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Missouri Traffic Violations
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Traffic Violations in Missouri

To protect road users, the state of Missouri institutes laws to guide the conduct of motorists and the operation of vehicles. When drivers break these laws, they commit traffic violations. Examples of these violations include speeding, passing a stopped school bus, aggressive driving, driving under the influence (DUI), parking in a handicapped space, and driving with an expired license or a missing license plate. Records of these offenses are typically featured in the offenders Missouri traffic record.

Missouri classifies traffic violations based on severity: infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Traffic felonies are the most severe traffic-related offenses in the state. These violations often result in casualties. As a result, offenders are often penalized with lengthy imprisonment and high fines. Traffic misdemeanors, on the other hand, are violations that attract jail terms not exceeding a year and monetary penalties. When compared to felonies, traffic misdemeanors are considered less severe, resulting in less harm to individuals and damage to property than felonies. Lastly, infractions are minor offenses that do not lead to imprisonment, unlike traffic misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions are punishable by fines, community service, driver education programs, demerit points, and other non-criminal penalties deemed fitting by the courts and Department of Revenue.

Types of Traffic Violations in Missouri

Beyond the criminal and noncriminal classification used for traffic violations in Missouri (see above), the state also considers the motion of a vehicle when classifying traffic offenses. As such, a traffic offense can also be a moving or non-moving violation.

Moving Violations

A moving violation occurs when a motorist disobeys a traffic law while their vehicle is in motion. This type of traffic violation often endangers the lives of other road users. As such, offenders are usually punished severely. Examples of these violations include:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Vehicular manslaughter
  • Driving under the influence
  • Running a red light
  • Driving with an expired or suspended license
  • Hit and run
  • Driving without proof of vehicle insurance
  • Failure to maintain a single lane

Non-Moving Violations

A non-moving violation typically occurs due to negligent parking, faulty vehicle equipment, and paperwork violations. Regardless, a non-moving violation does not necessarily only occur when a vehicle is stationary, standing, or parked. Some offenses occur when a vehicle is in motion. Examples of non-moving violations include:

  • Parking in a no-parking zone
  • Parking at an expired parking meter
  • Parking in front of a driveway
  • Expired or no license plate
  • Broken headlight or tail light
  • Failing to display a fuel license/permit

Missouri Traffic Violation Code

In every US state, statutes, local ordinances, and regulations govern road usage and vehicle operation. These laws outline acts or behaviors that constitute traffic violations and the penalties for offenders.

Missouri's traffic violation statutes are outlined under the Motor Vehicle and Traffic Code or Title XIX of the Missouri Revised Statutes. This code covers driver licensing, vehicle registration procedures, traffic violations, and rules of the road for Missouri motorists.

Missouri Felony Traffic Violations

In Missouri, most violations are classified as traffic infractions or misdemeanors. However, the state treats certain offenses as felonies based on the gravity of the offenses or other aggravating factors. This includes bodily injury, death, reoccurring offenses, damage to property, and the continuous disregard for road safety law. Examples of felony traffic violations in Missouri include:

  • Driving with a suspended or revoked license
  • Hit and run
  • Driving while intoxicated/DWI (fourth or subsequent violation)
  • DWI that led to the death of a law enforcement personnel
  • DWI that caused the death of two or more persons

Missouri groups felony offenses into classes A to E, class A standing for the most severe felonies, and class E representing the least serious felonies. For instance, when an individual is caught driving with a revoked license at least twice, the offense will be treated as a class E felony. Upon a conviction, an individual may spend four years or less in prison. An offender may also be put on probation rather than prison since the law does not specify a minimum prison sentence.

Similarly, a DUI (driving under the influence) can be prosecuted as a class E felony, but the charge can be amplified to a class A felony if:

  • An individual has previously been labeled as a habitual DUI offender.
  • An individual has a prior conviction for driving while intoxicated with criminal negligence that caused the death of two or more persons.
  • Other conditions outlined in (Section 577.010 (6), RSMo)

Given how the state of Missouri considers class A felonies, a conviction can lead to at least ten years in prison to life imprisonment plus high fines.

