Traffic Misdemeanors vs. Traffic Felonies

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May 04

Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

Traffic Misdemeanors vs. Traffic Felonies

by Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

Traffic Misdemeanors vs. Traffic Felonies

Like with any other violation of the law, some driving offenses are more serious than others. Some traffic violations, like driving a couple miles per hour faster than the speed limit, are not serious enough to qualify as a misdemeanor. These traffic infractions go on your driving record and might cause your insurance rates to increase, but they are not crimes.

More serious traffic violations are crimes, however. Here are some types of traffic crimes that are considered misdemeanors or felonies.

Traffic Misdemeanors

To qualify as a criminal offense, driving behavior must be considered reckless and create substantial risk to life and property. The following are examples of traffic misdemeanors:

Reckless Driving

While driving a couple miles per hour over the limit is a traffic violation—not a misdemeanor—driving more than 20 miles over the speed limit is generally considered reckless driving and will be treated as a misdemeanor criminal offense. Police officers can, by law, use their judgment to determine when speeding is excessive—the 20-mile-per-hour guideline isn’t set in stone.

Car racing is always considered reckless driving.

Driving under the Influence

Driving under the influence of drugs, marijuana or alcohol is a misdemeanor (unless it’s a repeat offense; see below). Any person whose blood alcohol level is over 0.08 within two hours after driving, or whose THC concentration is 5.00 within two hours after driving, is considered to have been driving under the influence according to Washington State law.

Driving with a Suspended or Revoked License

While driving with an expired license is only a traffic infraction, if your license has been suspended or revoked and you are pulled over, you will be charged with a traffic misdemeanor.

Hit and Runs Resulting in Property Damage

A hit and run is any time you leave the scene of an accident. If the accident caused property damage but not injury or death, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor hit and run.

Traffic Felonies

Felonies are more serious crimes and often carry long sentences and substantial fines. Serious traffic offenses can be charged as felonies.

Repeat DUIs (four or more previous in the past 10 years)

If you’ve had four or more DUIs in the past 10 years and receive an additional DUI charge, your charge will be a felony, not a misdemeanor.

Vehicular Homicide

If a traffic accident results in a death, the person at fault in the accident can be charged with vehicular homicide if he or she was either under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident or was driving recklessly.

Vehicular Assault

If an accident results in injury, the driver at fault can be charged with felony vehicular assault if he or she was either under the influence at the time of the accident or was driving recklessly.

Hit and Run Resulting in Injury or Death

If you leave the scene of an accident that causes an injury or death you can be charged with a hit and run.

Avoiding traffic crimes is always best, and it’s simple. Never combine drinking, drugs or marijuana with driving. Respect speed laws and don’t race or engage in other reckless driving. If you are involved in an accident, don’t leave the scene of the accident under any circumstances.

Did you run into trouble while driving? Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws

The expert defense team at Baker, Lewis, Schwisow & Laws, PLLC vigorously defend the rights of individuals facing a multitude of charges in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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