Common Questions and Helpful Answers About NC Criminal and DWI Charges

It is natural to have many questions and concerns when charged with a crime in North Carolina. These charges can have serious consequences and long-lasting effects on those charged with their families, so they need reliable answers quickly. Here, Todd Browning and Howard Long share their answers to many of these tough questions. Find out their thoughts on DWI, traffic charges, and many other crimes.

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  • What happens if I miss my traffic court hearing scheduled for my traffic ticket case?

    Empty CourtroomIn North Carolina, you must attend a mandatory court hearing to resolve many traffic ticket violations. You cannot just plead guilty and mail in your payment like in other states. In addition, you face harsh penalties if you do not attend your scheduled court hearing.

    When Are You Required to Attend a Court Hearing to Resolve a Traffic Ticket?

    There are at least 17 traffic violations in our state that require you to attend a mandatory court hearing to find out your sentence. Even if you are able to waive going to court, it is rarely in your best interests to simply plead guilty given the serious punishments and long-term consequences you face. Here are a few common traffic infractions where you must go to court:

    • Driving when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked
    • Driving while intoxicated
    • Driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle after drinking
    • Reckless driving
    • Speeding by 15 mph or more while driving over 55 mph
    • Aggressive driving
    • Passing a stopped school bus
    • Driving without required auto insurance

    Penalties You Face If You Miss Your Court Hearing

    If you fail to appear at your court hearing, you will be given 20 days to make up the missed court hearing. After this 20-day period elapses, the judge would issue a Failure to Appear (FTA). Here is what could happen to you once a FTA is issued:

    • You would be assessed an additional $200 late fee that must be paid in addition to the fine for the traffic violation.
    • The court clerk would report your FTA to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV would send you a letter advising you that they would revoke your driver’s license if you do not resolve your court hearing by a certain deadline.
    • If your traffic violation was a misdemeanor offense, such as reckless driving, the judge could immediately issue a FTA instead of giving you 20 days to attend a new hearing and issue a warrant for your arrest.

    What Should You Do If You Missed Your Court Hearing?

    If you realize that you did not attend a required court hearing, you should contact the court clerk immediately to reschedule your hearing. Then you should retain an experienced traffic ticket attorney who can mount a strong defense so that the traffic ticket is dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

    Were you issued a traffic violation in Mecklenburg County? Did you miss your court hearing? Our knowledgeable legal team will explain your options and defenses to you and fight so that you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.


  • How can I find a copy of my traffic ticket if I lost it?

    Driver Receiving a Traffic Ticket From an OfficerIf you lost your traffic ticket issued in Charlotte, you may not think it is a big deal, but it really is. Unlike in other states, you are required to attend a mandatory court hearing to resolve many traffic offenses, such as speeding, passing a school bus, and improper passing. You could face serious consequences if you do not appear at it.

    How to Locate a Copy of Your Traffic Ticket

    You should act quickly if you lose your traffic ticket. Ways to obtain a copy of it include:

    • Court website. You can find your traffic citation on the North Carolina Court’s website. You can search on the Citation Lookup Page by the traffic citation number or your name.
    • Traffic court. You can contact the traffic court in the county where you were issued your ticket and obtain a copy of it. You should check the court’s website to see if you can order your ticket online.

    If you obtain your traffic on the court’s website, it may not provide you with all the information you need to resolve your ticket. You may need to contact the traffic court directly to find out these details.

    You Face Serious Consequences If You Fail to Attend Your Court Hearing in Your Traffic Ticket Case

    You could face severe consequences if you miss your court hearing. You could be assessed an additional $200 or more in fines, or your driver’s license could be suspended or revoked. If the traffic offense was serious, the judge could issue a warrant for your arrest, or you could face additional criminal charges.

    Did you receive a traffic ticket in Mecklenburg County? Even if you believe that you committed the traffic violation, you may have defenses that can help you get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious infraction. Our experienced traffic ticket attorneys are here to explain your options and defenses and fight so that you achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.


