We Answer Your Most Frequently Asked Traffic Questions
With the volume of state traffic rules and the changing nature of the law, it can be difficult to know just what to do when facing a traffic charge. Here, Todd Browning and Howard Long offer their answers to some of your most common traffic questions. Drawing upon their experience as former prosecutors, they discuss a variety of infractions, possible legal options, potential consequences, and more. Can’t find the answer you need? Reach out to us!
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What could happen to me if I’m pulled over by the police and don’t have car insurance?
Like in all other states, you must have liability auto insurance in order to drive a motor vehicle in North Carolina. You should not take this duty lightly. If you are caught driving without it, you could be charged with a crime.
What Insurance Are You Required to Have in Mecklenburg County?
Under North Carolina law, all owners of a registered motor vehicle operated in our state must carry these minimum amounts of liability auto insurance:
- $30,000 for bodily injury per person and $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
While you do not have to buy more than the minimum amount required, it is best to purchase additional coverage. This would protect you if you cause an injury in an accident or if you are hurt in a crash caused by another driver who has insufficient insurance to fully compensate you.
Charges and Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance
Driving without required motor vehicle insurance is a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. In addition to a criminal sentence, you would also owe civil penalties and could lose your license plates for 30 days if you fail to provide proof of new insurance and pay the civil penalties within 10 days.
The sentence that you could face would depend on how many times you have violated the law. Here are the possible punishments:
- First Offense. You could be sentenced to probation for 1 to 45 days. In addition, you would currently owe a $50 civil penalty and a $50 license reinstatement fee.
- Second Offense. Your punishment could be a jail sentence or probation for between 1 and 45 days. The civil penalty would increase to $100, but the license reinstatement fee would still be $50.
- Third or subsequent offense. The criminal penalty and civil reinstatement fee would be the same as for a second offense. However, you would have to pay a $150 civil penalty.
If you are convicted of this crime, you would also have a permanent criminal record that can have long-term consequences on many aspects of your life.
Were you charged with failing to have auto insurance or another traffic offense? Our knowledgeable traffic ticket defense lawyers are here to explain your options to you and to raise a strong defense so that you achieve the best outcome given your situation. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation today.
Are the consequences of being issued a traffic ticket for speeding different than a charge of reckless driving?
Getting a traffic ticket for speeding is not at all like being charged with reckless driving in North Carolina. The penalties and long-term consequences are vastly different. Here are four important differences that you need to understand.
Difference #1: Infraction vs. Misdemeanor Offense
If you get a traffic ticket for speeding, the offense is a civil infraction that is punished by the payment of fines only. However, speeding can also be charged as reckless driving in certain situations, such as if you are driving 15 miles or more over the posted speed limit. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime, which is a much more serious offense than getting a traffic ticket.
Difference #2: Penalties Are Different
As noted above, the penalty for getting a traffic ticket is often a fine. The fines can range from $10 to $50 to up to $250 if you are caught speeding in a school or construction zone. The penalties for reckless driving are more severe and can include:
- Jail sentence of up to 60 days
- Fines not to exceed $1,000
- Possible driver’s license suspension of 30 to 60 days
Difference #3: Points on Driver’s License
More points will be assessed on your driver’s license if you are convicted of reckless driving than if you are ticketed for speeding. Four points would be added to your driver’s license for reckless driving, while two or three points could be added to it for speeding. Points on your driver’s license can affect your auto insurance costs and can result in your driver’s license being suspended if you accumulate too many points within a certain period of time.
Difference #4: Permanent Criminal Record
You will have a permanent criminal record if you are found guilty of reckless driving since it is a criminal offense. This is not true for a speeding ticket. Having a permanent criminal record can have long-term consequences on your ability to obtain employment, housing, security clearance, and more.
While there are many differences between a speeding ticket and a reckless driving charge, there is one way that they are alike. With both, you need the assistance of an experienced traffic lawyer who can explain your options to you, raise your defenses, and help you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn how we can help you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation.
Can I receive a ticket if I violate the law on driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane?
You are only allowed to drive in a high-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV) in Charlotte if you have the required number of occupants in your vehicle. If you drive in an HOV lane when you are not permitted to do so, you could receive a traffic ticket with punishments that include a hefty fine and points on your driver’s license.
