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What Are Civil and Criminal Traffic Violations?

Some traffic violations may seem like small things you don’t need to worry about. But even smaller violations can come with a big cost, and depending on the circumstances, what you thought was a small violation might be much, much bigger. Traffic violations in Michigan are classified as civil or criminal. Keep reading to learn what the difference is between each. If you have been accused of a traffic violation, contact an Upper Peninsula criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. A clean driving record is important in many parts of life, so don’t hesitate to protect your driving record when it’s threatened by a violation that you may not even have committed.

Civil vs Criminal: Definitions

If you are pulled over in Michigan, you should keep in mind that civil and criminal traffic violations are different. Civil traffic violations are not seen as crimes, but rather civil infractions. On the other hand, criminal traffic violations, as the name implies, are considered crimes, either a misdemeanor or a felony. Being convicted of a criminal traffic violation means that you have a criminal record.

You may be wondering what kinds of actions are serious enough to be considered criminal. Here are some examples of criminal traffic violations:

  • Driving if your license was suspended, revoked, or denied
  • Reckless or drunk driving
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident

How Are Civil and Criminal Traffic Violations Different?

As stated, civil infractions are not crimes. You do not have a criminal record if you are charged with a civil infraction. Traffic tickets for civil traffic infractions do come with a fine, but you will not be given jail time for a civil infraction. That said, civil infraction tickets might appear on your Master Driving Record, which may in turn affect your insurance.

You may, however, go to jail for a criminal traffic ticket. Criminal traffic tickets may threaten jail, fines, or both. In accordance with this stricter punishment, the protections that exist in criminal law apply to criminal traffic violations. The violation will need to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the standard burden of proof in criminal cases. This is as compared to civil infractions, which only need to meet the lower, “more likely than not” burden of proof. If you receive a criminal traffic ticket, you will be required to appear in court on a specific time and date as indicated on your ticket. You are to talk with the criminal prosecutor, who will direct the criminal trial if both of you do not agree on a plea bargain.

How a ticket affects your life going forward is usually dependent on how several the ticket and the charge are. Even comparatively less severe civil infractions can come with big costs, and pleading guilty to one will add points to your driving record in addition to the fine. Points on your driving record can themselves lead to insurance companies charging you higher rates.

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