When Does A Traffic Offense Become A Criminal Offense?

Law Blog

Most states in the country consider traffic offenses to be relatively minor transgressions. Such violations of the law or traffic code are treated as civil offenses, and if you are found to be guilty of the infraction (or elect not to contest the ticket in court) you will likely have to pay a fine, and you may have your driver's license suspended for some length of time. For example, if an officer issued you a citation for failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, you will likely have to pay a small fine.

Serious Violations

However, some violations are more serious than others are. Whereas failing to stop completely at a stop sign, making a prohibited turn or littering are unlikely to lead to injuries or significant property damage, other violations may infringe upon the rights of others or cause them outright harm. For example, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident and driving without a valid driver's license are considered serious offenses in many states. If you are convicted of such a crime, you are likely to have serious consequences imposed upon you.

Penalties: Fines and Incarceration

The penalties for committing a criminal traffic offense vary from crime to crime. Typically, they are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors carry punishments that involve moderate fines – often less than 1,000 dollars – and can necessitate jail terms of less than one year. Felonies, on the other hand, often trigger prison time of more than one year and fines in excess of 1,000 dollars. Some jurisdictions also designate some misdemeanors as "aggravated"; those convicted of such crimes may receive harsher sentences than typical misdemeanor infractions do.

In addition to fines and incarceration, you may have "points" added to your driver's license, which, if you accumulate enough of them, could lead to the loss of your license. Because the penalties for criminal traffic offenses are often more severe than those for civil traffic offenses, many defendants seek legal representation for the trial.

Combined Crimes

Traffic laws vary from one state to the next, but many require that those accused of a criminal traffic offense appear in court. This differs from many minor, civil traffic offenses, which do not require you to appear in court if you do not wish to dispute the charges.

In many cases, your legal proceedings will involve both a civil phase and a criminal phase. For example, if you are convicted of driving under the influence (DUI), you may have to pay civil fines for the infraction as well as pay any criminal fines imposed and serve jail time. In this case, you will need to contact a criminal traffic attorney for advice.


22 July 2015

Knowing Your Legal Rights Can Help You Greatly in Life

Like many people, I once found learning about law very intimidating. My brother went to law school and I remember glancing through a few of his books and wondering if I was actually reading English due to all of the legal jargon in them! However, when I ended up in a sticky legal situation due to accidentally breaking a small law I didn't know existed, I realized that I needed to learn more about the law, so I could make sure to follow it precisely in the future. My brother helped to break down some complicated legal concepts to me, and I have since been studying up online. I want to post what I have learned and continue to learn about law in the future on my new blog, so my knowledge cannot only help myself, but also help others!