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 evidence can help in my reckless driving case in North Carolina?
If you have been charged with reckless driving in North Carolina, you must understand that you did not receive a traffic citation. You have been charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense with a possible sentence of time in jail, a fine, and suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record. To build a strong defense and attack the prosecutor’s case against you, you will need evidence that supports your defenses.
Evidence That May Help You Fight the Reckless Driving Charges You Face
Even if you believe that you were guilty, you may have defenses to the reckless driving charges you face that can result in the charges being dismissed or being reduced to a much less serious offense. Some of the evidence that you may need includes:
- Speedometer calibration. Many reckless driving charges in North Carolina are based on driving over 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or over 80 miles per hour. A speedometer calibration can help you prove that you were not driving as fast as the police officer claims.
- GPS evidence. If you were charged with only traveling a little over 20 miles per hour over the speed limit or over 80 miles per hour, obtaining GPS location data along with a speedometer calibration can be effective to show that you were traveling at a slower speed. At a minimum, this may enable you to get the charges against you reduced to a less serious offense.
- Evidence of improper signs. When the speed limit signs near where you were charged with reckless driving were missing, vandalized, or hidden, this could be a defense to a reckless driving charge, especially if you were driving in an unfamiliar area. Photographs of the signs and the area in general can help you prove that you had no way of knowing the speed limit.
- Medical records. If you were speeding due to a medical emergency, such as experiencing a stroke or heart attack, you would want to obtain medical records substantiating a passenger’s or your health condition that required you to speed.
- Witness testimony. Witness testimony can be valuable to substantiate your defenses, such as that you were not the driver, you were not racing if this is the basis of your charge, or you were speeding due to a medical emergency.
- Evidence of safety commitment. Your sentence may be less harsh if you can show a commitment to safe driving. Evidence of this can include showing a clean driving record prior to these charges or completion of a driver improvement course.
Contact Our Charlotte Reckless Driving Attorneys Today
You need the assistance of an experienced reckless driving attorney in Charlotte to help you identify the defenses that you have and collect the evidence that you will need to aggressively fight the reckless driving charges that you face. Start an online chat today to schedule your free initial consultation to discuss your charges and the strong defenses you may have.
How can I challenge my blood test results in my DWI case?
In North Carolina, a conviction for driving while impaired (DWI) comes with very harsh penalties, such as large fines, a jail sentence, and suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, DWI is a misdemeanor offense in North Carolina and a conviction would result in a permanent criminal record. Fortunately, there are defenses to these charges that you could have even if you are guilty of driving when intoxicated that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. One powerful defense may be to challenge the results of your blood test.
Blood Tests in North Carolina DWI Criminal Cases
In North Carolina, police officers are permitted to obtain the amount of alcohol on your breath or blood as evidence to be used against you in a DWI case. The amount of alcohol on your breath is tested through the use of a breath testing machine, and the amount in your blood is tested through a blood test. If you do not consent to this testing, the police would need to obtain a warrant to conduct the test, which they would often obtain. However, under North Carolina’s implied consent laws, you imply consent to this testing and would face harsh penalties for refusing the test, such as automatic revocation of your driver’s license and your refusal being used as evidence in your DWI case.
Common Challenges to Blood Test Results in DWI Cases in NC
A blood test is conducted by drawing your blood and testing it, and it tends to be the most reliable testing procedure. However, this does not mean that the results are always right. If you are successful in challenging the result, the prosecutor may not be able to use the most important piece of evidence against you, and the charges against you may be dismissed. Questions regarding the reliability of the tests may also help to obtain a more favorable plea agreement where the charges are reduced to a much less serious offense.
There are a number of defenses to blood test results, and which one is applicable in your case will depend on your facts. Your experienced DWI attorney will be able to identify the best defenses in your case. Here are some defenses that may apply to your case:
- Lack of qualifications. The person administering the test must be qualified to do so. Your attorney can examine the training and experience of the person who administered your test to see if this is a basis for a defense. Even if the person was qualified, if there are other questions of his competency, such as cases of his falsifying records, this could lead to challenging the use of the blood test against you.
