How Do Felony and Misdemeanor Traffic Fines Differ?
When drivers commit a traffic offense in South Carolina, how much they are required to pay for the fine is largely dependent on whether the offense was a misdemeanor or a felony. Although some traffic offenses are merely considered “infractions,” drivers should be aware that if the offense is more serious, it may be classified as a felony or misdemeanor.
Generally speaking, traffic violations that are less serious are classified as misdemeanors. Typically, these types of offenses are punishable by the payment of a fine, and in some cases, the requirement to spend time in jail for a year or less. Drivers may commit a traffic misdemeanor if they:
- Operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Are involved in a traffic accident, but do not remain at the scene
- Drive without a driver’s license or valid insurance
- Drive in a reckless manner
In some cases, drivers who are pulled over for committing a traffic misdemeanor are taken into custody and held in jail until they can post a bail bond. In these cases, drivers may have to pay a fine and their insurance rates may go up as a result of the offense. Additionally, depending on the offense, drivers may have a certain number of points added to their license.
Traffic felonies are considerably more serious than traffic misdemeanors, and are therefore associated with harsher penalties. For example, drivers who operate a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance multiple times, those who commit a “hit and run” offense and drivers who are involved in accidents with vehicular homicide may be charged with a traffic felony. Often, drivers who commit a traffic felony have to pay a significant fine, spend time in jail and forgo certain driving privileges for a specific period of time.
Drivers who disobey a traffic law will not always be charged with a traffic misdemeanor or felony. In most cases, drivers are charged with a traffic infraction, especially when the offense is considered to be minor. For instance, drivers may be charged with a traffic infraction if they drive without wearing their seat belt. In these cases, drivers may have to pay a fine but no points will be added to their license, and it will not affect a driver's insurance.
Drivers, regardless of whether they allegedly committed a traffic misdemeanor, felony or infraction, may be worried about how the consequences of the offense will affect them legally and financially. Drivers facing the consequences from a South Carolina traffic ticket in any situation can request a phone consultation from Nosal & Jeter, LLP by calling 803-351-3597 to better understand the facts about their case.