Administrative vs. Criminal Traffic Violations in Minnesota

Traffic violations can be some of the most confusing issues to resolve. After all, many people receive a speeding ticket at some point in their life, but the outcome of that ticket relies on a variety of factors.

Officials in Minnesota have recently established extra statewide enforcement of traffic speed. The goal of increased law enforcement presence? Reduce accidents, injuries, and deaths related to driving at dangerous speeds.

Many people find the number of different traffic violations confusing. There are administrative violations and criminal ones. But what is the difference? And what penalties are associated with each? Read on to find out.

Minnesota Law: Is It an Administrative or Criminal Violation?

An administrative violation is often associated with breaking the Minnesota traffic code. The penalties only affect your driving record and your wallet, like paying a speeding ticket. These violations are usually dealt with in traffic court, a large contrast to criminal court.

On the other hand, the penalty for a criminal traffic violation goes beyond your right to drive. In this instance, criminal courts become involved in the case. A very common criminal traffic violation is driving under the influence.

If convicted for these crimes, you could not only lose your license – you also may spend time in jail and be responsible for criminal fines.

Minor Traffic Offense

Usually, minor traffic offenses fall under the umbrella of administrative violations. In Minnesota, there is no point system in place for your driver’s license. Instead, there is a history on your record of minor and major violations.

Violations like running  a red light can result in fines, a license suspension or temporary revocation, and possibly enforced community service. You can challenge these offenses in traffic court, and you are allowed to be represented by an attorney in the proceedings.

More Serious Traffic Offenses

Offenses in which another person is endangered by your driving are generally considered criminal, and they come with criminal charges. They may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. If convicted, the offense can mark your permanent driving record as well as your criminal record.

These types of crimes are adjudicated in criminal court, where you are entitled to a proper defense attorney.

Serious traffic offenses in Minnesota include:

  • Reckless driving
  • Driving without insurance
  • Fleeing the scene of an accident
  • Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (DWI) or operating a vehicle under the influence (DUI)

Misdemeanor Penalties in Minnesota

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor traffic offense in Minnesota – such as driving at excessive speed – you may face misdemeanor charges. If your actions endangered the life of another person, the offense could be charged as a gross misdemeanor. A guilty verdict can land you in jail for up to three months and hold you responsible for fines up to $1,000.

Duluth Traffic Violation Lawyers

If you are found guilty of a felony traffic offense in Minnesota, the penalties are harsh. For example, if you are involved in a hit and run accident that caused the death of another person, you may be sentenced up to three years in prison and fined up to $5,000.


About the Author:

A lifelong Minnesotan, founding partner Ronald R. Envall has spent his entire legal career fighting for the little guy, focusing on workers’ compensation, Social Security, and personal injury cases. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers as a Top Rated attorney in Duluth, placing him in the top 5 percent of all workers comp lawyers across the state. In his free time, Mr. Envall serves on the boards of several area government and nonprofit organizations and is a member of the Minnesota Association for Justice, which supports consumer rights.