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Misdemeanor vs Infraction: Does it Really Make a Difference?

What’s the Difference?

Most drivers, when they get a traffic ticket have no idea whether it is an infraction or a misdemeanor, and could care less, all they know is they got a ticket and it is going to cost them a big fine and a raise in their insurance premiums. Many, won’t even consult traffic ticket lawyer to find out what the state must prove to find them guilty of the violation.

Whereas it is true that either an infraction or a misdemeanor ticket is a crime, the severity of the crime, minimum and maximum fines, how long the points stay on their motor vehicle driving record (MVR), and other penalties are largely driven by the ticket’s classification as an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony.

Misdemeanors and felonies usually involve property damage, injuries, or deaths. Take for instance, a hit and run accident, a misdemeanor hit and run is one that involves just property damage, but a felony hit and run involves injuries or deaths.

The main difference between an infraction and a misdemeanor traffic ticket is the ability of the judge to impose a jail or prison term. Likewise, a person charged with a misdemeanor traffic ticket is entitled to the same Constitutional protections or rights as any other person charged with a misdemeanor crime, including the right to court-appointed counsel if they cannot afford a lawyer and trial by a jury. Whereas a person charged with an infraction is still innocent until proven guilty, they are not entitled to a court-appointed lawyer or a jury trial.

Your Citation, Misdemeanor or Infraction

The law enforcement (LE) official must circle Misdemeanor or Infraction on your traffic ticket. This is visible in the upper right hand corner of your summons. The next four spaces are provided to the LE officer to write which CA Vehicle Code (CVC) was violated and a brief description of the offense, such as CVC 22348 (b) speeding over 100 mph, which is an infraction according to CVC and thus the LE officer should circle the “I” to denote that the violation was an infraction.

The next two important blocks are, Speed Approx., which should state the speed you were going as approximated by radar, laser, or pacing, let’s say 103 mph and VEH. LMT., is the speed limit at the location you were stopped, say 70 mph.

Do not refuse to sign your ticket! Although some people incorrectly believe that signing their ticket is an admission of guilt, it is a contract between you and the state of CA that you will appear in court or rectify your ticket prior to the date on the ticket. If you do not sign your ticket, the LE officer is mandated to take you into custody until bail can be arranged according to CVC 40307.

Hire a Neighborhood Traffic Ticket Lawyer

When you get a traffic ticket, whether it is an infraction or a misdemeanor, call Bigger & Harman, 661-349-9300. Or, send an email, attorney@markbigger.com. Bigger & Harman are neighborhood traffic ticket defenders who regularly represent Central Valley CA residents in traffic court in Bakersfield, Hanford, and Independence courthouse in Kern, Kings, Inyo, Fresno and other south-central counties, as well as some SoCal counties, such as Riverside, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles County.

En español, llame al 661-349-9755.