Traffic offenses may not sound serious, but they can affect your driver’s license, your car insurance premiums, and perhaps even your freedom. Even traffic offenses that are charged as infractions can impact your driver’s license and your insurance rates, but some driving offenses are charged as misdemeanors ‒ or even felonies ‒ and carry possible jail time and additional consequences.
If you’ve been charged with a traffic-related offense, you can talk to a criminal defense attorney in your area before you appear in court. It may be that the violation is minor and you won’t need representation, but you don’t want to discover when you get to court that the situation is graver than you realized and you’re unprepared.
A DUI is one of the most common and most serious traffic offenses. With the easy availability of roadside breathalyzer tests, the “legal limit” being lowered to .08 in every state in the country, and breathalyzer test refusal laws becoming stricter, DUI prosecutions are common and often successful. Some state laws now include mandatory jail time for even a first offense DUI, and many make a second offense a felony. In addition, a DUI conviction virtually always results in a driver’s license suspension and the requirement that the driver carry costly high risk insurance for a period of years following the conviction.
But DUI cases can be won. A criminal defense attorney may be able to successfully challenge the results of the breathalyzer test, the officer’s probable cause for making the stop, or the administration of field sobriety tests.
Although the exact language varies from state to state, reckless driving essentially means driving with reckless disregard for the safety of other people or property. As the description suggests, this covers a wide range of driving actions. It may mean changing lanes too quickly and too frequently, without regard to other traffic. It may mean driving too fast for conditions. It may mean using a cell phone while driving. It may mean a combination of behaviors that, standing alone would not constitute reckless driving, but combine to create a dangerous situation. In addition, some states make driving a certain number of miles per hour above the posted speed limit “per se” reckless driving.
Some states have mandatory jail time provisions for reckless driving cases in which another person is injured. A reckless driving conviction may also result in a driver’s license suspension, and is likely to negatively impact your automobile insurance rates.
Some states charge vehicular manslaughter ‒ the killing of another person through the operation of a motor vehicle ‒ under straight manslaughter statutes, while others have specific statutory provisions for vehicular manslaughter. Some also have provisions for “DUI resulting in death” cases.
Many states also distinguish degrees of vehicular manslaughter, with the charge being a more serious felony if the driver’s license was suspended at the time of the event or if the death occurred in connection with violation of another statutory provision, such as a DUI, or conduct that would constitute reckless driving independent of the death. The various classifications mean that vehicular manslaughter charges carry a wide range of sentencing possibilities. Some require no mandatory jail time at all, while others are serious felonies.
A criminal defense attorney in your area will be able to provide specifics about your state law and tell you which provisions apply to your particular case.
The Bottom Line
Just because an offense is traffic related doesn’t mean it’s not serious. Many traffic offenses are misdemeanors, and some are even felonies. Many carry jail time ‒ in the case of some charges like DUIs, perhaps mandatory jail time. Even where jail time doesn’t come into play, these offenses can lead to hefty fines, increased automobile insurance rates, and limitations on future employment options. A criminal conviction is a criminal conviction; if you’re convicted of a misdemeanor or felony charge, you may be required to disclose that in various settings for years to come.
Don’t take unnecessary risks. Talk to a criminal defense attorney today. Just fill out the free online evaluation form or call toll free at 877-445-1059 to arrange a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer in your area.
The above summaries of traffic crimes are by no means all-inclusive and are not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on traffic crimes and penalties, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.