Traffic violations are usually categorized into three sections: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions are the most common type of traffic violation and generally results in a person being issued a traffic fine (ticket) which they must pay. Some of these infractions may cause points to be placed against the drivers record, but they do not involve any other form of punishment or jail time.
Misdemeanors and felonies, however, will lead to the driver being arrested at the scene and will require bail to get out of jail prior to their court date. Misdemeanors are the lesser of the two charges, but are serious nonetheless.
Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses
The least serious criminal traffic offenses are classified as misdemeanors. These offenses will require that the offender appear before the Court, but they may only result in a fine or community service as punishment. In some of the more severe cases the person who is charged may be sentenced to the County Jail.
People who commit a traffic violation are generally charged with a misdemeanor if the violation is serious enough that it may have caused harm, or did cause harm or violated a specific law. Many times the law enforcement officer has the discretion to charge you with an infraction or a misdemeanor based on what occurred.
Some types of traffic misdemeanors may include:
- Distracted driving or texting while driving
- Driving with a suspended license
- Failure to stop at a traffic light
- Excessive speed or excessive lane changing
- Driving under the influence
- Reckless Driving
These are only a few of the potential reasons that a police officer could charge someone with a traffic misdemeanor. In many cases, these same reasons could also be used to charge a person with a felony traffic offense.
Felony Traffic Offenses
Felony traffic offenses are the most serious of criminal traffic offenses. If convicted of a felony charge you could face jail time in a state prison, large fines, and the future loss of driving privileges. Additional or substitute punishments could also be put into place.
Felony charges occur most often when a person willfully breaks driving and traffic laws, acts in a negligent manner and/or causes damage or harm to a person or personal property. Felony charges may also be placed against someone if they have continually broken specific traffic laws and were convicted of misdemeanor offenses. These felony charges are based on being a repeat offender.
Some of the more common traffic felonies include:
- Hit and run or leaving the scene of an accident
- Driving under the influence, especially with a high BAC
- Reckless driving or reckless endangerment
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Driving at excessive speeds
- Endangerment of a minor in the vehicle
These are not the only events that can result in felony traffic charges being placed against an individual. Police officers have the right to determine at the scene of any event if the actions of the driver are considered felonious or should be categorized as a misdemeanor.
All Criminal Traffic Violations Are Serious
Anyone who is required to appear before the Court for a misdemeanor or felony traffic charge would benefit from having criminal legal representation for their case. Even the lesser misdemeanor charges can have a serious impact on your life if you are convicted of the crime.
If you are convicted of either of these charges, you could face the following punishments:
- Loss of driving privileges for a period of time or total revocation of driving rights
- Fines associated with the specific charge and court costs
- Probation and associated charges
- Community service requirements
- Drug or alcohol counseling at your own cost if applicable
- Installation of ignition interlock device on your vehicle and associated costs
- Jail sentence
The impacts on your life if convicted, even of a misdemeanor are very serious. Many people do not realize that a traffic violation conviction could result in:
- Making it more difficult for you to get a job because you have a conviction on your record
- Make it difficult to rent an apartment because you have a record
- Cause you to rely on others for transportation
- Force you into debt to cover all court and license related costs as well as applied fines
- Cause your vehicle insurance to rise significantly and may require you to carry a special SR22 rider on your policy
- Make you lose your job to serve jail time
All Hope Is Not Lost
If you have been charged with a criminal traffic offense it is important to remember that you have only been charged – you have not been convicted. There is a very large difference between these two words. Charged means that you go before the court to tell your side of the story. Convicted means you have been found guilty.
For the best possible outcome to your case, you should seek legal representation from a qualified Pewaukee criminal attorney. Your criminal defense attorney can help you build a case that will result in the best possible outcome for the situation.
It is important to remember that many of these charges are simply based on the opinions of the officers who made the arrest. Since most officers were not present at the very moment that the event took place, these charges are based on assumptions. Your Pewaukee criminal attorney can help you establish the facts of the case so that you can create your defense.
Hiring a criminal defense attorney cannot guarantee that the charges against you will be dropped. It would be unethical for any attorney to make such a promise. However, legal representation will make sure that you receive a fair trial based on the facts, not assumptions, and that your side of the situation is explained clearly to the court. This will result in the best possible outcome for the charges against you.
In the end, facing criminal traffic charges may seem like a type of case that you could handle on your own, self-representation is not always the best choice. Your attorney will be familiar with all the relevant laws and cases that are relevant to your case and understand how to address the court in such a manner that your side of the case is completely heard and understood.