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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  • Do I have to tell my employer about my DWI arrest?

    An Employee Telling His Employer About a DWI ArrestYou face a number of harsh penalties and long-term consequences if convicted of DWI in Charlotte. A possible jail sentence, fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and a permanent criminal record are a few. Another immediate worry that you may have is whether or not you have to disclose your DWI arrest to your employer and how this could affect your job.

    Are You Required to Report a DWI Arrest to Your Employer?

    Fortunately, it is not a requirement of most jobs that employees disclose a DWI arrest. However, there are a few situations when disclosing this information is required:

    • Employee contract or handbook. Some employers have a provision in an employee contract or handbook requiring employees to disclose certain criminal offenses. It is important to read the applicable contract or handbook sections to determine what offenses must be disclosed and whether the requirement is to tell the employer about an arrest or a conviction.
    • Certain jobs. Truck drivers, postal workers, air traffic controllers, and other employees who drive for their job may have a duty to disclose a DWI arrest to their supervisor for insurance purposes. In addition, individuals in the military must report a DWI to their chain of command.
    • Security clearance. Some security clearances require employees to report a DWI arrest. It is important to review the security clearance paperwork to determine if this is a condition of the security clearance.
    • Company car. Employers often require employees who drive a company vehicle to disclose DWI arrests because of insurance issues.
    • Professional license. Individuals who have a professional license, such as a doctor, lawyer, nurse, dentist, pharmacist, and real estate agent, may have to report an arrest for DWI to their licensing board. However, some licensing boards only require this when a license is issued or renewed.

    Should You Disclose a DWI If You Do Not Have to?

    It will depend on your individual circumstances on whether you want to voluntarily discuss your arrest with your supervisor or boss. If your company does periodic background checks on employees where this information would be discovered, you may want to be honest and tell your employer. This can allow you to discuss the circumstances of your arrest in the best possible light.

    Have you been arrested for DWI in Charlotte? Our experienced DWI attorneys can help you build a strong defense to the charges you face and determine whether you must report your arrest or conviction to your employer. Call our office to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • How do I waive a traffic ticket?

    In North Carolina, you are often required to attend a court hearing where a judge sets your fine and other punishments if you receive a traffic ticket. However, in some cases, you can waive a traffic ticket, which is a way that you can resolve your traffic ticket without the need to attend a court hearing.

    Three Options for Waiving a Traffic Ticket in Charlotte

    When you are waiving a traffic ticket, you are pleading guilty and paying the fine and costs before the scheduled court hearing. You can only waive certain offenses, and there are currently over 40 traffic violations that qualify. Some examples include exceeding a safe speed, not wearing a seat belt, not yielding for a pedestrian, and failing to yield at a stop sign.

    You have three ways to waive your traffic ticket. Your traffic ticket should state whether the infraction is waivable and include waiver instructions. Here is how you can do this:

    • Online. You can waive your ticket online through the North Carolina Judicial Branch’s online services. You would need to pay the fine and costs with a credit or debit card before your court hearing date.
    • In person. To waive your ticket in person, you must sign the waiver portion of your traffic ticket in front of the court clerk or magistrate and pay what you owe. You can pay by cash, certified check, cashier’s check, money order, credit card, or debit card.
    • By mail. You also have the option of waiving by mail. To do this, you must date and sign the waivable part of your citation and mail it with your payment to the Clerk of the Superior Court of the county where you were ticketed. The address to mail the signed citation and your payment to should be listed in the waiver instructions on the ticket. You can only pay by certified check, cashier’s check, or money order.

    How to Decide Whether to Waive a Traffic Offense

    While you may believe it is easier to just waive a traffic offense and pay the fines and costs that you owe, this may not be in your best interests. Besides the hefty fine you must pay, you could face long-term consequences, such as points on your driving record and increased insurance costs.

    Before making a decision on whether to fight a traffic ticket or waive it, you should consult with an experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyer. You may have defenses, even if you are guilty, that can result in the ticket being dismissed or reduced to a less serious infraction. Our lawyers can explain your options to you and may be able to represent you at your court hearing so that you do not need to attend it. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What can I do if I cannot afford to pay my traffic ticket?

    Yellow Ticket Signs in a PileTraffic tickets are treated very seriously in North Carolina. Unless an infraction is a minor one that is a waivable offense, you will need to attend a court hearing to find out the fine you must pay. You can face even harsher penalties if you ignore the ticket or do not pay the fines within the time period set by the judge.