Missouri Traffic Misdemeanors

One way to identify a traffic misdemeanor in Missouri is by the jail sentence imposed on an offender. Per the law, traffic misdemeanants do not spend more than a year in jail. In addition, they may be subjected to fines and probation (which may include community services and participation in a treatment program). Examples of traffic misdemeanors include:

  • Hit and Run (First-time offender)
  • Evading a police officer
  • Driving under the influence (the first, second, or third offense)
  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving without a license
  • Failing to provide proof of insurance
  • Driving on a suspended/revoked license (first or second time offender)
  • Driving across a divided highway
  • Driving an overweight vehicle
  • Presenting a third-party license as own license
  • Driving a commercial vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance

There are four classes of misdemeanors (Class A to D) in Missouri. Each has a maximum jail and fine penalty.

Missouri Traffic Infractions

Traffic infractions are considered the lesser traffic violations in Missouri. These offenses do not carry a jail term. Typically, when caught committing such offenses, an individual will be ticketed and asked to pay a fine or appear in court. An offense can also lead to the addition of demerit points on a person's driving record.

Unlike felony and misdemeanor offenses, individuals accused of traffic infractions need not stand before a judge or jury because these cases do not go to trial unless the accused wants to challenge the charge(s). Examples of traffic infractions in Missouri include:

  • Parking in a no-parking zone
  • Driving without a seat belt or child restraint
  • Not registering a motor vehicle with the Department of Revenue
  • Displaying motor vehicle plates that belongs to another person
  • Using expired motor vehicle plates
  • Running a red light
  • Exceeding a posted speed limit (1 to 5 mph)
  • Failing to wear headgear or a protective kit while driving a motorcycle

It is worth noting that although a traffic infraction does not lead to a jail sentence, an offense can be elevated to a misdemeanor if it reoccurs or has a criminal element. In these cases, an offender may be sentenced to jail.

Missouri Traffic Violation Codes and Fines

Missouri prescribes penalties for traffic violations based on the severity of an individual's offense. One of these penalties is the payment of fines.

Road users guilty of traffic infractions will usually incur a fine not exceeding $400. For traffic misdemeanors, the fine assessed depends on the class of a misdemeanor:

  • Class D misdemeanors: A maximum fine of $500
  • Class C misdemeanors: A maximum fine of $750
  • Class B misdemeanors: A maximum fine of $1,000
  • Class A misdemeanors: A maximum fine of $2,000

For a class C, D, or E felony, the maximum fine is $10,000.

Individuals interested in reviewing the specific fines imposed for traffic violations in Missouri can check the Uniform Fine Schedules published online by the courts. In addition to these fines, a traffic offender may also have to pay extra fees for their offense. For example, a moving violation in a construction zone attracts an additional $35 for a first offense and $75 for subsequent offenses.

How to Pay a Traffic Violation Ticket in Missouri

Missouri state and local law enforcement officers can issue traffic tickets for minor or severe traffic violations committed in the state. Some tickets require an offender to appear in court before making a payment - for example, a traffic offense involving casualties - whereas others do not. Usually, the tickets that can be resolved (i.e., paid) without a court appearance are those issued for minor traffic offenses. If cited for such an offense, an offender may only present themselves in court to plead not guilty or pay the corresponding fine.

Generally, individuals whose tickets do not mandate a court appearance in Missouri can pay their tickets online using the state judiciary's Plead and Pay feature. Payments can also be sent via mail or made in person.

To pay via mail, a motorist can append their signature on the appropriate portion of their citation, i.e., where "Plea of Guilty, Appearance and Waiver" is indicated. Afterward, the individual can send the signed ticket along with a money order or check in the amount of the total fine to the court listed on the ticket. Offenders may also visit the court to pay in person.

It is important to note that paying a traffic violation ticket in Missouri equals pleading guilty. As such, an offender may not only incur fines but other penalties associated with a guilty plea as well. For example, demerit points.

Traffic Violation Lookup in Missouri

There are two ways to look up traffic violation cases or tickets in Missouri: through the Missouri courts' case management system or requesting a driving record from the Department of Revenue.

Case management system: The Missouri judiciary operates a case management system known as Case.net. This system allows motorists and other members of the public to search for case records, including records of traffic proceedings held in the state. To retrieve information from this system, an individual must select the presiding court and input the relevant case number into the provided box.

