Traffic offenses in Pennsylvania add up, and not just in terms of the financial impact. Each traffic violation adds points to your driver's record, and those points can lead to driver's license suspension among other consequences. Plus, some traffic violations are criminal offenses. If you ignore or do not fight traffic violations with criminal consequences, you could end up with a criminal record. For someone with a clean history, you do not want to make this mistake. All the same, for someone with a driving or criminal record, you do not want to add to it.
At Rogers & Rogers, PC, our traffic violation defense attorney in Pittsburgh will help you with either a civil or criminal traffic offense. We know and have seen how these seemingly inoffensive violations can cause real problems for people. To make sure you minimize or avoid the consequences of a traffic ticket today, call us at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation.
Traffic Offenses in Pennsylvania
Traffic offenses involve a motorist's unlawful conduct while they are in control or operating a vehicle. Also referred to as traffic violations, these offenses are prosecuted at the state or local level.
There is often a distinction made between traffic offenses committed while a vehicle is moving and while it's stationary. Moving traffic violations include speeding and running a red light. Some examples of non-moving traffic violations include illegal parking and displaying expired plates.
The term traffic offense describes a wide range of conduct from minor infractions to more serious crimes.
Traffic Offense Classification in Pennsylvania
Traffic offenses can be civil (often referred to as infractions) or criminal. Each state identifies specific offenses and categorizes them accordingly.
Civil Traffic Violations
Traffic infractions in Pittsburgh are minor traffic offenses. If you commit a traffic infraction, you're usually issued a ticket. Typically, you have the option to pay the fee or dispute the ticket by attending a hearing on a designated day at traffic court.
The penalties for a traffic infraction include fines, attending traffic school, and demerit points. Accumulating demerit points can impact the cost of car insurance (by increasing your rates) and eventually result in a license suspension (if you accumulate the requisite number of points).
Common examples of traffic infractions include:
- Speeding (under a certain limit)
- Using a mobile phone while driving
- Failing to stop or signal
- Following too close to another vehicle
- Failing to wear a seatbelt
- Disobeying a road sign
- Driving uninsured
- Parking illegally
The majority of traffic infractions are strict liability offenses – the prosecution does not need to prove any criminal intent, only that the violation occurred. This means you are liable even if you did not know, for example, that the place where you parked was a no-parking zone or did not realize you were driving over the speed limit.
Criminal Traffic Offenses
Traffic crimes are more serious than infractions. They can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the relevant laws and circumstances. For example, you may be charged with a felony if you have any prior traffic offenses or if the conduct resulted in injury or death.
Traffic crimes are usually heard in a criminal court.
Some common examples of traffic crimes often charged as a misdemeanor include:
- excessive speeding (typically 11 or more miles over the speed limit)
- reckless driving
- hit and run
- driving with a suspended or revoked license
- operating a vehicle while under the influence (DUI) of a chemical substance
- driving without title or registration to the vehicle
- driving without auto insurance
Examples of traffic offenses usually charged as a felony include:
- reckless driving causing injury or death
- repeat (DUI)
- vehicular homicide
Potential penalties for traffic crimes include but are not limited to fines, probation, community service, rehabilitation, parole, and/or incarceration. You're more likely to receive time behind bars if you are charged with a felony or you have a history of committing traffic violations.
A conviction for a traffic crime can also result in the suspension or loss of your license, demerit points, and your vehicle being impounded.
Three Reasons to Fight Traffic Offenses
Whether a traffic offense is minor or major, civil or criminal, you want to fight it. Here are three good reasons why that's the case.
- Clean driving record. If you pay the fine, plead guilty, or ignore a traffic offense, you will destroy any clean driving record or you will add points to an already-existing driving record. The more points you obtain, the closer you are to license suspension. Further, with each traffic violation, you reset the clock used to erase old offenses from your record. It can take three to seven years to wipe a driving record clean – it all depends on the circumstances and seriousness of the offense.
- Limited evidence. If you fight a ticket, even a civil infraction, the officer must appear in court and show evidence to prove you committed the offense. Many times officers do not show up or they do not have the necessary evidence to show you were speeding or otherwise violated a law while operating a vehicle.
- Increase options. To pay a traffic ticket is the same as declaring guilt. If you request a hearing, however, you have more options to plead to a lesser offense or may be able to get the ticket or criminal charge dismissed.
Contact a Traffic Ticket Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania Today
The law around driving offenses can be technical and is also constantly evolving. Especially if you're considering challenging the allegations, it pays to speak with an experienced traffic defense lawyer in Pittsburgh who will review your case and explain your options.
For many people, the ability to drive is essential to their daily life. While the majority of traffic violations result in a small fine and some demerit points, if you are charged with a serious traffic violation, you may be at risk of imprisonment and losing your license. Call Rogers & Rogers, PC at (412) 434-7500 to schedule a Free Initial Consultation with an attorney today.