Is a DUI a Criminal Traffic Ticket?

Is a DUI a Criminal Traffic Ticket?

What Is a Criminal Traffic Ticket?

DUI (driving under the influence) is a criminal offense in California. Some jurisdictions used to view driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated an aggravated traffic citation. But, today, a DUI in California is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Many people wonder if DUI is a traffic ticket, a criminal offense, or a criminal traffic ticket. Typically, people want to know whether a DUI is considered a crime and will result in a criminal record. The short answer is: yes. A DUI in California is a criminal offense but a type of criminal traffic offense. But, instead of getting a traffic ticket, you are charged with a crime.

A Significant Difference

The distinction between criminal traffic tickets and regular traffic tickets is how the offense is charged. A simple traffic citation like turning without signaling is against the law and can result in a traffic citation being issued. But a traffic citation is not considered a crime and thus will not result in an arrest or a criminal record.

Vehicle Code Violation

While DUI is technically a violation of the California Vehicle Code, it is nevertheless pursued by the criminal courts. But a DUI is a unique type of criminal offense because it will involve both the criminal courts and the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Traffic tickets, however, fall solely under the purview of the DMV and the traffic courts. For a traffic ticket, you will have to either pay the fine or contest the ticket in court. You will not be arrested unless you fail to pay the fine or fail to appear in court. In this case, the court can issue a bench warrant, and you could be arrested and brought before a judge.

The DMV will add points to your driving record for both a DUI and a traffic ticket, but most traffic violations result in one point while a DUI results in two. Each point on your driving record brings you one step closer to becoming a habitual traffic offender, which results in a license suspension.

How You Report a DUI

The importance of understanding the distinction between a regular traffic ticket for something like speeding and a DUI is for reporting. You must disclose criminal convictions on certain applications for jobs, volunteer positions, rental housing, and loans. But you do not have to disclose a regular traffic ticket. A traffic ticket can show up on a criminal background check, but most employers will not hold it against you unless you drive in your line of work. When asked if you’ve been convicted of a crime, you will have to answer “yes” if you have a DUI. If you have a traffic ticket, however, you can answer “no,” even though a traffic violation is technically against the law.

If you’ve spoken with a public defender or a California attorney about your DUI, they might not have explained these numerous distinctions. But it’s important to fully understand what you are facing because a DUI is a serious criminal charge. Decades ago, a DUI was considered a traffic ticket. But today, a DUI is a criminal offense and one you should not face alone.

Speak with an experienced California DUI defense attorney if you are facing charges. You should not take any chances given the potential consequences. A DUI can result in a license suspension, fines, jail time, DUI classes, and more. It should be taken just as seriously as a criminal offense such as assault or burglary. But too many people plead guilty without thinking of the consequences. A good attorney should thoroughly explain the court-imposed penalties you could face and your options for handling your case. You might be able to negotiate a plea bargain for a lesser offense (typically a wet reckless charge) or take your case to trial.

Have you been arrested and are facing DUI charges? Visalia area DUI defense attorney Christopher Martens can help you get the outcome you deserve. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at for a free consultation.