Driving records: The government agency in charge of maintaining and disseminating driving records in Missouri is the Department of Revenue (DOR). These records contain details about traffic violations. As such, they are a means of reviewing information about a driver's traffic violations.

To request a personal driver record, an individual can stop by any Missouri license office, submit a photo ID, and pay a fee. Alternatively, the interested person may send a completed Request from Driver License Record Holder (or Form 4681) and the appropriate fee via email, mail, or fax to the Driver License Record Center.

Persons requesting someone else's driver record may also follow the aforementioned processes. However, the DOR will only release records without the personal information of the record holder. (Personal information can only be obtained with the consent of the record owner.)

How to Plead not Guilty to a Traffic Violation in Missouri

Pleading not guilty to a traffic offense in Missouri is an option provided to individuals who want to contest their charges in hopes of proving their innocence or reducing their penalties. Generally, there are two ways that motorists can plead not guilty to traffic violations in Missouri:

By court appearance: A ticketed motorist can appear in court to plead not guilty to a traffic violation and request a trial. This appearance can be made on or before the due date indicated on one's ticket.*

After submitting the request, the court will schedule a trial date on which the offender or defendant can appear with evidence, witnesses, and an attorney to defend their claim. A defendant can also choose to represent themselves.

If the judge rules in favor of the defendant at the end of the trial, the case will be dismissed, and there would be no need to pay the traffic ticket fine. Also, the Department of Revenue will not list the violation on the defendant's driving record.

By written declaration: Motorists can also plead not guilty and request a trial by written declaration. Here, an individual will receive forms via mail to write a statement and submit evidence to support their plea without appearing in court. The prosecuting officer will also send a statement via mail.

Once the court receives statements from both sides, a judge will review the case and forward a verdict to the defendant via mail.

It should be noted that a motorist may be asked to pay the ticket fine amount before submitting a written declaration. If the court acquits the motorist, it will order a refund.

What Happens if You Plead No Contest to a Traffic Violation in Missouri

When an individual decides to enter a no-contest (nolo contendere) plea to a traffic violation in Missouri, it means that the party does not wish to admit guilt for the offense or contest the penalties. In simpler terms, a no-contest plea means giving up the right to defend oneself in a legal suit without admitting to any wrongdoing.

The Missouri courts do not permit "no contest" pleas for traffic violations. Defendants can only plead guilty or not guilty.

How Long Do Traffic Violations Stay on Your Record?

The severity of a traffic violation determines the length of its stay on a person's Missouri driving record. Per the law, a conviction for a moving violation remains on an offender's record for at least three years from the conviction date. However, suppose an offense resulted in the suspension or revocation of a driver's license. In that case, it will stay on record for five years, beginning from the date the offender's license is reinstated.

Additionally, individuals convicted of a DUI, DWI, or another misdemeanor for the first time may have to wait ten years before removal. For repeat offenders, a traffic conviction may stay on record for life.

Can Traffic Violations Be Expunged in Missouri?

Yes, some traffic violations can be expunged in Missouri. The state permits expungement for minor offenses, such as speeding, careless and imprudent driving, failing to yield to a particular lane, and running a red light. Also, traffic convictions that are three years or older and did not result in a license suspension or revocation are eligible for expungement.

Convictions that do not meet the expungement criteria in Missouri include:

  • Class A felony offenses
  • Felonies involving death or assault
  • Offenses related to intoxication (for repeat offenders)
  • Violations committed by commercial drivers

However, first-time DUI (driving under the influence) offenders are allowed to seek expungement ten years after serving their sentences under Section 610.130, RSMo, provided they had no subsequent alcohol-related convictions within that period.

What Happens if You Miss a Court Date for a Traffic Violation in Missouri?

Motorists involved in traffic violation proceedings within Missouri may often need to appear in court to resolve the matter. Sometimes, this appearance will be optional, like in the case of a motorist who was ticketed for a noncriminal violation and wishes to contest the charge in court. Other times, a court appearance will be necessary, given the seriousness of a person's offense. Either way, anyone who has a court date because of a traffic violation is expected to show up when and where mandated; otherwise, the courts may impose additional penalties.

Missing such date may result in a default judgment entered against a defendant. It could also lead to the issuance of a bench warrant for the person’s arrest, additional costs, and the withdrawal of driving privileges.