- Chain of custody. In DWI cases, the police are required to follow specific guidelines in handling the evidence—including the blood drawn from you and your test results. To ensure that they were not tampered with, the police must account for them at all times or the chain of custody may be broken. Mislabeling the test tube or misplacing it for a period of time are two examples of when the chain of custody might be broken. If the chain of custody is broken in your case, the blood test result could be excluded from evidence in your criminal case.
- Calibration. Blood testing machines often need to be calibrated, like breathalyzers, to ensure that they work properly. In some cases, the calibration of the equipment used in a blood test may not be properly done and could lead to an error in the results. In this situation, the test results could be excluded or the accuracy questioned.
- Storage. Blood samples must be properly stored or it can result in elevated error rates. The yeast, sugar, and bacteria in the blood can ferment if not stored correctly—which can lead to inaccurate test results. If your blood sample was improperly stored, the results may be inadmissible.
Let Us Help Raise All Your Defenses in Your DWI Case
Were you charged with DWI? An experienced DWI defense attorney can help you aggressively fight the charges you face. We have the added benefit of being former prosecutors so we understand how they approach these cases. To learn more about how we can help you build a strong defense, call our office today to schedule a free consultation.
What speeding tickets CAN suspend my North Carolina Driver's License vs. what tickets WILL?
North Carolina is a strict state when it comes to speeding and you would be amazed at what speeding violations can suspend your North Carolina Driver’s license. In some instances, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has the option to suspend your license and in other instances, the suspension is automatic. Below we explain what types of speeding tickets can suspend your driver’s license and what ticket will suspend your license.
Tickets where the North Carolina DMV CAN suspend your license
In The following scenarios the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has the option of suspending your driver’s license:
- Two convictions for speeding over 55 MPH within one year
- A conviction of reckless driving and a conviction for speeding over 55 MPH within one year
- A conviction of aggressive driving and a conviction for speeding over 55 MPH within one year
- A conviction for speeding over 75 MPH on a street or highway where the speed limit is less than 70 mph
- A conviction for speeding over 80 MPH on a street of highway where the speed limit is 70 MPH
Tickets where the North Carolina DMV WILL automatically suspend you license
In the following scenarios the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver’s license:
- A conviction for speeding 15 MPH over the speed limit where you are traveling greater than 55 MPH
- A conviction for speeding greater than 80 MPH
DO NOT JUST PAY OFF YOUR NORTH CAROLINA SPEEDING TICKET
Oftentimes, when you are charged with a speeding ticket the officer tells you to just pay the fine and you do not have to go to court. There are even instructions on many of the citations about how you can just pay off your citation without having to go to court. It is imperative that you understand that when you just pay off the ticket you are pleading guilty. As you can see, a minor run of the mill speeding ticket can suspend your driver’s license so whatever you do, do not just pay off your ticket. Speak to an attorney to see what options you have.
How Attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC Can Help
YOur best shot at a good outcommon to to speak with an experienced traffic ticket lawyer. Our experienced traffic attorneys have represented thousands of folks charged with speeding tickets. When you hire us to represent you for your speeding ticket we will negotiate with the District Attorney on your behalf and do everything in our power to ensure that your driver’s license is not suspended and that your insurance premiums do not increase. Specifically, our attorneys will seek to get the following results:
- Get your ticket dismissed. This is the best result. No points on your driver’s license or insurance and you do not have to pay any fines, fees or court cost.
- Amend your ticket to an Improper Equipment, a violation that will put no points on your driver’s license or insurance policy.
- Obtain a PJC (prayer for judgment continued). A PJC, like an improper equipment, does not put any points on your driver’s license or insurance policy.
- Lastly, we could reduce your speed to a speed that would not suspend your driver’s license.
What are assault with a deadly weapons charges that I could face in North Carolina?
If you are charged with assaulting someone in North Carolina, you could be facing misdemeanor charges—even if you never touched anyone. However, you could be charged with a misdemeanor or more serious felony charge if a deadly weapon was used in the assault. A conviction can result in you being sentenced to prison and having a permanent criminal record. Because of these very serious consequences, you need to retain an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you build a strong defense to the charges that you face.
