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Auto (Speeding, Traffic)

What constitutes a "minor violation" or infraction varies, examples include non-moving violations, defective or improper vehicle equipment, seat belt and child-restraint safety violations, and insufficient proof of license, insurance or registration. A trend in the late 1970s and early 1980s also saw an increased tendency for jurisdictions to re-classify certain speeding violations as civil infractions. In contrast, for more "serious" violations, traffic violators may be held criminally liable, accused of a misdemeanor or even a felony. Serious violations tend to involve multiple prior offenses, willful disregard of public safety, death or serious bodily injury, or damage to property. A frequently used penalty is a fine, and this is ordinarily a fixed amount of money, instead of being an amount of money determined based on the facts of each individual case. If the motorist wishes to contest a traffic infraction, a hearing can be set by the court upon proper request. The hearings are before a magistrate or judge depending on the state or city. Hearing dates may potentially be adjourned, and witnesses or police officers may be subpoenaed to appear in court. At any point after the issuance of a ticket, a motorists may retain an attorney to represent them in a traffic infraction. Retaining or consulting an attorney may be beneficial to the motorist because an attorney would better understand how to contest an infraction in any given state or municipality. Attorneys may offer full representation in court, taking a case from inception to disposal and potentially appeals, although it may be possible for a defendant to retain a lawyer to discuss legal options, identify important defenses, and determine a defense strategy without hiring the lawyer to provide in-court representation. The motorist may be given the opportunity to schedule a hearing for a time at which the subpoenaed ticketing officer is unable to attend. If the officer or representative fails to attend the trial for a civil infraction, the trial court may adjourn the hearing to a date upon which the officer is able to appear or, particularly if good cause is not shown for the officer's absence, the court judge may dismiss the charge. Although each judge, state, county or municipality handle contested hearings a little differently, the court may make provisions for the prosecutor to achieve a deal with the motorist, often in the form of a plea bargain that may reduce the impact from that which would be incurred from pleading guilty without attending court. If no agreement is reached, and the prosecutor feels it is worth his time to charge the motorist, both motorist and officer, or their respective representatives, formally attempt to prove their case before the judge, who then decides the matter. In some states and for criminal traffic violations, the judge may also order a jury trial, in which case a jury will hear arguments from both sides, and then consider the facts in the case and render a verdict. The motorist may, for example, put forward a reason their alleged violation was justified, such as to "get out of the way of an ambulance or avoid a collision with another motorist", and call into doubt the level to which the officer recalls the specific details of the situation among the many tickets they have issued.

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