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Civil Traffic Tickets vs. Criminal Traffic Tickets in Arizona

Civil Traffic Tickets

A civil traffic ticket is given to a motorist or a pedestrian, of whom an officer claims has violated a civil traffic law. When one receives a ticket, they are given a form that lists civil traffic laws. The officer will check each law that has been violated by the offender. Tickets that are also classified by whether a car was in motion at the time the officer suspected the supposed misconduct. Therefore, motorists are cited with either a moving violation or a non-moving violation.

Some of the most common moving and non-moving civil traffic violations that are given to Arizona drivers are (but not limited to):

  • Speeding or driving below the minimum speed;
  • Making an illegal turn;
  • Running a red light;
  • Leaving a vehicle unattended and running;
  • Having an expired license plate;
  • Driving without a seatbelt;
  • Parking in a handicapped zone or an illegal parking lot;
  • Not stopping at a stop sign; and/or
  • Crossing the street illegally.

Civil Traffic Ticket Penalties

The majority of traffic tickets that are given out by law enforcement are considered civil. This means that the penalties for receiving one are relatively less harsh compared to the penalties associated with a criminal traffic ticket. Also, being cited with a civil traffic ticket provides motorists with more options to resolve the issue. Those who have received a civil traffic citation are faced with the following options:

Defensive driving school: Getting a civil traffic violation and meeting certain eligibility requirements may require a driver to attend Defensive Driving School. These requirements consist of not being involved in an accident that resulted in serious injury, being a non-commercial driver, etc. If a driver is allowed to attend these classes before an arraignment date, the charge will be dismissed.

Paying the fine: One of the most common ways to mitigate a traffic violation is paying the amount on the fine listed on a bond card in full. If a driver pays a civil traffic citation fine in its entirety before the date of arraignment, the conviction will be documented and the case will be closed. Civil traffic fines typically don't exceed $250 plus surcharges. However, if a driver has prior convictions or the fine is not paid on time, it could end up totaling to a substantially higher amount.

Show up to court on the arraignment date: In the event that a motorist chooses not to pursue either of the above options, he or she must appear at a local court on the arraignment date. On this day, a person can expect to confirm personal information, to be informed of the violation, and to be asked how he or she would like to plead to the charge. After everything is sorted out, a hearing date will be set and the driver will undergo a trial. If a motorist is found to be responsible by the court, he or she loses the option of attending traffic school and will have to pay the fine.

Criminal Traffic Tickets

Unlike civil traffic infractions, a criminal traffic ticket alleges that you have committed a criminal traffic violation. A citation for a criminal traffic offense is handled more severely than a civil offense. Here are a few examples of offenses that could land a driver a criminal traffic citation:

  • Criminal speeding
  • Hit and run
  • Careless driving
  • Attempting to evade law enforcement
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Careless driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Being a habitual traffic offender
  • Driving without a valid license
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Criminal Traffic Ticket Penalties

Most criminal traffic offenses are misdemeanors, but depending on the circumstances, one could be pinned with a felony offense. For example, in cases when a traffic violation resulted in an accident that caused serious bodily injury or death, or if a driver accrues a number of subsequent traffic violations, he or she may acquire a felony.

It's important to note that those who are given a criminal traffic citation have way fewer options than those who have received a civil traffic ticket. When a motorist is charged with a traffic misdemeanor or felony, he or she is required to appear in district court on the date of arraignment. Charges will be read and a driver is granted the opportunity to either plead guilty, no contest or not guilty for the offenses. A failure to appear in court will ultimately lead to a warrant for a driver's arrest and a possible suspension of a license.

Fighting A Traffic Ticket

Civil traffic tickets are cited and administered quite commonly among Arizona state residents. In fact, it's safe to say that most motorists who have been and will be driving for a considerable amount of time have acquired or will acquire at least one civil traffic ticket in their lifetime. With that being said, many people have been thrown into the web of the complex and incredibly inconvenient ticket citation system, and very few understand the lasting consequences of simply going through the motions.

Motorists who are cited for traffic violations, for various reasons, prefer to pay the fine rather than contest the ticket. Many people perceive fighting a ticket a waste of time and money, however, there are serious repercussions for not doing so.

A traffic conviction on a driver's record guarantees that this offense will be documented by the Arizona Motor Vehicle Department's point system. Certain offenses add various points to a person's record. Criminal speeding, for example, adds three points. If a motorist accumulates more than 13 points within a year, his or her license will be suspended. Also, a conviction often results in an increase in insurance premiums.

With the help of a skilled traffic attorney, you could reduce the likelihood of having a traffic conviction on your record and having to pay expensive fines and incredibly high insurance premiums.

Experienced Arizona Traffic Attorneys

The attorneys at the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp are dedicated to reducing your fines and potentially reducing your criminal traffic violation to a civil violation. Contact us today for a consultation.

Contact Us Today

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime you may be feeling frightened, anxious, and uncertain of what your future holds. The competent and experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp can help you during this difficult time. We are dedicated to fighting for the rights of our clients and providing excellent legal representation to those who have been accused of a crime. Contact our firm today to discuss your case in a free case consultation.

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