Misdemeanor Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges
Most assault and battery charges are misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. You can be charged with assault for threatening someone whereas battery requires actual physical contact. There are three general assault and battery crimes:
- Assault and battery that involves physically injuring someone else
- Assault, which can be an attempt to commit an assault and battery, or a show of force when it appears that an assault is imminent
- Affray, which is a fight between two or more people, in a public place that puts others in fear
There are a number of specific misdemeanor assault and battery offenses that are considered more serious, and the charge is a Class A1 misdemeanor rather than the less serious Class 2 misdemeanor charged in many simple assault cases.
Assault with a deadly weapon is one of the more serious misdemeanor offenses. A person can be charged with this offense if he commits an assault, assault and battery, or affray if he causes a person to suffer serious injury or uses a deadly weapon. While a deadly weapon is not defined in the statute, it can include a gun, knife, blunt object, or another object that is not generally considered a deadly weapon but could be used to kill a person.
A misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon carries these possible penalties:
- Jail sentence of up to 60 days for a first offense or 150 days if there were prior convictions
- Probation—either supervised or unsupervised
- Fine with the amount in the judge’s discretion
Felony Assault With a Deadly Weapon Charges
You could be charged with assault with a deadly weapon as a felony if you committed the assault with the intent to kill or caused serious injuries, or both. What constitutes a deadly weapon is not specifically defined and includes a wide range of potentially dangerous objects. There are two levels of assault charges, and both involve these elements of the crime:
- Serious injury. Although not defined in the criminal statute, an injury is considered a serious injury if it requires medical attention whether or not the victim actually receives medical treatment.
- Intent to kill. This means that the person who committed the assault intended to kill the victim, and the intent can be established through the circumstances of the crime. This can include threats, other words, or prior angry incidents between the accused person and victim.
Assault with a deadly weapon can be charged as a Class E felony if there was serious injury or the intent to kill. If there is both serious injury and the intent to kill, the crime is often a Class C felony. A conviction could result in these penalties:
- Class E felony. This offense is punishable by 15 to 31 months in prison, but a judge must justify the sentence if he deviates from the presumptive sentence of between 20 to 25 months in prison. In addition, if there are prior convictions, the prison sentence can be extended up to 63 months.
- Class C felony. A Class C felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of 44 to 98 months, with a presumptive sentence of between 58 to 72 months. The sentence can be increased to 182 months if there are prior convictions.
Are You Facing Charges For Assault With a Deadly Weapon?
Given the risk that you may be sentenced to prison if convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, you should do everything you can to fight the charges that you face. Even if you are guilty, our experienced criminal defense attorneys can raise defenses that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. To learn how we have helped other clients facing criminal charges and how we can assist you, call our office to schedule your free case review today.
If I recieved a civil revocation when charged with DWI in North Carolina, when can I drive again?
DWI Civil Revocation
When a person is charged with DWI, their North Carolina driver’s license is almost always revoked due to a DWI Civil Revocation. Your license is subject to such a revocation if:
- A law enforcement officer has reasonable grounds to believe that you committed a DWI;
- You are charged with DWI;
- The law enforcement officer and/or the chemical analyst comply with the mandated procedures in requiring your submission to a breath and/or blood test; and
- You either
- Willfully refuse to submit to the breath and/or blood test;
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within a relevant time after the driving;
- Had an alcohol concentration of 0.04 or more at any relevant time after the driving of a commercial motor vehicle; or
- Have any alcohol concentration at any relevant time after the driving and you are under 21 years of age.
If your license is revoked due to a DWI Civil Revocation, there are three different ways our attorneys can potentially get you driving again.
- Hearing to Contest the DWI Civil Revocation
- Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege
- Wait for the DWI Civil Revocation to Expire
Hearing to Contest the DWI Civil Revocation
At Browning & Long, PLLC, this is the preferred method to getting you driving again.
