People are cited for traffic offenses when they violate the California
Vehicle Code. This could include reckless driving practices such as speeding
and tailgating, failure to yield violations such as running a red light
or not stopping for a pedestrian, and many other types of violations.
A large majority of traffic offenses are infractions, but some can be
charged as misdemeanors.
Infractions are not punishable by imprisonment, in contrast to misdemeanor
and felony offenses. Typically, people cited for traffic infractions either
pay a fine (which is like an admission of guilt) or they contest their
violation which is sometimes successful in getting the infraction dismissed.
Misdemeanors can be punished by imprisonment, but in county or city jail
only and for a period of time not to exceed one year. A majority of people
convicted of misdemeanors are sentenced to up to six months in county
jail with the possibility of a maximum $2,000 fine.
Traffic infractions and misdemeanors are explained in § 1.01 of the
codes. In the state of California, common infraction traffic offenses
are things like speeding and running stop signs while misdemeanor traffic
offenses are things like DUI, driving without a license (or a revoked
license) and driving under the influence of drugs.
Traffic infractions and misdemeanors are heard in California Superior Courts,
traffic divisions. Some traffic offenses can even be charged as felonies
if they are serious enough and are heard in criminal courts. An example
of a felony traffic offense would be vehicular manslaughter.
traffic offenses, it is also important to differentiate between moving and non-moving violations.
Moving violations are significantly more serious than non-moving violations.
Non-moving violations are less serious with generally smaller fines because
they are not as dangerous. A car in motion is a greater threat to road
When a law enforcement officer decides to make a traffic stop, the driver
of the vehicle being halted should immediately put on their right turn
signal and pull over to a safe spot on the side of the road. It is important
at this point to comply with the police officer, as non-compliance can
make your violation more severe.
It is illegal for a peace officer to search your vehicle or detain you
if you have not been lawfully arrested. For a lawful arrest, an officer
needs probable cause. If you were stopped for a traffic violation and
searched or detained without probable cause, then this could be a defense
in your favor. For representation in all aspects of traffic offenses,
contact an Orange County criminal defense lawyer at The Law Offices of
Virginia L. Landry today.