Traffic Violations in Colorado
A traffic violation in Colorado occurs when vehicle users violate the laws that regulate vehicle operation on streets and highways in the state. These road traffic laws are intended to keep both the motorist and other road users safe. A refusal to obey these regulations may result in accidents, injuries, and even death.
Colorado traffic violations may be civil or criminal. Civil traffic violations or infractions are the least serious traffic crimes in the state because they can only result in a fine. Criminal violations may be misdemeanors or felonies that can result in harsh penalties or even jail time. These offenses can also result in accumulated points on an offenders Colorado traffic records.
Typically, when a traffic violation occurs, law enforcement officers issue the driver a ticket. A ticket or traffic citation means that the driver has a case to answer with the state. Such a driver may pay the fine, admitting the violation by so doing, or demand a hearing, denying the allegation.
Types of Traffic Violations in Colorado
A moving traffic violation in Colorado occurs when a driver commits an offense while physically controlling a vehicle. Examples of moving violations are speeding, drunk driving, and running a red light to stop signs. On the other hand, a non-moving traffic violation involves a stationary vehicle, like parking violations. Examples of non-moving violations are illegal parking, invalid driver’s registration, and missing or expired license plates.
Parking offenses form the bulk of non-moving violations, and these offenses are caused by parking in an illegal place or manner. Some examples are parking at an expired parking meter, in a no-parking zone, in front of a fire hydrant, driveway, or in a handicapped parking space without a valid permit.
Like most states, Colorado has a point system that the DMV uses to keep track of traffic offenses for licensed drivers. A point is a number attached to a traffic offense, and the more serious the offense, the greater the number of points assigned. Too many points will lead to a driver’s license suspension. Below is a list of common violations and their point values:
- Running from the scene of an accident attracts 12 points
- Driving under the influence of drugs or while intoxicated attracts 12 points
- Driving with ability impaired by alcohol attracts 8 points
- Reckless driving attracts 8 points
- Refusing to yield the right of way attracts 3 points
- Refusing to stop for a school bus attracts 6 points
- Driving in a wrong lane or on a one-way street attracts 3 points
- Refusing to yield to an emergency vehicle attracts 4 points
Under this point system, a person’s driver’s license can get suspended for accumulating too many points. The duration of a suspension depends largely on the driver’s age. For instance, 21 and older adult drivers will get a suspended license for gathering twelve points in twelve months or eighteen points in twenty-four months. Minor drivers between 18 and 20 get suspended licenses for an accumulated nine points in 12 months or 12 in 24 months. For minor drivers below 18, six points in 12 months or 7 points before turning 18.
Colorado uses a different system for professional drivers like taxi cab drivers and chauffeurs. The number of violation points that will trigger a license suspension in this category is 16 points in 12 months, 24 in 24 months, and 28 in 48 months.
Colorado Traffic Violation Code
The most common sources of legal authority for traffic violations in Colorado are the Colorado Revised Statutes (CRS) and municipal ordinances. These statutes contain codified traffic regulation laws for road users in the state. The revised statutes are state laws that apply everywhere, while municipal ordinances apply only in the municipality where they are adopted.
Even though state and municipality laws represent different sources of authority, they are based on the Model Traffic Code as promulgated by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The Model Traffic Code regulates areas like the size, weight, load of vehicles, traffic control signals, right of way, speed regulations, and penalties for violating the code.
While the governing source of authority may be different, there is a high degree of similarity between what constitutes a traffic violation under state or municipal law. The difference between being charged with a traffic violation under state law or a municipal ordinance is merely jurisdictional; that is, whether the rules apply to state courts or whether the rules applicable to municipal courts will apply.
Colorado Felony Traffic Violations
The State of Colorado distinguishes felony traffic offenses from misdemeanors based on the seriousness of the offense. The most serious traffic offenses in Colorado are classified as felony traffic violations. Any motorist responsible for a felony traffic violation may be convicted and made to serve time in a Colorado jail or state prison. Some examples of felony traffic violations in Colorado are:
- Refusing to stop at the scene of an accident that caused serious bodily injury or death (C.R.S 42-4-1601)
- Refusing to exercise due care and caution when passing a stationary emergency vehicle, towing carrier vehicle, or public utility service vehicle.
