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What Are Traffic Violations and Infractions In Delaware?

In Delaware, traffic violations and infractions refer to moving and non-moving motoring practices considered unsafe and illegal under the eyes of the law. While traffic infractions are penalized pursuant to Delaware Traffic Code (Title 21), traffic violations are typically punished by both Title 21 and the Criminal Code (Title 11). Generally, the actual punishment that will be meted out to a traffic offender depends on the seriousness of the offense and the prevalence of other aggravating factors. Designated penalties for Delaware traffic violations can include fines, demerit points, license suspension, vehicular impoundment, and even jail/prison time.

What are Felony Traffic Violations In Delaware?

Criminal traffic violations are typically categorized as felonies and misdemeanors. Delaware felony traffic violations are the most severe motor-related crimes occurring as a result of injury to another person, property damage, or threat of injury or property damage. Similarly, a traffic offense that would otherwise be classified and penalized as a misdemeanor may be increased to a felony charge in certain circumstances. A misdemeanor charge becomes a felony if the motorist is a habitual offender, or there were other exacerbating factors such as death, injuries, and damage. For instance, a misdemeanor DUI is elevated to a felony DUI if the offender has a prior drunk driving conviction.

The Criminal Division of the Delaware Superior Courts handle felony traffic offenses, and offenders are subject to long jail/prison time. In addition to the sentencing, felony traffic offenses attract a long list of other penalties, including:

  • A fine that is anywhere between $500 to $5000, depending on the severity
  • Suspension or revocation of driver’s license
  • Penalty or demerit points against the driver’s license
  • Driver restraining requirements such as the installation of ignition interlock devices
  • Elevated auto insurance premiums
  • Impoundment or towing of the vehicle used during the felonious act
  • Loss of certain citizen’s privileges such as the prohibition of firearm ownership
  • Mark on offender’s criminal record that appears on regular background checks, possibly deterring future employment
  • Possible candidates for life incarceration (for offenders with prior Title 11 felony convictions)

For the purpose of sentencing, Delaware authorities generally grouped felony crimes into seven categories; Class A - G (Del. Code Tit. 11, §§ 4201, 4205.))

Class A Felonies: These are the most serious crimes punishable by 15 years to life imprisonment (Title 11, §§4204, 4205, 4209.))

Class B Felonies: These crimes are less severe than class A felonies. Class B felons are usually sentenced to 2 to 25 years in prison (Del. Code Title 11, § 4205.))

Class C Felonies: As per §4205, class C felonies are punishable by a prison term of up to 15 years in state prison.

Class D and Class E Felonies: Traffic felonies in these classes are sentenced to up to 8 years imprisonment.

Class F and Class G Felonies: The sentencing guideline designates up to 3 years of incarceration time to traffic felons in class F and up to 2 years to those in class G.

A crime can be classified under different categorizes of felonies. This may be due to the circumstances and frequency of the crime as well as the offender’s criminal history. For instance, the third DUI offense in Delaware is a class G felony; the 4th and 5th offenses are class E felonies; 6th violation is a class D felony; while the 7th and subsequent drunk driving violations are class C felonies (Del. Code tit. 21, § 4177; tit. 11 § 233.)) Also, traffic crimes designated as felonies non-specified in other classes are automatically punished as class G felonies.

Examples of Felony Traffic Offenses in Delaware

Some examples of traffic offenses categorized as felonies include:

  • Vehicle assault in the first degree (Del. Code tit. 11 § 629)
  • Vehicular homicide in the first degree (Del. Code tit. 11 § 630)
  • Vehicular homicide in the second degree (Del. Code tit. 11 § 630A)
  • Third and subsequent DUI (Del. Code tit. 11, § 233)
  • Eluding a police officer (Del. Code tit. 11, § 1257)

What are Traffic Misdemeanors in Delaware?

Traffic misdemeanors are criminal road offenses punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a fine not exceeding $5,000. These crimes, less grievous than felony offenses, also attract life-altering penalties such as surcharges, criminal history altered criminal records, fines ranging from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. In Delaware, those ticketed for traffic misdemeanors are required to appear at the Justice of Peace Courts.

