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Types of Traffic Violations

When you’re behind the wheel, it’s obviously a good idea to make sure you follow all of the rules of the road and keep your car and paperwork in order.  But what happens when you don’t?  Well, depending on what you’re being pulled over for, anything from an inconvenience in your day to a catastrophe that could ruin your life (and possibly the lives of others).  So how do you know how much trouble you’re in when the police officer hands you that citation?  Let’s find out: 

Moving vs. Non-moving violations

First, it’s important to distinguish between moving and non-moving violations.  As you could probably guess, moving violations happen while you’re driving the car, such as: 

  • Speeding
  • Running a red light
  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • Tailgating
  • Cutting someone off
  • Failing to signal when turning
  • Other forms of reckless driving

Non-moving violations are tickets you get while you’re parked, even if you’re not in the car.  These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Parking in a handicapped spot (without a placard)
  • Parking on a red curb
  • Parking in front of a fire hydrant
  • Parking in the middle of the street
  • Parking in an assigned parking space (that isn’t assigned to you)
  • Failing to adhere to posted parking rules
  • Overstaying in a metered space

While these violations can lead to a citation, they may also cause your car to be impounded… which is a whole other headache.  So it’s important to make sure you only leave your car in places that you are cleared to do so, during the times you are permitted to be there. 

“Fix It” Tickets

You may not be parked in the wrong spot and you may be adhering to all the laws of driving, but you can still get pulled over if there are issues with your vehicle itself.  These are commonly known as “fix it” tickets.  Fix it tickets can include, but are not limited to:

  • Broken head or tail light
  • Expired registration tags
  • Windows that are too tinted
  • Any part of your vehicle that, while broken, may pose a threat to the safety of others on the road. 

Criminal Traffic Offenses

While most traffic tickets are only considered minor infractions, there are some that are more serious.  These tickets can be accompanied with fines, and even jail time.  Depending on the infraction, you can be guilty of a misdemeanor or even a felony.  The types of infractions that are considered criminal offenses may vary from state to state, so it’s important to make sure you are aware of the laws that apply to you.  

Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses

Misdemeanor offenses are treated more seriously than the minor infractions above, but they are not considered as serious as a felony offense.  While you may have to deal with legal issues, misdemeanor offenses can usually be dealt with without a lengthy criminal trial.  You may incur jail time and/or fines, however.  Some infractions that are often considered a misdemeanor include, but are not limited to:

  • Driving without a valid license
  • Driving while uninsured or underinsured

Depending on how severe it is, certain types of speeding and reckless driving can also be considered a misdemeanor.  

Felony Traffic Offenses

Felony traffic offenses are considered the most egregious ways to break the rules of the road, and usually include breaking civil laws as well.  Felony offenses often involve behavior that causes serious injury, damage to property, and even death.  These offenses will usually end with more than just a ticket.  You may find yourself getting arrested, and a criminal trial is almost guaranteed.  Jail time (often a year or more) and the possibility of heavy fines may also follow.  These types of violations include, but are not limited to: 

  • Vehicular assault
  • Hit-and-run (when an accident happens and the driver responsible flees the scene)
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Repeat or multiple DUIs
  • Reckless driving that results in injury or property damage
  • Fleeing law enforcement

Driving While Under the Influence/Driving While Intoxicated

Drinking (or doing drugs) and Driving, also known as a DUI, OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or DWI, is one of the most serious traffic violations you can commit.  A DUI comes with a myriad of consequences, depending on how many times you’ve been caught doing so and what, if anything, has happened as a result of your bad choices.  Penalties for this offense can range from heavy fines (up to tens of thousands of dollars after court fees), trials and jail time, and mandatory alcohol addiction classes.