Traffic laws are typically broken up into two categories; an infraction and a violation. An infraction is not considered a crime and the penalty is usually a fine. Most traffic tickets, such as non-moving violations and non-dangerous moving violations are considered infractions. More serious violations may be classified as misdemeanor or felony traffic violations. These may include Driving under the Influence (DUI), reckless or aggressive driving, driving without auto insurance, and failure to stop at the scene of an accident.
Millions of traffic tickets are issued each year in the United States. The average fine costs around $150, but in some states, a driver can be fined up to $2,000 or more. The states of Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Texas have enacted a Driver Responsibility Program that establishes a system which assigns points to moving violations and applies surcharges to offenders, based on the type of offense. Under some of these laws, drivers may face a separate fee after they are convicted or found responsible for the offense. Due to the exorbitant fees charged by each state, the traffic ticket system is an industry generating billions of dollars each year.
Traffic Tickets: “Strict Liability Offenses”
The majority of traffic tickets are issued for “strict-liability” offenses. This means that no particular criminal intent is required to convict a person of the offense. The only proof needed is that the person did the prohibited act. Strict-liability traffic offenses typically include such offenses as:
- Failure to use turn signals
- Failure to yield
- Turning into the wrong lane
- Driving a car with burned-out headlights
- Parking in a handicap spot without the required sticker
- Overdue parking meters
- Moving Violations Non-Moving Violations
Processing Traffic Tickets
Many jurisdictions provide for administrative processing of most traffic tickets as minor offenses or “infractions,” thereby removing them from criminal court altogether. In those cases, an offender is not subject to incarceration or large fines and is not entitled to a lawyer or a jury trial. The fine for speeding tickets can be quite large, as some states impose a fine based on the rate at which the offender was exceeding the speed limit. Even though most traffic tickets are handled in an expeditious manner in the court system, a “conviction” for a traffic infraction can have a negative effect on a person’s driving privileges and insurance rates. If you have an attorney accompany you to traffic court, you can often get your charge, and the resulting fine and consequences, reduced.
Even good, safety-focused drivers can be charged with a traffic violation. If you have been charged with breaking a traffic law and would like to learn more about your rights to “fight” the ticket, the best place to start is to speak with an attorney in your area who is experienced with traffic violation legal services. A traffic ticket attorney will evaluate all aspects of your case and explain all options available to you, including the administrative procedure and driving record penalties you can expect — and will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome for your case.