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Are Traffic Violations Criminal Offenses in Ohio?

Updated: November 21, 2023
Nicholas G. Gounaris
By Nicholas G. Gounaris

Nicholas G. Gounaris is a skilled trial lawyer and founding partner of Gounaris Abboud law firm. He provides clients of the firm with competent legal representation and focuses his law practice in the areas of DUI Defense, Criminal Defense, Family Law Issues, Federal Criminal Law and Personal Injury cases.

traffic violations in ohio

Are traffic violations criminal offenses? The short answer is that sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. Obviously, offenses like vehicular homicide and vehicular manslaughter are criminal traffic violations.

Almost as obviously, violations like running a stop sign are not crimes, at least for first offenders.

Between those two extremes, however, the criminal status of a traffic violation may be unclear.

Ohio Traffic Violations: The Points System

Ohio operates a point system to discipline drivers for poor driving. Each driver is allotted 12 points every two years. If the driver commits a traffic violation, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles will deduct a certain number of points depending on the nature of the offense.

In no case, even vehicular manslaughter, are more than six points deducted for a single offense. Even in cases where the underlying offense is a crime, accumulating points on your driver’s license is not itself a crime.

If you accumulate 12 or more points within two years, Ohio will suspend your driver’s license. Although there are ways of avoiding suspension (e.g., traffic school), you do commit a crime by driving on a suspended driver’s license. This is the main way that ordinary moving violations such as running a red light can result in criminal liability.

What Traffic Violations Are Criminal Offenses?

A great number of traffic violations are also criminal offenses. Too many, in fact, to list here. But here is a list of some of the most commonly committed criminal traffic violations.

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide

Aggravated Vehicular Homicide occurs when you cause the death of someone due to reckless or intoxicated driving. Reckless driving is something more than mere negligent driving. Aggravated vehicular homicide is a felony that typically carries significant prison time.

Driving Under Suspension

Driving Under Suspension or in Violation of License Restriction is a very common offense. Ohio might suspend your driver’s license for traffic violations, for example, or for refusing to take a Breathalyzer test. It might also restrict your driving privileges to driving to and from work, for example. Ohio can charge you with a misdemeanor criminal offense for violating these limitations.

Failure to Stop After an Accident

Failure to Stop After an Accident on Public Roads or Highways is colloquially known as “leaving the scene of an accident” or, if you caused the accident, “hit and run.” Ohio can charge you with a first-degree misdemeanor, a fifth-degree felony, or a third-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. The prosecutor will hit you hard with this one if you caused the accident, injured someone, and drove away.

Willful or Wanton Disregard

Operation in Willful or Wanton Disregard for the Safety of Persons or Property is colloquially known as reckless driving. What makes it “reckless” (rather than merely negligent or careless) is your deliberate disregard for the safety or property of others. Depending on the circumstances Ohio can charge you with a minor misdemeanor, a fourth-degree misdemeanor, or a third-degree misdemeanor for this offense.


Street Racing is a fairly self-explanatory offense. A police officer doesn’t have to wait for an accident to occur to arrest you for street racing. Street racing is a first-degree misdemeanor.

Vehicular Homicide

Vehicular Homicide occurs when you cause the death of another person through negligent driving. Ohio can charge vehicular homicide as a first-degree misdemeanor or a fourth-degree felony. If convicted of this crime you might face a mandatory prison term.

Additionally, if you cause someone’s death by driving while intoxicated, the state can charge you with aggravated vehicular homicide which carries even stiffer penalties.

Vehicular Manslaughter

Vehicular Manslaughter occurs when you cause the death of another person while operating your vehicle in a manner that amounts to a violation of a municipal ordinance or a minor, misdemeanor traffic violation. Ohio can charge you with a first-degree or second-degree misdemeanor for this infraction.

Failure to Comply

Failure to Comply with the Order or Signal of a Police Officer, known colloquially as fleeing and eluding, occurs when you drive with the intent to evade the pursuit of a police officer after they signal you to pull over. Ohio can charge you with a first-degree misdemeanor, a fourth-degree felony, or a third-degree felony for this infraction.

Let Us Stand By Your Side

Traffic violations become more than a nuisance when they turn into criminal offenses. If this happens, you can call upon the services of the award-winning criminal defense attorneys at Gounaris Abboud, LPA.

We have won acquittals and dismissals for a great number of criminal defense clients, and favorable plea bargains for many more. Call us at (937) 222-1515 or contact us online for a free case analysis. We have offices in Dayton and Springboro, Ohio, and we serve clients from all over Ohio.

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