Oftentimes, our attorneys can schedule a hearing in front of a judge or magistrate to challenge your DWI Civil Revocation. If our attorneys are successful at this hearing, your North Carolina driving privileges are restored in full; that is, there are no further restrictions on your driver’s license and you are permitted to drive as you did before being arrested for DWI. Additionally, there are no required fees or fines to pay to the State as required with the other options discussed below.
However, in order to take advantage of this approach, by statute, our attorneys must file the appropriate paperwork to request the hearing within 10 days from the date of your revocation. Don’t delay, contact us now!
Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege
If you missed the 10-day window to request a hearing to contest your DWI Civil Revocation, the attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC can help you apply for a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege. Once 10 days from the date of your DWI Civil Revocation have passed, a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege allows you to drive throughout the remainder of your revocation - typcially to day 30 or 45 - from Monday through Friday, between the hours of 6:00 AM and 8:00 PM, for purposes such as household maintenance, employment, and education. In many cases, our attorneys can assist you in getting extended hours for certain purposes. However, unlike the hearing to contest a DWI Civil Revocation, there is a $100 filing fee, paid to the State, to secure a Pre-Trial Limited Driving Privilege.
Wait for the DWI Civil Revocation to Expire
When you receive a DWI Civil Revocation, the minimum period of revocation is either 30 or 45 days depending on when your driver’s license was surrendered. If your driver’s license is surrendered within 5 working days of the revocation, the revocation period is 30 days. If your driver’s license is not surrendered within 5 working days of the revocation, the revocation is generally 45 days.
If you were not able to take advantage of a DWI Civil Revocation Contest Hearing or a Limited Driving Privilege, your DWI Civil Revocation will expire after the 30 or 45-day revocation period mentioned above. Once expired, and only after you pay the requisite $100 DWI Civil Revocation fee, your driver’s license will be restored.
Does it matter to my attorney if I am guilty of committing the crime?
If you know that you are guilty of committing a crime, you may worry that your attorney knows that you are guilty even if he does not ask you whether you committed the crime. This may lead to concerns about how well your lawyer can represent you if he believes that you are guilty. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney knows that the focus should not be on your guilt or innocence but on the strength of the case against you.
Factual vs. Legal Guilt in Criminal Cases
It is important to keep in mind that the focus of your defense is not whether or not you committed the act but whether the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you are guilty. This is the difference between factual and legal guilt. Here is how it affects criminal cases:
- Factual guilt. Factual guilt refers to what you actually did. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney will not focus on this because you can be factually guilty but not legally guilty. A good attorney will focus on your legal guilt.
- Legal guilt. Legal guilt refers to whether the prosecutor can prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Whether you committed the crime or not, you are not legally guilty unless the prosecutor has enough evidence to convince a judge or jury to find you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. So your attorney’s focus should be on this question: What can the prosecutor prove? His tactics may be to attack the strength of the evidence against you—whether or not your attorney believes that you are guilty.
Why Guilt or Innocence May Not Matter to Your Criminal Defense Attorney
An attorney has a duty to zealously represent his clients in criminal matters—regardless of the person’s guilt. Under our criminal justice system, everyone charged with a crime has a right to a vigorous defense. This is a protection all accused people have under the United States Constitution. An attorney does not have a duty to prove a client’s innocence, so it does not really matter to him whether the person is guilty. His duty is to prove the person’s defenses to show that he is not legally guilty.
Guilt is also not that important because criminal defense attorneys often feel like they never really know whether their clients are guilty or not. Even if someone confesses to his attorney, it does not mean that he really did it. He could be covering for someone else or have another reason for lying. In addition, he may not be guilty of this offense, but could have committed a less serious offense. For these and other reasons, attorneys often do not ask about guilt when talking to clients in criminal cases and instead focus their questions to clients on building a strong defense.
While your attorney has a duty to provide you with a defense if there is one to raise, this does not mean that he can lie for you. If he knows that you are guilty of the crime, he could not claim that you did not commit the crime as a defense. However, this does not preclude him from raising defenses that show the weaknesses in the prosecutor’s case against you.
