Traffic violations are an inevitable part of driving, and with so many distractions on the road, receiving one is more of a likelihood than ever before. In that case, it is essential to know your rights as a motorist so that you may utilize them whenever possible, ensuring the least amount of issues on your driving record. Two procedures—record expungement and record sealing—are the key options when looking to clean up your record of traffic violations. But first, let’s define what is a traffic violation.
What is a traffic violation?
A traffic violation is any act committed by a motorist which can be defined as an infringement on the rules of the road, typically while the vehicle is in motion. Each state has its own guidelines for a person looking to expunge a traffic violation from their record, in which case, it is best to consult with the court which issued the violation to see which rules apply in your home state. In most states, when a driver receives a traffic violation, it is placed on their driving record until the fine is paid off. Then, it can be erased.
Types of traffic violations
Traffic violations come in various forms—from small offenses like committing an illegal U-turn to more serious infractions such as vehicular manslaughter. Different types of traffic violations include:
• Failure to wear seatbelt
• Failure to signal during a turn
• Driving under the influence (DUI)
• Driving while intoxicated (DWI)
• Failing to stop at a red light
• Driving over the posted speed limit
• Failure to yield at an intersection to the vehicle that has the right-of-way
• Failing to yield for an emergency vehicle
Other more specific traffic violations include improper child restraint, defective head or tail lights, tailgating, driving with an expired license, as well as expired or missing license plates. Regardless of the state or city one resides in, the list of traffic violations shown above are virtually universal and the failure to obey any of them, whether intentionally or by accident, will usually result in either a citation or an arrest.
One question a motorist who has been charged with a traffic violation may ask is: can traffic violations be expunged? The answer is yes. Whether your traffic violation qualifies as a non-moving offense or one committed while the vehicle was in motion, it can erased from your driving record. Note that, in order to qualify to expunge traffic violations, the motorist in question needs to be a first-time offender. Non-moving traffic violations—namely parking infractions—can be expunged from driving records in all states. In states like Illinois, there are laws which will not allow them to be erased. In most states, a driver is given the chance to take a defensive driving class to have their violated removed, while more severe offenses require a formal expungement proceeding, which can take several months. If at all possible, make sure to hire a traffic ticket attorney who you can consult with to ensure that you have a strong enough case to battle the traffic violation in a court of law.
Moving violations are typically measured on a driving record through the usage of a point system. States that utilize this system will assign a specific number of points to a given moving violation. Then, those points are used to determine just how serious the infraction is; violations such as vehicular manslaughter usually garner the highest number of points. Once a certain number is reached—ranging anywhere from 10 to 12 points—the driver’s license can be either revoked or suspended. Although most states employ a single-digit system to rate violations from 1 to 10 or 12 points, states like Illinois use a double-digit system where violations are rated 10, 20, or even 30 points. Which every system a state decides to use, they are both structured to ensure that irresponsible and thoughtless drivers are kept off the road. In addition, some states will not issue out points for lesser traffic violations.
There are certain traffic violations—be they moving or non-moving—that are unable to be removed from a record. In that case, the next option is record sealing. Record sealing is a process which ensures that any violations or citations visible on your driving record will be hidden from public view. First, find out if you are eligible to seal your record; drivers who have been convicted of a felony typically are not. Next, gather the paperwork needed to petition your violation to be sealed. This can be done by calling the court or scheduling an appointment in person. Once the form has been completed, mail it off to the court. Once the court receives your information, they will notify you by mail, or phone, of your hearing. The difference between having a traffic violation expunged, versus sealed, is that with expungement, it is as if the violation never occurred. However, if your driving record is sealed, there will always be a file kept by the government. If the state you reside in feels there is a viable reason to access it, they have the right to do just that.
While it is not as definite as having a violation expunged, it can help in the event that you apply for a new job, seek higher educational opportunities, venture outside of the country, or decide to purchase a firearm for protection.