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 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.

     

  • What is an improper equipment offense and how can it help me if I get a speeding ticket in North Carolina?

    Traffic Ticket for Speeding in North CarolinaAn improper equipment offense is a non-moving violation in North Carolina. You could receive this infraction for faulty equipment, such as a defective speedometer, broken tail light, or improper muffler. If you received a speeding ticket, you may be able to get the charge reduced to an improper equipment offense with the help of an experienced traffic law attorney.

    How Can Getting a Charlotte Speeding Ticket Reduced to an Improper Equipment Offense Help Me?

    It is within the prosecutor’s discretion to reduce a speeding ticket to an improper equipment offense, and you do not have to have a faulty speedometer for the prosecutor to agree to this plea. The most important factors in getting this reduction are the speed that you were driving at and your driving history.

    This could be a good outcome if you were ticketed for speeding. Here is how this can benefit you:

    • No points. Unlike a speeding ticket, an improper equipment offense will not result in any points on your driver license. When a sufficient number of points are applied to your driver’s license, your driver’s license could be suspended or revoked.
    • No increased insurance. Because an improper equipment offense is a violation with no points on your driver’s license or insurance, your insurance rates should not increase. You could owe significantly more in insurance premiums for a number of years after receiving and paying off a speeding ticket.

    When Are You Ineligible for an Improper Equipment Offense

    In North Carolina, each county's District Attorney's Office has discretion on how to handle your speeding ticket. The internal policies within these various offices may be different from one county to another. Some of the circumstances that could impact whether a certain District Attorney's Office reduces your speeding ticket to an improper equipment may include:

    • If your speeding ticket was for driving more than 20 miles over the posted speed limit
    • If your ticket was for speeding in a school or work zone
    • If you already received an improper equipment offense within the last three years
    • If you received another moving violation within the last three years
    • If you received more than three moving violations within the last 10 years

    Facing an Improper Equipment Offense

    Have you received a speeding ticket or other traffic citation in Charlotte? Our experienced traffic ticket lawyers are here to help you reach the best possible outcome in your case so that your ticket is dismissed or you owe fewer fines and have fewer long-term consequences. To discuss your options, schedule a free consultation today.

     

  • What penalties could I face if I am charged with a CDL-related offense in North Carolina?

    Two Commercial Trucks at a Charlotte Rest StopIf you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL), being convicted of a traffic violation can have repercussions on your ability to drive a truck or other commercial vehicle and work. If the violation is serious enough, such as DUI or leaving the scene of an accident, your CDL could be suspended on a temporary basis or revoked. In addition, you could be charged with a CDL-related offense in North Carolina that can result in harsh penalties if you are convicted.

    CDL-Related Offenses and Penalties in North Carolina

    Drivers of commercial vehicles in North Carolina must comply with rules that do not apply to drivers of passenger vehicles. Many of these are federal requirements governing the trucking industry and other commercial drivers. Here are some CDL-related offenses and penalties in North Carolina:

    • Overweight. Vehicles that are overweight for a specific area or road are required to have a permit in order to be driven in the area or road, and the driver must carry the permit in his vehicle. In addition, the load must be loaded in a specific manner, and the vehicle must be licensed for maximum allowable weight. If a driver violates these rules, his permit could be suspended or revoked.
    • Logbook. Under federal regulations, a truck driver must complete a daily logbook that shows how long he drove, when he took a rest break, and provides other required information. This is to ensure that he complied with hours of service regulations that limit the number of hours a commercial driver can drive without taking a break. Violation of this rule by not completing or falsifying the logbook is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to six months in jail.
    • Speeding while towing a trailer. If a driver is speeding 15 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit while pulling a trailer, this is considered a severe violation that could result in his CDL being suspended.
    • Lane violations. When a commercial vehicle driver violates lane restrictions on what lanes he can travel on, he could face fines and a revocation of his license for 30 to 60 days. Multiple lane violations could result in a longer or permanent revocation of his CDL license.

    Charlotte Lawyers for CDL-Related Offenses

    Have you been issued a ticket for one of these violations or another traffic citation while driving a commercial vehicle? You must take your offense seriously because it could affect your CDL license—and ability to work. Our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket attorneys are here to help you achieve the best outcome possible. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation.

     

  • I received a ticket in North Carolina for unsafe movements involving a motorcycle. What is this offense and what penalties could I face?

    A Motorcyclist on a North Carolina RoadWhile receiving a ticket for unsafe driving that involved a motorcycle may not seem like a big deal that requires a lawyer’s assistance, it can result in a hefty fine and long-term consequences in your life. Retaining an experienced Charlotte traffic ticket attorney can help avoid these harsh penalties.

    Unsafe Movement That Involves a Motorcycle Traffic Offense and Penalties in Charlotte

    Making unsafe movements when driving can apply to many unsafe driving practices, such as unsafe lane changes or improper turns. This ticket is often issued when there is a near-accident or collision. Under an amendment to this statute, the legislature made the penalties even harsher when a motorcycle is involved in the violation. You can be ticketed for this offense if you make an unsafe movement and cause a vehicle to change travel lanes or to leave a public road or highway. Here are the potential penalties you could face if convicted:

    • The minimum fine assessed is $200.
    • If the unsafe movement results in property damage or injuries to the motorcycle rider or his passengers, the fine could be increased to a minimum of $500 and may be even more.
    • If the property damage is more than $5,000 or the rider or a passenger suffers serious bodily injury, the minimum fine increases to $750. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to 30 days. However, you may be able to obtain limited driving privileges during this time period.

    In addition to the large fines that you may have to pay, you could also incur other long-term expenses. Four points will be added to your driver’s license. This can increase your insurance premiums by as much as 25 percent.

