What is the difference between traffic infractions vs misdemeanors? Is your ticket an infraction or a misdemeanor? What is the punishment?
Summary of Traffic Infractions vs Misdemeanors
In summary, an infraction is better than a misdemeanor charge and a VC 12500 charge is better than a VC 14601.1 charge.
- Better than a misdemeanor
- Is considered a minor offense
- You cannot be punished with jail for a traffic infraction
- You cannot be placed on court probation
- Worse than an infraction
- Is a criminal offense
- You can be punished with jail for a traffic misdemeanor
- You can be placed on court probation
Most traffic tickets you get are considered “infractions” which means you cannot go to jail for these violations. A traffic infraction is considered a minor offense and you cannot be punished with jail for a traffic infraction or placed on court probation. Typically, the punishment for an infraction is a court fine.
If you fail to appear in court on your first court date for an infraction, the court will not issue a warrant for your arrest but will place a hold on your license which will likely cause the DMV to suspend your license for failure to appear in court. (Your Case Status will be - DMV Driver License Hold which means a hold will be placed on your license most likely causing your license to be suspended by the DMV for failing to appear in court - FTA).
If you get a ticket and the police officer circled M next to the violation written on your ticket, that means you were cited for a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor is more serious than an infraction and is considered a criminal offense. A misdemeanor can be punished with jail time, court probation, and fines. If you fail to appear on your court date for a misdemeanor the court will most likely issue an arrest warrant or bench warrant for your arrest (case status – arrest warrant or case status – bench warrant)
Examples of Traffic Misdemeanors
The following are examples of driving-related misdemeanors:-
- Driving on a Suspended License (VC 14601.1, 14601.2, and 14601.5)
- Driving without a Valid License (VC 12500)
The minimum punishment for misdemeanor driving on a suspended license because of a failure to appear in court (VC 14601.1) is:-
- 3 years of summary probation
- A minimum $1,000 fine
- And 2 DMV points on your driver’s license record.
To be found guilty of driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1), the police or prosecutor must prove that your license was suspended and you knew your license was suspended – they must prove you had knowledge of your license suspension.
The typical punishment for misdemeanor driving without a valid license (VC 12500) is:-
- 1 year of summary probation
- Approximately $500 in fines
- And no DMV points on your record.
You want to do everything you can to avoid being convicted of driving on a suspended license because if it happens to you again in the future you face stiffer punishment. If you have been previously convicted of driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1, VC 14601.2 or VC 14601.5) within the past five years of a new offense, you face a minimum punishment of 5 days in the county jail, a heavy fine and 2 DMV points.
If you are charged with VC 14601.2 this is a very serious charge because it means you are driving on a suspended license and the reason your license is suspended is because you got arrested and/or convicted of a DUI. The minimum punishment for a VC 14601.2 is 3 years of summary probation, 10 days in county jail and you will have to install an ignition interlock device on the steering wheel of your car.
The prosecutor can reduce your misdemeanor driving on a suspended license charge (VC 14601.1) from a misdemeanor to an infraction which means you will not be placed on summary probation to the court and won’t face any jail time. It will still, however, put 2 DMV points on your record. It will also go on your record as a prior offense which means you will most likely face increased punishment if you get another ticket for driving on a suspended license in the future. A VC 12500 infraction would be a better charge to accept because it would not put 2 DMV points on your DMV record like the VC 14601.1 driving on a suspended license charge does.
If you are charged with driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1) the best thing you can do is try and get a valid license to try and avoid a misdemeanor conviction for driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1) from going on your record. Misdemeanor driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1) and Misdemeanor driving without a valid license (VC 12500) can be charged as and reduced to infractions. The best way to get these misdemeanor charges reduced to an infraction is to obtain a valid California driver’s license.
We can help
If you are charged with a Misdemeanor driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1) we can help you. We have helped many people get their license cleared up and valid again. By doing this we helped them avoid a misdemeanor driving on a suspended license (VC 14601.1) from going on their record and helped them avoid being placed on summary probation or having 2 DMV points go on their record.
Please call us at 310-285-1516 for a free legal consultation about your suspended license ticket.