  • Will filing a motion for appropriate relief help my traffic ticket case?

    top charlotte traffic attorneysA motion for appropriate relief (MAR) is a motion filed in a traffic or other criminal case to correct errors made at the trial or other criminal proceeding. If you were convicted of speeding, reckless driving, hit and run violations, or other serious traffic offenses, filing a motion for appropriate relief may help you avoid the conviction and harsh penalties you face.

    What Is a Motion for Appropriate Relief?

    Under N.C.G.S. § 15A-1420, an individual is allowed to file a MAR to challenge their conviction if there has been an error made in finding them guilty. It is not an appeal, and the court can conduct an evidentiary hearing when deciding the motion.

    Grounds for a MAR include:

    • The person did not understand the consequences of pleading guilty.
    • The judge misapplied the law or used an incorrect law.
    • The evidence did not support the jury’s finding that the defendant was guilty of the traffic offense.
    • New evidence has become available or new technology has been developed to analyze the evidence.
    • The individual’s attorney was ineffective in representing them.
    • A new law was passed that retroactively affects the conviction.

    How Do You File a Motion for Appropriate Relief?

    A MAR is most often a written motion filed with the court. In some cases, this motion can be raised orally at a court hearing. It cannot be filed until after a person is found guilty of the crime. When filing the motion, the defendant must show the following:

    • They have reviewed the trial transcript.
    • They have identified a legal basis for filing a MAR.
    • They are filing the motion in good faith.

    The motion for appropriate relief should be filed in the superior court in the district where the defendant was convicted. The District Attorney must be served with the motion.

    The judge has discretion on whether or not to hear the motion and can schedule an evidentiary hearing if they believe this is necessary. If they grant the motion, they will order appropriate relief, which can result in the conviction being overturned.

    Contact Top Charlotte Traffic Attorneys Today

    Were you convicted of a traffic offense in Mecklenburg County? Our knowledgeable traffic ticket lawyers can help you decide whether filing a MAR is a good option in your case. Call our Charlotte office today to schedule your free consultation to discuss your situation.


  • What should I say to the police if I’m stopped for reckless driving in Charlotte?

    reckless driving attorneyIf a police officer pulls you over and charges you with reckless driving in Mecklenburg County, it is important to know how to handle talking to them. What you say and do can make your situation better or worse. Here is what you need to do to protect your legal rights and help an experienced traffic ticket attorney build a strong defense for you.

    How to Talk to the Police If You Are Being Charged With Reckless Driving

    The first crucial thing you must understand is that reckless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. It is a crime that comes with harsh punishments if you are convicted. Here is what you need to do to best protect yourself and avoid being charged with other crimes too:

    • Cooperate. You need to remain polite and cooperate with the officer’s request for your driver’s license and vehicle registration. You are required to provide this information to them when they pull you over for a traffic stop.
    • Remain silent. Exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Remember that anything you say can be used against you and can hurt your lawyer’s ability to defend you.
    • Do not answer questions. Do not be surprised if the police ask you questions like “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “How fast were you going?” in an effort to get you to admit that you are guilty of reckless driving. Do not answer these or other questions.
    • Get a lawyer. You should retain a knowledgeable reckless driving lawyer as soon as possible after being charged with reckless driving. A lawyer can develop a strong defense strategy to help get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense and can attend all court hearings with you.

    Consult Our Experienced Traffic Defense Attorneys Today

    Were you charged with reckless driving in Mecklenburg County? Contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can defend you and how we have helped other clients like you obtain a successful outcome in their reckless driving case.


  • What should I do if there is a warrant out for my arrest?

    Arrest Warrant Paperwork and HandcuffsFinding out that the police have a warrant out for your arrest can be a scary experience. In many cases, you do not learn this until the police come to your door to arrest you. Whether you have advance notice of the warrant or find out when you are arrested, here are important steps you need to take to protect your legal rights and to fight the charges you face.

