What is a Moving Violation?

By Teo Spengler - Updated April 16, 2018
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Moving violations are not something a driver wants to collect. These traffic tickets are expensive, and they can also make your insurance rates go up and your driving record plunge. Some can even send you to jail or result in a suspended license. Generally, every traffic ticket that you get while operating a motor vehicle is a moving violation, including serious offenses like vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident, along with the run-of-the-mill infractions like speeding and making an illegal left turn.

Tip

Moving violations are offenses that a driver commits while operating a vehicle, as opposed to parking violations that occur when a vehicle is stopped.

Types of Moving Violations

The term "moving violations" describes a category of criminal offenses that a driver commits when behind the wheel. It includes all traffic violations other than parking violations, everything from minor offenses like driving a few miles over the speed limit to serious offenses like reckless driving.

The actual offense does not have to involve how you perform as a driver. You may be driving along and navigating traffic expertly, but you can still be hit with a moving violation for texting while driving or not having your seat belt fastened. In some states, equipment issues are considered moving violations too, like faulty brake lights or driving with worn out tires. Likewise, document issues can be moving violations if they are found while you are driving, like driving without proof of insurance, or driving without proper registration.

What is a Moving Violation by State?

Every state has its own driving laws, and each creates its own definition of moving violations. Each state also sets its own rules about what offenses add points to your driving record.

Some states, like California, maintain a point system to monitor the driving habits of all licensed drivers. If you get a moving violation in California, some points are assigned to your driving record. Different infractions cost you different points. If you receive a certain number of points within a given amount of time, your driving privileges are revoked or suspended.

In California, all of these are considered moving offenses that will result in points against your driving record: speeding, illegal U-turns, failure to stop for a school bus, violating the child safety restraint laws, improper passing, failure to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, reckless driving, transporting explosives, hit and run collisions, driving with a suspended or revoked license and evading police officers.

In Washington, some 75 different moving violations are listed in WAC 308-104-160. They include: vehicular assault or homicide, reckless driving, racing, embracing while driving, reckless endangerment of roadway workers, open container violation, disobeying a signalman or firefighter, disobeying a school patrol, failure to keep to the right, straddling or driving over the center line, passing a stopped school bus, crossing a fire hose, backing up improperly, carrying a passenger in a towed vehicle and coasting on a downgrade. It is also a moving violation to operate a moped on the freeway or sidewalk, to wear earphones or to view television in a vehicle, or to use a personal electronic device while driving.

How to Get Out of a Moving Violation Ticket

If you get a moving violation ticket, you can plead guilty and pay the ticket or go to court and fight it, alone or represented by an attorney. The wisest course depends on the type of moving violation, the consequences you face if found guilty of the violation and whether you feel guilty or innocent of the charge.

It may be wise to consult with an attorney if you are charged with behavior that could land you in jail. If you are just looking at a fine and points against you, it might be worth it to show up and argue your case. There are no tricks that ensure you will get out of a moving violation.

About the Author

Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.

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