Many traffic offenses that are non-dangerous or are just driving violations are called infractions. However, in some cases, traffic violations become misdemeanors because of the seriousness of the violation. In most states, a traffic violation becomes a misdemeanor if it:

  • The traffic violation causes injury to a person
  • The traffic violation causes damage to property
  • The traffic violation creates a real threat of injury to a person or threat to destruction of property

Misdemeanor traffic offenses also differ from traffic infractions because they carry harsher penalties. Some misdemeanor traffic offenses can carry fines of up to $10,000 and could also involve jail time depending on the severity of the crime and the amount of damage or injury involved.

How Are Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses Classified?

Traffic offenses are usually considered minor offenses in most states. Simple traffic violations usually lead to a traffic ticket and are considered infractions. However, if traffic offense is more serious than the offense can lead to misdemeanor or even felony charges. These are considered criminal offenses and usually involve a trial and other prolonged legal consequences.

What Types of Actions Are Considered Traffic Misdemeanor Offenses?

The rules governing traffic offenses will vary widely from state to state. Traffic misdemeanors usually involve creating a risk to human life or property. Most jurisdictions will consider the following to be traffic misdemeanors:
Some actions may be considered traffic misdemeanors even though they do not involve the operation of a moving vehicle. These are usually categorized under “disorderly conduct” and can include such offenses as obstructing traffic or playing one’s car radio too loudly.  

What Are the Penalties for Misdemeanor Traffic Offenses?

Being charged with a misdemeanor traffic offense generally results in the consequences of a fine and/or jail time. This can be anywhere from $100 to several hundreds of dollars, while jail time is usually limited to a period of one year maximum. 

Many states may take additional steps when penalizing for a misdemeanor traffic offense. These can include the loss or suspension of driving privileges, and the towing or confiscation of the defendant’s motor vehicle.  The court may also impose additional penalties such as enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program if alcohol was involved in the violation.

Some violations that begin as traffic misdemeanors may be escalated to the level of a felony charge. This can be the case if the violation involved repeat offenses, or if it resulted in death, great bodily injury or serious property damage. Felony charges involve higher fines and possible sentencing in a state prison facility.  

Should I Contact a Lawyer For a Traffic Misdemeanor Offense?

Traffic misdemeanors should not be taken lightly, as they will be reflected negatively in your criminal record. Hiring a experienced criminal lawyer might be necessary if the traffic violation requires a court appearance or trial. An experienced criminal lawyer can help explain your state’s traffic laws more clearly, and they can help you present your case before a court of law.