations and the points on your record could go over your state’s point limit.
Traffic tickets are either for “moving violations” or “non-moving violations.” A moving violation is committed by a vehicle in motion (speeding, running a stop sign or signal, or driving under the influence). Non-moving violations usually have to do with parking or faulty equipment (parking in front of a fire hydrant, in a no-parking zone, in front of an expired meter etc.)
Most traffic tickets are given for minor offenses (infractions), including tickets for mechanical violations and most non-dangerous moving violations. Generally speaking, an infraction is an offense for which punishment does not include prison.
However, certain traffic offenses are categorized as “misdemeanors” or even “felonies.” A traffic violation may be a misdemeanor or felony if it causes or creates a real threat of injury to a person or destruction of property. Offenses that do not include the element of danger but are often a misdemeanor or felony regardless include driving with a non-valid license, leaving the scene of an accident, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI/DWI), and some kinds of reckless driving. Felony traffic offences include repeated DUI/DWI convictions, certain hit-and-run offenses, and vehicular homicide. Misdemeanors are crimes potentially punishable by less than a year in prison. Felonies are more serious crimes, potentially punishable by more than a year in prison.
If you’ve committed a traffic violation and received a citation, you’ll need to decide whether to fight or pay the ticket. Traffic ticket fines and requirements will vary depending on where you committed the violation and whether it’s unpaid parking tickets, unpaid traffic tickets, speeding ticket, red light ticket, or a ticket/penalty for driving without insurance.
For some minor infractions such as a minor speeding ticket or making an illegal turn, most people do not hire an attorney (though one may be able to help you reduce the charges). If the penalty is only going to be around a few hundred dollars and a point on your license, for most people the expense of hiring an attorney might be worth more than the cost of the penalty. But for serious traffic offenses an attorney may be a wise investment. Receiving a citation for such offenses may not only result in a large fine and points on your license, but may also result in a suspension of your license.
A non-lawyer is hardly equipped to defense himself in court against even a minor traffic offense. For more serious offenses the need for a lawyer is even greater. Traffic violation attorneys can help you with your situation by:
- Reviewing your case;
- Giving you a clear understanding of what your options are;
- Helping you contest the ticket or violation in court, if needed.
Hiring a traffic violation attorney can mean the difference between a small fine and losing your license. Contact a skilled traffic violation attorney if you are concerned with a serious traffic violation.