A traffic violation can be either a misdemeanor, meaning it is a criminal offense, or an infraction, which is not a crime and usually taken care of without a court appearance if the offender pays the required fine. Examples of traffic violations are running a red light, speeding, failing to stop completely at a stop sign, changing lanes without signaling, driving a vehicle with poorly or nonfunctioning turn signals and brake lights, turning from the wrong lane and driving without a seatbelt. Driving while talking or texting on a cell phone is considered a violation in most states as well.
If a driver receives multiple moving violations, his or her driver’s license might be suspended and his or her insurance rates caused to rise or, in some cases, a person may lose insurance altogether. Most states offer traffic school as an alternative to receiving strikes against their driving record.
There have been a number of high-profile celebrities caught for various traffic violations. Maria Shriver, spouse of Governor Schwarzenegger of California, was spotted on a number of occasions using her cell phone without a hands-free device in violation of California law, although she was not ticketed. The adverse publicity caused Shriver to break down and buy a hand-free phone device.
Paris Hilton has been stopped on more than one occasion for various traffic violations. She was arrested and convicted on a DUI charge in 2006 for which she spent 45 days in jail for violating her probation after a bizarre turn of events in her sentencing. Her traffic violation had been driving 70 mph in a 35 mph zone with a suspended license. In 2010, she was ticketed for using the specialized lane for overtaking slower vehicles on Santa Monica Boulevard.
Occasionally, a routine traffic stop can result in the discovery of illegal substances. In 2006, Willie Nelson’s tour bus was pulled over for a routine traffic violation in Louisiana. When the officer had the bus door opened, a strong odor of marijuana wafted out. A search of the bus uncovered over a pound of marijuana and several ounces of hallucinogenic mushrooms. Nelson and his crew, however, were only charged with misdemeanors and released.