    #1: Retain an Attorney

    Your first step should be to retain an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately. They will be able to give you advice on what to do, be present at your arrest and during police questioning, and attend all court hearings with you. A skilled lawyer can also build a strong defense so that the charges are dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with less harsh punishments.

    #2: Contact a Bail Bondsperson

    After consulting with your lawyer, you may want to contact a bail bondsperson who can help you arrange to post bail if that is an option. Making arrangements with a bail bondsperson before you are arrested can shorten the time that you must remain in jail.

    #3: Turn Yourself In

    Your next step would be to turn yourself in and cooperate with the police during the booking process. It is important to do so at the correct jurisdiction so that you do not have to spend unnecessary time in jail before your bail is set. Your lawyer or bail bondsperson may be able to recommend the best times of day to surrender to the police to increase the likelihood that you will be released quicker.

    #4: Do Not Make Statements to the Police

    You have a constitutional right to remain silent while in police custody. Do not make any verbal or written statements to law enforcement officers. Your lawyer should be present whenever they question you. You should also do the following:

    • Do not make any statements anyone to in your jail cell or other inmates. These statements may also be used against you.
    • Be careful of what you say when using a telephone at the police station or jail because your conversation may be recorded.

    Our Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyers Are Ready To Protect Your Rights Today

    Is there a warrant out for your arrest in Mecklenburg County? Have you already been arrested? Contact our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation to learn about our extensive criminal defense experience and how we can help you achieve the best outcome given your circumstances.


  • What could happen to me if I’m pulled over by the police and don’t have car insurance?

    Car Insurance Policy PaperworkLike in all other states, you must have liability auto insurance in order to drive a motor vehicle in North Carolina. You should not take this duty lightly. If you are caught driving without it, you could be charged with a crime.

    What Insurance Are You Required to Have in Mecklenburg County?

    Under North Carolina law, all owners of a registered motor vehicle operated in our state must carry these minimum amounts of liability auto insurance:

    • $30,000 for bodily injury per person and $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
    • $25,000 for property damage

    While you do not have to buy more than the minimum amount required, it is best to purchase additional coverage. This would protect you if you cause an injury in an accident or if you are hurt in a crash caused by another driver who has insufficient insurance to fully compensate you.

    Charges and Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance

    Driving without required motor vehicle insurance is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. In addition to a criminal sentence, you would also owe civil penalties and could lose your license plates for 30 days if you fail to provide proof of new insurance and pay the civil penalties within 10 days.

    The sentence that you could face would depend on how many times you have violated the law. Here are the possible punishments:

    • First Offense. You could be sentenced to probation for 1 to 45 days. In addition, you would currently owe a $50 civil penalty and a $50 license reinstatement fee.
    • Second Offense. Your punishment could be a jail sentence or probation for between 1 and 45 days. The civil penalty would increase to $100, but the license reinstatement fee would still be $50.
    • Third or subsequent offense. The criminal penalty and civil reinstatement fee would be the same as for a second offense. However, you would have to pay a $150 civil penalty.

    If you are convicted of this crime, you would also have a permanent criminal record that can have long-term consequences on many aspects of your life.

    Talk To Our Experienced Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today

    Were you charged with failing to have auto insurance or another traffic offense? Our knowledgeable traffic ticket defense lawyers are here to explain your options to you and to raise a strong defense so that you achieve the best outcome given your situation. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation today.


  • My child was recently arrested. Will he be charged as a juvenile or an adult?

    Juvenile Court GavelIf your child has been arrested, you are probably terribly worried about what will happen to him. In North Carolina, minors under 18 years old are often treated differently if they are charged with a minor misdemeanor offense and not a violent felony crime. They can be charged as a juvenile rather than as an adult and have their case decided in juvenile court.

    What Are the Benefits of Being Charged as a Juvenile?

