The Difference Between a Civil Traffic Offense and a Criminal Traffic Offense in Georgia


A traffic ticket can be a cause for serious concern in Georgia, whether you face a light penalty or a serious criminal charge. But what exactly is the difference between a traffic ticket and a criminal traffic offense? When does a traffic offense go on your criminal record? Where do we draw the line between “innocent” traffic offenses and crimes that may result in time behind bars?

Traffic Infractions are Non-Criminal Charges

First of all, it is important to understand that when you are given a civil traffic citation, you are not facing a criminal charge. The penalties for these offenses are usually financial in nature. You will likely have points added to your license as a result. Your criminal record will not be affected by these citations, and you will instead be issued a ticket. Examples of civil traffic infractions include:

  • Texting while driving
  • Speeding
  • No proof of insurance
  • “Move over” violation
  • Failure to obey flashing symbol
  • Improper lane usage
  • Improper passing
  • Failure to maintain lane
  • Following too closely
  • HOV lane violation
  • Failure to yield to emergency vehicle
  • Failure to yield to pedestrian
  • Improper U-turn
  • Failure to use turn signals

These offenses all have their own unique fines. In addition, they may add varying numbers of points to your license. For example, “no proof of insurance” will result in three points being added to your license. 

Traffic Offenses that Can Result in Criminal Charges

With all that being said, there are some traffic offenses that can result in criminal charges. These include:

  • DUIs
  • Driving on a suspended license
  • Hit-and-run (prosecuted as a felony in situations involving serious injury or death)
  • Reckless driving
  • Fleeing from the police

In addition, most speeding charges are technically misdemeanors in Georgia. The most serious criminal traffic offenses may involve the possibility of many years in prison. This is usually the case if the traffic offense results in death or serious injury. 

How Can I Defend Against Criminal Traffic Offenses?

It’s worth fighting both criminal and civil traffic offenses with the help of a qualified attorney. Sometimes, this is easier than you think. For example, the officer who wrote you the ticket or arrested you might have made a mistake in their report. Perhaps they wrote down the wrong date on their police report. Maybe they wrote down the wrong license plate number. Simple mistakes like these can result in charges being dropped. 

In addition, police may have acted in an unconstitutional manner when making an arrest or pulling you over. They must have probable cause or reasonable suspicion in order to pull you over and search your vehicle. 

Where Can I Find a Traffic Law Attorney in Georgia?

If you have been searching the Georgia area for a qualified, experienced traffic law attorney, look no further than Lankford & Moore Law. We know that traffic offenses can be quite daunting – whether you’re facing a criminal charge or a $50 ticket. Either way, it often makes sense to get in touch with a qualified, experienced attorney to assess your legal options. Book a consultation with us today, and you can strive for the best possible outcome in a confident, efficient manner.

I realized the true function of a lawyer was to unite parties riven asunder. The lesson was so indelibly burnt into me that a large part of my time during the twenty years of my practice as a lawyer was occupied in bringing about private compromises of hundreds of cases. I lost nothing thereby — not even money, certainly not my soul.

Mahatma Gandhi

Lankford & Moore Law in Downtown Lawrenceville

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