The ability to drive a motor vehicle on a public highway is not a fundamental right under the United States Constitution; it is a revocable privilege that is granted upon compliance with statutory licensing procedures. Whether the right to operate a motor vehicle is termed a right or a privilege, one’s ability to travel on public highways is always subject to reasonable regulation by the state in the valid exercise of its police power. Accordingly, state vehicle codes were promulgated to increase the safety and efficiency of public roadways, and it is viewed as an enhancement rather than an infringement upon a citizen’s right to travel. The privilege properly may be revoked for noncompliance, and revocation is not an unconstitutional infringement of the revokee’s right to travel.
The law or rules of the road have been enacted into law by state statute or local ordinance. Depending upon the offense, the violation can be a criminal offense or a “traffic” offense or infraction, which, although not a crime, is governed by rules governing lesser crimes such as misdemeanors. In general, if there is a conflict between a local traffic ordinance and a state statute regulating the same subject, the state statute will prevail.
Typically, traffic regulations will address the following subject matter:
Enforcement of these traffic regulations is the responsibility of the state and local public entity. The punishment imposed is based upon the category of offense. A state’s traffic and vehicle code will identify whether the offense is a minor traffic offense or infraction, for which a fine is imposed, or a misdemeanor or felony, both of which carry a fine, imprisonment, or both. In most cases, driver demerit “points” are imposed. Moreover, provisions are made for repeat offenders, resulting in increased fines, imprisonment, suspension or revocation of one’s license, and traffic violator schools.
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