How Are Traffic Offenses Categorized in Pennsylvania?

man driving a car

You shouldn’t take traffic offenses in Pennsylvania lightly. Not only do traffic offenses bring fines and penalties, but each individual traffic offense will add points to your driving record. How does this point system function, and what are its consequences for you, whether as a driver with a clean or compromised record? This article will explain that in detail, so please read on to be informed about the legal requirements of the road. If you’ve arrived at this page because you are right now shouldering charges for a traffic offense, or if you know someone who dies, don’t hesitate to contact a York County, PA traffic offense attorney today.

Pennsylvania’s Traffic Offense Point System

As points continue to be added to your driving record in Pennsylvania, eventually, your license may be suspended or worse. Furthermore, some of these offenses are also considered criminal offenses.

Traffic offenses, or traffic violations, are defined as a driver’s unlawful conduct while in control of a vehicle. Traffic offenses may be processed at the local or state level. In many states, Pennsylvania included, traffic offenses are divided into moving vehicle offenses, like running a red light, and stationary vehicle offenses, like using expired license plates.

“Traffic offense” is a broad term, encompassing minor infractions all the way to gravely serious crimes. Minor infractions are civil traffic offenses, while more serious crimes are criminal offenses.

What Civil Traffic Violations, or Infractions?

Civil traffic infractions are minor offenses in the world of Pennsylvania traffic law. You’ll be issued a ticket after committing an infraction, and you will be able to choose between paying the fee on the ticket or disputing the ticket entirely. If you want to dispute it, you should be prepared to attend a hearing at traffic court on your assigned day, typically indicated on the ticket itself.

Possible punishments for an infraction may be fines, obligatory traffic school, and the aforementioned demerit points on your driving record. After you accumulate demerit points, your car insurance company may increase your rates. And if you keep accumulating point, you might even have your license suspended.

Here are some well-known kinds of traffic infractions:

  • Speeding (to an extent, see below)
  • Texting and driving
  • Running a stop sign
  • Not wearing your seat belt

Most traffic infractions are classed as strict liability offenses, which means the prosecution won’t need to show criminal intent on your part, just that you committed the infraction. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what the speed limit is when you cross it, only that you crossed it.

When Do Traffic Offenses Become Criminal Offenses?

Traffic offenses are misdemeanors or felonies depending on whether you’ve violated specific laws or fallen into certain circumstances. For instance, you may have an otherwise clean driving record, but if you cause an accident that kills someone, you may still be charged with a felony. As criminal offenses, traffic crimes are processed in criminal courts.

Traffic crimes charged as misdemeanors might be excessive speeding (when it surpasses 11 miles above the speed limit), reckless driving, or driving after your license was suspended or revoked. By comparison, traffic crimes charged as felonies might be reckless driving when it results in injuries or deaths, a repeat DUI, or vehicular homicide.

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