Traffic Infraction vs Misdemeanor
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A traffic infraction and a misdemeanor are both offenses under the law however the main differences between them are the severity of the repercussions. Essentially an infraction carries a penalty of a maximum fine of $250.00 and is not punishable by imprisonment. A misdemeanor is considered a much more serious offense and the punishments reflect this, so much so that a misdemeanor can carry with it a jail sentence. Let’s take a look at this in greater detail.
The majority of traffic tickets issued are likely to be considered an infraction. They are a minor offense that typically carries a punishment by way of a fine and potentially DMV points. You cannot be sent to jail or put on court probation for a traffic infraction.
It is important to note however that the amount you pay for the infraction is likely to be greater than the amount of the fine. This is because you will also be hit with fees and penalty assessments, if you are found guilty of an infraction that carries with it points on your DMV record. Long term this is likely to mean that you will pay a higher insurance premium for the subsequent three years following the infraction and you are at a greater risk of losing your license or it being suspended. It is important to remember that the following may result in serious repercussions for your license, receiving 4 DMV points in 12 months, 6 in 24 months, or 8 points in 36 months. It may be that you are able to avoid receiving DMV points if you qualify for and attend traffic school. This is only usually possible for first-time violations.
There are some violations that the prosecution can decide to pursue as either an infraction or a misdemeanor. The route they choose will depend on the facts of the case and/or the offender’s history. Examples of violations that could go either way are disturbing the peace or exhibition of speed.
While you may not be required to appear in court for a minor infraction that you readily admit and are prepared to pay the fine for, it is important to note that if for any reason you are required in court (and there can be lots of reasons, particularly if you intend to contest the infraction) if you fail to appear the court is likely to place a hold on your license. This in turn is likely to mean that the DMV will suspend your license.
So while infractions are considered minor and the original punishment less severe they can carry with them serious repercussions if not dealt with correctly.
A misdemeanor is a much more serious offense than a traffic infraction and it will be considered to be a criminal offense. A misdemeanor should be taken very seriously. You will be able to identify that you have been issued with a misdemeanor as the ticket will have a circled M next to the violation written on the ticket. Misdemeanors carry with them punishment by incarceration, court probation, and or fines. Further, if you fail to appear in court for a misdemeanor a warrant for your arrest is likely to be issued.
The law typically divides misdemeanors into two categories;
If you are found to have committed a misdemeanor you will be taken into custody and be required to post a bail bond. A standard misdemeanor is typically punishable by imprisonment of up to six months in the county jail and a maximum fine of up to $1,000.00. It goes without saying that a gross misdemeanor is a more serious offense than a standard misdemeanor and the penalty reflects this. If convicted of a gross misdemeanor, such as driving while under the influence (without causing injury) then you could expect to receive up to 1-year imprisonment in the county jail and or a fine potentially exceeding $1,000.00.
While misdemeanors are considered to be more serious than traffic infractions being found guilty of a standard misdemeanor and having it placed on your record is unlikely to have wide-reaching consequences beyond the above, for example, it is unlikely to affect your ability to practice your profession or vote. That said, It is important to note that misdemeanors are more complex than infractions, especially if contested, and may involve several legal stages, including arraignment and a trial. If found in violation of a misdemeanor it is always worth seeking legal advice.
TicketBust produces results in fighting all kinds of tickets. Unfortunately, this list does not include exhibition of speed citations. Your best bet in fighting one of these infractions, is to contact an attorney. An attorney can negotiate on your behalf to try and reduce fines, or even to reduce the charges to a lesser infraction which could possibly qualify for traffic school.
We do however, contest infractions revolving around speeding, red lights, red light cameras, cell phones, signs (primarily stop signs), carpool violations, U-turns, out of lane violations, and commercial violations. If you receive a citation and have questions, contact us today.