Over the holiday season we all tend to be a little… distracted. If that’s impacted your driving and you’ve been charged with a serious traffic violation, you’ll want to work with a criminal defense attorney.
Holiday Season and Distracted Driving
Distracted driving at any time can lead to traffic violations, but especially during the holiday season.
Dealing with Traffic Violations
Traffic violations happen every day. As a driving society, we all deal with minor and/ or serious traffic violations at some point during the course of our lives. When those traffic violations occur, you will need to know how to legally protect yourself from the repercussions.
The term “traffic violation” is an umbrella term for a wide variety of incidents. Traffic violations are so closely regulated by law enforcement as a way to educate bad drivers, while also preventing unsafe driving habits. Years of research has proven that most drivers want to be compliant with these rules so that they avoid being caught. Here are some examples of traffic violations:
- Moving Violations are issued when a traffic law is violated by a vehicle in motion. Examples of moving violations include: speeding, drunk driving (DUI), failure to yield, and running a stop sign or red light.
- Non-moving Violations are issued for parking violations or faulty car equipment. Examples of non-moving violations include: parking in a clearly labeled no parking zone,broken tail lights, broken side-view mirrors, and parking in front of fire hydrants.
Processing Traffic Violations
Most traffic tickets are viewed as minor offenses, often called “infractions.” Because they are considered “minor,” you are only required to pay administrative processing fees, rather than being subject to the incarceration or large fines that accompany criminal cases. It is not required that you go to jury trial. The exception to this is some speeding tickets: where the person has far exceeded posted speed recommendations, and unpaid speeding tickets. These fines can often be very large and sometimes require you to go before a jury for trial.
Strict Liability Offenses for Traffic Violations
The majority of traffic tickets are issued for “strict-liability” offenses. This means regardless of if there is criminal intent or not, a person can be convicted of the crime. The only proof required to commit someone is the fact that the act was committed and the person was caught committing the act. Examples of strict-liability offenses include:
- Failure to use turn signals
- Failure to yield to other traffic
Serious traffic violations, listed below, can be charged as misdemeanor crimes or felonies.
Reckless Driving And/Or Excessive Speeding Traffic Violations
According to California Vehicle Code 23103, a person can be convicted of reckless driving if he or she drives with “willful or wanton” disregard for the safety of others. This charge is a criminal offense and if convicted you face the following repercussions: recording in a criminal record, suspension of your driver’s license, time in county jail.
The prosecution will need to prove that you were driving with “willful or wanton” disregard for others. Speed alone is not typically enough to establish this, therefore it will need to be shown that you were either driving aggressively, weaving in and out of traffic in a dangerous fashion, driving on the wrong side of the road, or committing other dangerous acts while behind the wheel. All these show that you are guilty of driving recklessly.
Driving Without Insurance
Repercussions of driving without insurance include: suspension of your driver’s license and/or vehicle license, potentially hefty fines, and a traffic ticket. Often times you are able to have the ticket dismissed if you are able to prove you have insurance. This will need to be done within a certain amount of time following the day you received the ticket. A ticket is only able to be dismissed if you actually have insurance at the time you were pulled over.
Driving Without a License
Driving without a license has two categories under which you could be charged: correctable offenses and willful violations.
Correctable offense: You left your driver’s license at home. This is often treated as a “fix-it” ticket. You will receive a ticket, but then must prove that you have a valid driver’s license by bringing your license with you to the courthouse that issued the ticket.
Willful violation: You are driving on a suspended or revoked license. Moving violations often result in the suspension or revocation of a license. If you are found driving on a suspended or revoked license you can face these repercussions: citation, arrest, and being charged with a misdemeanor offense.
In California, a willful violation can also result in your car being impounded for 30 days and having to appear in court.
What To Do If You Are Charged With Traffic Violations
You are entitled to all constitutional protections provided to criminal defendants, including the right to a court-appointed attorney and a jury trial if you are accused of committing a serious traffic violation.
At the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman, we help Southern California drivers who face driver’s license suspension or problems renewing a license due to multiple traffic violations or especially serious offenses.
Avoid Traffic Violations
Serious traffic violations happen, but that doesn’t mean they cannot be avoided. By being a good, cautious, and conscientious driver, you can prevent serious traffic violations from ever happening in the first place.
Safe Driving Tips
- Be cautious and alert whenever you get behind the wheel of a car
- Approach streets or busy intersections with a greater sense of caution
- Be aware of everyone else on the road. That includes pedestrians and bicyclists that you must share the road with.
- When driving during the night, make sure headlights and tail-lights are working. This will ensure that your car is clearly visible to other cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists.
- Properly maintain your car by doing frequent brake, light, and engine checks.
- Practice extra precaution when entering or exiting parking lots because you will most likely need to cross a sidewalk to enter or exit. Pedestrians might be crossing in the direct path of your car.
- Follow posted required speed limits.
- Avoid distractions while driving, including: texting, phone calls, or reaching for things in your car.
If You Are Pulled Over for Traffic Violations
If you get pulled over for committing either a minor or a serious traffic violation, there are some things you can do to help your position. These are especially important to follow if you plan on challenging the ticket at a later time.
1. Most traffic stops start with a police car following you and turning on the emergency lights or sirens. When this happens, use your indicator to show the police officer that you see them and then safely merge over to the right side of the road. Stop as soon as possible in a safe place. This not only shows the officer that you are being compliant, but if you want to challenge the ticket you will want to have a clear idea of where the infraction occurred. You’ll then be able to return to the same area to notate all details, including where the speed limits are posted and where the infraction occurred.
2. When you look for a place to stop your car, remember that the police officer will need to approach the rights side of the car to speak with you. Make sure that he or she is able to stand by the side of your car safely.
3. Roll your window down all the way, then turn off the engine. If you are being pulled over at night, turn on the interior light of your car. Next, place your hands on the steering wheel. This will show the officer that they are able to approach safely.
4. When the officer approaches, he or she will likely ask you for your license and registration. Only reach for these things once you have been asked.
5. If you feel that the police officer is not an actual police officer, you are able to ask for his or her photo identification and badge. You are also able to ask the officer to call a supervisor to the scene or ask to follow the officer to a police station. There have been reported cases of people posing as police officers and you want to ensure your safety as well as theirs.
6. A police officer is not legally able to search your vehicle unless you give them probable cause. Probable cause can be hiding or throwing something under the seat or out your window or any other form of movement that they might question as they approach your car.
If an officer has reasonable suspicion that you might be armed or dangerous they are allowed to frisk you.
7. A police officer is legally able to seize any illegal objects, including: open beers or drug paraphernalia that are in “plain view.” Your car can be searched if you or any or the car’s occupants are arrested for probable cause. An officer can also search the car if the car needs to be towed. This is often called an “inventory search” and can be performed even if there was no initial reason to suspect there was anything illegal inside.
8. By remaining calm and compliant you have a much better case if you wish to contest the violation later on. If you do wish to contest the violation, you will want to contact a criminal defense lawyer that can advise you on the next steps to take.
Working with a Criminal Defense Lawyer
At the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman we represent drivers of all kinds in the traffic courts of Southern California. We also advise drivers with commercial licenses who need help with violations ranging from speeding to DUI. Our law firm offers free consultations and flexible payment plans for drivers whose traffic violation problems have gotten out of hand. To discuss how our Los Angeles traffic violation lawyers can help you manage your traffic fines and resolve license suspension problems, contact the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman in Los Angeles at 213-514-8324.