Most traffic offenses, such as speeding and failure to obey traffic signals (e.g. running a red light; turning illegally) are infractions or violations–these are not crimes and the only penalties authorized by law for them are fines. Some more serious offenses, however, are misdemeanors, which are crimes and carry possible jail sentences. These offenses include Reckless Driving (Conn. Gen. Stat. 14-222), Evasion of Responsibility (14-224) and Operation After Suspension. Driving Under the Influence is always a serious crime with major criminal and motor vehicle licenses.
Methods of Fighting Traffic Violations
Although traffic infractions and violations can be resolved quickly by mail and without going to court, doing so is equivalent to a plea of nolo contendre–you are not admitting guilt but not contesting the ticket either. You will still pay the full value of the ticket and the offense will go on your driving record, which could also include points or driver retraining obligations. This may affect your insurance premiums.
If you choose to contest the ticket–by marking Not Guilty and mailing it back–you will have the opportunity to go to court where the State (through a State’s Attorney) may reduce the fine, nolle (drop) the charge or offer another possible, favorable disposition. Additionally, if you and the State cannot come to an agreement, you can proceed to a hearing before a magistrate. This is basically a trial only that there is no right to a jury. The State still must prove the charge and will have to do so by putting on witnesses and evidence; often the ticketing police officer. You will also be allowed to cross-examine the police officer and call witnesses, including yourself.