Frequently Asked Questions about Traffic Violations

Q: How will a traffic ticket affect my insurance rates?

A: Depending on the type of violation, the number of violations, your state’s traffic laws and your insurance company’s policies, a traffic violation might result in increased insurance premiums. In general, receiving only one moving violation (such as a speeding ticket or a citation for running a stoplight) in a given time frame (typically three to five years) will not result in an increased insurance premium. However, more than one moving violation or a car accident in which you were at fault in a given time frame may result in an increased insurance premium.

Q: What does is mean that a traffic violation is a strict liability offense?

A: A strict liability offense is an offense for which proof of “criminal intent” is not necessary for conviction. Stated differently, proof that a traffic violation occurred is typically sufficient to convict the violator. Thus, a driver may be fined for turning into the wrong lane even if he or she did so accidentally, parking next to fire hydrant even if he or she did not see the hydrant, or for an expired parking meter even if he or she did not intend let the meter expire.

Q: What is a “moving violation”?

A: A moving violation is an “infraction of a traffic law while the vehicle is in motion.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004). A nonmoving violation is an infraction of a traffic law while the vehicle is not in motion. In general, moving violation penalties are more severe than nonmoving violation penalties. Moving violations include offenses such as speeding, drunk driving and failing to yield. Nonmoving violations typically deal with offenses involving parking (parking at an expired meter or in a handicap spot), vehicle maintenance (driving with a broken taillight or a burned-out headlight), or vehicle modifications (nonstandard/under-vehicle lights or window tinting).

Q: Will a traffic violation committed in another state affect my driving record in the state in which I am licensed?

A: In many cases, yes. Most states have signed the Driver License Compact (DLC). The theme of the DLC is One Driver, One License, One Record. Under the DLC, traffic violations issued to driver’s licensed in another state are reported to the driver’s home state. The home state will then treat the offense as if it had been committed within its borders and apply its laws to the out-of-state offense.

Q: What is a “fix it ticket” or a “correctable violation”?

A: A “fix it ticket” or a “correctable violation” is a type of traffic ticket that might be issued for violations involving vehicle maintenance or vehicle modifications. Vehicle maintenance violations include faulty brakes, cracked windshields, broken or burned out lights and faulty emissions control devices. Vehicle modification violations include nonstandard/under-vehicle lights, illegal window tinting and ground clearance modifications. A driver who receives a “fix it ticket” may avoid a fine by correcting the violation, obtaining the signature of a law enforcement officer, court officer, DMV employee or other authorized person certifying that the violation is corrected, and paying any administrative.

Q: What is a “financial-responsibility act”?

A: A financial-responsibility act, also known as a safety responsibility act, is a “state statute conditioning license and registration of motor vehicles on proof of insurance or other financial accountability.” Black’s Law Dictionary (8th ed. 2004). Some financial-responsibility acts also authorize the suspension or revocation of an individual’s driver’s license if he or she is involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in property damage or the death of or injury to another person until she or he provides proof of his or her ability to accept financial responsibility.

Q: What are penalties for driving without valid vehicle registration?

A: To lawfully operate a motor vehicle, the motor vehicle must be registered with the appropriate state agency (typically the state’s department of motor vehicles) in the state in which the vehicle is primarily used. Proof of registration in the form of license plate tabs or a registration certificate is also generally required. Penalties vary by state and individual circumstances. For example, in many states, the penalty is determined by how long the registration has been expired.

Q: What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?

A: Although many traffic violations are deemed mere infractions, some are misdemeanors, which carry stiffer fines and the possibility of up to one year in jail. The most serious traffic crimes are felonies, which generally involve repeat offenses or violations that result in injury to persons or property. Felonies have even greater penalties, including higher fines and imprisonment for over a year.

Q: What if I lose my license but continue to drive?

A: If a person whose license has been revoked or suspended due to previous traffic violations chooses to drive without a valid license, he or she will probably suffer more serious consequences if pulled over. The more prudent course of action is to rely on friends and family for rides or to use public transportation.

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