How Are Moving Violations Defined Under the Law?
In every state, there are written laws regulating the operation of motor vehicles. Some of those laws address administrative or equipment issues, such as parking tickets or fines for defective turn signals or lights. The more serious offenses involving motor vehicles are commonly referred to as “moving violations.”
What Qualifies as a “Moving Violation”?
Moving violations typically include wrongs committed while a vehicle is in motion. Many moving violations are treated as “infractions,” or relatively minor violations that are not considered criminal offenses. Those violations customarily lead only to a fine, which usually can be paid without the need to appear in court. Other moving violations can rise to the level of a misdemeanor or even a felony, although felony charges are extremely rare for moving violations.
The Potential Impact of a Moving Violation
For moving violations that are treated as infractions, the consequences are almost always limited to payment of a fine. Such violations don’t appear on your criminal record and typically don’t add points to your driving record or cause an increase in auto insurance premiums. Furthermore, you typically won’t be detained or arrested for an infraction.
Moving violations charged as infractions typically include:
- Minimally exceeding the speed limit
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Making a turn without using your turn signal
- Violation of seat belt laws
- Equipment violations, such as defective turn signals, brake lights, headlights, or horn
If your moving violation is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, though, you can face additional consequences. Misdemeanor charges can result in incarceration, though the sentence typically won’t exceed 12 months. Depending on the type of violation, you might incur points on your driving record, which may cause your insurance company to increase premiums. If you accumulate enough points, you risk suspension of your driving privileges. Based on the type of violation, you can also be subject to arrest or detention (common for driving under the influence or driving while impaired). The fines and penalties for moving violations charges as misdemeanors also tend to be higher than those for infractions.
The most common types of moving violations charged as misdemeanors include:
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI)
- Driving with a suspended license
- Driving with a suspended or expired vehicle registration
- Reckless driving, in situations where a driver shows “careless and wanton disregard for the rights or safety of persons or property”
In rare instances, drivers are charged with a felony moving violation. Generally, such charges are limited to certain types of repeat DUI/DWI charges and moving violations that cause serious injury or death (such as speeding or reckless driving).