Civil law addresses behavior that causes some sort of injury to a person or other private party through the use of lawsuits. Penalties for any parties that are found liable for these acts are generally monetary, but can also include court-ordered remedies such as injunctions or restraining orders.
Criminal law addresses behavior that is considered to be an offense against society, the state, or public, even if the victim is an individual person. Someone who is convicted of a crime will be forced to pay fines, and may also be sentenced to jail or prison time.
Regardless of whether someone is being charged with a serious or a minor crime, the accused still has the right to a trial, among other constitutional criminal rights. Additionally, whether the accused is charged in federal court or in a state court depends on what crime they are being charged with, and where the alleged offense occurred.
While every state has their own set of criminal laws, there are certain Constitutional rights that apply to every defendant, no matter what that crime is or where it happened. These rights include:
- Right To a Speedy Trial: The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to a speedy trial. This is to prevent the accused from being kept in jail for extended periods of time without adjudication;
- Right To a Jury: The Sixth Amendment also guarantees the right to a trial by jury. While many jurisdictions allow the defendant to waive a jury in favor of a bench trial, this is the defendant’s choice only. Additionally, this right is universal with criminal prosecution only, as civil trials have their own rules regarding jury rights;
- Miranda Rights: The product of a famous Supreme Court case, Miranda rights give the criminal defendant access to an attorney regardless of whether they can afford one. This attorney is to aid in their defense; and
- Protection Against Self-Incrimination: Also known as “pleading the fifth,” this Constitutional protection provides that a defendant cannot be forced to testify against their own interest.
Criminal procedure refers to the overall legal process of adjudicating claims for a person who is accused of violating criminal laws. The intention behind all criminal procedures is known as the “presumption of innocence,” which means that a suspect is considered to be innocent until they are proven guilty.
Criminal procedure generally includes:
What Are Speeding And Moving Violations?
Most speeding and moving violations are not considered to be crimes; as such, penalties do not include jail time. Because moving violations are only considered to be infractions, conviction of speeding or other moving violations will only result in a fine and increased car insurance rates. Additionally, the charge will appear only on a person’s driving record, and not on their criminal record.
The laws which govern speeding and moving violations vary by state, county, and city. However, the following are examples of violations in all states:
- Speeding, or traveling in excess of the speed limit;
- Failure to yield, or give the right of way to another vehicle that has the legal right to proceed first;
- Failing to stop, which includes stopping at a stop sign or making a “rolling stop;”
- Failing to signal a turn and/or lane change;
- Dangerous left turn, an example of which would be turning left when oncoming traffic is too close to do so safely;
- Failure to obey traffic lights, such as running through a red light instead of stopping;
- Invalid registration sticker; and
- Reckless driving, which is driving that exhibits indifference to the safety and property of others. Distracted driving, such as driving while texting or eating, is the most common example of reckless driving according to various law enforcement agencies.
There are some circumstances in which a traffic offense could result in a person being charged with a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense that can be punished by up to one year in jail, and/or a criminal fine. Traffic offenses could result in a misdemeanor criminal charge if the violation results in injury to people or property. It is important to note that even if the result of the violation is only considered to be a “near-miss,” it could still be charged as a misdemeanor crime.
An example of this would be how in some states, if a driver is going a certain number of miles per hour over the speed limit, this could result in a misdemeanor criminal charge. Similar to any other criminal offense, a person has the right to challenge a misdemeanor traffic offense.
What Are Seat Belt Laws?
Seat belt laws require a vehicle’s driver and their passengers to wear a seat belt or harness, in order to be in compliance with federal mandates on safety belt standards. These seat belt laws generally apply to:
- Passenger cars;
- Vans; and
Additionally, these laws generally apply to anytime the vehicle is in a forward motion. Seat belt laws also generally apply to both children and adult passengers.
While seat belt laws can vary considerably between the states, they are generally divided into two categories: primary laws, and secondary laws. Additionally, there are some exceptions to when these laws apply.
A state has primary seat belt laws if a police officer can issue a ticket to a driver or passenger for not wearing a seat belt, without another traffic violation having occurred simultaneously. As of March 2018, 34 states and the District of Columbia have primary seat belt laws for front seat drivers and passengers. 18 of these states, as well as the District of Columbia, also have primary seat belt laws for rear passengers. 4 of these states have secondary seat belt laws for rear passengers, which is further discussed below.
A state has secondary seat belt laws if a police officer can only issue a ticket to a driver or passenger for not wearing a seat belt when another traffic violation has occurred simultaneously. An example of this would be how if you run a stop sign and do not have your seatbelt on, you can get a separate ticket for not wearing your seatbelt. However, the police officer would not be able to issue you a ticket if you were following the rules of the road. but were not wearing your seatbelt.
Currently, 15 states have secondary seat belt laws for adult front seat drivers and passengers. 6 of these states also have secondary seat belt laws for rear passengers.
Many states note specific exceptions when their seat belt laws do not apply. Some examples of this include:
- Postal carriers who are on duty;
- Ambulance and other emergency vehicles; and
- Vehicles which are manufactured before a specified year.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Seat Belt Law Violations?
Generally speaking, a violation of seat belt laws will result in a ticket in which you pay a fine and court costs. However, subsequent and repeated offenses can become costly, and could add points on your driving record. Additionally, many states have different laws associated with child safety.
As such, you should consult with a traffic ticket attorney if you are being charged with seat belt law violations. Your attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.