    What to Do If You Cannot Afford to Pay Your Traffic Ticket in Charlotte

    Fortunately, you do have options if you have low income and truly cannot afford to pay your traffic ticket. Here’s what you should do in this situation:

    • Request a reduction. If you have proof of your income that shows that you cannot afford to pay the ticket amount, you can provide this documentation to the judge and ask for a reduction in the amount of your fine or a payment plan. A number of North Carolina jurisdictions allow alternate payment plans.
    • Obtain an extension. If you need to wait until your next paycheck or until you receive other anticipated funds to pay your ticket, you can request an extension to pay the fine. You may need to provide documentation when asking for this.
    • Ask about traffic school. The judge may permit you to take a traffic school course instead of paying all or part of your ticket. However, it is important to ask the judge about this option before paying to enroll in a class because this is not always an option.
    • Offer community service. You may be able to perform community service instead of paying your fine if you cannot afford it. Again, it would be up to the judge to grant your request.
    • Fight your ticket. Even if you are guilty of the traffic offense, you may have defenses that you can use to fight the ticket. This can result in the ticket being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with a smaller fine that you can afford to pay. It can also mean less harsh long-term consequences—which can include a permanent criminal record, points on your driver’s record, and higher auto insurance costs.

    We’re Here to Help If You Cannot Afford to Pay Your Traffic Ticket

    Are you having problems paying a traffic ticket fine in Charlotte? Do you need assistance fighting your traffic ticket? Our experienced traffic ticket attorneys are here to help. To discuss your situation and learn what options are best for you, call our Charlotte office or start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • What does it mean to waive a traffic offense?

    Woman Being Pulled Over for a Traffic ViolationIn North Carolina, being issued a traffic ticket is a more serious offense than in other states. For many tickets, you must attend a court hearing in order to learn your punishment. However, if you were given a ticket for certain minor offenses, you have the option of waiving the traffic offense.

    Waiving a traffic offense is choosing to resolve your traffic ticket without going to court. You do so by paying the fine and cost before your court hearing. Offenses, when this is permitted, are often referred to as “waivable” offenses because you are waiving or giving up your right to go to court and fight your ticket. You are pleading guilty to the offense, and the court will treat your criminal case as if you plead guilty.

    How To Waive A Traffic Ticket

    Examples of Traffic Violations That Are Waivable

    There are currently over 40 speeding and other traffic offenses where a court hearing can be waived. Some of these include:

    • Speeding over the speed limit as long as it is not over 80 miles per hours
    • Exceeding a safe speed
    • Failure to use seat belts
    • Cell phone usage by a driver under 18 years old
    • Possession of an open container of alcohol in a vehicle
    • Failing to stop for a stoplight or a stop sign
    • Failure to yield to a pedestrian

    How Can You Tell If Your Traffic Ticket Is Waivable?

    The police will often note on a traffic citation whether it is a waivable offense, and, if so, the fines and costs that would have to be paid to waive it. In addition, each year the chief district judges review and publish a list of waivable traffic violations. You can find a current waiver list on the North Carolina Judicial Branch website.

    Are you considering waiving your traffic offense? This may not be in your best interests if you have defenses that may result in the ticket being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. Our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket attorneys are here to explain your options to you and to fight for the best possible option in your case. Start an online chat to schedule a free consultation today to learn more.

     

  • What happens if I don’t pay my traffic ticket in North Carolina?

    Police Officer Giving a Ticket to a North Carolina DriverIf you receive a traffic ticket in North Carolina, you should not treat it lightly. Some of them, such as reckless driving and failing to have required auto insurance, are misdemeanor offenses that can result in harsh penalties and a permanent criminal record. In addition, you could face serious consequences if you do not pay your fines.

    What Could Happen to You If You Fail to Pay Your Traffic Ticket?

    For many traffic tickets, you cannot just pay the fine and must instead attend a court hearing where the judge will decide what you owe and other conditions that you must meet. If you fail to attend this hearing and do not pay your fine, here are the consequences that can result:

    • If you miss your court hearing and do not otherwise resolve your case within 20 days of your hearing date, the court clerk will report the violation to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
    • If the judge disposed of your case at your court hearing and you do not pay the fine you were ordered to pay by the deadline set by the judge, the court clerk will report your delinquency to the DMV once 40 days from your failure to pay has passed.
    • Once the DMV receives a notice of your noncompliance from the court, they will send you a notice advising you that your driver’s license will be revoked unless you resolve your case by a deadline set in the notice. If you still do not comply, your license would be revoked.