- Eluding a police officer
- Vehicular assault and vehicular homicide
- Driving a vehicle when revoked as a habitual traffic offender
- Creating a great risk of bodily injury by operating a vehicle in a reckless manner
Colorado Traffic Misdemeanors
Driving offenses in Colorado punishable by fines and, or jail time are termed misdemeanor traffic offenses. Traffic offenses in the state are often classified as misdemeanors when the offense results in the injury of people or property. These offenses are divided into class 1 and class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses under Section 42-4-1701 of the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Some examples of class 1 misdemeanor traffic offenses in Colorado include:
- Exceeding the official speed limit by 25 mph or more in construction, repair, or maintenance zone (C.R.S. 42-4-1101)
- Willfully participating in speed contests with a motor vehicle (C.R.S 42-4-1105)
- Careless driving that results in bodily injury (C.R.S 42-4-1402)
Examples of class 2 misdemeanor traffic offenses in Colorado are:
- Refusing to obey or comply with a lawful order or direction of a police officer (C.R.S 42-4-107)
- Driving or owning a vehicle that violates any of the provisions regarding wheel and axle loads (C.R.S 42-4-508 (4))
- Failing to stop and give notice, information, and aid after an accident that resulted in damage to a vehicle (C.R.S 42-4-1602 (1))
Colorado Traffic Infractions
In Colorado, traffic infractions are driving violations that are civil and not criminal. Unlike misdemeanor traffic offenses, infractions are punished only by fines and potential DMV points instead of jail time. Colorado traffic infractions are of two types, with the most serious being class A traffic infractions and the least serious as class B traffic infractions. Some common examples of class A traffic infractions in Colorado include:
- First Offense Underage DUI
- Drinking alcohol or possessing an open alcoholic beverage container while in the passenger seat of a vehicle on a public highway (CRS 42-4-1305 (2) (c))
- Driving through a safety zone (CRS 42-4-1305)
- Driving under the influence or while impaired with a blood-alcohol level between 0.02 and 0.05 at the time of driving or within two hours of driving (C.R.S 42-4-1301 (2) (a.5) (I)).
- Driving a motor vehicle with an open marijuana container in the passenger area of a vehicle on a public highway (C.R.S 42-4-1305.5 (2) (c)).
Examples of Colorado class B traffic infractions are:
- Driving a motor vehicle without a valid license or with an expired license (C.R.S 42-2-101 (10))
- Allowing an unauthorized person to drive (C.R.S 42-2-140)
- Allowing an unauthorized minor to drive (C.R.S 42-2-139)
- Driving a vehicle without license plates (C.R.S 42-4-237)
- Driving without a seat belt (C.R.S 42-4-237)
Colorado Traffic Violation Codes and Fines
Convictions for class A and B traffic infractions in Colorado attract $15 to $100 in fines and a surcharge. Typically, misdemeanor traffic offenses carry harsher punishments than infractions which are mere civil violations. Class one misdemeanor traffic offenses in Colorado attract between $300 to $1000 in fines, alongside DMV points. Class two misdemeanor traffic offenses in Colorado also attract fines between $150 to $300 and allocated DMV points. In the case of traffic infractions, only class A traffic violations carry DMV points.
How to Pay a Traffic Violation Ticket in Colorado
Traffic violations in Colorado often carry a fine or citation payable by the defaulting driver. Citations payable to the Department of Revenue must be postmarked within 20 days of the violation to prevent the citation from being sent to the court. However, if the citation is designated as a summons or a municipal citation, it must be paid through the appropriate court. The Department of Revenue cannot accept such a citation. Citations payable to the Department of Revenue must be postmarked within 20 days of the violation to prevent it from being sent to the court.
Payments may be made to the Division of Motor Vehicles (under the Department of Revenue) through its e-service payment portal, using a valid credit card or e-check. Mail payments may be by check or money order, as the division does not accept cash unless it is an in-person payment.
Making this payment establishes a guilty plea on behalf of the motorist, and the points associated with the charge will be reported to the DMV. Where the person’s driver’s license is issued by another state that has an agreement with Colorado, that state will also receive a notification of the penalty points.
Receiving too many points will result in a loss of a driver’s license. Following the suspension of a person’s driver’s license, the DMV may grant a probationary license. It is a temporary license that is issued to drivers after a DMV hearing. However, not all suspensions or revocations permit this license, and the license is good for only a limited amount of time. It also has strict limitations on how to use them, such as for work or school only.
