speeding ticket

Traffic Ticket – Misdemeanor

Most traffic tickets issued are considered “infractions.” This usually includes traffic tickets for moving violations, having a light out or expired registration.  Infractions do not usually carry the same black marks and penalties as serious criminal offenses. But certain traffic-related offenses are categorized as “misdemeanors” or even “felonies”, and may result in more significant fines, suspension of license, or even imprisonment.

Generally speaking in most states, a traffic violation becomes a misdemeanor or felony if it:

  • Causes injury to a person or destruction of property, or
  • Creates a real threat of injury to a person or destruction of property.

If you are charged with a traffic ticket that is classified as a misdemeanor, such as “reckless driving” you will have additional responsibilities as a defendant, as you will be facing actual criminal charges. Your attorney will represent you at several hearings. The first court hearing on a misdemeanor charge is typically an arraignment, where the charge is read to you and you are asked to enter a plea. Your traffic attorney will advise you on how to plea, it is generally a bad idea to plead guilty “as charged”, as it is frequently possible for your traffic ticket lawyer to work out a deal to a lesser charge which will either reduce the charge or limit the possible penalties. If you plead “not guilty”, the next hearing is ordinarily a “pretrial” where a prosecutor will be present. The purpose of a pretrial is to determine whether a case should be scheduled for trial, and how much time should be allotted by the court for trial.

Traffic ticket lawyers can often obtain an offer for a very good deal from the prosecutor, such as having the criminal charge dropped if you plead to a particular civil infraction. Only a qualified traffic ticket lawyer can advise you on whether or not to consider that offer so as to rule out the possibility of a criminal conviction. Most prosecutors will be amenable to scheduling a subsequent “plea hearing” where you would be able to accept the plea offer. Otherwise, the matter will be scheduled for trial.

Please note that it makes sense to consult with a lawyer before talking to a prosecutor about the charge. Even if you have to pay for a consultation, a lawyer can help you anticipate the type of offer you should receive, and whether or not you should accept a particular plea bargain. You don’t necessarily have to hire a lawyer to appear in court with you – but it will usually benefit you to have a lawyer’s advice.

If you are charged with a felony offense which involves your motor vehicle, always consult with a lawyer. If you cannot afford a lawyer, request court-appointed counsel.

If you are not sure if you are charged with a traffic misdemeanor or not, please consider that for many of these violations, the driver will be taken into custody and required to post a bail bond, just as he or she would for non-traffic crimes. If you are still not sure about your charges, your traffic ticket lawyer can research your case and tell you for sure.

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