Many confuse the difference between criminal charges and traffic violations when they receive a citation.
The California criminal justice system classifies crimes into three categories:
- Felonies – viewed as the most serious crimes and are punishable by 1 year or longer in jail.
- Misdemeanors – crimes which are punishable by 1 year in county jail or less; and
- Infractions – which include many traffic / moving violations and a handful of other criminal offenses.
Infractions are punishable by a maximum $250 fine. They do not subject an offender to incarceration or to being placed on probation. More importantly they do not go on your criminal record. The most common examples of infractions are moving violations, such as
- Vehicle Code 22350 VC speeding, and
- Vehicle Code 21801 VC unsafe left or u-turn.3
DUI & OTHER DRIVING RELATED MISDEMEANORS
There are a few criminal misdemeanors that are often confused with infractions because of the simple fact that officers can use a citation to order you to appear in court.
A citation merely notifies the driver of the potential violation and orders them to appear in court rather than take them to jail and bring them to court. The most common criminal misdemeanors where you might be “cited out” with the use of a citation are:
- Driving under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
- Driving without a license; and
- Driving on a suspended license.
All three of these charges are criminal misdemeanors and have potential consequences of fines and/or time in the county jail.