    In our state, children between the ages of six and 17 are considered juveniles, and their criminal cases will start in juvenile court. Unlike the adult justice system, the goal in the juvenile court system is rehabilitation and helping the minor child to avoid committing another crime in the future. Here are some of the benefits of juvenile court:

    • Infractions that juveniles commit are not referred to as crimes. They are called delinquent acts.
    • In juvenile court, the proceeding is referred to as an adjudication hearing and not a trial. These hearings are also more private than in adult criminal cases, which are heard in open court.
    • If the delinquent act was not violent, the child may be released prior to his adjudication hearing.
    • Because the focus of punishment is rehabilitation, a minor’s sentence for nonviolent crimes will more likely be community service, education, and supervision rather than incarceration.
    • A juvenile’s criminal records will be sealed so that they cannot be viewed by the public and will not have such long-term consequences on his life. If he successfully completes his sentence, he may be able to get his criminal record expunged when he turns 18 years old.
    • Juveniles have a right to be represented by an attorney and will be appointed a public defender if they cannot afford to hire one.

    When Could a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult?

    If a minor commits a more serious offense, such as a drug offense, weapons crimes, assaults, or other serious felonies, they can automatically be charged as an adult. Here are three situations when their case can be sent to adult criminal court:

    • Prior adult charge. If a child had a previous criminal case transferred to adult court, any subsequent charges will also be heard in adult court no matter what the offense is.
    • Discretionary transfer. If a minor is 13 years old or older and committed a felony, the judge in the juvenile court has the discretion to transfer the case to adult criminal court.
    • Mandatory transfer. If a juvenile is charged with a Class A felony, such as first-degree murder, he will be charged and prosecuted as an adult.

    Our Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyers Are Ready To Protect Your Family Today

    If your child was arrested in Charlotte, he needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to help him fight to have the charges dismissed or reduced so that he achieves the best possible outcome given his situation. To find out how we can help, contact our office to schedule a free consultation today.


  • Should I hire a private criminal defense lawyer or use a public defender?

    Lawyer Shaking the Hand of a Potential ClientIf you are arrested for a crime, you have many difficult decisions to make, such as how to plead to the charges, what defenses you should raise, and whether to accept a plea agreement. You should not make these decisions without the advice of an attorney. Should you use a public defender or hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer?

    Drawbacks of Using a Public Defender

    If a defendant cannot afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to represent him. The benefit of this is that the lawyer is free. Many are also hardworking, experienced attorneys. However, there are major disadvantages to using a public defender:

    • High caseloads. Public defenders are assigned very high caseloads, which means that they would have less time and attention to devote to their clients’ cases.
    • Overworked. Public defenders are overworked and often must handle too many cases at one time. As a result, they can make mistakes or be more likely to recommend a client accept a plea agreement to get the case resolved.

    Advantages of Retaining Your Own Criminal Defense Attorney

    There are many advantages to retaining a skilled criminal defense attorney. Here are a few of the benefits:

    • Choice. You have the right to choose the right lawyer for your case when you hire one on your own. You do not have any choice if a public defender is appointed to represent you.
    • Smaller caseload. A lawyer in private practice will have a much smaller caseload than a public defender. He will have more time to devote to building a strong defense strategy for you and will be more available when you need him.
    • More resources. In addition to having more time to devote to your case, a private criminal defense attorney will also have staff working on your case.
    • Better outcome. The likelihood that you will achieve the best possible outcome given your circumstances is greater if you hire your own attorney since he will often work harder to achieve this goal for you.

    Our Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyers Are Ready To Protect Your Rights Today

    Are you facing criminal charges in Charlotte? Contact our office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we can fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.


  • Are the consequences of being issued a traffic ticket for speeding different than a charge of reckless driving?

    A Driver Being Issued a Traffic Ticket for SpeedingGetting a traffic ticket for speeding is not at all like being charged with reckless driving in North Carolina. The penalties and long-term consequences are vastly different. Here are four important differences that you need to understand.

