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Misdemeanor or Infraction? What’s the Difference?

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Many drivers have little understanding of traffic law, particularly the difference between a misdemeanor and an infraction.

There are major differences all drivers should know before they get stopped by a law enforcement officer (LEO). Every citizen has Constitutionally guaranteed rights, such as those you continuously hear on TV and in the movies. However, many drivers do not realize these same protections apply to a traffic stop.

Many LEOs ask pointed questions to get the driver to admit guilt. First, the LEO is liable to ask, "Can I see your license, registration, and proof of insurance?" As you're digging for those, the next question usually involves why they stopped you, and you are not required to answer if it will incriminate you, even for an infraction.

The question we often hear is, "Do you know how fast you were going?" At this point, many drivers stumble by believing if they answer truthfully, the LEO might not issue them a speeding ticket. "…the truth will set you free," is a useful piece of Scripture, but rarely helpful when the LEO is likely wearing a bodycam.

In fact, telling the truth could influence the LEO into actually issuing a ticket, and they will use your statement against you in court. However, speeding is only an infraction, and despite some misinformation on the internet, it is not a misdemeanor in CA. Politely use your "right to remain silent" until you speak with an attorney.     

The Most Significant Difference Between a Misdemeanor & an Infraction

The substantial difference between an infraction and a misdemeanor is jail time. No traffic infraction will lead to a jail sentence. A misdemeanor conviction usually leaves the judge with the discretion of a fine or up to one year in county jail or probation, or a mixture of penalties. A felony could result in a fine, jail, imprisonment, and/or probation.

Misdemeanor traffic violations in CA include reckless driving, exhibitions of speed, DUI, hit and run with damage only, and others, while the most common felony is a hit and run with injury or death. 

Traffic Ticket Attorneys Who Handle Traffic Infractions, Misdemeanors, or Felonies in Kings County 

Call Bigger & Harman, APC, before you make a statement to a court official or LEO, (661) 349-9300. Se habla Español (661) 349-9755.

We are traffic lawyers with significant experience handling misdemeanor and felony traffic offenses. When you are charged with a traffic violation, regardless of severity, never admit fault without the advice and counsel of an attorney. The burden of proof lies with the state, and your admission of guilt will rarely help your case or get you out of a ticket.

We will reply to your email, attorney@biggerharmanlaw.com, as soon as received by an attorney. We spend most of our day in traffic court when we are not in the office writing requests for dismissal or reduced charges.