Texas Court Records
What Are Traffic Violations And Infractions In Texas?
In Texas, traffic violations and infractions are offenses that occur in the operation of vehicles on the highway. There exist two broad categories of traffic offenses. Traffic violations are more severe than traffic infractions, and violations range from misdemeanors to felonies.
On the other hand, traffic infractions are not as severe. These offenses are not penalized by a jail term. Instead, the offender would be required to pay a fine.
What Are Felony Traffic Violations In Texas?
Felony traffic violations are driving offenses that are punishable by imprisonment either in the state jail or prison. These violations are by law the most severe kind of violations with the minimum penalty being 180 days in the state jail.
Some traffic violations like driving while intoxicated with a child passenger is a felony on the first offense under Texas law. However, other traffic violations require repeated convictions to become felonies. The degree of the violation can also make the offense a felony.
Where the violation results in serious harm or death of an individual, it can become a felony. The State of Texas categorizes felonies into five different types having a range of punishments.
- State Jail Felony: Between 180 days (six months) and two years in state jail, and may include a fine not surpassing $10,000.
- Third Degree Felony: Between two to ten years in the divisional institution, and may involve a fine not exceeding $10,000
- Second Degree Felony: Between two to twenty years in the divisional institution, and may include a fine not exceeding $10,000
- First Degree Felony: Between five years to life imprisonment in the divisional institution, and may include a fine not exceeding $10,000
- Capital Degree Felony: Life imprisonment in the divisional institution, or death
Examples Of Felony Traffic Violations In Texas?
Examples of felony traffic violations in Texas include:
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) with a child passenger under section § 49.045 of the Texas Penal Code; this is a state jail felony
- Multiple (three or more) DWI convictions; this is a Third Degree felony under section § 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code
- Intoxication Assault according to section § 49.07 of the Texas Penal Code; this is also a Third Degree felony
- Intoxication Manslaughter under section § 49.08 of the Texas Penal Code; this offense is a Second Degree Felony
- Intoxication Assault, where the victim is a judge or peace officer; this is a First Degree felony under section § 49.09 of the Texas Penal Code.
- Hit and run offenses where the victim is killed or seriously injured.
What Are Traffic Misdemeanors In Texas?
Traffic misdemeanors are driving violations that are not as serious as traffic felonies. By Texas law, the highest penalty for a misdemeanor is a jail term for one year or a fine of $4,000, or both. And like felonies, misdemeanors remain on the offender’s criminal record.
There are three categories of misdemeanors in the State of Texas. Each classification has a range of penalties.
- Class A Misdemeanor: Confinement in jail for not more than one year, a fine of less than $4,000, or both
- Class B Misdemeanor: Confinement in the jail for not more than 180 days, a fine of less than $2,000, or both
- Class C Misdemeanor: A fine not exceeding $500
Examples Of Traffic Misdemeanors In Texas?
Traffic misdemeanors in Texas include:
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI); by section § 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code, the offense is a Class B misdemeanor on the first offense. On the second conviction, the offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor
- Possession of alcohol in a motor vehicle according to section § 49.031 of the Texas Penal Code; this constitutes a Class C misdemeanor
- Driving under the influence by a minor under section § 106.041 of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code; the violation is a Class C misdemeanor but becomes a Class B misdemeanor if the minor is above 17 years and has been convicted twice.
What Constitutes A Traffic Infraction In Texas?
Traffic infractions are minor offenses that are generally not punished by jail time but by fines. By Texas law, some of these traffic infractions can be made civil offenses at the discretion of the municipality. Whatever the case, payment of the fine becomes a guilty plea automatically.
These traffic infractions can, however, be contested. To contest any traffic ticket, the recipient must first inform the county court of the intention to enter a not guilty plea. This notification must be done before the due date stated on the ticket. After this, the court would fix a date for a hearing.
Where the offender is unable to afford the fine, proof of the financial disability should be given to the judge. The judge can then issue a partial waiver, which is a reduction of the fine. The offender could also be asked to pay by installments or to do community service in lieu of payment.
Examples Of Traffic Infractions In Texas?
According to the State of Texas, some examples of traffic infractions are:
- Driving uninsured vehicle
- Failure to display a driver license
- Following too closely
- The improper blowing of the horn
- Improper turn
- Parking violation
How Does Traffic Ticket Work In Texas?
A traffic ticket is an official notice given to motorists by law enforcement, stating that the recipient has violated traffic laws. The municipal courts are the courts that have jurisdiction over traffic tickets. To get a traffic ticket dismissed in Texas, the requester must first locate the court. This information is usually provided on the ticket.
After locating the court, the requester should enter a not guilty plea. The court should, however, be notified of the intention to enter a not guilty plea. The notification can be done in person or by mail. The court on receiving the notification can then inform the requester if the ticket is capable of being dismissed.
The requester can also get the ticket dismissed under Article 45.0511 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. This article provides for the dismissal of tickets by taking a driving safety course. The course must be approved by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.
To be eligible for the course, the requester must meet the following requirements:
- Must have pleaded “guilty” or “no contest” before the court
- Must apply for dismissal of the ticket by taking the driving safety course
- Have a valid Texas drivers license
- Has not taken the driving course within the past 12 months
- Have proof of liability insurance
- Was not driving 25 MPH over the speed limit
On completion of the course, a certificate is issued to the offender. The certificate is to be submitted to the court along with the Type 3A driving record.
