Traffic offenses in Virginia often fall within three categories: infraction, misdemeanor and felony. Which type your offense belongs to depends on certain factors, and each category corresponds to specific consequences.
Traffic infractions are minor offenses not classifiable as either a misdemeanor or felony. These violations usually include the following:
- Running a red light
- Driving without a headlight or taillight
Infractions generally do not go to your criminal history, although you might get demerits on your driving record. Additionally, they will likely only result in tickets and fines.
A misdemeanor is a heavier offense that can get you more severe penalties, including jail time, license suspension and fines. Which penalty you receive may depend on factors like the severity of your offense, the circumstances of the violation and your criminal history. Examples of traffic misdemeanors include:
- Reckless driving
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Unlike infractions, misdemeanors are a violation of criminal laws. For this reason, they appear in your criminal record and usually stay there for years.
A traffic felony is the most severe type of traffic offense. Authorities will likely charge you with a felony if your traffic offense results in grave injury or death.
Felonies also tend to carry the heaviest penalties, which often vary depending on the severity of the damage you caused and your criminal history. These penalties usually include jail time and significant fines. A guilty verdict on a felony charge also typically stays on your criminal record for good.
It is generally unwise to ignore a traffic offense, no matter which type authorities charge you with. Considering how complex traffic laws can be, an attorney can help you establish a strong defense that protects your rights and enhances your chances of achieving fair outcomes.