What is the difference between a criminal charge and a traffic ticket?

The other day I got a phone call and the prospective client told me they had a traffic ticket they needed me to handle.  My first thought was, oh they must have gotten a speeding ticket, which is an infraction in the State of Idaho.  I don’t normally handle infractions, since they usually involve paying a $50-$100 fine, and nothing more.  Clients don’t normally hire me to handle such marginal cases.  But the client proceeded to tell me that they had been arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence.  I knew then that they had not simply gotten a “traffic ticket” or “infraction”, they had been charged with a misdemeanor criminal charge.

This wasn’t the first time I had someone call me and indicate that they had been charged with an infraction or traffic ticket, when in fact they and been charged with a criminal charge. This is a common and frequent mistake.  Most commonly made when someone gets a reckless driving, inattentive driving, or driving without privileges charge.  They go to the court to pay the ticket, and are told that they must see a judge first, that is when they usually realize they have a serious problem.

So what is the difference between a misdemeanor and an infraction?

According to Idaho Code 18-111 an infraction is a “civil public offense, not constituting a crime, which is punishable only by a penalty not exceeding one hundred dollars ($100) and for which no period of incarceration may be imposed.”  So in other words, an infraction carries no possibility of jail.

So any case that requires any possibility of a jail sentence is a misdemeanor (or of course possibly a felony).  You may think, well I don’t drink, I don’t get into fights, and I never steal anything, so I will never have to worry about jail.  Guess again.  I have represented not just a few clients for charges like dog at large, dog nuisance, fish and game violations, trespassing, and many other types of cases that most people would think would be charged as infractions when they are charged as misdemeanors and carry potential jail time.  Most of these clients have no criminal history, and never been inside a court room.  So do not think it cannot happen to you.

If you’ve received a “ticket” from a police officer lately, and you think it’s an infraction, an unless it’s a speeding ticket or something similar, you should call an attorney to make doubly sure that it’s not a misdemeanor criminal charge.  You can call our office at 208-571-0627 and we can help you figure it out.

 

When can the police come into my home?

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For those who follow my blog, you may get the sense that I am less than enthusiastic about the status of our rights in the United States today.  Many of the laws and principles that secured our rights in the past have been eroded away by exceptions to laws that are designed to protect those rights.  Automobile exceptions to the warrant requirement are an excellent example of the erosion of our right to be free from warrantless and unreasonable searches and seizures in our automobiles.  We can thank the war on drugs for that. Continue reading

Do I have to show identification to a Police Officer in Idaho?

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A frequent question I am asked by friends, family, and clients is “Do I have to provide my driver’s license, or other identification, to a police officer if they ask me for it?”  In other words they want to know if they have a right to refuse to provide their driver’s license, or other identifying information, to the police officer.  The simple answer is you probably have to provide your identification to the police officer in most circumstances.  Read on for a more thorough answer. Continue reading

I Have an Idaho Arrest Warrant, but Live Out of State, What Can I Do?

 

A common dilemma I get called about frequently is what to do when an arrest warrant has issued for you in Idaho, but you do not live in Idaho.

This occurs under a couple different scenarios.  Some Defendant’s get placed on probation in Idaho, and receive a probation violation either before or after leaving Idaho.  A warrant issues for the Defendant’s arrest.  The other example is when someone obtains a new criminal charge and then leaves the State of Idaho after being charged and fails to appear for their next court date.  A warrant issues. Continue reading

What happens to my driver’s license after a DUI?

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One of the most immediate impacts on your life when you are charged with a DUI is the license suspension.  Not being able to drive, especially in Idaho, would be crippling to anyone’s life.  You cannot get to work, you cannot take your children to school, you cannot go to the doctor, you cannot get groceries.  We do not live in New York City, there is not an abundance of public transportation here.  So the first thing on someone’s mind when they have been charged with a DUI in Idaho is, what is going to happen to my driver’s license? Continue reading

My criminal case in Idaho was dismissed, but can the State still charge me?

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The two sweetest words that anyone charged with any criminal charge will ever hear from a prosecuting attorney are “Case Dismissed!”  But what happens after the charges have been dismissed?  Is it possible for the State refile the dismissed charges?  How can you ever sleep easy again not knowing whether you have to face being charged with criminal charges all over? Continue reading

Misdemeanor Probation Violation: Seven Steps

 

Probation Violation1.  Bad News from the Probation Officer:

The first step of a misdemeanor probation violation case is the bad news from the probation officer. You will learn that something is coming down the pipeline when you go in for your monthly visit with your PO, and he looks unhappier than usual. The PO tells you that you failed a drug or alcohol test, or haven’t been keeping up on your fines or costs of supervision, or picked up a new criminal charge. Whatever the news may be, it is bad news. The probation officer will file an affidavit with the prosecutor’s office, and report to them that you have failed at supervised probation. Continue reading