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Understanding traffic violation penalties

On Behalf of | Apr 18, 2023 | Criminal Defense

If an officer pulls you over for violating one of the many traffic laws, you may be wondering what the penalties are. There are different violation classifications, depending on the severity of the offense.

Penalties vary based on the classification. Although it may seem like paying a fine for a minor offense is no big deal, it can have unwanted consequences.

Classifications of traffic violations

The Minnesota House of Representatives discusses the four classifications of offense levels regarding traffic violations. The lowest level, and most common, is a petty misdemeanor. This is not a criminal offense, but paying the fine does constitute pleading guilty. Examples of these types of violations include failure to use a turn signal, driving with unsafe equipment and running a red light.

The next level is a misdemeanor. It is also a payable offense, similar to a petty misdemeanor, but it often requires a court appearance. If there have been two previous petty misdemeanors in the previous 12 months, the classification for a traffic violation results in a misdemeanor.

More serious violations fall into the classification of gross misdemeanor or felony. Examples of these violations include drunk driving, vehicular homicide and reckless driving.

Penalties associated with violating traffic laws

The penalties that someone found guilty may face include:

  • Petty misdemeanor: Fine of up to $300
  • Misdemeanor: Fine of up to $1,000, jail time for up to one year or both
  • Felony: Criminal charges that may result in fines, prison time or both

In some situations, a misdemeanor or felony conviction may result in license suspension or revocation.