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How is a traffic infraction different from a crime?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2020 | Firm News |

Have you ever committed a traffic crime in Washington? What about an infraction? You may use the two terms interchangeably, but they are actually two very different violations. Traffic crimes include serious offenses, including vehicular assault and reckless driving. However, most traffic violations, such as traffic tickets and citations for running a red light, are infractions. A different legal process applies to infractions than to traffic crimes. 

According to the Bellingham Herald, when you go to court for a traffic infraction, a lower standard of proof applies than would apply to a traffic crime. The prosecution needs only a preponderance of evidence to prove you guilty, as opposed to a traffic crime, which the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. 

However, even if a judge finds you guilty of a traffic infraction, you cannot go to jail for the offense. A traffic infraction is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Therefore, although the court can charge you a fine for a traffic infraction, it cannot incarcerate you on account of it. 

Nevertheless, a series of repeated infractions could lead indirectly to a criminal charge and imprisonment if convicted. The Department of Licensing can suspend your license if you commit six moving violations within one year. If you continue driving following the suspension of your license and authorities catch you, they could charge you with a crime that could involve jail time. 

Many traffic crimes involve activities that could directly harm others, such as impaired driving. However, attempts to defraud authorities, such as providing false information when applying for a driver’s license or parking in a handicapped space with a fake placard, are also traffic crimes. 

The information in this article is not intended as legal advice but provided for educational purposes only. 


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