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If you were cited in New York for a traffic violation, it can be difficult to know what steps to take. The first step you should take is to understand what you were cited for and what penalties you may be facing.

Most traffic tickets are considered to be infractions. Infractions include things like speeding, not using a turn signal, and driving a car with one headlight out. Infractions are not crimes. As such, they do not carry the same penalties as criminal offenses. Many of these infractions are not handled by the courts but instead are handled by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles Traffic Violations Bureau. 

In New York, some traffic violations are considered to be more serious than infractions. Unlike infractions, these violations are crimes. They are categorized as either misdemeanors or felonies. In general, a traffic violation becomes a misdemeanor or a felony if it causes injury to a person or destruction to property or if it creates a threat of injury to person or destruction to property.

Misdemeanors are less severe crimes. Generally, they are punishable by a fine or by incarceration in jail of less than one year. Examples of traffic misdemeanors include driving without a valid driver's license, DUI/DWAI, and reckless driving.

Felonies are the most serious crimes, which are punishable by more than one year in prison. Examples of traffic felonies include vehicular homicide, multiple DUI/DWAI convictions, and some "hit-and-run" offenses.

Drivers who are accused of a criminal traffic violation have all of the same rights and protections that criminal defendants have. For example, they have the right to a lawyer and a jury trial, these charges are dealt with by the court system, rather than the Traffic Violations Bureau.

If you have been charged with a misdemeanor or felony traffic offense, you may want to contact an experienced traffic ticket attorney. As with any other criminal charge, traffic violations should be taken seriously. Not only can they carry serious penalties, but they can also have lasting consequences on your driving record.

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