Unsafe Lane Change in California: Moving or Non-Moving Violation?

The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) uses a point system to assign points for each type of traffic offense. If a driver accumulates a certain number of points within a specified period of time, the DMV can revoke or suspend your driver's license. An unsafe lane change is one of the primary causes of car accidents. When operating a motor vehicle, it is imperative for the driver to check their blind spots before making a lane change.

Infractions, Misdemeanors & Felonies

Traffic violations are categorized into three categories; infractions, misdemeanors or felonies. Most traffic citations issued to motorists are generally classified as "infractions". The only requirement necessary to prove guilt is the fact the individual committed the offense. Examples of these would be:

  • Drivers who are caught speeding (traveling over the legal limit of the posted speed limit)
  • Parking at a an expired meter
  • Failing to use turn signals
  • Illegally parking in a handicapped space or zone

People who are charged with a traffic misdemeanor or felony are given the same rights as a defendant in a criminal trial. Misdemeanors are generally punishable by a fine of less than $1,000 and may carry a jail sentence for up to one year. However, if you are convicted of seriously injuring or killing another person while driving under the influence, you may be charged with a felony offense.

How to Merge Safely

Motorists may receive a moving violation for an unsafe lane change if they failed to signal before changing lanes. Avoiding an accident or a citation may be as simple as following these rules:

  • Always use your turn signals before making a lane change
  • Never change more than one lane at a time
  • Never change lanes if the roadway is separated by a solid line
  • Do not speed up when changing lanes
  • Do not cut another driver off when changing lanes
  • Never change lanes in an intersection

Whenever a driver receives a ticket for a moving violation, points will go on their driving record and stay there for up to three years. More serious offenses, such as driving under the influence or hit and run will stay on their record for ten years.

Hiring a Lawyer for Traffic Court

Most people who receive a traffic citation will normally pay the fine. But the problem with admitting guilt is that your insurance company will take this opportunity to raise your car insurance rates. Once you receive a "notice to appear", this is the date you are supposed to appear in traffic court. While this may eat up an entire day from work, hiring an attorney can save you both time and money. Defendants who are represented by legal counsel in traffic court are usually heard first. Often times, your lawyer can make a deal with the prosecutor and have the charges reduced or dismissed. Therefore, it is important to spend a few dollars to obtain legal counsel, thus saving money in the long run.

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