If you have a Vehicle or Traffic offense, it might make some sense to retain a Vehicle and Traffic Offense lawyer. Most people make the mistake of thinking that vehicle and traffic offenses are not a big deal. In fact, if you asked the average person whether or not to fight a ticket, the typical response is “Just pay the fine and get it over with.” The problem is that it's not “over with” once you pay the ticket. A New York traffic ticket can mean heavy fines, points on your driver's license, and significant increases in your auto insurance premium.
Vehicle and Traffic Offenses Categories
Vehicle and traffic offenses are broken down into three categories: infractions, misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions are minor moving and motor vehicle violations, meaning they do not pose a danger to the general public. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, are seen as dangerous, which is why they're charged as a criminal offense.
What's interesting is that most offenses fall under one or more of these categories, depending on the circumstance. For example, speeding is generally an infraction – unless you are charged with going more than 30 miles over the speed limit. Suddenly, your offense is upgraded to a misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $600, and up to 11 points on your driver's license. Eleven is also the dreaded number of points that will cause you to lose your driving privileges. The basic guidelines for upgrading an infraction to a misdemeanor are:
The traffic offense causes bodily harm to another person.
The traffic offense causes property damage.
The traffic offense creates a threat of injury to another person or damage to property.
As you can see, just the possibility of creating a “dangerous” situation is enough for you to be charged with a misdemeanor. You may also be charged with additional misdemeanors such as:
Driving without insurance
Leaving the scene of an accident.
Driving without a license
DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or DUI (Driving Under the Influence)
The more offenses you're charged with, the harsher the penalties you're facing. At that point, jail time of up to one year is an absolute possibility, along with fines, court costs, motor vehicle surcharges and points on your license. Even worse, a conviction for a misdemeanor traffic offense results in a criminal record. This record is permanent, meaning life-long disruptions such as difficulties finding a job, obtaining bank loans, or even a place to live.
Believe it or not, this is not the worst case scenario. That would be the felony offense, which refers to a higher level criminal traffic violation. Misdemeanors can be upgraded to felonies when there is significant damage to property, or significant bodily harm to one or more individuals. However, a misdemeanor can be upgraded even without significant damage if this is your second or subsequent offense of the same type. Penalties for a felony traffic conviction include prison time, along with fines, surcharges and court costs. Furthermore, a criminal record resulting from a felony conviction will make it nearly impossible to obtain a job or find a place to rent.
Most Offenses Are Not Upgraded To Felonies
While the vast majority of vehicle and traffic offenses are not upgraded to felonies, no traffic ticket should ever be taken lightly. Red light camera tickets, in particular, are waived off as minor inconveniences, but even one of these can cause an increase in your insurance premium. In addition, camera tickets, i.e, tickets not issued by a police officer, can and should be challenged since photo and/or video footage rarely shows a clear image of the driver. Most states also consider them a violation of one's due process rights, since a camera can't be cross-examined by the defense in a court of law.
A Knowledgeable Attorney Can Help
Regardless of which vehicle or traffic offense you're charged with, it's imperative that you speak with an experienced New York traffic attorney in Queens, NY. A knowledgeable attorney can help you in a variety of ways, including negotiating non-criminal pleas or minimized penalties. In addition, they have extensive knowledge of case laws and legal precedents to help you challenge your charges in court. While it's tempting to just pay the ticket, fighting for your rights and exploring your legal options is a much more effective way to approach a vehicle or traffic offense