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Traffic Ticket Offenses

Traffic law has two aspects: infractions and criminal violations.  Infractions are tickets that are issued in civil court and usually carry only a fine or community service as punishment.  Violations can be misdemeanor or felony criminal acts and are punishable by jail time, fines, or both and are tried in criminal court.

Traffic law has two aspects: infractions and criminal violations.  Infractions are tickets that are issued in civil court and usually carry only a fine or community service as punishment.  Violations can be misdemeanor or felony criminal acts and are punishable by jail time, fines, or both and are tried in criminal court.

 

Infractions are nearly always non-dangerous moving violations and non-moving violations such as parking tickets, speeding tickets, or running a stop sign (where no accident was involved).  These are the common “traffic tickets” most people talk about when going to traffic ticket court.

 

Violations that are considered criminal are usually more dangerous, such as very high speed or reckless driving, driving while intoxicated (DUI or DWI), driving without insurance, or hit-and-run.  These can carry heavy fines, jail time, or even prison time.  If convicted, these criminal offenses will be recorded on a person's criminal record and show in background checks when looking for a job, security clearance, etc.  A felony can result in an inability to vote, get a job with the government, or worse.

 

Traffic laws differ from state-to-state and even city-to-city.  Standard traffic tickets that carry only a fine, for instance, are easier for the government to win in court because they are civil cases (“strict liability” in legal parlance).  These require only proof that the person in question committed the act.  Criminal offenses, must also prove intent to commit the act and that someone was harmed in the act's commission.

 

In most areas, traffic tickets are further broken down in civil liability into moving and non-moving violations.  Moving violations are usually considered much more dire (and thus have a heavier fine) than are non-moving violations, since a parked car can do little damage in most cases.  Many violations are always non-moving violations, whether the car was in motion or not when the officer noticed the crime.  These include things like too-dark window tint, unauthorized lights, or unapproved modifications to the vehicle.

 

In most cases, a person can beat traffic tickets that are not criminal merely by showing up to court. If  the police offer doesn’t show up, one wins the case.


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