Most traffic tickets are issued for traffic offenses (“infractions”), including tickets for mechanical violations and most basic motion violations. Infractions do not usually carry the same shame and penalties as serious criminal offenses. But certain traffic-related offenses are associated as “misdemeanors” or even “felonies”, and can result in much larger fines, loss of driving rights, or even imprisonment.
In most states, a traffic violation translates into a misdemeanor or felony if it:
- Inflicts injury onto a person or there is destruction of property, or
- Inflicts a real threat of injury to a person or destruction of property.
Traffic Felonies and Misdemeanors: The Overview
Going through a red light may be a misdemeanor in one state, for instance, but it can take a very wrong turn into a felony if the driver hits another vehicle in the intersection and a person of that vehicle dies. In addition, some traffic offenses are defined as misdemeanors or felonies from the outset, such as driving with a revoked license, leaving the scene of an accident, or reckless driving.
People accused of these more-serious traffic violations are entitled to all constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants, including the right to a court-appointed attorney and a jury trial.
The criminal justice system would quickly be overwhelmed if every minor breach of the law required a full criminal trial. Therefore, less egregious traffic violations are often treated as misdemeanors (although many minor traffic offenses are considered even less severe “infractions”). Misdemeanors are less serious crimes, generally punishable by a fine or incarceration in the county jail for less than one year. Although precise classifications vary on a state-by-state basis, common examples of traffic misdemeanors include:
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs,
- Failing to stop at the scene of an accident,
- Driving without a valid driver’s license,
- Driving without insurance, and
- Reckless driving.
For many of these violations, the driver will be taken into custody and required to post bail, this is where we come into play (714-393-2447). Incarceration sentences for misdemeanor convictions are less severe than sentences for felony convictions, and other potential consequences of misdemeanor convictions are also generally less harsh.
Felonies are typically one of the more serious crimes in the system of criminal law and felony traffic offenses are no exception, these are not to be treated lightly. A standard definition of a felony is any crime punishable by more than one year in prison or by death. This means that a crime that has a sentence of only a fine or confinement in the local jail for a short period of time is not a felony. More often the sentence does not entail a felony but the punishment can translate into a felony.
A person convicted of a felony may have more restrictions on his or her rights than a person convicted of a lesser crime. In addition to longer prison sentences, in many jurisdictions felons cannot serve on juries, lose their right to vote or to practice certain professions, such as law and teaching. Felons may be restricted from owning guns or serving in the military. And some states have a “three strikes, you’re out” statute, which provides that a person who already has been convicted of two felonies may be sentenced to life in prison if he or she is convicted of a third.
Misdemeanor and Felony Traffic Offenses: Get Help Now, Call Us Now at 714-393-2447!
Traffic charges must be taken as seriously as any other criminal charges, especially when a traffic offense rises to the level of a misdemeanor or felony, which carry the potential for harsh consequences. If you have been charged with a traffic-related misdemeanor or felony, the best place to start is to first call us at 714-393-2447, and then speak with an experienced traffic ticket attorney in your area, who in some cases may be able to “plead down” a serious traffic offense from a felony to a misdemeanor.