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Can Traffic Violations Lead to Criminal Charges in California?

Traffic tickets are nothing to take lightly. It’s important to take care of even minor charges quickly, because if ignored, these can become heavy fines and uncomfortable restrictions like loss of your driving privileges. But can traffic violations become or involve criminal charges in California? In this blog post, we’ll explain what traffic violations are and what kinds of traffic violations there are in California. If you have been charged with any of these, call a Tehama County traffic violation lawyer today. We’ll fight hard to get those charges dismissed as soon as possible.

What Kinds of Traffic Violations Exist in California?

There are two predominant kinds of traffic violations, moving and non-moving. Usually, moving violations are punished more strictly, to account for the fact that cars in movement are more dangerous than stationary cars.

Within both categories, traffic violations can be further subdivided into:

Parking Citations

Cities and law enforcement agencies typically handle parking citations. Rarely will these go through court. To comply with a parking citation, you should look at the instructions printed on it and then call the issuer (whether city or agency) for more information.


When a person violates by action or omission provisions of the California Vehicle Code, a local ordinance, or any other law, they have committed an infraction. Some commonly seen infractions are speeding, driving in a vehicle that needs its equipment repaired, and letting the vehicle registration you use when driving expire. Infractions are punished by fines, which can be over $200. Sometimes infractions may be punished with mandatory Community Work Service, like cleaning up trash outside.

Law enforcement handles specifically traffic infractions by issuing citations, also called traffic tickets. To understand the charges against you, be sure to read everything on the front and back of the citation.

Mandatory and Non-Mandatory Appearance Violations

Mandatory appearance violations mean that you need to appear in court to comply. You should contact the court to learn about when and where your hearing is. You are supposed to pay your fine before your court date arrives. If you can’t make your court date, you may request an extension before the due date found on your Courtesy Bail Notice.

If you don’t request an extension and simply do not appear, you may face a Failure to Appear charge in addition to the charges you already have. A Failure to Appear charge is a misdemeanor, and as such, can be punished with fines and jail time (both or independently), plus revocation or suspension of your license, its issuance, or renewal.

But your Courtesy Bail Notice may also not require you to make a mandatory appearance. In that case, and if you don’t want to contest your traffic ticket, you should pay it before the appearance date indicated. If you do want to contest it, they’ll need to appear in court.


Misdemeanors are not handled in Traffic court. Nevertheless, misdemeanors can be the result of violations you committed while driving. These could be reckless driving, driving while intoxicated, or even a hit and run. Misdemeanors, like felonies, are heard in Criminal Court. They may be punished by a year a jail, a fine of $1,000, or both. The penalties are even higher where California increased them for specific offenses.