What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In Arizona?
In Arizona, traffic violations and infractions refer to offenses that violate the state’s traffic laws. The Arizona Department of Public Safety (AZDPS), state courts, and the state’s licensing body are responsible for enforcing and upholding traffic laws in the state. Law enforcement officers are tasked with issuing tickets to offenders for either moving or non-moving violations. The Justice Courts and City Municipal Courts hear all criminal and civil traffic offenses. Simultaneously, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division delegates point penalties and license suspensions to drivers convicted of moving traffic violations.
Usually, tickets are issued for felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions. Most infractions can be resolved by payment of a fine. However, traffic misdemeanors and felonies are seen as criminal violations in the state, and charged parties are required to appear in court on a stipulated date. Convicted motorists are subject to higher fines and may serve terms of imprisonment. Penalties for traffic violations and infractions are determined based on the severity of the crime and frequency of violations.
What Are Felony Traffic Violations In Arizona?
Felony traffic violations are criminal offenses perpetrated by residents in the State of Arizona. Officially referred to as criminal traffic violations and considered more serious than traffic infractions, these crimes are punishable by higher fines and lengthier jail terms, as well as license suspensions and revocations. A typical example of a felony traffic violation is a DUI. Felonies typically involve the destruction of property or attempted harm/harm of an individual.
The law categorizes felony traffic violations into Class 1 to 6 felonies, with Class 1 having the most severe penalties and Class 6 having the least, whether or not the accused party is a first-time or repeat offender. Court judges consider felony penalties and sentencing using the Arizona Criminal Code.
Examples Of Felony Traffic Violations In Arizona?
Some examples of felony traffic violations in Arizona are as follows:
- Aggravated DUI (Driving under the influence)
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Accidents resulting in death or serious physical injury
- Hit and run
- Vehicular assault
What Are Traffic Misdemeanors In Arizona?
Traffic misdemeanors are traffic offenses for which punishment does not exceed one year of incarceration. Convicted individuals are liable to pay fines, fees, surcharges, or have their licenses suspended. In Arizona, misdemeanors are considered criminal traffic offenses and are grouped into Class 1, 2, and 3. This class system is used to determine the severity of a crime and penalties due to the offender. For instance, Class 2 misdemeanors are punishable by a $750 fine plus surcharges and incarceration up to 4 months, whereas class 1 misdemeanors have a $2,500 fine and up to 6 months in imprisonment. Generally, these penalties vary according to the type of offense and repetition of traffic offenses within a period. However, sentences for misdemeanors are not as severe as those felony criminal violations.
Examples Of Traffic Misdemeanors In Arizona?
Traffic misdemeanors in Arizona include:
- Highway racing
- Driving under the influence, DUI (including Extreme DUI)
- Reckless driving
- Hit and run, not resulting in severe injury or death.
- Criminal speeding
- Driving with a suspended license
- Aggressive driving
- Reckless endangerment
- Driving without insurance
- Speeding in a school zone
- Vehicles carrying excessive weight
- Failure to stop or provide identity
What Constitutes A Traffic Infraction In Arizona?
Traffic infractions refer to non-criminal civil violations that are usually resolved by payment of fines prescribed by statute. In Arizona, this fine does not exceed $250. Unlike misdemeanors and felonies, traffic infractions are less severe, and offenders are not liable to terms of imprisonment. However, motorists may still find points assigned to their driving records because of these offenses. Furthermore, individuals may be required to take driver education courses such as traffic survival school or court-mandated/voluntary defensive driving courses.
Examples of traffic infractions in Arizona include:
- Following too closely
- Seatbelt violations
- Blinker violations
- Running red light
- Illegal parking
- Using a cellular device while driving
- Unsafe lane changes
- Wrong-way driving
How Does A Traffic Ticket Work In Arizona?
Traffic tickets are legal papers informing the recipient of a traffic violation. Upon issuance, individuals ticketed for civil violations (infractions) may enter a “responsible” or “not-responsible” plea for the violation. In responsible pleas, the offender pays the complete fine before the scheduled appearance date. Online, mail, phone, and in-person are methods by which this payment may be made. However, Arizona courts have different payment methods, so it is essential to look up instructions on the courts’ websites. All Justice Courts accept payment in cash, money orders, personal checks, and credit/debit card (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover). Parties who cannot afford the complete fine may request payment plans from the courts. If eligible, a ticketed motorist who has not paid the fine may also attend a Defensive Driving School. Selecting this option requires the individual to complete a defensive driving class no later than seven days before the court date and submit proof of completion.
