Although inconvenient, many drivers think of getting a traffic ticket as a sort of right of passage. The reality is that having a traffic violation on your driving record can negatively impact your future. Depending on the situation, you might even have to pay a fine or spend time in jail.
In general, most traffic tickets are infractions. If an officer gives you a ticket for an infraction, you will not face the same penalties or stigma as someone accused of committing a serious crime. However, some traffic offenses are more serious than simply infractions and are considered to be either misdemeanors or felonies.
Misdemeanors behind the wheel
Compared to a felony, a misdemeanor is a less serious crime. Consequences for a misdemeanor may include a fine or less than a year of incarceration in jail. Traffic offenses that are generally misdemeanors include:
- Drunk driving
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Driving without a license
- Reckless driving
- Driving without insurance
In general, misdemeanors do not require full criminal trials. This means that the process for handling a misdemeanor traffic offense is often less time–consuming than when dealing with more serious criminal matters. Even if you face conviction, a misdemeanor might not prevent you from maintaining your regular life and profession.
Felony traffic offenses
Felonies are much more serious than misdemeanors, and as such, Mississippi state law treats them much more severely. If convicted of a felony, you could spend more than a year behind bars and pay a much larger fine. Sometimes, a traffic offense that is otherwise a misdemeanor becomes a felony because of the circumstances, such as repeat DUI offenses.
The penalties for a felony are more severe when it comes to your personal life, too. Some jurisdictions do not allow you to serve on a jury if you have a felony on your criminal record. There are even certain professions — such as teaching — that are out of the question for those with a felony conviction.
Losing driving privileges
Perhaps one of the more frustrating consequences associated with traffic offenses is the loss of driving privileges. Public transportation is not always reliable, and many people rely on their vehicles to get to work, drop kids off at school and transport groceries home. If you rely on your vehicle to get around, losing your license is not an option.
Fighting a traffic violation can be an overwhelming prospect, though. Maybe someone told you it is best to just pay the fine and move on, or perhaps you are not even sure how to challenge your ticket. Navigating Mississippi’s traffic laws can certainly be confusing, but you may find it helpful to learn as much about this process as possible before deciding which course of action to take.