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What is a Traffic Violation?

Traffic violations occur when drivers violate laws that regulate vehicle operation on streets and highways.  More than 90% of Americans over age 16 are licensed to drive, often with more than one vehicle registered per name.

That translates into trillions of miles driven each year and millions of traffic infractions -- including speeding, running red lights, reckless driving, DUI, etc. Traffic violations are usually issued by local law enforcement officers and processed in local branches of state court.

For definitions related to traffic violations, visit the Traffic Law and DUI Law Glossary in the FindLaw Legal Dictionary. See FindLaw's Traffic Laws section to learn more.

Traffic Tickets and Strict Liability

The majority of traffic tickets are issued for "strict-liability" offenses. This means that no particular criminal intent is required to convict a person of the offense. The only proof needed is that the person did commit the prohibited act. Strict-liability traffic offenses typically include such offenses as:

  • Speeding
  • Failure to yield
  • Turning into the wrong lane
  • Driving a car with burned-out headlights
  • Parking in a handicap spot without the required sticker, and
  • Overdue parking meters.

Moving Violations vs. Non-Moving Violations

A moving violation occurs whenever a traffic law is violated by a vehicle in motion. Some examples of moving violations are speeding, running a stop sign or red light, and drunk driving. A non-moving violation, by contrast, is usually related to parking or faulty equipment. Examples include parking in front of a fire hydrant, parking in a no-parking zone, parking in front of an expired meter, and excessive muffler noise.

Speeding Tickets

States, generally have two types of speeding laws on the books:

  • Laws that set specific maximum speed limits in certain settings. For example, a state may declare different maximum speeds at which a vehicle may be operated on a state highway (65 mph), on a residential street (35 mph), and in a school zone (25 mph).
  • Laws that require drivers to operate their vehicles at a speed that is reasonable under the circumstances. For example, even if the posted maximum speed limit on a rural highway is 65 mph, driving on that highway at 65 mph in a torrential rainstorm at night could result in a speeding ticket, because driving at such a speed could be deemed unsafe based on the hazardous road and weather conditions.

You may feel comfortable defending yourself for a minor traffic violation, but an experienced Traffic Violations Attorney will often improve your odds of success. And if you are facing a serious criminal charge like DUI, DWI, or reckless driving, you should absolutely consult with an attorney.

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