Many of us are familiar with getting pulled over for speeding, running a red light or having a busted tail light. These driving violations are called infractions. They may or may not result in a ticket, based on your previous infractions or the judgment of the officer who caught it.
What you might not know is that some traffic offenses become misdemeanors – which are crimes – if they are more serious.
A traffic violation has to meet certain criteria to become a misdemeanor offense. If your traffic violation causes injury to someone, damage to property or a real threat of injury to a person or a threat to the destruction of property, it has become a misdemeanor.
Many people might be surprised to learn that a speeding ticket becomes a misdemeanor with a mandatory court appearance if one is speeding at a certain rate of speed over the posted speed limit.
Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses Penalties
Misdemeanor traffic offenses carry harsher penalties than traffic infractions. You could receive a fine of up to $10,000 or even jail time depending on the severity of injury or damage involved even if it was an accident. Here are some actions which change a traffic infraction into a crime:
- Driving without insurance
- Driving without a license
- Reckless driving – this can involve speeding at a much higher rate of speed than anyone around you, driving too aggressively, weaving in and out of traffic, or any other behavior that has the potential to endanger the lives and property of people around you.
- Failing to stop after an accident (hit and run)
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Additionally, two other possible charges deserve mention.
One is obstruction of traffic while outside of a motor vehicle. If you are a pedestrian crossing where you shouldn’t be crossing or waiting in the middle of the road you could be charged with a misdemeanor disorderly conduct.
Playing your car radio too loudly can also be considered and charged as misdemeanor disorderly conduct. There is no traffic rule about it. However, if a law enforcement officer sees that it could impede your ability to safely drive, you could be charged.
Consequences of Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses
The consequences of being charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense can vary widely. You may receive a $100 fine or a $10,000 fine. You could get up to a one-year jail sentence.
Some states penalize more harshly by taking away or suspending driver’s license privileges and/or towing away your car. If drugs or alcohol were involved, you may be required to be enrolled in a substance abuse program.
The charges can escalate to felony charges if you are a repeat offender or if your offense resulted in the death of someone or damage to property. In addition, felony charges involve much higher fines and longer possible jail times.
In conclusion, it is important not to take a misdemeanor traffic offense lightly. Misdemeanors do reflect on your criminal record and can make it difficult for you to do simple things in life afterward. For example, renting an apartment or getting a job.
Hiring an experienced lawyer can make a difference because these charges do require a court appearance. This way, you can go in understanding your state’s traffic laws more clearly and being able to present a good case.
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense, call my office today.