What Are the Rules on Using an HOV Lane?
High occupancy vehicle lanes are used to reduce the terrible traffic congestion on N 1-77 and other highways and roads in Mecklenburg county. They are designed to cut down on single-occupancy vehicles and encourage commuting. Some of the benefits of HOV lanes include:
- They are more cost-efficient.
- They allow vehicles with more than one occupant faster travel on congested highways.
- They cut down on ozone pollution.
Only certain vehicles are permitted to drive in HOV lanes, and not all of them must have passengers. These lanes are open to:
- Vehicles with passengers. Motor vehicles with two or more occupants can use an HOV lane.
- Motorcycles. For safety reasons, federal law requires that motorcycles be permitted to use HOV lanes.
- Emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, and law enforcement vehicles—that are responding to an emergency—are allowed to drive in HOV lanes.
- Public transportation vehicles. Even if only the driver is in a public transportation vehicle, he is permitted to drive in a high occupancy vehicle lane.
- Privately-owned buses. A privately-owned bus that can carry 15 or more occupants can use an HOV lane regardless of how many people are on the bus.
Use of an HOV lane is prohibited for these vehicles:
- Trucks having three or more axles
- Single occupant vehicles
- Vehicles using an HOV lane to pass
What Are the Penalties for Violating North Carolina’s HOV Law?
If you are pulled over in Charlotte for violating the law on who can use an HOV lane, you could receive a traffic citation. Your punishment can include a $100 fine and two points on your driving record.
You should not just pay the ticket without first considering your options since there are long-term consequences to traffic tickets. The points on your driving and insurance records can result in your auto insurance rates increasing for years after you pay the fine. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended if you accumulate too many points on your driving record.
Let our skilled traffic ticket lawyers identify your defenses and determine the best option for you so that you achieve the best possible outcome. We represent clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg county. To find out how we can help you, contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation.
Why shouldn’t I just pay my traffic ticket?
If you received a traffic ticket, especially one that is a waivable offense that will not require a court hearing if you pay the fine, you may be tempted just to pay it. However, pleading guilty without first considering fighting the ticket may not be in your best interests because of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences of traffic violations in North Carolina.
Reasons to NOT Just Pay a Traffic Ticket in Charlotte
Traffic tickets are serious offenses in our state and often require a court appearance to resolve. Here are some reasons why fighting your traffic ticket may be a better option than just accepting your punishment.
Permanent Criminal Record
Some traffic offenses, such as speeding, hit and run accidents, and reckless driving are misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. If convicted, you could have a permanent criminal record that would make it harder to obtain a job, find housing, and more.
Driver’s License Points
If convicted of a traffic offense, you may have points added to your driving record. For example, reckless driving or following too closely can add 4 points to your record, and speeding in excess of 55 miles per hour can add 3 points to it. If you accumulate 12 or more points on your driver’s license, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend your driver’s license for 60 days for a first suspension, six months for a second suspension, and 12 months for a third one.
In addition to having points added to your driver’s license, you will have insurance points added to your insurance record under the North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) when you pay your ticket. This can dramatically increase your insurance cost. Here are examples of how this works:
- Speeding 10 miles or less over a speed limit of less than 55 mph and other moving violations: one insurance point and up to 30 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Speeding 10 miles or less over the speed limit of 55 mph or higher or following too closely: two insurance points and up to 45 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Reckless driving: Four insurance points and up to an 80 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Hit and run accidents involving injury or death: 12 insurance points and up to 340 percent increase in insurance premiums.
Are you wondering whether it is better to pay your traffic ticket or fight it? Call our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your ticket and what option is best for your situation.
How will insurance points affect my auto insurance rates?
In North Carolina, insurance points can dramatically affect the cost of your auto insurance. Even a simple ticket that only adds one insurance point to your record can result in a 30 percent increase in your insurance costs. Because of this, you should not just pay a citation fine without first obtaining the advice of an experienced traffic ticket attorney in Charlotte to determine if it is in your best interest to fight the ticket.
What Are Insurance Points?
