What is a Misdemeanor Traffic Violation?

By Carrie Perles
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Most traffic tickets are issued for "infractions," which are minor moving violations. Very serious traffic offenses are categorized as "felonies." However, some traffic offenses fall into the middle category of misdemeanors. Misdemeanors can result in very high fines, imprisonment or loss of driving privileges. Although misdemeanors differ from state to state, there are certain principles that apply to almost all misdemeanors.

The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and an Infraction

An infraction is a minor traffic violation, but it can become a misdemeanor if it causes another person to be injured or property to be damaged. It can even turn into a misdemeanor if it threatens a person or property. For example, neglecting to wear a seat belt would be an infraction. Running through an obvious red light may be a misdemeanor because it could seriously harm other drivers.

The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony

A misdemeanor can escalate to a felony if it is done maliciously and/or it causes major damage. For example, if a driver ran through a red light and intentionally hit another vehicle, the charge may be classified as a felony. It would be even more likely to be classified as a felony if a passenger in the other vehicle died in the crash.

Examples of Misdemeanors

Some common examples of misdemeanor traffic violations are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI), causing an accident and driving away, driving without a license, driving without valid insurance, and driving recklessly.

Consequences of a Misdemeanor

Because a misdemeanor is a type of crime, the accused will often be taken into the police station and will be required to pay bail before leaving. The driver must later appear in court to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty or no contest). In some cases, the judge will let the driver go after this appearance, but the process may drag out beyond this stage, with a pretrial and a jury or court trial. A driver charged with a misdemeanor may be required to pay a high fine or given a prison sentence for a short amount of time, depending on the circumstances of the misdemeanor.

How to Take Action

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, make sure to take the charges seriously. To start with, speak with a traffic ticket attorney, who will be able to discuss the possible consequences of the charge with you. The attorney will may be able to argue on your behalf to ensure that you attain the best possible outcome.

About the Author

Keren (Carrie) Perles is a freelance writer with professional experience in publishing since 2004. Perles has written, edited and developed curriculum for educational publishers. She writes online articles about various topics, mostly about education or parenting, and has been a mother, teacher and tutor for various ages. Perles holds a Bachelor of Arts in English communications from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.