Examples of Traffic Misdemeanor in Delaware

  • Vehicular assault in the second degree
  • Driving under the influence
  • Reckless driving (class A misdemeanor (Del. Code Ann. tit. 21, § 4175(a))
    • Tailgating
    • Racing
    • Running red lights
    • Sudden braking
    • Speeding
    • Erratic driving behavior
    • Weaving in and out of lanes
    • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Passing a stopped school bus
  • Driving while license is suspended (Del. Code Ann. tit. 21 §2971)
  • Seat belt violations

What Constitutes a Traffic Infraction in Delaware?

A Delaware traffic infraction is a road traffic rule violation that is not considered a crime but illegal. By state law, traffic infractions are civil and constitute the majority of traffic offenses recorded in the state. Persons ticketed for traffic infractions are required to pay stipulated fines, associated court fees, and may even accrue demerit points on their licenses. Traffic infractions generally include pedestrian jaywalking, non-moving violations, and some moving violations.

Examples of Traffic Infractions in Delaware

  • Speeding
  • Seat belt violations
  • Failure to signal
  • Illegal parking
  • Improper U-turn
  • Use of hand-held cellphone while driving
  • Loitering

How Does Traffic Tickets Work in Delaware?

There are two types of tickets issued in Delaware, and they include payable tickets and non-payable tickets. Payable tickets are issued to motorists for infractions. On the other hand, non-payable tickets are issued to motorists that are guilty of traffic felonies or misdemeanors. When road users are issued payable traffic tickets in Delaware, they may opt to pay the tickets before the prescribed court date, or make an initial appearance in court to fight the tickets. This may be done by entering a not guilty plea in court by going to the courthouse or by mailing the ticket to the court. Instructions on how to do this are also available on the traffic tickets.

In Delaware, traffic infraction tickets can be paid in-person, by mail, or online to the applicable court without a mandatory court appearance. Delaware Justice of Peace courts offer an online ePayment portal for paying tickets. Usually, information required to search and pay for tickets includes the ticket/summon number, and last name of the motorist. These fines can be paid online with a debit or credit card. Note that some courts charge nominal fees for online payments. Online payments for traffic tickets may also be directed to the The Office of State Court Collections Enforcement (OSCCE).

Eligible individuals may attend a defensive driving course to remove or reduce 10% off their insurance premiums. The Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles provides instructions on how to take this course on its website.

Are Driving Records Public in Delaware?

Driving records maintained by the DMV are typically considered public records in Delaware. However, this law is not an umbrella law. Parts of driving records containing personal information are strictly available to eligible persons including the owners of the records, members of law enforcement agencies, and some employees of other authorized agencies. The Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for maintaining and attending to driver and vehicle records requests.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How To Find Driving Records in Delaware?

A Delaware driving record has information on prior traffic violations, convictions, and the status of a driver’s license. The Delaware Department of Motor Vehicles provides certified and non-certified driving records to eligible parties. Individuals requesting their records may use the online service to order uncertified documents and the mail and in-person services to order certified copies. Third parties may request driving records via mail or in-person as the online platform is only available to subjects of the records.

To purchase an uncertified record online, a requester must have a Mississippi driver’s license in order to complete the required purchase details and get results from the system. These details include:

  • License number
  • Last 4 digits of a social security number (SSN)
  • The requester’s last, first, and middle name, as it appears on the driver’s license, as well as date of birth

There is a $25 fee charged per record. This fee is payable using a credit or debit card. Individuals who want to make copies are advised to plug in a printer while requesting as the online system only provides a one-time view of the record and does not save results.

To obtain a certified record, parties requesting their records may use the mail or online services. Mail requests may be made by sending a completed and notarized Personal Information Release Form, self-addressed stamped envelope, and a check or money order of $25 to the mail address listed on the form. In-person requests may be made with the same forms and fee, minus the self-addressed stamped envelope. The agency may also provide alternative methods to pay the driving records fee.

Can Traffic Violations And Infractions Be Expunged Or Sealed In Delaware?

Delaware statutes do not permit the expunction or sealing of traffic violations in which an offender was found guilty of an offense. By law, felony traffic violations may be eligible for expunction if the offender does not hold a commercial license or permit, has served the complete sentence for the offense, and has paid all fines, fees, and court costs.