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Types of Traffic Tickets

Most traffic offenses are infractions (minor administrative violations), but they can still have substantial consequences. Traffic violations can result in expensive tickets, higher insurance rates, and restrictions on your driving privileges. Some traffic violations can even result in a misdemeanor or felony charge.

FindLaw's section on Types of Traffic Tickets offers information on the most common traffic laws and violations. Since each state has its own traffic rules, this section also provides links to articles with individual state laws for various violations.


Whether late for an appointment or eager to get to your destination, you've likely driven over the posted speed limit. Speeding tickets are among the most common traffic tickets. There are three types of speed limits:

  • Absolute: An absolute speed limit is the most common type of speed law. An example of an absolute speed limit is when a sign states that the speed limit is 65 mph. If you drive even 1 mph over the posted limit, you have violated the law.
  • Presumed: Only certain states, such as California and Texas, use a presumed speed limit. This system allows you to legally drive over the speed limit, as long as you drive safely for the conditions. For example, if you drive 40 mph in a 35 mph zone, you are "presumed" to be violating the speed law. However, a judge can dismiss your charge if you convince them you were driving safely.
  • Basic: A basic speed limit states that you can violate the basic speed law even if you drive at or below the posted speed limit. In this situation, a police officer can decide that driving the speed limit is unsafe, given the driving conditions. For example, if it's raining or snowing heavily, it can be unsafe to drive 65 mph, even if that's the posted speed limit.

Leaving the Scene of an Accident

A more serious traffic offense is leaving the scene of an accident, also known as a hit and run. Generally, the law requires parties involved in a car accident to pull over when it's safe and exchange contact and insurance information. While the necessary procedures after an accident vary from state to state, requirements are usually based on what type of damage occurred.

If a driver hits an unattended car or stationary property, most states usually require they leave a note with their contact information. If injuries are involved in addition to property damage, drivers usually have to take reasonable steps to help the injured. They are also required to report the accident to law enforcement.

A driver who doesn't follow the proper procedures after an accident can receive a traffic ticket at a minimum. If a driver leaves the scene of an accident where an injury or death occurred, it can result in serious criminal charges, including a possible felony.

Misdemeanor and Felony Traffic Offenses

Not all traffic violations are minor. Misdemeanor and felony traffic offenses can have serious penalties, including jail time. Some of these charges include:

  • Felony driving under the influence (DUI and DWI)
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident

Charges like these are tried in criminal court. This differs from minor traffic offenses, which are handled in traffic court.

In addition to jail time, convictions for these offenses may result in driver's license suspension or revocation, community service, and significant fines. Severe convictions can also prompt your insurance company to increase your insurance premium or cancel your policy.

Moving and Nonmoving Violations

Traffic infractions are categorized as either Moving Violations or Nonmoving Violations.

Moving violations are issued for offenses while a vehicle is in motion. Common moving violations include:

More serious offenses like driving under the influence and reckless driving are also moving violations.

Nonmoving violations are issued for offenses when a vehicle is not in motion. They are most often issued for:

Citations for nonmoving violations (like a parking ticket or a citation for a broken taillight) usually don't impact your auto insurance premiums. However, unresolved violations (like unpaid parking tickets) or multiple violations in a short period can prompt your insurance company to raise your rates.

Hiring a Traffic Ticket Lawyer

Most minor traffic tickets don't warrant help from an attorney. However, if your situation is complex or the stakes are high, you can speak with a traffic ticket attorney for legal advice. An attorney experienced with local traffic laws can help you challenge a ticket. This can keep your driving record clean and save you an increase in insurance costs.

If you've been charged with a more serious traffic violation, it's in your best interest to contact a criminal defense attorney.

Learn About Types of Traffic Tickets

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex traffic tickets usually require a lawyer
  • Experienced lawyers can seek to reduce or eliminate penalties
  • A lawyer can help you keep your license

Get tailored legal advice and ask a lawyer questions. Many traffic ticket attorneys offer free consultations.


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