    You may owe additional administrative fees if you do not attend your court hearing or pay your traffic ticket on time. For misdemeanor offenses, the consequences can be even more severe. Once your license is revoked, you must do the following to have it reinstated:

    • Failure to appear. If your violation included not attending your court hearing, you must either resolve your traffic ticket case or convince the judge that you are not the person who was charged with the offense for your license to be reinstated.
    • Failure to pay. If you did not pay the ticket, you must pay what you owe, prove to the judge that your failure to pay was not willful and that you are making a good faith effort to pay it, or show why the amount owed should be reduced or considered settled.

    Contact a Charlotte Traffic Ticket Attorney

    You can avoid these and other serious consequences of a traffic ticket by retaining an experienced Charlotte traffic ticket attorney. To learn how we can assist you, call our Charlotte office or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • Will I get a ticket if I am caught driving without car insurance in North Carolina?

    Auto Insurance Paperwork for North Carolina ResidentsNorth Carolina takes the requirement of having automobile insurance very seriously. If you are caught driving without it, you will not receive a minor traffic ticket. Instead, you will be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor offense and will have a permanent criminal record if convicted.

    What Are the Minimum Requirements for Auto Insurance in North Carolina?

    In North Carolina, all drivers are required to have a minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 in bodily insurance per accident, and $25,000 in property damage per accident in automobile liability coverage. Drivers also must have the same minimum amounts of uninsured bodily injury coverage to protect themselves if they are injured in an accident caused by an uninsured driver.

    If a motorist lets his insurance coverage lapse, his insurance company is required to report it to the Department of Motor Vehicles. In addition, a police officer can request to see a person’s proof of insurance when pulling him over in a traffic stop.

    What Are the Penalties for Driving Without the Required Insurance?

    North Carolina uses a complicated sentencing system that factors in the person’s prior criminal record when he is convicted of committing a misdemeanor offense. If you are charged with driving without the required auto insurance, the penalty you could face will depend on the number of times you have been convicted of this offense. Here are some potential punishments:

    • First offense. You will have to pay a $50 civil penalty, $50 reinstatement fee, and could be sentenced to probation for between 1 and 45 days. In addition, your registration and license plates could be suspended for 30 days.
    • Second offense. The civil penalty is increased to $100. In addition, the judge could sentence you to jail or probation for up to 45 days. The other penalties are the same as those for a first offense.
    • Third offense. The civil penalty for a third and subsequent violation increases to $150. All other penalties are the same as for a second offense conviction.

    Questions About Driving Without Insurance?

    You may also have points added to your insurance and driving record, which can significantly increase your insurance costs. You cannot afford to treat failing to have the required insurance or other traffic offenses lightly. Let our experienced traffic ticket attorneys help you fight your ticket so that you achieve the best possible outcome in your criminal case. Schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What are the penalties for running a red light or stop sign in North Carolina?

    Car Driving Through a Red Light in North CarolinaIf you receive a traffic ticket for running a red light or stop sign in Charlotte, you may be tempted to handle it on your own and just pay the fine. However, a traffic ticket’s consequences can affect many aspects of your life and may cost you more in the long run if you take this approach rather than retaining an experienced traffic law attorney to help you.

    North Carolina’s Traffic Laws on Red Lights and Stop Signs

    Like all states, North Carolina has enacted laws regarding how drivers must drive when approaching a stop sign or stop light. Here are some of the rules that people must follow:

    • Stopping. When coming to a stop sign or stop light, drivers are required to come to a complete stop at the nearest of the following: entering the crosswalk, reaching a marked stop line, or entering the intersection.
    • Right-on-Red Rule. Under North Carolina’s Right-on-Red law, drivers are allowed to make a right turn at a red light after stopping if it is permitted. They must first yield the right of way when making the turn.
    • Left-on-Red Rule. It is illegal to make a left turn at a red light in our state.
    • Yellow lights. People can get a ticket for running a yellow light in some states. However, in North Carolina, a yellow light is simply a warning that the light will turn red soon. It is legal to be in the intersection when the light is yellow—but not if it has turned red.

    Penalties for Running a Red Light or Stop Sign

    Running a red light or stop sign is an infraction in North Carolina. Here are possible penalties you face:

    • Fine of up to $100
    • 3 points on your driving record
    • 3 points on your insurance record

    If you receive 12 or more points in a three-year period, you could have your driver’s license suspended. In addition, points on your insurance may result in your insurance rates increasing for years after you resolve your ticket.