In not-responsible pleas, the offender chooses to contest the ticket and requests a hearing before a judge. Hearings can be requested by mail or by coming to court on the date written on the ticket. Usually, the court scheduled this hearing 3 to 4 weeks after the initial date of request. It should be noted that it is not possible to take a defensive driving course in not-responsible pleas. Also, in cases where the party fails to appear in court on the hearing date, the individual may choose to post a deposit of the fine to avoid license suspension.
When the ticket is issued for a criminal violation (criminal misdemeanor or felony), the offender is required to appear in court. One way to know if the ticket is for a criminal or civil traffic violation is to check the ticket; it will be indicated. An offender appearing in court has three options:
- Plead guilty: In guilty pleas, the offender admits the violation and may be penalized with a fine, incarceration (depending on the offense), court-mandated driver education courses, license suspensions/restrictions, points on driving record, and community service. Individuals are required to pay the full fine on the hearing date. Failure to do so will add $20 to the fine. Parties unable to pay the full fine may request payment plans from the court.
- Plead not guilty: An offender denies the charges, and the court sets a trial or pretrial date. Here, the law gives certain rights to the defendants, including the right to a speedy trial, right to counsel, right to examine witnesses, right to have subpoenas issued by the court at no cost, and the right to an appeal.
- Plead no contest: Here, although the defendant does not admit or deny a charge, the defendant does not also contest the charge. The judge may impose a fine or punishment similar to that of a guilty plea. However, the defendant may be allowed to explain the charge before the court judge decides judgment.
Are Driving Records Public In Arizona?
The availability of Arizona driving records to the public is regulated by ARS Title 28, Chapter 2, Article 5. Under this law, individuals named on driving records may request their records. However, third parties may only request driving records when they have "permissible use” for the request and to obtain a driver’s personal identifying information (social security numbers, name, address, driver license number/photograph, etc.). Examples of permissible use include: for use by a law enforcement agency or court in carrying out its functions, for use by an insurer in a claims investigation, for use in notifying drivers of tows and impounds, and others.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that the person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find Driving Records In Arizona?
Eligible persons may find driving records in Arizona through the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) Motor Vehicle Division. Parties who may request include, but are not limited to, the subjects of records, law enforcement agencies, courts, state/federal government and their agencies, toll operators, insurance companies, employers, and financial institutions. A comprehensive list regarding eligibility is available under ARS 28–455. Usually, the Motor Vehicle Division charges a fee to obtain driving records. However, under ARS 28–446, certain parties are excluded from paying record fees. These parties include:
- Arizona courts,
- State/federal government and its agencies/departments/political subdivisions
- Foreign law enforcement agencies
- Toll operators.
To order a driving record in Arizona, also known as a Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), requesters may use the online service or mail a completed Motor Vehicle Record Request Form. This form may also be hand-delivered to the Motor Vehicle Division or other authorized offices. Certified records contain 5-year driving histories and cost $5 per record, while uncertified records contain 3-year histories and cost $3. Online requests cost $3 per record. Information that may be obtained from the online system includes the subject’s name, address, current/previous license numbers, citations, and license invalidations (suspensions/revocations). However, the system does not display social security numbers or medical information on commercial driver license holders.
Can Traffic Violations And Infractions Be Expunged Or Sealed In Arizona?
Generally, an expungement order erases all convictions, charges, and arrest histories from an individual’s criminal record while the order to seal removes a record from public access. However, traffic violations are not expugnable in Arizona. Neither can records from traffic infraction cases be sealed. Still, it may be possible to set aside certain misdemeanor and felony convictions under ARS 13–905 and ARS 13–908. ARS 13–905 also outlines convictions that cannot be set aside. A “set aside” order does not remove a conviction from an individual’s record but reveals that the court dismissed charges or vacated a judgment, and the individual completed all probation and sentence conditions. An interested party may contact the Justice or City court where the conviction was given to make inquiries and obtain forms. Records maintained by the Motor Vehicle Division are also not expugnable but stay on a driver’s records for five years from the conviction date.