If you are pulled over while driving in Connecticut, you might face a driving infraction, violation, or crime. While these terms may seem interchangeable, they refer to slightly different elements in Connecticut. Here, you can learn more about the difference between the three and what to do if you are charged with one of them.
Motor Vehicle Infractions
Let’s start with the most basic sort of traffic violation: the infraction. An infraction is an offense that cannot be punished by any time in jail and has to be resolved with nothing worse than a fine. These tend to be your garden variety traffic issues, like running a red light or making an illegal right on red, speeding, distracted driving, making an illegal lane change, or other minor breaches of the rules of the road.
Now, it’s important not to confuse “minor” with “cheap.” Penalties for infractions vary based on the circumstances. Some of these circumstances are whether the infraction occurred in a school or construction zone, how fast you were going, weather conditions, and more. But there are penalties outside the courthouse to worry about as well. Your insurance company may charge you more for coverage if your driving history has too many infractions, and the DMV can require you to take driver retraining or even suspend your license if you receive too many points for these infractions.
Infractions are civil in nature, and are payable by small fines. Well, what the judicial department calls small. A $78 dollar infraction could cost you almost $200 once they tack on the costs and fees that go with it.
You don’t need to appear in court with an infraction. You can resolve your case by mail by paying the fine, or better yet, hire me to get you a better result.
Now, I get asked by clients about points more than almost anything else. Essentially, the DMV has a way of rating how bad each offense is, and gives you points based on those ratings. You should think of it like golf, where a lower score is better, rather than basketball, where more points is better. If you get too many points on your license, the DMV will suspend it. Before that, though, your insurance company may decide that your driving is too risky, and could charge you a higher rate or even cancel your coverage. So if you’re facing a traffic offense, even if the only offenses charged are infractions, you should think about how points can affect you.
A single offense can be anywhere from 1-5 points, and points stay on your driving history for 24 months from the time they’re recorded.
Violations that are worth one point include operating at an unreasonable rate of speed, speeding, failure to drive in the right-hand lane, illegal use of limited access highway by bus, commercial vehicle or vehicle with trailer, driving in the wrong direction on a one-way street or a traffic circle, improper turning, failing to use your turn signals, and using a cell phone while driving.
Violations that result in two points include driving slow and impeding traffic, disobeying an officer, using the wrong entrance and exit ramps, not using a child seat, various failures to obey signals and stop signs and stop lights, and operating a vehicle through a pedestrian safety zone.
Offenses that could result in three points include passing in a no-passing zone, passing on the right, following too closely, failure to yield, and failing to grant the right of way to emergency service vehicles or pedestrians.
The four-point offenses – there are only three of them – are wagering or attempting a speed record, failure to drive a reasonable distance apart with the intent to harass, and passing a stopped school bus.
And the major point-earners, which can earn you five points per offense, are operation of a school bus at an excessive speed, and negligent homicide with a motor vehicle.
Motor Vehicle Infractions
A violation is more serious than an infraction. Violations require mandatory court dates, and while they don’t necessarily carry jail time, you could get jail time for a subsequent offense. For example, failing to have insurance on your car is a violation – it carries a much larger fine, a license loss, and if you are found guilty more than once – possible jail time. Violations also have a maximum fine of $500. There are no easy violations and if you have a ticket with a mandatory court date, you definitely need a lawyer.
Motor Vehicle Crimes
Finally, there are motor vehicle crimes. Issues like reckless driving, DUI or assault with a motor vehicle qualify as motor vehicle crimes. These all carry the threat of jail and should never be handled by someone who isn’t trained in motor vehicle defense.
If you need help with an infraction, violation or a crime, please reach out to my office for help.