What Are the Differences Between Criminal and Civil Traffic Violations?

In a civil traffic case, the defendant does not have the right to see the evidence against him, the officer who issued the ticket does not have to show up for court, and guilt does not have to be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, explains Nolo. In a criminal traffic case, the prosecution must prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, and the defendant has the right to demand the officer appear in court.

Civil traffic cases are only on the law books in a few states, while criminal traffic cases are on the books in the majority of states. In a criminal traffic case, these infractions are broken down into three categories: petty offense, misdemeanor and felony, explains Nolo.

A petty offense includes violations such as driving with an expired license, speeding and running a red light. While these crimes are considered criminal, they don't show up on a criminal record but could show up on a defendant's driving record, reports FindLaw.

Misdemeanor traffic offenses include driving without insurance, driving without a valid license or reckless driving. Felony traffic charges are the most serious, and those offenses include repeat DWI charges, certain hit-and-run offenses and vehicular homicide, FindLaw says.