    Even if you want to just pay the ticket, you will need to attend at least one court hearing to resolve your citation. However, a lawyer may be able to appear on your behalf so that you do not have to take time off work to do so.

    Contact a Lawyer For Unsafe Movement Ticket

    You may have defenses to an unsafe movement ticket that can result in it being dismissed or reduced to a less serious traffic violation—even if you violated this law. To learn more about your options, call our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyers.

     

  • Can I be charged with reckless driving in North Carolina if I live out-of-state?

    Out of State Driver That Is Being Charged With Reckless DrivingIf you live in another state, you can be charged with reckless driving and face the same punishment as a person who resides in North Carolina. Unfortunately, reckless driving is not the same as a traffic violation in our state. It is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and the penalties if convicted include a jail sentence of up to 60 days, fine of up to $1,000, driver’s license suspension, and points on your driving record. You would also have a permanent criminal record.

    Will You Have to Attend a Court Hearing If Charged With Reckless Driving in North Carolina?

    Reckless driving is not a “waivable offense” where you can pay the fine before the court hearing date and not appear in court. You must attend the scheduled court hearing even if you just want to plead guilty. If you fail to appear, you could owe additional court costs, and the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. However, our experienced reckless driving attorneys may be able to attend your court hearing on your behalf without the need for you to be present.

    How Will a North Carolina Reckless Driving Conviction Affect Your Driving Record in Your Home State?

    North Carolina is a member of the Driver License Compact. It is an interstate compact of states used to exchange information about driver’s license suspensions and traffic violations of non-residents. Currently, 45 states are members of the compact.

    The Department of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina would report your driver’s license suspension and reckless driving conviction to your home state if it is a member of the Driver License Compact. Your state would treat the conviction as it if occurred in the state where you live.

    Facing Reckless Driving Charges?

    If you live in another state and are charged with reckless driving in North Carolina, you must retain an attorney licensed in our state to represent you in court. Our experienced Charlotte reckless driving attorneys have the added advantage of being former prosecutors, so we understand their strategies in these cases. To learn about our extensive experience and commitment to providing our clients with the best possible defense, start an online chat or call our office to schedule your free consultation today.

     

  • What racing crimes could I be charged with in North Carolina?

    Car Racing Down a Charlotte RoadIllegally racing a vehicle is a serious crime in North Carolina, and if convicted, you could face many long-term consequences. These are misdemeanor offenses which can result in you having a permanent criminal record. Besides the punishments for a misdemeanor, you may lose your driver’s license for a lengthy period of time and have your vehicle seized.

    Common Racing Offenses in North Carolina

    There are two offenses that you can be charged with for illegal racing. They are:

    • Prearranged racing. It is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway willfully in a prearranged race with another motor vehicle. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor with possible penalties of a fine, probation, and jail time depending on your prior criminal record. If convicted, your driver’s license would be revoked for three years, but you may request that it be reinstated after 18 months. In addition, your vehicle would be seized at your arrest. It would be sold, and you would incur 12 insurance points if you are convicted.
    • Willful racing. It is also a crime to operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway willfully in a speed competition with another vehicle. This is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and the punishment includes possible driver’s license revocation for one year. However, this is discretionary. Ten insurance points would be incurred. The police are not authorized to seize and sell your vehicle if you are convicted.

    There are other crimes associated with illegal racing that are also Class 1 misdemeanors:

    • Loaning a vehicle for racing. It is illegal to loan a motor vehicle for use in prearranged racing. If convicted, the owner would face a three-year suspension of his driver’s license but could request that it be reinstated after 18 months. He would also incur 10 insurance points.
    • Betting on a prearranged race. You could be charged with this offense for placing or receiving a bet on the outcome of a prearranged race on a street or highway. If convicted, your driver’s license would be suspended for three years—the same as if you were found guilty of prearranged racing.

    Facing Racing Charges?

    Have you been charged with illegal racing in North Carolina? Our experienced traffic ticket attorneys are here to mount a strong defense so that you achieve the best possible outcome. To schedule your free consultation, call our office or start an online chat today.

     

  • Will I be required to install an interlock ignition device on my vehicle after a DWI conviction?

    Charlotte Resident Using an Interlock Ignition While in a CarIf you are convicted of DWI in North Carolina, your driver’s license could be suspended for 30 days for a first conviction and for longer for a subsequent conviction or failure to consent to a breathalyzer test at the time you were arrested. Losing your ability to drive can have long-term consequences on your ability to work and your ability to get where you need to go. In order to get your driving privileges restored, the court could require you to install an interlock ignition device.

    What Is an Interlock Ignition Device?

    An interlock ignition device is an alcohol-testing device that attaches to your dashboard and is similar to what is used to administer a breathalyzer test. You cannot turn on your vehicle until you blow into the device, and it measures your blood alcohol content. If it registers any level of alcohol, your ignition will not start. It also requires you to take the test at random times when you are driving. If you fail the test, your vehicle will shut down. In order to restart it, you would need to contact the system’s provider to reset it.

    When Is an Ignition Interlock Device Required?

    If this is a first offense DWI, you probably will not be required to install an ignition interlock device. However, the court would order it installed in these situations:

    • You were convicted of DWI with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of over 0.15 percent.
    • You were convicted of more than one DWI during a seven-year period.

    Who Pays for Installation and Maintenance of This Device?

    Unfortunately, you must pay for the installation and monthly rental and maintenance fees for the ignition interlock device and must obtain it from a court-approved facility. This can be costly over time.

    Have you been charged with DWI in Charlotte? Call us or start an online chat to schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced DWI attorneys. We will be happy to discuss your case with you and how we can help ensure that the penalties you face are as minor as possible.