Many drivers in California want to know – are driving offenses criminal in the Golden State?
To provide a substantial answer, we must first define a few relevant terms.
The law has two categories – civil law and criminal law.
For the purposes of this article, only a brief, concise definition will be provided. For a more detailed explanation, it’s best to ask a knowledgeable California attorney about the terminologies, the processes involved and the corresponding penalties.
In civil law, the complainant as well as the accused may be private individuals or organizations; either or both of them may be found guilty or partially at fault. Culpability is determined by “preponderance of evidence”, or an indication of likelihood, and it is not punishable by imprisonment.
In criminal law, the complainant is the state or the U.S. government, and this requires a unanimous jury decision. The burden of proof must be “beyond reasonable doubt”, or with unquestionably plausible evidence. If proven guilty, the defendant must submit to a fine or imprisonment.
Since driving offenses are committed against the public, they are considered criminal offenses; these are punishable by fines, the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license, probation, and/ or imprisonment. Depending on the nature of the violation, it may also involve a civil case on top of the criminal case.
In the state of California, there are three types of public offenses:
1. Infraction or violation
This refers to a minor disregard for the law, such as the following. These are decriminalized as they pose no serious threat to other human beings:
– Parking violations
– Exceeding the speed limit
– Ignoring traffic lights
– Faulty equipment (broken lights, heavy tint, etc)
– Expired license
An officer of the law issues you a ticket for an infraction, and you’ll receive a court summons. This doesn’t require a trial before a judge and may simply involve a hearing by a magistrate. It doesn’t necessitate imprisonment though it involves a fine, and you may be required to present proof of corrective action. In some cases, it may result in the revocation of certain privileges.
Infractions don’t require an attorney, though it’s advisable to consult one about contesting the ticket or reducing the charges. However, remember that hiring a lawyer may be more costly than paying the fine.
A traffic misdemeanor is a more serious offense that involves a degree of danger to human life. These are driving offenses criminal in nature, such as:
– Drunk drivng or DUI
– Reckless driving
– Handling a vehicle in a way that causes damages, injury or death
These are punishable by a fine and imprisonment for one year or less. It may also result in points in your driver’s license, even the suspension or permanent cancellation of your license. As misdemeanors entail grave consequences, you will definitely need a good California lawyer to defend you against the charges.
DUI is quite common in California, partly because of the drinking culture in the area. As DUI cases can be quite complicated, find an experienced lawyer who specializes in them.
A felony is a severe criminal offense that entails physical harm or a threat of harm to others, whether intentional or unintentional, such as hit-and-run or vehicular manslaughter. It’s punishable by incarceration in a state prison for a specified period; it also requires paying the victim for damages, in addition to other court-imposed penalties.
Remember that capital punishment is legal in California, and a felony involving reckless driving may be punishable by death.
You may be a good citizen who never intends to harm anyone, but you can never tell when you might get entangled in a criminal offense. If you live in California and you drive any sort of vehicle, it’s wise to know where to find an experienced California attorney capable of handling driving offenses, such as DUI charges. Such as the California lawyers featured on Flock of Legals.
Guest Post Author:
Christopher J McCann has made several thousand court appearances in federal, state and juvenile courts throughout southern California. He believes in vigorously representing his clients rights through zealous advocacy in order to achieve an integrative solution that takes into account all of his clients needs.
Check out his chapter this this published book