Traffic Infraction Tickets

There are two most common types of traffic tickets issued in Colorado. The least severe, which are the more relatively routinely issued tickets, are traffic infractions. The more severe tickets, which are somewhat less frequently issued, are traffic offense tickets. Although both traffic infraction tickets, and traffic offense tickets, are issued in Colorado for traffic violations, they differ substantially in their nature, the potential possible penalties, and procedures for their resolution.

Traffic infraction tickets are given for most of the routine relatively minor traffic violations in Colorado. The type of violations that constitute traffic infractions are numerous and include Changing Lanes When Unsafe, Speeding from One to Twenty-Four Miles Above the Speed Limit, and Failing to Obey a Traffic Control Signal.

Traffic infractions under Colorado law are further divided into two sub-groups consisting of Class A and Class B infractions, however, the procedures for adjudication of these two types of traffic infractions are not appreciably different. Class B traffic infractions are much less frequently issued, only for the most minor traffic related matters, and do not carry the imposition of penalty points reported to the Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles.

Both Colorado Class A and Class B traffic infractions are considered civil matters in Colorado rather than criminal matters. As civil matters typically the only penalties that may be imposed upon a conviction of an individual for a traffic infraction is a fine, court costs and, in the case of Class A traffic infractions, penalty points reported to the Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Motor Vehicles. For most, but not all, traffic infractions an individual is issued a Penalty Assessment Notice by a law enforcement officer that typically provides an opportunity to return a guilty plea by mail, with a payment, prior to a deadline, to resolve the traffic infraction. Often an offer is made on the ticket for the penalty points to be automatically reduced upon timely payment.

Although many are paid by mail, a motorist has the option of contesting a traffic infraction ticket in the applicable county or municipal court. The procedures for contesting a traffic infraction mandate that due process be provided to the defendant but the procedures are somewhat expedited. Colorado law provides that a motorist is not entitled to a jury in a final hearing regarding a traffic infraction, often is not entitled to discovery prior to the final hearing, and in many instances the prosecuting attorney does not become directly involved in the litigation of a traffic infraction.

Tickets For Traffic Offenses

Many of the more serious traffic tickets are classified as misdemeanor traffic offenses. Misdemeanor traffic offense tickets are considered criminal matters in Colorado and the rights accorded, and the potential consequences, are substantially different from those involved with traffic infraction tickets. Misdemeanor traffic offense tickets include such alleged violations as Driving A Vehicle Without A Valid Driver? License, Careless Driving, Driving Without Insurance, and Speeding Greater than 24 Miles Per Hour Above the Speed Limit.

Misdemeanor traffic offense tickets are classified into two categories. The less serious misdemeanor traffic offenses under Colorado state law are Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses. Colorado statutes generally provide that a sentence to jail for a Class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses can be up to ninety days and a fine up to $300 can also be imposed. The fine is typically imposed with additional court costs and surcharges, and can be substantially increased under certain specific circumstances, such as when the motorist is found to have been speeding in a school or construction zone.

Class 1 misdemeanor traffic offenses are the most serious misdemeanor traffic offenses. Generally a Colorado court may impose a sentence to jail of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000, together with court costs and surcharges, if an individual is convicted of a Class 1 traffic offense.

Persons convicted of a misdemeanor traffic offense may also be sentenced to perform useful public service, potentially pay restitution to compensate a victim of the offense, and be penalized as further provided under law in the discretion of the judge.

Upon the issuance of certain relatively minor traffic offense tickets the officer can designate it as a Penalty Assessment Notice. A Penalty Assessment Notice provides the motorist the option to plead guilty and pay the ticket by mail similar to the procedures utilized for most Colorado traffic infractions. In certain, normally more serious traffic offense matters, the officer issues a Summons which requires at least one court appearance and precludes the motorist from paying by mail. Court policies vary, but many courts permit an appearance to be made on a traffic offense summons by an attorney, retained by a defendant, without the motorist personally appearing in the court. In the more serious traffic offense matters the motorist can be arrested and normally must post a bond for release in accordance with the criteria under Colorado law and applicable orders of the judge.

In some Colorado jurisdictions, such as in Denver, police officers typically issue both Penalty Assessment Notices, and tickets that constitute a Summons, on the same form completed somewhat differently. Thus, there is sometimes confusion as to the options of the motorist to resolve the violation. Normally, tickets issued as Penalty Assessment Notices will set forth a specific amount that can be paid by mail if the motorist chooses this option. A Summons typically will not state an amount that can be paid to resolve the ticket.

The district attorney, or the city attorney, as the case may be, is most often directly involved in the prosecution of alleged traffic offense violations. In many traffic offense matters a person can obtain discovery and is entitled, upon making an appropriate demand and remitting any required fee, to a trial by jury.

Driving Under The Influence of Alchohol and Drugs and Other Serious Misdemeanors

In addition to traffic infraction tickets, and misdemeanor traffic offense tickets, Colorado law also specifies certain traffic related violations as more serious criminal misdemeanor offenses. Criminal misdemeanor offenses in Colorado are divided into three distinct classes, Class 1 to Class 3, with Class 1 misdemeanors being the most serious and generally entail more serious violations than misdemeanor traffic offense tickets. Criminal misdemeanors in Colorado encompass such traffic violations as Driving Under Suspension, Driving Under Revocation, Driving Under The Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, and Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol or Drugs.

Felony Traffic Offenses

Finally, the most serious traffic violations in Colorado are considered felonies which typically involve a volitional act by the motorist. Examples of felony traffic matters include Failing to Remain at the Scene of an Accident Involving Serious Bodily Injury, Drove a Vehicle When License was Revoked as a Habitual Traffic Offender with Aggravating Circumstances, Eluding a Police Officer Creating A Substantial Risk of Bodily Injury by Operating a vehicle in a Reckless Manner. It is also a felony in Colorado to Operate a Vehicle in a Reckless Manner, or Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, if that was the Proximate Cause of Death of Another Person.

Legal Disclaimer – The information contained at this web site is not intended to be legal advice and all information regarding Colorado law is general content only and should not be relied upon for any specific Colorado criminal law situation. Information on this web site is not intended to be comprehensive and does not cover all the issues, nuances or ramifications related to the topic discussed. This web site may not be updated routinely to reflect the very most current Colorado law.

Individuals should consult an experienced Colorado criminal lawyer for advice regarding an individual situation.

Colorado Traffic Lawyer Articles by Ross Koplin

A Colorado Traffic Attorney: Why do you need one?

Colorado Driver’s License Point System

Colorado’s Habitual Traffic Offender Law

Colorado Traffic Infraction and Offense Tickets

Restrictions Applicable to Minor Drivers in Colorado

Careless Driving – The Colorado Catch-all Traffic Offense