A traffic violation could turn into a criminal offense of either a misdemeanor or felony if the circumstances surrounding the violation meet the state law for an upgraded charge, notes FindLaw.com. Generally, an upgrade is possible if someone is injured because of the violation or if property is damaged.
In some cases, the presence of a threat of injury to a person or damage to property can cause a traffic violation to be upgraded. Traffic violations that are considered willful attempts or malicious acts can also be upgraded, states FindLaw.com.
If a person fails to stop at a stop sign, that is likely to be considered a traffic offense. If the person who doesn't stop at the stop sign runs into another vehicle, that might upgrade the traffic violation to a misdemeanor. If that person purposely runs through the stop sign to hit another vehicle in a malicious manner, that might be upgraded to a felony, says FindLaw.com.
Traffic offenses are usually violations. Some common violations include running a stop sign, speeding or failing to use a turn signal. Some common traffic-related misdemeanors, which are criminal charges, include driving without a license, some drunk-driving offenses and failing to stop at an accident. Some traffic-related felonies include vehicular homicide and aggravated DUI or DWI, notes FindLaw.com.