Traffic Violation Lookup in Colorado
Outstanding violations can threaten the status of a person’s license. So, it is important to keep track of these things to avoid being caught by surprise with a suspension. The easiest way to find traffic violation history is to go through the DMV and request a Motor Vehicle Record.
In Colorado, the DMV maintains driving records of the show activity posted on a driver’s record for the past seven years. Interested persons may request certified and non-certified copies of their motor vehicle records via an online portal. Written requests may also be made by name, and the requestor must attach the following:
- The requestor’s full name
- The requestor’s date of birth
- Driver’s license number (where one is available)
- A complete and legible signature of the driver
- A photocopy of the driver’s photo ID bearing that signature
- The appropriate fees
- A copy of a DR2489 form
Privacy laws prohibit the DMV from releasing another person’s driving record to a requestor without permission. An employer, for instance, requesting such a record must meet the criteria of the ‘Driver Record Search Requestor Release.’ The employer must also fill the DR2489 form and pay the appropriate fees.
How to Plead not Guilty to a Traffic Violation in Colorado
To contest traffic violation charges in Colorado, the first thing to do is plead ‘not guilty.’ It can be done in person or by mail. The ticket provides the name and location of the court to be notified before the arraignment date, which is also specified on the ticket. Once the court receives the ‘not guilty plea, it will schedule a date for a final hearing if the motorist contests an infraction, which is a less serious traffic violation.
Otherwise, it will schedule a pre-trial conference for a more serious traffic offense, carrying fines and jail time upon conviction. The driver’s attorney may contest the traffic citation at the hearing to get the charges dismissed or dropped. Depending on the facts of the traffic citation case, the lawyer may negotiate a settlement.
Most times, the defendant may be required to change their plea to ‘guilty’ in exchange for reducing the penalties. If there is no mutually-acceptable agreement reached in the pre-trial conference, the court will fix a date for a final hearing. The entire process takes between 3 to 4 weeks.
Only two possible outcomes can arise from challenging a Colorado traffic citation - a guilty or not guilty verdict. Punishments that may follow a guilty verdict are fines, community service, mandatory defensive driving course, or jail time.
What Happens if You Plead No Contest to a Traffic Violation in Colorado
When entering a plea for a traffic citation, a defendant has three options: plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A no-contest or nolo contendere plea means that the defendant admits the charges but denies the underlying facts. It is similar to a guilty plea, but for technical differences. The best time to use this plea is when damage is attached to the charge, like an accident.
Suppose the driver ran a red light and hit someone; then the state charges the driver for failure to obey a traffic control device. In that case, a guilty plea is an admission that can be used in civil court to show fault for the accident. However, if the defendant enters a no-contest plea, such a defendant makes no admission to the fact, and it cannot be brought up in a civil suit for damages.
How Long Do Traffic Violations Stay on Your Record?
Traffic violations or tickets stay on a person’s Colorado driving record for even years. These tickets can affect a driver’s license points, driving privileges, and car insurance rates. The state will then suspend the driver’s license for receiving at least 12 points in a year.
Can Traffic Violations Be Expunged/Sealed in Colorado?
Generally, traffic violation convictions cannot be expunged or sealed in Colorado. In the wordings of Section 24-72-701 – 708 of the Colorado Revised Statutes, a felony, misdemeanor, or traffic infraction committed by either a holder of a commercial learner’s permit or a commercial driver’s license cannot be sealed. The violation remains on a driver’s record forever.
What Happens if You Miss a Court Date for a Traffic Violation in Colorado?
Missing court dates in Colorado is a very serious offense called Failure to Appear (FTA). Concerning a traffic charge, it can negatively influence the judge or District Attorney, affecting the chances of getting a good result from the case. If a person misses a court date for a traffic violation or fails to show up, the court may automatically find the person guilty of the charges or issue a warrant for the person’s arrest.
A bench warrant means that the police will actively look for the defendant to bring the person into custody. With the authority of a bench warrant, the police have the right to conduct an arrest at the defendant’s house, school, or any other place where the defendant may be found. Also, the defendant is considered a fugitive, and if the police identify the person at a traffic stop or the airport, they have the authority to carry out an arrest. Instead of missing a court date, the right thing is to contact the court and either move it up in time or delay the matter to another date.