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A large part of the modern legal system deals with vehicles and traffic. All of the different offenses and violations can lead to a degree of confusion, so below is a brief overview of everything you need to know about the different types of traffic offenses.
All the different types of traffic violations can be split into either civil infractions or actual crimes. Actual crimes related to traffic involve criminal violations, petty misdemeanors, misdemeanors, and felonies. Infractions related to traffic can be divided into three further categories: parking, moving or equipment violations.
The greater amount of traffic violations involves civil infractions. Civil traffic infractions are violations of a statute, rule or ordinance that relates to the movement and control of traffic, which includes parking, equipment, standing and pedestrian offenses. Some examples of civil infractions are speeding, driving without a seat belt, failing to stop at a stop sign, and parking in prohibited places.
The penalties for civil infractions do not include imprisonment. The penalties involved can include one or more of the following: monetary charges or fines, community service and mandatory attendance at a driving class or driver education program. Most infractions are handled without needing to go to court.
Since the defendant in a civil infraction does not face imprisonment, they do not have the constitutional right to the safeguards involved in criminal trials, such as the right to appointed counsel or a jury trial. However, judgments do not involve any actual "crime", so they are not reported on any criminal records. That said, certain violations, commonly known as moving violations, will appear on the state's traffic abstract for the defendant.
Traffic crimes are violations of a statute, rule or ordinance relating to traffic and movement, which includes equipment and parking offenses. These are actual crimes for which the defendant faces the possibility of imprisonment. Some examples of traffic crimes are driving under the influence, driving without a license, driving without insurance and reckless driving.
Defendants charged with traffic crimes need to appear in court at a time and date indicated by the law enforcement officer in the legal citation or on the receipt received by the defendant after the posting of bail. The failure to appear as indicated can result in a warrant being issued for the arrest of the defendant. During the initial courtroom appearance, the defendant will be informed of the charges and have their rights and options explained.