Let Us Help You Raise All Your Defenses to the Charges You Face
Whether you are guilty or innocent, you may have strong defenses that will show that the prosecutor cannot prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. However, you will need the assistance of experienced criminal defense attorneys to identify and effectively raise your defenses. It is crucial to take this aggressive approach because it can result in the charges against you being dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense with less serious penalties. To learn more about our experiences defending our clients facing many different criminal charges and how we can help you, call our office to schedule your free consultation.
What traffic violations require a mandatory court hearing?
North Carolina has some of the strictest traffic offense laws in the country. Unlike many other states, a person who receives a traffic ticket will often be required to attend a mandatory court hearing. This means that even if you want to plead guilty and pay the ticket, you will most likely have to attend a court hearing to do so. However, an experienced traffic law attorney may be able to attend this hearing for you and obtain a better outcome with less harsh penalties than if you go to the hearing on your own.
What Are Waivable Offenses That Do Not Require a Mandatory Court Hearing?
There are a few “waivable” offenses where you can handle the ticket without going to court by paying the fines and costs prior to the court date. By doing so, you are waiving your right to appear at a court hearing. Waivable offenses are very minor ones, such as having a broken headlight. The police officer who issues the ticket should indicate on the back of the ticket whether the offense is one that can be waived. If it is, the costs and fines that you must pay should also be listed.
By paying the ticket, you are also pleading guilty to the offense. This can affect your driver’s license and automobile insurance costs. It is always best to consult with an experienced attorney before deciding to just pay the ticket to be certain that you do not have better options—which is often the case.
Traffic Offenses Which Require a Mandatory Court Hearing
The majority of traffic offenses require attendance at a court hearing in North Carolina. In addition, if you intend to plead not guilty to the traffic offense, you must attend the court hearing to enter your plea. Tickets that require a mandatory court hearing include:
- Tampering with an ignition interlock device
- Driving while a driver’s license is suspended, revoked, disqualified, or revoked for an impaired driver’s license revocation
- Driving a commercial vehicle without a valid commercial driver’s license or when the license has been suspended, revoked, or disqualified
- Failing to obey the instructions of a traffic officer or a fireman at the scene of a fire
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving with an open container after drinking
- Reckless driving
- Driving over 80 mph, including in a work zone
- Speeding 15 miles or more over the speed limit while driving over 55 mph, including in a work zone
- Aggressive driving
- Failing to give right of way to the right when being passed if this results in a crash that causes bodily harm or property damage
- Making unsafe movements that cause an accident that results in serious bodily injury or property damage more than $5,000
- Failing to yield involving serious bodily injury
- Failing to stop at the scene of an accident or to report it
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Violating the financial responsibility laws
What Happens If You Miss Your Mandatory Court Hearing?
If you fail to attend your mandatory court hearing, you could face more serious consequences. You may be assessed additional court costs, a warrant could be issued for your arrest, and your driver’s license could be revoked. Depending on the traffic offense, you may be facing additional criminal charges. You should contact an attorney immediately for assistance in getting your hearing rescheduled so that you do not face these consequences.
We Are Here to Help With Your Traffic Offense
Did you receive a traffic ticket? An experienced traffic ticket lawyer may be able to attend your mandatory court hearing for you and will fight hard to get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense. This can help you avoid some of the harsh long-term consequences, such as a permanent criminal record, points on your driving record, and increased insurance costs. Call our office today to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
What can happen if I get caught driving on a suspended license?
Because most people rely on driving a vehicle to get to work and take care of family and personal affairs, it can be devastating to have a suspended driver’s license. Public transportation may be readily accessible in some cities in North Carolina, but it may be unavailable, time-consuming, and expensive where you live. As a result, you may find it almost impossible not to drive—even if you have a suspended license. However, if you are caught, you could face even more serious penalties.
Why Are Driver’s Licenses Revoked in North Carolina?
