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As I understand it (and please correct me if I am wrong), (the law in many if not all U.S. states) classifies (non-moving) driving offenses into at least two categories.

Primary offenses are non-moving violations which authorize the police to stop and ticket a driver. All other offenses require the officer to cite a moving violation or a primary offense during the same stop in order to issue a ticket.

For example, some non-moving violations that might or might not be primary offenses include:

  • Not wearing a seatbelt
  • No proof of insurance
  • Broken headlamp or brake light
  • Expired tabs
  • Cracked windshield
  • etc...

Question

Where can I get a list of primary driving offenses in any (not all) jurisdiction in the U.S.?

  • Try each state's DMV Website and/or law library Website. – moonman239 Nov 18 '15 at 3:48
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Most states have a title (i.e. volume) of their codified statutes that contains the traffic code. In Colorado, for example, that is Title 42 (Vehicles and Traffic).

This statute would usually contain a comprehensive list of traffic offenses, although sometimes traffic offenses also appear in the criminal code, and there are sometimes stray offenses (e.g. related to hazardous materials) that might be codified somewhere else.

Many statutes are not terribly clear over what is and is not a primary offense, and unless a statute specifically says that it is not a primary offense, you should assume that it is one.

Many jurisdictions do not have any convenient reference source for this information although most traffic cops learn the most notably cases in their training and most criminal defense lawyers who do traffic cases would know the status of the most common offenses.

Usually, there are only a handful of traffic offenses that are not primary offenses in any given jurisdiction, and some jurisdictions would have none.

In a related point, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that it is constitutional to arrest and incarcerate someone briefly pending legal processing, even if the underlying offense does not authorize incarceration as a punishment. (I don't have the citation to the case immediately at hand).

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Contact your local town or county clerk. They will be able to refer you to all local laws and authorities concerning moving violations. Then either hire a lawyer to compose such a list or read through the authorities themselves and determine primary offenses.

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