In many cases, a minor traffic offense is considered an infraction in Ohio, which carries a lower penalty than a misdemeanor or a felony. However, there are times when a traffic offense may rise to the level of a misdemeanor or a felony. Generally, this occurs when the offense creates a threat of bodily injury or destruction of property or when there is bodily injury or damage to property.
An individual who is charged with a misdemeanor will usually receive a fine or no more than a year in a jail if convicted. Examples of crimes that are considered misdemeanors include driving without insurance or driving without a valid driver’s license. Leaving the scene of an accident or driving under the influence may also be cause for a misdemeanor charge stemming from a traffic offense.
A felony is a serious offense that may result in people losing their right to vote, sit on a jury or work in their chosen profession if convicted. Fines and jail time may also be included after a felony conviction. Drivers may be charged with a felony if there was an aggravating factor in a case or if they were a repeat offender. For instance, a repeat DUI offender may be charged with a felony even if the crime was a misdemeanor on its own.
Those who are charged with traffic violations may still want to have the assistance of an attorney. Whether the charge is labeled an infraction, misdemeanor or felony, a fine or other penalties may be possible if convicted. Legal counsel may be able to argue that a vehicle malfunction or inaccurate DMV records led to a traffic charge that should be dropped or reduced based on the actual facts of the case.