Your North Carolina driver’s license can be suspended for many reasons. Some of the reasons are for fairly minor offenses while others are for committing serious offenses or unsafe driving practices. Here are some of the reasons that your driver’s license could be suspended:
- Failing to pay court costs and fees
- Failing to attend a required court hearing
- Failing to pay child support
- Failing to complete required community service
- Accumulating 12 Department of Motor Vehicle points on your driver’s license in a three-year period or accumulating three points in a three year period when you have a driver’s license suspension on your record
- Speeding over a certain speed or receiving a certain number of speeding tickets
- Refusing to submit to a chemical test to determine if you are intoxicated
- Being convicted of impaired driving
- Failing to stop after an accident
What Are the Penalties for Driving While Your Driver’s License Is Suspended?
Driving While License Revoked (DWLR) is a serious misdemeanor offense in North Carolina—even if your original suspension is for failing to pay fines or another more minor cause. However, the law was changed on December 1, 2015, to reduce the harsh consequences for some offenses. There are now four offenses:
- DWLR. You could be convicted of this offense if you drive a motor vehicle on a highway—which is broadly defined to include most roads—while knowing that your driver’s license has been revoked. This is a Class 3 misdemeanor, but under the new law, a violation may not result in an additional driver’s license suspension.
- Impaired driving suspension. It is a violation of the law to drive when your license has been suspended for impaired driving, and you have received a required notice under North Carolina law of the suspension. This is also a Class 1 Misdemeanor, and a violation could result in an additional driver’s license suspension.
- Driving without reclaiming license. If you are charged with DWI, your driver’s license will be immediately revoked. If the time period for the revocation has expired and you have not reclaimed your license, but are caught driving, this is a Class 3 misdemeanor. Under the new law, this violation may not result in an additional revocation of your license.
- Driving after notification. If you drive after failing to appear for a DWI (Driving While Impaired) court date or after receiving a notice from the DMV that your license has been suspended, this remains a Class 1 misdemeanor. You may face an additional driver’s license suspension.
The consequences of driving when your drivers’ license is suspended are serious and include a permanent criminal record if you are convicted of a misdemeanor offense. You could face these punishments:
- Up to 120 days in jail
- Fines to be set by the judge
- Driver’s license suspension of an additional one year for the first offense, two years for a second offense, and lifetime revocation for a third offense
- Eight points on your vehicle insurance policy, which can result in your premiums increasing up to 220 percent for the next three years under North Carolina’s Safe Driver Incentive Plan
Let Us Help If Your Driver’s License Has Been Suspended
Rather than try to handle your case on your own, we recommend speaking with a traffic ticket lawyer to understand how the legal process works. If you have been charged with driving while your driver’s license was suspended, our experienced traffic law attorneys are here to help you fight the charges you face. Depending on your situation, we may be able to help you get your driving privileges restored. Call our office today to schedule your free case evaluation to learn more about your legal options.
What happens if I miss my court date for a criminal offense?
When you are charged with committing a crime, you may be released after paying bail while your case is pending. As a condition of your release, you agree to attend all required court hearings in your criminal case. This is something that you are already legally required to do. If you break this promise and fail to attend a court hearing, the consequences can be harsh. However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you to reduce the penalties that you could face.
What Could Happen to You If You Miss a Court Hearing?
If you fail to appear at your court hearing, this is taken seriously in North Carolina no matter the seriousness of the crime that you are being charged with committing. The judge will mark your case with a failure to appear (FTA). He could also order the following:
- Bench warrant. The judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. This is more likely for a misdemeanor or felony offense, but is also possible if you are required to go to court for a traffic violation. If the charges are serious, the police may actively look for you to arrest you, including going to your home or job. If you are charged with a less serious offense, you may not be arrested unless you are stopped for a traffic violation and the police check the computer records and see that a bench warrant was issued.
- Bail bond. You could have your bail revoked and be required to remain in jail until your case goes to trial. In addition, you could forfeit the original bond that you paid to be released when you were arrested initially.
- Separate criminal charge. You could be charged with contempt of court or another separate crime for missing your court hearing and face an additional punishment if convicted.
- Harsher sentence. If you are convicted of a crime or enter into a plea agreement, the judge will decide your sentence and can consider your remorse, or lack of it, in making his decision. Many judges consider failing to appear at a court hearing as a sign of lack of remorse or of disrespect for the court. This could result in the judge imposing a harsher sentence.
