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 can I do if I cannot afford to pay my traffic ticket?
Traffic 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?
In 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.
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?
If 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?
North 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?
If 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?
As 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 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
- 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.
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:
- Your surviving spouse
- Your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, or issue
- Your parents
- Your siblings
- Your grandparents/aunts and uncles
- Your next-of-kin
- 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.
State 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.
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How can going to a North Carolina traffic school can help if I get a traffic ticket?
If 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?
An 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?
If 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.