What are criminal traffic violations?

Some traffic violations are categorized as crimes in Arizona. These types of traffic violations are treated much more harshly than the more common civil traffic violations and are usually categories as misdemeanor offenses that will go on a driver’s criminal record.

Examples of criminal traffic violations

Common criminal traffic laws that we see include the following:

  • Criminal speed;
  • Driving on a suspended license;
  • Reckless driving;
  • Driving without a license;
  • DUI

What is the difference between a civil and criminal traffic ticket?

A civil traffic ticket is not a crime and will not show up on criminal background check; a criminal traffic ticket will. Most common criminal traffic violations are misdemeanors, which are punishable by jail time and fines. While a civil traffic ticket will usually have a fine attached to it, jail time cannot be imposed for a simple civil ticket.

The normal procedures for criminal law also apply to criminal traffic tickets. This means that the offense must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. A civil traffic violation only needs to be proven more-likely-than-not, which is a lower standard of proof. A person who is charged with a criminal traffic offense will be given multiple court dates, starting with an arraignment, and then likely at least one pretrial conference. The defendant will deal with a criminal prosecutor, and if the defendant does not accept a plea agreement or one is not offered, then the case will proceed to a trial.

Penalties for criminal traffic violations

The penalties for a criminal traffic violation depend on the level of crime for the particular offense. For example, there are three types of misdemeanor offenses:

The penalties for a first-offender for these crimes is as follows:

Maximum Jail TimeMaximum FineProbation Length
Class 16 months$25000-3 years
Class 24 months$7500-2 years
Class 330 days$5000-1 year

There will likely be other consequences a person will face for a traffic violation that could affect their driving privileges. This can include:

  • Adding 3 to 8 points to your license;
  • Driver’s license suspension;
  • Revocation of a commercial driver’s license (CDL);
  • Having to admit to a criminal conviction on applications (for school, renting, loans, etc.);
  • Higher insurance rates.

Where are criminal traffic violations prosecuted?

A criminal traffic violation that is charged as a misdemeanor will be heard in what is called a “limited jurisdiction court.” This will be either a city or municipal court or a justice court. These types of courts handle civil traffic violations as well as criminal traffic violations that are charged as misdemeanors. If a traffic violation is more serious and is charged as a felony, such as aggravated DUI, then the case will be charged in a superior court–which is the only type of court in Arizona that is allowed to initiate felony proceedings.