Traffic offenses in Hawaii are prosecuted as civil infractions or crimes. If you are found guilty of an infraction, you can be assessed fines, fees, surcharges, community service or be required to take driving classes or other educational programs.
Traffic crimes are more serious and can result in the penalties above, with the added possibility of jail time. Even a petty misdemeanor can result in 30 days behind bars, while felonies are punishable by a prison term of one year or more.
Examples of traffic infractions and crimes
To better understand the difference between these categories, here are examples of each:
- Civil infractions include: Speeding, running a stop sign, not wearing a seat belt, illegal parking, and an expired safety check sticker.
- Traffic crimes include: DUI, driving without a license, driving without insurance and reckless driving.
Why should you fight a traffic ticket?
Too many people consider traffic infractions a minor inconvenience and choose not to fight them. However, even minor offenses can add up causing repercussions, such as:
- Points on your Hawaii driver’s license
- Hundreds of dollars in fines and fees
- Increased insurance rates
- Suspended license
- Lost wages from missing work to attend court
- Rideshare service expenses if you can no longer drive
Some believe there’s little chance of fighting a traffic ticket, regardless of the circumstances. That’s where an experienced traffic court attorney can make a difference.
Potential defenses for traffic violations
Your lawyer understands how courts prosecute these charges. Just showing up with legal representation often results in dismissed charges or reduced penalties. Defense strategies include:
- Challenging an officer’s observations: In many cases, an officer’s subjective opinion is the basis for issuing a ticket, such as claiming you were driving faster than was “prudent” for conditions or following another vehicle too “closely.” You may be able to show that the officer’s reasoning was flawed or their view was obstructed by another car, or a bad vantage point.
- Mistake of fact: Judges often give drivers some slack for things beyond their control. If you were ticketed for failing to stop at a stop sign, but the sign was hidden behind a tree branch, the judge may accept that explanation and dismiss the ticket or reduce the fine.
- Avoiding greater harm: Emergencies often fall under the “necessity” defense. If you were speeding because you needed to get someone to the hospital quickly, you could argue the violation was necessary to avoid greater harm.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to accept a ticket and be resigned to paying the fine. In many cases, your presence isn’t required in court as your lawyer can appear on your behalf to provide the most effective defense possible, saving you time and money and protecting your driving record.