Are Traffic Tickets Considered Criminal Offenses?

Traffic rules are meant to maintain order on the roads and keep the public safe. Enforcers keep a watchful eye on motorists and other road users. If any violates the rules, then they will be given a notice in the form of a traffic ticket. This could be a moving violation such as speeding or a non-moving violation such as parking in a restricted area.

The ticket looks different from state to state, but it will usually will contain the same information: the type of offense, the date and time it happened, the location of the incident, and the name of the issuing officer. So are traffic tickets considered criminal offenses?

What is a Criminal Offense?

Crime is a loaded word. People tend to have a lot of assumptions about it. The legal definition can be slightly different in various places, but it is generally considered as an unlawful act that is punishable through the state. However, not everything unlawful is automatically a criminal act. It must be so harmful that the public is put in danger because of it. Common examples are murder, theft, and rape. Another way to differentiate crimes from other unlawful acts is that it results in the restriction of liberty. In other words, it usually results in imprisonment of varying lengths.  

Severity of Traffic Violations

Most traffic tickets are given out for minor infractions. For example, someone who parked his car in a restricted area may have violated a rule and inconvenienced others, but the act did not really put anyone in harm’s way. As such, it is not considered a crime. The typical penalty would be a reasonable fine given the nature of the violation.

Not wearing a seatbelt while driving is another good example, as is having defective vehicle equipment. A motorist may also get a ticket for driving without a license, registration, or insurance. They often result in fines and license suspensions.

On the other hand, there are major traffic violations that merit greater attention and stiffer penalties. These include driving at a reckless pace that is way over the speed limit. This type of behavior is extremely dangerous. It disregards the safety of other road users and can very well lead of accidents if unpunished. It can be considered a criminal offense and could lead to jail time.

The same is true for drunk driving, if the motorist registers a BAC that is above the tolerable limit. Signs of heavy intoxication may also lead to a DUI charge, even if the blood alcohol level is below the limit.

If you are facing a traffic ticket, you can choose to pay the fine or fight it in court. Get the help of attorneys at Hersem Law for a higher chance of success.