Why Most Traffic Violations Are Misdemeanors — But They’re Still Very Serious

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Traffic violations aren’t easy to pin down and define, simply because they’re all determined on a state-by-state basis. (In fact, state differences in traffic laws and regulations are often the reasons why drivers get ticketed when driving in another state — it’s easy to forget that speed limit laws and certain fines can change the minute you cross a state border.) But in general, there are a few guidelines that most states follow when determining whether a traffic offense is a misdemeanor or a felony, and when a misdemeanor becomes a felony.

The majority of traffic offenses are misdemeanors, as long as they don’t result in serious injuries or property damage (or present a strong risk of causing injuries). Misdemeanor traffic violations usually include reckless driving charges, driving without a license and/or insurance, getting caught driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence of drugs or while intoxicated (DUI/DWI), stop sign and red light violations, and leaving the scene of a car accident (if you were involved).

A misdemeanor tend to turn into a felony when it is a repeated offense, or if a fatal injury occurred. For example, a first-offense DUI is usually considered a misdemeanor, but if it resulted in a death, then it could be increased to a felony charge.

The consequences of misdemeanor traffic offenses can still stick with you for a long time, even if no serious injuries or damages occurred. They usually come with a steep fine, a judge may decide to suspend the driver’s license or confiscate their car, and a serious misdemeanor may even result in jail time (maximum of one year). A misdemeanor can also stay on your driving record for a long time, and it will most likely increase your insurance premium. Traffic violations are considered criminal offenses, meaning that you’re being charged for breaking the law, but it’s important to remember that the same incident could also be brought to civil court if the driver’s negligence caused injuries to another person or caused property damage.

While something simple like a speeding ticket doesn’t necessarily require a lawyer, many people decide to hire lawyers for small misdemeanor traffic offenses. Remember, the incident itself may not be very serious, but the consequences could last a lifetime — even if it was all just an honest mistake. More information like this.