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Traffic and DUI Law
A traffic ticket is a notice issued by a law enforcement official to a motorist or other road user, accusing violation of traffic laws. Traffic tickets generally come in two forms, citing a moving violation, such as exceeding the speed limit, or a non-moving violation, such as a parking violation, with the ticket also being referred to as a parking citation, notice of illegal parking or parking ticket. In some jurisdictions, a traffic ticket constitutes a notice that a penalty, such as a fine or deduction of points, has been or will be assessed against the driver or owner of a vehicle; failure to pay generally leads to prosecution or to civil recovery proceedings for the fine. In others, the ticket constitutes only a citation and summons to appear at traffic court, with a determination of guilt to be made only in court.
A demerit point system is one in which a driver’s licensing authority, police force, or other organization issues cumulative demerits, or points to drivers on conviction for road traffic offenses. Points may either be added or subtracted, depending on the particular system in use. A major offense may lead to more than the maximum allowed points being issued. Points are typically applied after offenses are committed, and cancelled a defined time, typically a few years, afterwards, or after other conditions are met; if the total exceeds a specified limit the offender may be disqualified from driving for a time, or the driving license may be revoked. Fines and other penalties may be applied additionally, either for an offense or after a certain number of points have been accumulated. The primary purpose of such point systems is to identify, deter, and penalize repeat offenders of traffic laws, while streamlining the legal process. Germany introduced a demerit point system, in 1974, and one was introduced in New York at about that time.
Traffic violations fall into two categories, traffic infractions and criminal traffic offenses. Traffic infractions are “non-criminal offense[s] for which imprisonment may not be imposed as a sanction.” Criminal traffic offenses may carry the possibility of imprisonment. They include, among others, driving under the influence, reckless or negligent driving, and vehicular assault. If an offense is not listed, it is a traffic infraction.
Traffic tickets fall under one of two categories: non-moving violations and moving violations. All traffic tickets are NOT the same. Some are more serious (and costlier) than others. Determining the type of ticket you have is important when evaluating your situation. Sometimes if your ticket is not a serious one that gets reported to your insurance company, you may be better off just paying the fine and not challenging it in court.
Non-moving violations typically involve parking your car illegally or minor ‘fix-it’ tickets. These violations are not as serious as their counter-parts (moving violations) and usually involve much smaller fines. Plus, they do not show up on your driving record, which means your insurance company won’t find out about them. Some common non-moving violations include: Improper registration, Failure to use seatbelt, Broken taillights, No license plate, No license lamps, Improper parking.
A moving violation is any violation of the law, committed by the driver of a vehicle, while it is in motion. The term “motion” distinguishes it from ‘non-moving’ violations. While parking tickets are charged against a vehicle (which will be towed if violations go unpaid or are frequent), moving violations are charged against the person driving. Moving violations are usually classified as infractions or misdemeanors, but serious violations can be considered felonies. In most places, moving violations involve fines which must be paid as well as punitive points assessed to the license of the driver. As a driver accumulates points, he or she may be required to attend defensive driving lessons, re-take his or her driving test or even surrender his or her license. Common moving violations include: speeding (by far the most common violation), running a stop sign or red traffic light, failure to yield to someone with the right of way, failing to maintain a single lane, not stopping for a pedestrian in a crosswalk, crossing the gore (striped area), and failure to secure a load to a truck or lorry, driving in a car pool lane illegally, driving too slow for road conditions, particularly in a left-hand lane. More serious violations include: racing on a public street, road rage, drunk driving, and vehicular homicide.
In most jurisdictions, your options in handling a traffic ticket are: plead guilty, pay the fine and receive a conviction; plead guilty, pay the fine, attend Traffic Safety School and avoid receiving a conviction; plead not guilty and request a court date. Since you are innocent until proven guilty, you can try to beat that ticket! Read the fine print on the ticket after you get home, as there is useful information on there that might help you. Make sure you understand all of it, as it will give you instructions on how to proceed to the next step.
When a driver receives a traffic citation or ticket, the financial impact upon that driver and other drivers in their family or household can be dramatic. A single ticket can substantially increase insurance costs. Just one insurance point can result in an increase in your insurance premium and more points can result in whopping increases. Often a person may be tempted to plead guilty or responsible, not realizing that if the matter was properly handled by someone with knowledge and experience, they might have faced a lesser or possibly no increase in their insurance. Also, do not forget the importance of protecting a clean driving record, as it may help in the event that another ticket is received in the future.
Driver License Compact (DLC) is an interstate compact used by States of the United States to exchange information concerning license suspensions and traffic violations of non-residents and forward them to the state where they are licensed known as the home state. Its theme is One Driver, One License, One Record. The home state would treat the offense as if it had been committed at home, applying home state laws to the out-of-state offense. The action taken would include, but not be limited to, points assessed on a minor offense such as speeding and suspension of license or a major violation such as DWI/DUI. It is not supposed to include non-moving violations like parking tickets, tinted windows, loud exhaust, etc.
A felony DUI charge comes in several ways. A fourth DUI charge is automatically a felony. If excessive speed and very high blood alcohol content were involved, you may find the drunk driving case being charged as a felony, and the same goes if there was personal injury or property damage as a result of the DUI. A felony DUI is a very serious thing, but the good news is depending on your circumstances, you may be able to later request a reduction of your charge to a misdemeanor. You will need to enlist your lawyer’s help to do this, and you may be required to wait until after sentencing before applying for such reduction. You may be required to plead guilty or no contest to the charges. A not guilty plea should only be entered if you are dedicated to fighting the felony DUI charges.