    Talk To A Charlotte Traffic Ticket Lawyer

    It is best to retain an experienced traffic law attorney rather than just paying the ticket for a traffic violation. A lawyer can build a strong defense and suggest strategies, such as attending driving school or performing community service, which may help get the ticket reduced. Call our office to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you defend against your traffic ticket and reach the best possible outcome for you.

     

  • Who Gets My Property When I Die in North Carolina?

    Probate versus Non-Probate AssetsAs is typically the case in the legal world of wills, trusts, and estates, the answer is it depends.

    The Probate Process

    To begin to answer this question, you must first understand what the probate process is and why it exists. In its simplest form, probate refers to the process through which the probate court determines how to distribute your property after you die.

    The probate process is of importance because it accomplishes several important objectives, such as the following:

    • Provides for the orderly transfer of the title of your property upon your death.
    • Ensure that creditors receive notice, an opportunity to present their claims, and payment.
    • Extinguishes claims of creditors who do not timely present their claims.
    • Ensure your property is properly distributed to those who are entitled to receive it.

    Non-Probate or Probate Property

    To determine how a probate court will distribute your property upon your death depends first on the type of property involved; that is, whether the property is probate property or non-probate property.

    Non-Probate Property

    Non-probate property is property that bypasses the probate court process mentioned above and passes directly to your listed beneficiaries. Generally, you must take some type of affirmative steps prior to your death for property to qualify as non-probate property.

    Non-probate property includes:

    • Life insurance
    • 401K/403Bs
    • Annuities
    • IRAs
    • Joint with the Right of Survivorship Owned Accounts
    • Payable on Death (POD)/Transferable on Death Accounts
    • Joint with Right of Survivorship or Tenants by the Entirety Real Property
    • Joint with Right of Survivorship Titled Automobiles
    • Inter Vivos Trust Property

    Such non-probate property does not pass through the probate court process. Instead, your non-probate property transfers to your designated beneficiaries pursuant to the terms of the legal instrument creating it, often referred to as a will substitute.

    Probate Property

    If the property in question does not qualify as non-probate, the property will be classified as probate property and pass through the probate court process.

    Last Will and Testament Versus Intestacy

    Who your probate property passes to depends on whether you have a valid Last Will and Testament. If you do have a Last Will and Testament, your probate property passes according to its terms. However, if you do not have a Last Will and Testament, or if it does not dispose of all of your property, your probate property passes intestate, which means according to the laws set forth in the North Carolina General Statutes.

    While intestacy laws are complex, the basic order of who will take your probate property if you do not have a will is as follows:

    1. Your surviving spouse
    2. Your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, or issue
    3. Your parents
    4. Your siblings
    5. Your grandparents/aunts and uncles
    6. Your next-of-kin
    7. Escheats to the state

    Contact the Probate Attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC Today

    To ensure that your property passes to the people you want it to, it is important to discuss your alternatives with an estate planning and probate attorney. Our attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC can assist you in this endeavor. Contact us today online, or by phone at 980-207-3355, to begin protecting your family's future, as well as your own legacy.

  • Can an Officer Stop a Driver for Legally Turning Away from a DWI Checkpoint?

    The short answer to this question is, yes, in light of and pursuant to the totality of the circumstances a person can be stopped for making a legal turn within the perimeters of a DWI checkpoint.

    Reasonable Articulable Suspicion (RAS)

    To not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the general rule is that law enforcement officers must have reasonable articulable suspicion (RAS) in order to stop someone. An officer has RAS when he or she observes conduct, which leads him or her to reasonably believe that criminal conduct may be afoot. In such a scenario, that officer may stop the suspicious person to make reasonable inquiries. To do so, the officer must be able to point to specific and articulable facts, which taken together with rational inferences from those facts, reasonably warrant the stop.

    However, DWI checkpoints are an exception to this general rule. In Michigan Department of State Police v. Sitz, the United States Supreme Court held that stops made pursuant to DWI checkpoints do not violate the Fourth Amendment’s bar against unreasonable searches and seizures, so long as the DWI checkpoint is conducted in accordance with the mandatory constitutional and statutory requirements.

    DUI CheckpointState of North Carolina v. Foreman

    A case decided by the North Carolina Supreme Court, State v. Foreman, is the most relevant case on point for determining the law regarding when an officer can stop a person who makes a legal turn away from a DWI checkpoint.

