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What is a primary traffic offense?

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2022 | Traffic Offenses

In some cases, traffic violations will be viewed as primary or secondary offenses. The differences in these definitions can change between states. For example, some states list texting and driving as a primary violation, while others only consider it to be a secondary violation. In New Jersey, talking or texting while driving is a primary offense, and it is strictly prohibited for all drivers. 

But have you ever wondered what the difference is and why certain traffic violations would be classified this way? Maybe you’re also curious about how this definition could impact a traffic stop or an eventual criminal case. Let’s look at the main differences below.

You can be pulled over for a primary offense 

The big difference is that a primary offense is one for which the police can initiate a traffic stop. They are not violating your rights if they pull you over for one of these offenses. A secondary offense is something that can result in a citation, but you cannot be pulled over for doing it. The citation can only be added on if you have already been pulled over for another reason.

For example, if texting and driving is a primary offense and an officer sees you on your phone, they can immediately stop your car – this is possible in New Jersey, under the current laws. But if it is a secondary offense, then the police may need another reason to stop your car, such as seeing that you have broken the speed limit or rolled through a stop sign. If that happens, you could then be given a ticket for texting and driving along with the speeding ticket.

It’s important to understand the differences between the two types of citations and to know all of your options as you go through the criminal defense process.