What Does a Traffic Violation Mean?

Traffic Camera on Top of a Tall Pole

Is a Traffic Violation a Crime?

The vast majority of traffic violations are classified as infractions, not crimes. However, aggravated situations may result in misdemeanor or felony charges. Laws obviously vary between state jurisdictions, but the distinction between infractions and criminal offenses is typically consistent. Today, we’ll dive into traffic violations, potential penalties, and what you can expect when you find yourself in a sticky situation!


Traffic Violation vs Moving Violation

There are two clear categories of traffic violations: non-moving and moving violations. Moving violations are related to the operation of the vehicle on roadways. Non-moving varieties involve either equipment failure or parking violations.

What are examples of traffic violations?

  • Ignoring a red stoplight (moving)
  • Speeding (moving)
  • Drunk or buzzed driving (moving)
  • Illegal turns (moving)
  • Failure to renew the parking meter in time (non-moving)
  • Failure to replace a tail light (non-moving)
  • Parking in a designated handicap spot without a sticker (non-moving)

Major Violations

What is Considered a Major Traffic Violation?

As mentioned earlier, the vast majority of traffic violations are simple infractions, not criminal cases. However, drivers who act in a manner that causes injury or exceptional danger for other drivers could be charged with a misdemeanor, or even a felony. These crimes may result in serious fines, confiscated driving privileges, and jail time.

When is a Traffic Violation a Misdemeanor?

Three criteria may transform a typical violation into a criminal offense. These include:

  • The safety of person or property is legitimately threatened by the violation.
  • The incident results in damage to private or public property.
  • The incident results in another person’s injury.

While local judges occasionally reduce penalties for first time offenders, threatening the safety of another citizen often results in harsh consequences. However, felony charges are generally reserved for only the worst offenses, such as manslaughter, vehicular homicide, or fleeing the police. If you are concerned over a whether a specific crime would be classified as a misdemeanor or felony, consult with a criminal defense attorney or a licensed bail bondsman.

What Happens When You Get a Traffic Violation?

Like most drivers who get pulled over by a law enforcement officer, you will receive a ticket specifying the violation. When you sign the officer’s copy, you agree to either attend a court hearing and dispute the ticket, or pay the fine in full.

It’s critical that you promptly do one or the other. Ignoring the ticket can lead to additional fines. Should the court handling the case go too long without hearing from you, the judge involved may issue a bench warrant for your arrest! Believe it or not, people go to jail every year for failure to pay parking tickets.

Many states allow you to attend traffic school (in person or online) in exchange for reduced penalties for your traffic violation. This is incredibly helpful if you wish to avoid increased premiums on your driver’s insurance. However, eligibility varies from state to state. While some allow you to attend traffic school once a year, others may impose longer waiting periods between incidents. It’s best to consult the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website for your specific state.

Can You Go to Jail for Traffic Violations?

Yes! Major violations, such as fleeing from a police officer in a vehicle, DWI’s, or gross negligence can definitely result in some jail time. The exact amount of time is typically determined by the local judge, who weighs the offense, your personal character, and your criminal history to produce a sentence.

Again, jail time is typically reserved for the most severe violations. Any offense that exposes other citizens to serious danger or injury has a higher chance of ending in jail time. You’ll want to consult your local legislation for specific details on traffic violations and penalties.

Don’t forget about those tickets though! Failing to pay the fine for a traffic infraction may result in your arrest and brief incarceration prior to appearing before the judge. Even if you are concerned about being able to pay the fine for the violation, consulting with the court office is the best way to handle the situation.

Police Officer Talking With a Pulled Over Driver

Can a Traffic Violation Be Dismissed?

In many cases, yes! There are several potential ways that a violation may be dismissed. If the officer who issued the ticket fails to appear during your court case, the court will automatically dismiss the ticket. Depending on the consistency of the local police department, you may or may not have a good chance of a dismissed violation. If you can point out a notable error on the ticket information, the violation may be thrown out that way.

Finally, proof that the police officer’s equipment was performing erroneously during the incident will also allow you to dodge the ticket. Most drivers however, simply end up paying the fine or taking traffic school to protect their driving record. Should you find yourself in the middle of a misdemeanor or felony violation, our bondsmen at Lightning Bail Bonds would be happy to assist you in avoiding significant pre-trial jail time. Call our team at (405) 310-3020 and ask about our local bail bond services!