    The facts from this case are as follows:

    The New Bern Police Department was conducting a DWI checkpoint in Craven County, North Carolina. Notice signs stating “DWI Checkpoint Ahead” were posted 1/10 of a mile prior to where cars were being stopped. An officer who was in a marked police car parked close to the checkpoint’s perimeter was tasked with pursuing any and all vehicles which appeared to attempt to avoid the checkpoint by turning around or away from it to determine the basis for such avoidance.

    At approximately, 2:00 A.M., the defendant approached the DWI checkpoint. Immediately prior to passing the “DWI Checkpoint Ahead” signs, the defendant made a “quick left turn” followed by “a second abrupt left turn.” After momentarily losing sight of the vehicle, the officer found the defendant’s car parked in a residential driveway with its lights and engine off. The defendant was also seen crouched down hiding inside the car.

    The North Carolina Supreme Court held, “Although a legal turn, by itself, is not sufficient to establish a reasonable, articulable suspicion, a legal turn in conjunction with other circumstances, such as the time, place and manner in which it is made, may constitute a reasonable, articulable suspicion which could justify an investigatory stop…Therefore, we hold that it is reasonable and permissible for … an officer, in light of and pursuant to the totality of the circumstances, to pursue and stop a vehicle which has turned away from a checkpoint within its perimeters for reasonable inquiry to determine why the vehicle turned away.”

    Distinguishing a DWI Checkpoint Case from the Foreman Case

    As can be seen from the Court’s ruling in State v. Foreman, depending on the totality of the circumstances, a law enforcement officer may be permitted to stop a driver who makes a legal turn away from a DWI checkpoint while near its perimeters. Even so, facts that may distinguish a case from the facts in Foreman, could include:

    • Time of the Stop (i.e. earlier in the evening as opposed to early morning hours)
    • Positioning of the “DWI Checkpoint Ahead” Notice Signs
    • Placement of the DWI Checkpoint (i.e. perimeters of a checkpoint near a major intersection where many cars may naturally turn or on a rural roadway with little traffic)
    • Manner of the Legal Turn (i.e. a quick left turn followed by an abrupt left turn or slow controlled movements with proper signaling)
    • Behavior After the Legal Turn (i.e. no unusual driving, such as parking in a residential driveway or hiding in an apartment complex; in fact, slow controlled driving and proper stop with turn signal and hazards)

    Contact Our DWI Checkpoint Attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC

    If you have been charged with Driving While Impaired in the Charlotte, North Carolina area, contact our DWI attorneys online, or call us at 980-207-3355, today for a free consultation. Our attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC can discuss the specific facts of your case with you and assist you in preparing a defense that will be in your best interest.

     

  • How can going to a North Carolina traffic school can help if I get a traffic ticket?

    Various Adults Attending a Traffic School ClassIf you get a traffic ticket—such as a ticket for speeding or failing to yield to an emergency vehicle—you could face serious penalties, including a large fine, points on your driving record, and increased insurance costs. Some charges, such as reckless driving, are Class 1 misdemeanors that can result in a jail sentence and a permanent criminal record. Depending on your circumstances, taking traffic school courses may help you avoid some of these harsh consequences.

    What Are Traffic School Courses?

    Traffic school courses in North Carolina are also referred to as traffic safety courses, driver improvement clinics, and defensive driving classes. These courses last four to eight hours. You can complete your driver improvement clinic in a traditional classroom setting or through online courses if they are approved by the county where you received your ticket. Here are some of the topics that may be covered:

    • Information on how alcohol and drugs impair driving abilities
    • What the motivations are for effective and ineffective decision making
    • North Carolina’s laws on driver’s license suspensions and revocations
    • How to develop a plan to be a safer driver

    How Can Taking a Defensive Driving Course Help Me If I Received a Traffic Ticket in Charlotte?

    Before deciding to take a traffic safety class, it is important to discuss this with an experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyer. He can give you advice on whether it will help in your traffic court case. Sometimes it will not have any impact on the outcome. He can also give you guidance on how long your course should be, whether you can take it online, and what traffic schools are approved by the court.

    How attending a defensive driving class may help you will depend on your individual circumstances and the district where you received your ticket. Here are some of the potential benefits:

    • Reduction in the charge you are facing
    • Reduction in points on your driving record
    • Reduction in your insurance premiums, which could otherwise increase due to the additional points on your driving record

    Considering Taking a Traffic School Course?

    If you received a traffic ticket in the Charlotte area, our experienced traffic ticket attorneys can advise you whether taking a traffic school course is a good option and help you mount a strong defense so that you achieve the best possible outcome. Call our office to schedule a free consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.