Let’s say that you are minding your own business, driving to or from work, and you are stopped by the police. If you violated a traffic rule, or if your vehicle is not compliant with the law, you might receive a ticket for a traffic infraction or even be charged with a misdemeanor.

But can a traffic stop in this state lead to even more serious legal trouble – like a felony charge? In some cases, the answer to that question will be “yes.” This where a Denver traffic offense lawyer can help.

The most serious traffic offenses that are committed in Colorado are classified as felonies. Anyone who is responsible for a felony traffic violation could conceivably be convicted and serve time in a Colorado jail or even state prison.

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS?

But first things first: The most important thing that you need to know if you are charged with a traffic violation is that you will need the help of a traffic ticket attorney, and you will need to meet with your attorney as quickly as possible after you’ve been charged.

Secondly, to avoid any confusion, it is important to be precise with the legal terminology. Less severe traffic violations in this state are called “traffic infractions,” and the more serious charges – misdemeanors and felonies – are called “traffic offenses.”

Infractions and offenses differ considerably in Colorado in their severity, their penalties, and the procedures for their resolution.

WHAT ARE TRAFFIC INFRACTIONS?

Colorado law enforcement officers issue tickets for traffic infractions, which are the more common, minor traffic violations including but not limited to:

1. changing lanes carelessly
2. speeding up to twenty-four miles per hour above the posted speed limit
3. failure to obey a traffic signal

Colorado lawmakers have divided traffic infractions into Class A infractions and Class B infractions. Class B traffic infractions are the least serious traffic violations, and no penalty points will be added to your Colorado driver’s license for a Class B infraction.

HOW DOES COLORADO HANDLE TRAFFIC INFRACTIONS?

Both Class A and Class B infractions are considered civil rather than criminal matters in this state. The penalties include only fines and court costs, and for Class A infractions, penalty points on your driver’s license, but you cannot be held in custody for a Colorado traffic infraction.

In fact, for most Colorado traffic infractions, you can actually plead guilty and pay the fine by mail, provided that you meet the deadline.

Although you may plead guilty to an infraction and pay the fine by mail, you also have the right to dispute a ticket for a traffic infraction. However, because an infraction is a civil rather than a criminal matter, you will not be entitled to a jury if you take the case to court.

WHICH TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS ARE MISDEMEANORS?

Traffic tickets are also issued for the somewhat more serious traffic violations that are considered misdemeanor offenses. All traffic “offenses” are considered criminal rather than civil cases in this state, so jail is a possibility for anyone convicted of a traffic offense.

Misdemeanor traffic offenses in Colorado include but are not limited to:

1. careless driving
2. driving without a valid driver’s license
3. driving without automobile insurance
4. speeding greater than twenty-four miles per hour over the posted speed limit

WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR TRAFFIC MISDEMEANOR CONVICTIONS?

Colorado’s lawmakers have further subdivided misdemeanor traffic offenses into two categories. The less serious misdemeanor traffic offenses are Class Two misdemeanors with a maximum penalty upon conviction of ninety days in jail and a $300 fine.

That fine, however, may be higher for motorists who are convicted of specific misdemeanor traffic offenses such as speeding in a construction zone or in a school zone.

The misdemeanor traffic offenses that fall into Class One are the more serious misdemeanor offenses. A conviction for a Class One misdemeanor traffic offense in this state is punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

Convicted misdemeanor traffic offenders may also be sentenced to community service, and when it’s appropriate, they may be ordered to pay restitution. Defendants who choose to contest a misdemeanor traffic charge have the right to a jury trial.

The most serious Class One traffic misdemeanors in Colorado include but are not limited to driving with a suspended or revoked driver’s license and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

WHICH TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS ARE FELONIES?

Finally, the most severe traffic violations in this state are felonies which include but are not limited to:

1. leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality or serious bodily injury
2. eluding a law enforcement officer
3. reckless driving

WHO ARE HABITUAL TRAFFIC OFFENDERS (HTOs)?

Under our state’s Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO) statute, repeated convictions for major traffic offenses can lead to a suspension of your driver’s license. The specific offenses that count toward HTO status include:

1. driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
2. aggravated motor vehicle theft
3. driving recklessly
4. driving under the influence of drugs (DUID)
5. driving while alcohol impaired (DWAI)
6. leaving the scene of an accident with a fatality or serious bodily injury
7. vehicular assault
8. vehicular homicide

In this state, three or more convictions for any of these major traffic offenses within a period of seven years can lead to the revocation of your driver’s license for up to five years.

HOW MANY PENALTY POINTS ARE DRIVERS ALLOWED?

Your Colorado driver’s license may be suspended if you are a driver age 21 or above and you receive:

1. twelve or more penalty points within a period of twelve months
2. eighteen or more penalty points within a period of twenty-four months

For drivers who are under the age of 21, even fewer penalty points are allowed.

WHERE CAN YOU TURN FOR HELP WITH A TRAFFIC CHARGE?

If you are charged with any traffic infraction, misdemeanor, or felony in Colorado, you must have the advice and representation that an experienced Denver traffic ticket attorney can offer.

Especially if you are facing time in jail or if you are facing a lengthy driver’s license suspension or revocation in this state, your future will be on the line.

You must contest the charge, exercise your legal rights, and obtain a criminal defense lawyer’s help – at once. That is your right.

By: Dan Murphy

Denver criminal defense lawyer Daniel M. Murphy provides clients in the Denver area with aggressive and sympathetic legal representation. He graduated from the University of Denver Law School in 1994 and worked as a public defender before starting his own practice in 1996. He has defended clients accused of the most difficult criminal and alcohol-related charges. He also serves as a Moot Court Judge for Denver-area law students who rely on his mentorship.

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