    Difference #1: Infraction vs. Misdemeanor Offense

    If you get a traffic ticket for speeding, the offense is a civil infraction that is punished by the payment of fines only. However, speeding can also be charged as reckless driving in certain situations, such as if you are driving 15 miles or more over the posted speed limit. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime, which is a much more serious offense than getting a traffic ticket.

    Difference #2: Penalties Are Different

    As noted above, the penalty for getting a traffic ticket is often a fine. The fines can range from $10 to $50 to up to $250 if you are caught speeding in a school or construction zone. The penalties for reckless driving are more severe and can include:

    • Jail sentence of up to 60 days
    • Fines not to exceed $1,000
    • Possible driver’s license suspension of 30 to 60 days

    Difference #3: Points on Driver’s License

    More points will be assessed on your driver’s license if you are convicted of reckless driving than if you are ticketed for speeding. Four points would be added to your driver’s license for reckless driving, while two or three points could be added to it for speeding. Points on your driver’s license can affect your auto insurance costs and can result in your driver’s license being suspended if you accumulate too many points within a certain period of time.

    Difference #4: Permanent Criminal Record

    You will have a permanent criminal record if you are found guilty of reckless driving since it is a criminal offense. This is not true for a speeding ticket. Having a permanent criminal record can have long-term consequences on your ability to obtain employment, housing, security clearance, and more.

    Need To Fight A Traffic Ticket In Charlotte? Talk To A Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today

    While there are many differences between a speeding ticket and a reckless driving charge, there is one way that they are alike. With both, you need the assistance of an experienced traffic lawyer who can explain your options to you, raise your defenses, and help you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn how we can help you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation.

  • Can I receive a ticket if I violate the law on driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane?

    High Occupancy Vehicle Lane Traffic SignYou are only allowed to drive in a high-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV) in Charlotte if you have the required number of occupants in your vehicle. If you drive in an HOV lane when you are not permitted to do so, you could receive a traffic ticket with punishments that include a hefty fine and points on your driver’s license.

    What Are the Rules on Using an HOV Lane?

    High occupancy vehicle lanes are used to reduce the terrible traffic congestion on N 1-77 and other highways and roads in Mecklenburg county. They are designed to cut down on single-occupancy vehicles and encourage commuting. Some of the benefits of HOV lanes include:

    • They are more cost-efficient.
    • They allow vehicles with more than one occupant faster travel on congested highways.
    • They cut down on ozone pollution.

    Only certain vehicles are permitted to drive in HOV lanes, and not all of them must have passengers. These lanes are open to:

    • Vehicles with passengers. Motor vehicles with two or more occupants can use an HOV lane.
    • Motorcycles. For safety reasons, federal law requires that motorcycles be permitted to use HOV lanes.
    • Emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, and law enforcement vehicles—that are responding to an emergency—are allowed to drive in HOV lanes.
    • Public transportation vehicles. Even if only the driver is in a public transportation vehicle, he is permitted to drive in a high occupancy vehicle lane.
    • Privately-owned buses. A privately-owned bus that can carry 15 or more occupants can use an HOV lane regardless of how many people are on the bus.

    Use of an HOV lane is prohibited for these vehicles:

    • Trucks having three or more axles
    • Single occupant vehicles
    • Vehicles using an HOV lane to pass

    What Are the Penalties for Violating North Carolina’s HOV Law?

    If you are pulled over in Charlotte for violating the law on who can use an HOV lane, you could receive a traffic citation. Your punishment can include a $100 fine and two points on your driving record.

    You should not just pay the ticket without first considering your options since there are long-term consequences to traffic tickets. The points on your driving and insurance records can result in your auto insurance rates increasing for years after you pay the fine. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended if you accumulate too many points on your driving record.

    Need To Fight A Traffic Ticket In Charlotte? Talk To A Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today

    Let our skilled traffic ticket lawyers identify your defenses and determine the best option for you so that you achieve the best possible outcome. We represent clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg county. To find out how we can help you, contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation.