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Factors that may elevate a traffic violation into a felony

A news story about a traffic stop typically calls to mind images of speeding motorists, with the most serious result being a speeding citation. However, two recent local traffic stops did not fare so well.

In both cases, the traffic stops involved drivers on all-terrain vehicles, or four-wheelers. Both men were spotted driving their ATVs on the highway. Under ordinary circumstances, such behavior might warrant a traffic ticket for the unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle -- to the extent that police officials did not simply let the offenders off with a warning.

However, both men were allegedly driving while intoxicated. To make matters worse, both also had previous DWI-related convictions. One of the men had apparently resorted to his ATV because the prior conviction had resulted in revoked driving privileges. That same man submitted to a breath test in the instant offense, which reportedly returned a blood alcohol content reading of .08 percent.

The stories are a good example of how additional circumstances can elevate traffic tickets into felony charges. They also illustrate why it can be important to raise a strong criminal defense to a traffic ticket, even for first-time offenders.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, points are assigned to certain traffic violations. Get too many points -- 11 within an 18-month period -- and you may run the risk of having your driver’s license suspended. However, points are not automatically awarded. Rather, points are added to a driver’s record only after he or she is convicted of a traffic violation.

Source: Poughkeepsie Journal, “ Amenia man driving quad charged with felony,” Nina Schutzman, July 20, 2014