By Section 682.002 of the Texas Transportation Code, a municipality can declare a parking offense as a civil offense. As such, in municipalities like Austin, parking tickets are civil offenses. On the other hand, most speeding offenses are Class C misdemeanors under Chapter 545 of the Texas Transportation Code.
The Texas Transportation Code, Chapter 708, provided for the allocation of penalty points. The point system was a part of the Drivers Responsibility Program. This Chapter has, however, been repealed, as stated by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
According to Article 102.22 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, a moving violation occurs in the course of operating a vehicle. Section 542.304 of the Texas Transportation Code provides that moving violations include a traffic law violation of Texas or any other state and an offense under Section 545.412 of the same Code.
In simpler terms, a moving violation is an offense that occurs when a vehicle is in motion. By contrast, a non-moving violation occurs when the vehicle is stationary.
Are Driving Records Public In Texas?
Under Texas Transportation Code Chapter 730, driving records are not public records. However, the records can be accessed by anyone who has obtained the written consent of the person who is the subject of the record.
The Department of Public Safety may also disclose the records if the requester indicates that the use of personal information will be limited strictly to:
- Use by or on behalf of a government agency
- Use in connection with a matter of motor vehicle theft; motor vehicle or motor vehicle operator safety, etc
- Use in the ordinary and legitimate course of business to verify the accuracy of the information submitted by the subject
- Use as further provided in Section 730.007 of the Texas Transportation Code.
The driver record request form also provides for the requirements that must be met if the requester does not have the subject’s written consent. The Texas Department of Public Safety states six types of driving records that can be requested.
- Status Record (Type 1): This record contains the subject’s name, date of birth (DOB), latest address, and license status
- 3-year History Record (Type 2): This record provides the name, Date Of Birth, license status, list of accidents, and moving violations on record within the past three years
- List of All Accidents and Violations on Record (Type 3): Unlike the previous record, this contains the name, date of birth, license status, list of all accidents, and violations on record
- Certified 3-year History record (Type 2A): This is a certified version of the 3-year History Record (Type 2). It is, however, not acceptable for a Defensive Driving Course
- Certified List of All Accidents and Violations on Record (Type 3A): This is a certified version of List of All Accidents and Violations on Record (Type 3). This record is acceptable for a Defensive Driving Course (DDC)
- Certified Abstracts of Driving Record (Type AR): This is a Certified abstract of the license holder’s complete driving record.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How To Find Traffic/driving Records In Texas?
The agency responsible for maintaining driving records is the Drivers License Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety. A requester can order a driving record from the Department online or by mail. The driving records cannot be obtained in person.
However, an online request can only be made by the subject of the driving record. Anyone other than the subject can request for the driving record by mail. To make an order, the requester must know the type of driving record sought.
The fee for the driving record is dependent on the type sought. For Type 1, Type 2, and Type 3, the fee is $4, $6, and $7, respectively. Type 2A and Type 3A driving records cost $10, while Type AR costs $20.
When the request is made online, payment is by credit card. However, only mail checks and money orders made payable to the Texas Department of Public Safety are accepted for mail orders.
As provided by the Department of Public Safety, the requester must have the following information to make an online order:
- The subject’s latest Texas driver license, commercial driver license or identification card number, as well as the audit number from that card. If the requester is unable to provide any of these, security questions are provided for identity verification
- The date of birth of the subject
- The final four digits of the subject’s Social Security Number
- An acceptable credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express) for the required fee
- The capacity to print or email the record immediately after purchase
To order for a driving record by mail, the requester is required to complete a request form and submit it with the required fee to:
Texas Department of Public Safety
PO Box 149008
Austin, Texas 78714–9008
Traffic violations stay on the subjects driving record for a period of three years in Texas.
Can Traffic Violation And Infractions Be Expunged/sealed In Texas?
Traffic violations (except parking violations) are considered as criminal offenses under Texas law. As such, it can be expunged or sealed like all criminal records. Article 55.01 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure provides for the expunction of criminal records. It states the conditions that must be satisfied before an individual request for an expunction order. Expungement of the traffic violations cannot be sought until after the required waiting period.
Felonies require a waiting period of three years while the waiting period for Class A and B misdemeanors is one year. For traffic violations that are Class C misdemeanors, the waiting period is 180 days (six months) from the date of arrest.
By the Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 55.03, when a record is expunged, it cannot be released or used. The subject of the record is also allowed to deny the existence of the record unless under oath. Under oath, a statement that the matter under consideration has been expunged would suffice.
Traffic violations can also be sealed under Texas Government Code Section 411.071. By this section, the court can grant an order of nondisclosure to the offender. The requirements that must be met to be eligible for an order of nondisclosure are provided under Texas Government Code Section 411.074.
To be qualified for the nondisclosure order, the requester must have pled guilty or no contest to the offense. After that, the court must have placed the offender on deferred adjudication community supervision. As soon as an order of nondisclosure has been granted, the court’s clerk seals such a record. However, the record is still accessible by specific persons, as provided in Texas Government Code Section 411.076.