From driving excessively fast to forgetting to fasten a restraint, haste sometimes creates not only waste, but legal problems as well. In Colorado, as in other states, most traffic violations are minor issues that can be resolved without appearing in court, though some are more serious and carry the possibility of jail time upon conviction.
Types of Violations
Colorado classifies most traffic violations into two categories: infractions for minor problems, such as equipment issues or low-level speeding, and offenses for matters such as moving violations that create danger for others. Some very serious violations, such as eluding a police officer in a reckless manner, are classified as felonies that carry possible prison terms.
If you are a new Colorado resident, familiarize yourself with the state's unique laws. For example, failing to notify the state within 30 days after changing a vehicle's primary color is an infraction. Laws covering cellular phone use when driving and child safety restraints also vary greatly from state to state.
Colorado has two statutes that address driving while drunk or intoxicated: Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DUI) and Driving While Impaired (DWI) by Drugs or Alcohol. Both are based on the percentage of alcohol in the blood system, with DWI being the less serious of the two.
Both crimes carry hefty penalties, including jail time, points against a driver's license, community service, and fines for the first offense, with penalties increasing substantially for subsequent offenses.
Penalties for infractions range from $15 to $100 in state fines, though counties and cities can increase those amounts and tack on court costs as well. For criminal offenses, fines can be up to $1,000, plus 10 days to a year in jail.
Each violation also carries points, and drivers who accumulate a specific number of points within a certain time frame risk at least a temporary license loss. The number of points assessed for violations depend on the seriousness of the violation. Failing to turn on headlights is two points, while speeding 40 mph or more over the limit is 12 points. Teenagers can lose their licenses for a year for 12 points, while an adult who registers 18 points can lose the privilege for two years.
Resolving Matters in Traffic Court
If your infraction or offense is payable without having to appear in court, the officer issuing the citation will indicate so on the ticket. You can choose to appear in court, a course drivers often will take out of concern about insurance costs or getting points, or because they believe the officer made a factual or legal mistake. Serious offenses can carry jail time of up to a year and other penalties that require a court appearance.
Actions Regarding Licenses
Getting too many points from convictions or guilty pleas—and paying a ticket is a guilty plea—can trigger a license suspension or revocation. However, before any action is taken, you are entitled to a hearing before a hearing officer who will analyze Department of Motor Vehicles records. You will be permitted to present evidence if you believe DMV records are incorrect, and you can appeal an unfavorable decision to your local district court.
If your license is revoked, you will have to retake an examination before you are permitted to drive again; a suspension requires completing proper paperwork and submitting proof of liability insurance.
Seeking Legal Help
Though many individuals prefer to simply pay the fine for minor traffic infractions, for more serious and complicated violations it is best to consult an attorney. A Colorado lawyer can assist with questions about traffic laws.