- Driver’s license suspension. Another consequence of failing to appear in court is that your driver’s license could be suspended. If you miss a hearing in traffic court, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest and notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the warrant. The DMV could send you a letter giving you two months to resolve your ticket before your driver’s license is suspended. If you wait too long after that to resolve your ticket, you could find your options for doing so with the prosecuting attorney are limited.
What Can You Do If You Miss a Court Hearing?
You may not have wanted to miss your court hearing, but did due to an accident, a medical emergency, or another legitimate reason. Even if you do not have a good excuse, you can take proactive measures if you miss your court hearing to reduce the negative consequences. Here are actions that you can take:
- Go to the Clerk’s office immediately to explain why you missed your court hearing.
- Ask that the court hearing be rescheduled. This request may—or may not—be granted.
- Obtain documentation of the reason for missing court when possible. For example, get a letter from your treating physician if a medical emergency caused you to miss a court hearing.
- Contact your criminal defense attorney who may be able to get the arrest warrant dismissed and your court hearing date rescheduled.
Have you missed a court date? We urge you to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you minimize the potential consequences that you face. To discuss your situation, call our office or fill out our online form to schedule your free consultation today.
What is a no contest (“nolo contendere”) plea and how does it differ from other pleas in criminal cases in North Carolina?
If you are charged with a crime in North Carolina, you will have to decide what plea to enter to the charges. How you plead can have important consequences both in your criminal case and life in general because a conviction will result in you having a permanent criminal record. One option that some people choose when entering into a plea agreement or entering a plea other than a plea of not guilty is to plead no contest—also referred to as nolo contendere—instead of guilty. Here, we explain what a no contest plea is and the benefits of entering this plea.
What Is a No-Contest Plea?
You have several choices of pleas that you can enter in your criminal case. These include the following:
- Not guilty
- No contest
- Alford plea
In many criminal cases, a person will start out by pleading not guilty and then change his plea to guilty later if he enters into a plea agreement.
Depending on your situation, it could be in your best interest to not plead guilty and instead enter a no contest plea or an Alford plea when resolving your case. A no-contest plea in North Carolina is a plea where a person does not admit or dispute the charges against him and has the same effect as a guilty plea in terms of sentencing. However, a person is not admitting legal responsibility for the incident.
What would be the benefit of pleading no contest instead of guilty? Important advantages to this plea include:
- If you plead no contest, your plea cannot be used against you in a civil action filed by any victim who suffered injuries due to your actions. This is the biggest advantage of this plea and can be important if you caused a car accident resulting in a person’s injury or death, injured someone in an assault, or shot someone. In contrast, if you pled guilty, your plea could be used against you as an admission of fault in a civil case and increase the likelihood that you will owe compensation to the victim.
- You avoid the attorney fees associated with taking your criminal case to trial.
- If you are entering this plea as part of a plea agreement, the charges against you and the sentence you face may be reduced.
Another Option: An Alford Plea
While not all states allow people to enter an Alford plea, you are permitted to do so in North Carolina. If you enter this plea, you are maintaining your innocence but are admitting that the state has sufficient evidence to convict you and agree to accept the punishment. Unlike a no contest plea, you are essentially pleading guilty while still maintaining your innocence. This plea may seem contradictory, but it was ruled permissible by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1970 in a criminal case in our state, North Carolina vs. Alford.
Like a plea of no contest, an Alford plea may be beneficial if you believe that you face civil liability as well as criminal charges, as your plea may not be allowed to be used against you in the civil case. You must obtain the approval of the prosecutor and judge to enter into a no contest or Alford plea.
How Should You Decide Which Plea Is Right for You?
You should never decide on entering a plea without first consulting with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you on what the best option is. This is especially true when you are considering a no contest or Alford plea to avoid civil liability. In addition, your attorney may be able to raise defenses to the charges—even if you know that you are guilty—that could result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.
If you are a suspect or have been charged with a crime, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Browning & Long, PLLC are here to help you build a strong defense to the charges you face. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how our experiences as former prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys can be beneficial to you.