It is very easy to commit a crime while you’re driving. Why? Because many things are crimes that you may not even think to be crimes.
When you think of a moving violation, you typically tend to think about a law such as careless driving. So, let’s break that down a bit. This law is found under section 41-6a-1715 of the Utah Code. Our comments are in brackets.
(1) A person operating a motor vehicle [which could include a lawn mower, an ATV, etc.] is guilty of careless driving if the person:
(a) commits two or more moving traffic violations under this chapter in a series of acts within a single continuous period of driving covering three miles or less in total distance [so, crossing over two lanes on the freeway without using your blinker!]; or
(b) commits a moving traffic violation under this chapter other than a moving traffic violation under Part 6, Speed Restrictions, while being distracted by one or more activities taking place within the vehicle that are not related to the operation of a motor vehicle, including:
(i) using a wireless telephone or other electronic device unless the person is using hands-free talking and listening features while operating the motor vehicle [so, you fail to use your blinker while on your cell phone];
(ii) searching for an item in the vehicle [so, you are illegally in the car pool lane while searching for that french fry you dropped]; or
(iii) attending to personal hygiene or grooming [this one really surprises a lot of people – stop coming your hair or putting on your eye-liner].
(2) A violation of this section is a class C misdemeanor.
(3) In addition to the penalty provided under this section or any other section, a judge may order the revocation of the convicted person’s driver license if the violation causes or results in the death of another person in accordance with Subsection 53-3-218(6). [That’s right, these things can KILL people].
A moving violation is more serious because it can affect your driver’s license – get enough moving violations and you can lose driving privileges. Examples of moving violations include speeding, careless or reckless driving, and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Reckless driving and DUIs are class B misdemeanors, and can land you in jail for up to six months, whereas a C is only up to 90 days, and frankly, jail is rare with a class C.
Here is the reckless driving law:
41-6a-528. Reckless driving.
(1) A person is guilty of reckless driving who operates a vehicle:
(a) in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property [so, if you going upwards of a 100 miles per hour, you may count on getting charged with this crime]; or
(b) while committing three or more moving traffic violations under Title 41, Chapter 6a, Traffic Code, in a series of acts occurring within a single continuous period of driving covering three miles or less in total distance.
(2) A person who violates Subsection (1) is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.
As you can see, the line between careless driving and reckless driving is very thin.
It can be worthwhile to consult an attorney on a moving violation, especially if you have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL); you must travel frequently for your employment; or if you risk of losing your driver’s license, your job, or the ability to visit family. In court, you should never plea guilty to a moving violation without first attempting to get a better resolution with a prosecutor. Simply walking up to the podium and saying guilty does not make a lot of legal sense.
Non-moving violations are usually parking tickets [and make sure they can prove YOU are the one that parked illegally, not that it was simply YOUR CAR] and “fix-it” tickets. They usually will not affect your driving privileges at all if you take care of them promptly. Many feel it is often not worth fighting such a ticket, as the fines are small and the problems are easily corrected. If you have a parking ticket, it is almost always easier and cheaper to pay it than to fight it. For a “fix-it” ticket, have someone perform the maintenance or repair and provide proof to the agency that issued the ticket or to the court. This will also help avoid future tickets for the same violation.
You should never ignore any ticket, as this can lead to warrants, fines, or even jail. Read the ticket carefully for instructions and time limits to properly resolve it. Simply putting the ticket “on top of the fridge” is certainly not a good idea.
Mark Robertson and Greg Smith of Greg Smith and Associates.