In the vast majority of traffic offense cases, a driver's actions only warrant administrative action under a streamlined process involving infractions. This is typically due to the decriminalization of many traffic offenses in most states. However, depending on the state and nature of each offense, certain traffic violations still impose criminal penalties, as either misdemeanors or felonies. Again, state laws will widely vary on these matters, especially concerning traffic misdemeanors. However, the standard for addressing traffic felonies is relatively similar across all states. In most states, in general, a given traffic offense may constitute a traffic felony if the driver causes injury another person or property, or if the driver creates a real threat of harm to a person or property.
Not all traffic violations may constitute a traffic felony, but as the result of the action, a traffic felony offense may be charged. For example, if a driver runs through a red light at an intersection, this will likely be charged as an infraction or misdemeanor offenses. However, if a collision occurs as the result of this action, a misdemeanor offense will likely be cited, if not a traffic felony. If the collision involves bodily injury or death of another driver, a traffic felony will certainly be cited.
A felony traffic offense, in all states, is reserved for those traffic offenses that are grievous breaches of the law. These offenses are criminal in nature and carry the potential of at least one (1) year of incarceration, with the potential for even life imprisonment or the death penalty being imposed. Some of the most notable felony traffic violations, regardless of state, will include the following:
In reality, any traffic felony charge makes an individual driver a defendant in a criminal case. He or she must consult with legal counsel in order to obtain any form of favorable outcome in his or her case. State laws widely vary on traffic citations, felonies, and how traffic crimes are addressed, and in turn, a defendant must consult with a traffic violations lawyer or criminal defense attorney in the state where the alleged crime took place.