Misdemeanor Traffic Violation vs. Felony Violation

Typically traffic violations result in a citation being issued and not much more. These types of infractions can range from citations for problems with the mechanical function of the vehicle (such as a broken tail light) or from the registration date being expired to moving violations of a non-endangering or criminal nature. These situations are typically resolved without a court appearance and usually end with payment of the citation given. However, some traffic or vehicle-related violations can be considered misdemeanor traffic violation or even felonies, punishable by permanent loss of driving privileges and a term of imprisonment. These misdemeanors require a court appearance,

Traffic Misdemeanors 

Misdemeanors are considered to be less serious in nature than felonies, but can include both traffic and criminal actions. In order for a traffic violation to be considered a misdemeanor, it must be designated as such by local or state ordinances, and carry a punishment of a fine or imprisonment for a period less than 364 days. These violations may also result in the loss of your driver’s license, or revocation of driving privileges. The classifications for these various degrees of criminal infraction vary from state to state, but there are some common violations that fall into the misdemeanor class no matter the location. Some of these case include: 

  • DUI or DWI- Generally this means the driver was found to be under the influence of any mind-altering substance (drugs, alcohol, etc).
  • Leaving the scene of an accident- This violation occurs when a driver is involved in an accident, especially in cases where a person is injured or the cost of the damage exceeds 1,000 dollars, and fails to report the accident or leaves the scene of the accident before law enforcement arrives.
  • Reckless Driving- Using a vehicle to either intimidate, harass, or frighten another individual will often times result in a reckless driving charge.
  • Insurance laws- In some states it is mandatory for the operator and owner of the vehicle be able to produce proof of automobile insurance upon request.

Felony Violations 

The most serious crimes are always considered felonies, and there are traffic violations that warrant a felony judgment. The general definition of a felony is an offense punishable by over 364 days imprisonment. In some cases where the misdemeanor offense is deemed “gross” or “aggravated”, a felony punishment may be sought for a misdemeanor crime. Some of the most common felonies that come from moving violations include:

  • Repeat offenses- Often times when a traffic offender is deemed a “habitual” offender, meaning they have 3 or more of the same violation within a year or 2 year period (especially in DUI or OWI cases), the offense that the person habitually commits will be considered a felony.
  • Hit and run- If a driver causes an accident, either involving another vehicle or not, and leaves the scene of the accident without either reporting it, they may be charged with a felony case of hit and run. This is especially true for cases that involve damage of property or personal injury to either the driver or another person.
  • Vehicular homicide- If a driver kills another human being (either intentionally or unintentionally) by use of a vehicle, they may be charged with this crime and sentenced to life imprisonment or even death in some states.

Getting Help

Both misdemeanor and felony charges are punishable by much stricter means than any local traffic violation. Anyone accused of any violation which requires immediate detainment or a court appearance should immediately consult a lawyer, or obtain one prior to their initial court appearance.

Talk to a Lawyer

Want to talk to an attorney? Start here.

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Connect with local attorneys
NOLO-web4:DRU1.6.12.2.20161011.41205