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The following is for information purposes only
What Are Traffic Violations?
According to the National Highway Traffic Administration, there are approximately 5.3 million vehicle accidents in the United States annually. This translates to about one vehicle accident every 60 seconds and is why the law punishes traffic offenses harshly.
Over the years, the punishments for traffic violations have been getting harsher. These punishments include traffic infractions, traffic fines, traffic citations, and arrests.
Traffic violations are any acts that contravene the traffic laws of a particular state or municipality. A violation means a breach, infringement, or transgression of a law, affecting people's driving records. When drivers receive a traffic violation, they break one or more road rules and may face a court appearance in the superior court.
Most of these laws are usually local, although the federal government does regulate some of them. Depending on where they're driving, motorists face various traffic laws in this day and age. Traffic laws vary by state, city, highway, and region.
In the United States, more than 90% of people over 16 have driving licenses. They usually have more than one vehicle registered to their name at times.
This translates to trillions of miles driven annually, which means millions of traffic cases occur yearly. Driving records tend to get tainted this way. Local police officers usually issue traffic tickets for these traffic violations, leading to court appearances.
What Are the Punishments for Traffic Violations?
The punishment for a traffic violation usually depends on the severity of the breach and the record of the person receiving the violation. Some of the possible penalties include:
Fines and Traffic Tickets
Typically, states have standard fines for certain traffic violations. The amount of the penalty also increases with the seriousness of the offense. Some states will increase the penalty if the offender has a previous traffic violation record, such as a prior traffic ticket.
Suspension or Revocation of Driver's License
In most states, a traffic violation can lead to the revocation or suspension of the offender's driver's license. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of that state or court order does this as part of the sentence.
Every state has its own rules as to how long the suspension of a license lasts. For a first-time offender, the standard penalty is 90 days. The offender can still apply for a restricted license that allows them to drive to work, school, or rehab during the period of suspension.
On the other hand, offenders with more than one traffic violation face a significantly more extended suspension period. In some states, convicted drivers can have their driving privileges taken away.
Jail or Prison Time
Several states require a jail sentence (often a minimum of one or two days) for convicted drivers of a traffic violation. However, suppose the traffic violation is severe and results in an injury on other road users.
In that case, the offender will be issued a court date and may be looking at significant jail time, even with a guilty plea.
All in all, whether a person receives jail or prison time and for how long usually depends on the severity of the offense. This doesn't apply to a finding of not guilty.
Increased Insurance Premiums
Traffic violators can have their insurance premiums increased if they're convicted. Insurance companies often raise the insurance rates of habitual traffic law violators.
In most instances, the insurance premiums go up for as few as two violations within three years. However, different insurers follow different procedures. It's purely up to the insurer's discretion to increase the rates because of a traffic violation.
Most states require that violators of traffic laws attend traffic school in return for having the violation removed from their records. Traffic school usually involves 6-8 hour classes that educate people on the dangers of committing traffic violations.
Some states usually allow offenders to attend traffic school in place of paying fines. Others may require payment of the penalty and the admission fees for the traffic school.
Also, the type of violation determines if the violator can go to a traffic school to wipe the breach off their records. If the offense is severe, the offender isn't allowed to enrol, and they may even face jail time.
Also, the procedure for enrolling in a traffic school differs from one state to the next. Some states allow drivers to register directly, while others require drivers to sign up through the court's clerk or judge.
What Are the Different Types of Traffic Violations?
Traffic violations can be infractions, felonies, or misdemeanors. However, there are two types of traffic violations in the United States:
1. Major Violations
Major traffic violations are serious offenses resulting in fines and jail time due to their severity. Some of these violations include:
- Reckless driving - This is driving with wanton disregard for the safety of others. It includes performing stunts, purposely swerving the vehicle, racing other cars, and tailgating another vehicle.
- Fleeing the scene of an accident - An accident that leads to an injury, death, or damage to property counts as a traffic violation.
- Driving under the influence - Driving while drunk or under the control of a drug or controlled substance that causes impaired driving is a major traffic violation.
- Driving with a suspended/revoked license - Driving with a suspended or revoked is a significant traffic violation. The offender can end up losing their driver's license number for years.
- Fleeing from law enforcement - If a police officer pulls someone over, they must pull their car to the right side of the road or down a side street. Failure to do so can result in a significant traffic violation.
- Vehicular manslaughter/homicide - Vehicular manslaughter is a significant traffic violation that can be a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the situation.
2. Minor Violations
Minor traffic violations are any other illegal driving behaviors that aren't as serious as those mentioned above. Examples of these violations include:
- Parking violations
- Moving violations
- Equipment violations
- Running a red light
- Failing to obey traffic signs like pedestrian crossing markers, construction signs, stop signs, etc
Where Are Traffic Violation Records Found?
In the United States, one can find traffic violation records from:
- Online services - Court documents today are usually stored electronically. This means that they are available online. One can find these records through the Public Access to Court Records service (PACER) webpage.
- From the district court - Alternatively, if a person goes to the clerk's office in the court where the case was heard/filed, they will help them access these records.
CourtCaseFinder is a valuable service that can also find traffic violations records.
Are People Able To Defend Themselves?
People may prefer to defend themselves in a traffic violation case (especially minor traffic violations). They could plead not guilty or no contest. However, an experienced traffic violations attorney with the best legal advice significantly improves the odds of success. A lawyer is necessary if one is charged with serious criminal offenses like DUI's, and reckless driving. This is one way to improve the chances of a not guilty verdict.