In this day and age, most people rely on the ability to drive a car. Whether it’s traveling to and from work, doing the family shopping, or picking up the children from school, getting behind the wheel has become central to everyone’s daily routine.
North Carolina has become increasingly stern in its treatment of vehicle and traffic law. In terms of new legislation, enforcement of the traffic code out on the street, and sentencing of those convicted, the consequences of a seemingly harmless ticket can be great. Further, as insurance rates are directly related to the allocation of license points, it follows that even if one manages to keep his or her license active, that person still may incur a large financial burden via increased premiums.
If worrying about in-state matters wasn’t enough concern for North Carolinians, many have seen that their traffic issues from across state lines have made it to the DMV; under some circumstances, this has resulted in the suspension of these people’s North Carolina Drivers Licenses. This is often due to the ticketed party simply “paying off” a citation under the advice of the very officer that stopped him or her.
The law in North Carolina provides for a variety of remedies for those cited with a traffic ticket. These alternatives to simply pleading guilty can save license points and insurance points, and can also preserve someone’s right to drive when he or she would otherwise be facing suspension. It is important to consider, though, that some remedies, such as negotiated pleas, are only available in certain jurisdictions. Further, one’s eligibility for certain dispositions relies on a variety of factors.
Defending one against a traffic charge begins with determining whether the State can, in fact, make its case. If an officer relies on an instrument to charge a driver (i.e. Radar, Vascar, or pacing), that officer should be able to show that he or she is certified to use the machine, and that the machine has been maintained properly. Likewise, in situations that a “notice” element exists, such as Driving While License Revoked, the State must typically tender certified documentation. The presence of these materials is essential to the State showing that it can earn a conviction in many cases, above and beyond the officer being able to recite the details of the encounter and meet any jurisdictional or statutory requirements.
Assuming the State can prove the elements of the target offense, most drivers desire to, first, keep the status of their licenses active, and if possible, second, create the best situation for themselves in terms of insurance points. This is often accomplished via a negotiated plea with the State, or by asking for consideration from the Court after a guilty plea. Determining which outcome is most suited to a particular driver can require a copious review of his or her driving record, some basic knowledge of his or her family members’ records, and an understanding of what types of negotiations are possible in the particular jurisdiction.
1. The officer who gave me the ticket told me I could just go to Driving School. Is this my best option? Not necessarily. In fact, depending on the jurisdiction and what that particular county gives a driver who completes a school, it can actually be damaging to your license and your insurance rates. Many considerations come into play regarding which outcome is most suited to each driver, and in most cases, information on all of these considerations is not available to the officer or driver at the time of citing (i.e. household member tickets and accidents).
2. The officer who gave me the ticket told me I could just pay it off. Is this my best option? As above, not necessarily. And in this situation, think about who is best served by what the officer suggested. If this ticket is just paid off, the officer is credited with a conviction without negotiation, and he or she didn’t even have to show up to earn it. Even worse, some convictions result in an automatic revocation of one’s driver’s license.
3. My driver’s license is revoked for Failing To Appear (FTA) on a few tickets. Should I just pay them all off? Absolutely NOT. Driving records can be very complicated, and if a driver has multiple items keeping him or her indefinitely suspended, handling them in an improper order can result in a definite or even permanent suspension. And even if the matters are handled in a way that doesn’t revoke his or her license, it is possible that some of the matters could have been dismissed through a plea arrangement with the State.
4. The officer misspelled my name on the ticket. Is this grounds for dismissal? Typically, no. Minor errors on a citation are usually not fatal to the State’s case.
5. I didn’t sign the ticket. Is this grounds for dismissal? No. If that were the case, nobody would ever sign a citation, and nobody would ever be found guilty of a traffic violation.
6. I was ticketed for Speeding in a Highway Workzone, but nobody was working at the time. Can I be found Responsible? Yes. In North Carolina, a designated Workzone area is treated as such, 24/7.
7. The officer wouldn’t show me the radar gun when he gave me the ticket. Isn’t he required to? No. In the interests of safety, the prospect of taking every driver cited with a speeding ticket back to the officer’s car to show him or her the reading is simply not prudent. More, through our system of sworn testimony at trial, and the requirements set forth above regarding the officer’s use of radar, there are avenues to ensure reliability of the reading through the legal system.
8. The officer told me I HAD to come to court for my speeding ticket? Is that true? Not necessarily. After retaining proper counsel, AND providing the court and the attorney with proper documentation, many traffic matters can be handled by waiver.