There are three different kinds of criminal charges: infraction, misdemeanor and felony. Infractions, typically issued in response to moving traffic violations, are punishable only by a fine, also called bail, and no jail time or probation. However, with a traffic infraction, you may still be given driving record points, which the DMV keeps track of and your insurance may use as cause to raise your rates. The DMV will also suspend your license once you get a certain number of driving points in so many years. As part of a traffic violation, you may also be ordered to go to traffic school. You may also be give the option to attend traffic school to have driving points taken off your DMV record. If you wish to contest your traffic ticket, you may want to hire a traffic attorney to help your case. Traffic tickets may still require you to appear in court and will still appear on your record. You may not get an official notice of your court date in the mail prior to your hearing so make sure you keep track of your citation, which will have the date on it. If you have a court date and fail to attend, you could be brought in on a warrant and charged with a misdemeanor. At your court date, you can either plead guilty and pay the fine or provide proof that you have fixed or corrected for the violation. You can also plead not guilty and take your case to a traffic trial. Hire a traffic attorney if you are serious about contesting your ticket. Since driving records can greatly affect your insurance rates and even employment opportunities, sometimes it is well worth the effort to fight a citation in court. Fines will vary based on your violation and the county courthouse handling your case. While in infraction for a traffic violation doesn't sound like that big of a deal, you may land yourself in serious trouble if you do not pay your traffic ticket. If you fail to pay your fine, the court system will report this to the DMV, who will then suspend your license. Driving on a suspended license is a more serious charge, which can be charged as a misdemeanor and will come with an additional fine and jail time. You will also be required to pay a late fee that may exceed what your actual fine was. Always pay, or make arrangements to pay, your traffic tickets promptly to avoid these kinds of consequences. In many cases, you can pay via mail or online. If you cannot afford to pay your fine or have had your license suspended because of failure to pay, you may be able to have your license reinstated or have your fine significantly reduced under the new traffic violation amnesty program.
There are other California driving crimes that will result in serious criminal convictions, such as driving under the influence, reckless driving or vehicular assault. These are charged as misdemeanors or felonies and can result in jail time, high fines and additional penalties. For these driving crimes, you will still have to be processed through the DMV system as well, which means driving points will be added to your record, your license will be suspended for a period or revoked and you may have to appear at a DMV hearing as well. Generally, these crimes are characterized by driving in an unsafe manner with wanton disregard for others' safety. Your intent here is important and intent is what can turn a regular traffic violation into a driving crime. With most traffic violations, however, it will be because of not following general rules of the road because of convenience or inattention, rather than breaking them with gross negligence. However in some cases, it may be a fine line between the two. If you are facing one of these more serious driving crimes, speak with a driving crime defense attorney with experience in the specific crime you are being charge with. For example, there are DUI defense specific attorneys who specialize in DUI cases. These crimes should be taken seriously as they can result in long lasting consequences so be prepared with a strategic defense in court.
If you are facing charges for a driving crime or have questions about traffic violations in Tulare, Kings or Fresno counties, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can help. Experienced in driving crime defense, attorney Christopher Martens will evaluate your case and ensure you take the right steps towards a strong defense. With over 10 year of criminal defense experience, attorney Martens will not be afraid to take your case all the way. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss your options for defending your case.