There are two types of points that you can be assessed if you are found guilty of violating a traffic law: points on your driving record and insurance points. The North Carolina legislature created the Safe Driver Incentive Plan to encourage safe driving in our state. It rewards motorists who have a good driving record by allowing insurance companies to charge them less in insurance premiums. However, this law also allows insurance companies to charge significantly higher rates if a driver has insurance points due to traffic violations.
How Much Could Your Insurance Rates Increase Due to Insurance Points?
The North Carolina Department of Insurance sets the insurance points per accident and traffic citation and how much insurance rates can be increased when insurance points are assessed. An insurance company is allowed to consider how many points have interest over a three-year period when setting your premium cost. Here is how these points could affect this:
- One point. You can be assessed one point for moving violations that are not assessed higher points, for speeding 10 mph or less over the speed limit under 55 mph, or an accident causing personal injuries of $1,800 or less or property damage of $2,300 or less. Your insurance rates could increase as much as 30 percent.
- Two points. A citation for illegal passing, following too closely, accidents resulting in property damage between $2,300 and $3,850, and speeding 10 mph or less over the speed limit of 55 mph or higher are some of the violations that can result in two insurance points. This can cause your insurance rates to increase by 45 percent.
- Three points. Three points will be assessed if you cause a crash resulting in personal injuries of more than $1,800 or property damage totaling $3,850 or more. Insurance rates can go up by 60 percent.
- Four points. Reckless driving, a hit and run collision with only property damage, passing a stopped school bus, and speeding in excess of 75 mph where the posted speed limit is 70 mph or less can add four points to your insurance record. Your insurance company can increase your insurance premiums by 80 percent.
- Eight points. Aggressive driving and driving when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked can add eight insurance points to your record and increase your insurance costs by 195 percent.
- Ten points. Street racing and speeding to elude arrest are serious violations that can cause 10 points to be added to your record. Your insurance costs can also be increased by 260 percent.
- Twelve points. Manslaughter, negligent homicide, a hit and run accident resulting in bodily injury or death, and DUI are a few of the violations that can result in 12 points on your insurance record and a 340 percent increase in your insurance premiums.
If you or a loved one have been issued a traffic citation in Charlotte, take advantage of our offer of a free consultation to learn how we can help you to fight your traffic ticket and avoid the harsh consequences you face—including increased insurance costs. To schedule your appointment, call our office today.
What penalties could I face for driving too closely in North Carolina?
Getting a traffic ticket for driving too closely may not seem like too big of a deal. However, you could face long-term consequences as well be required to pay a fine and costs. Also, in some situations, tailgating can lead to more serious charges as well as a ticket citation.
What Is the Offense of Driving Too Closely?
North Carolina Code Section 20-152 makes it a traffic offense to follow other motor vehicles too closely. You could be ticketed for this offense if you do one of the following:
- You follow a vehicle more closely than is prudent and reasonable given the speed of other vehicles, traffic, and road conditions.
- When driving on a highway other than in a business or residential district, you follow another vehicle and do not allow enough space for an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy the space in front of your auto without danger. However, this traffic rule does not prevent drivers from passing other vehicles.
What Are the Penalties for Tailgating?
You would be required to pay a $35 fine and costs if you plead guilty to or are convicted of driving too closely. In addition, you could face these long-term consequences:
- Two points on your driving record
- Increased auto insurance costs
- Driver’s license suspension if you have too many points on your driving record
Tailgating Can Result in More Serious Criminal Charges
In addition to being issued a ticket for driving too closely, you could also be charged with reckless driving or aggressive driving. Both are misdemeanor offenses that can result in a jail sentence, large fine, and a permanent criminal record.
If you injure or kill someone in a car accident because you are tailgating, you could be charged with a much more serious felony crime, such as:
- Felony assault
- Second-degree murder
Get the Legal Assistance You Need From an Experienced Charlotte Traffic Ticket Attorney
Tailgating is a waivable offense, which means that you can just plead guilty and pay the ticket. However, this may not be in your best long-term interests. Take advantage of our free consultation to learn about your options. Call our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation today.
How do I waive a traffic ticket?
In North Carolina, you are often required to attend a court hearing where a judge sets your fine and other punishments if you receive a traffic ticket. However, in some cases, you can waive a traffic ticket, which is a way that you can resolve your traffic ticket without the need to attend a court hearing.
Three Options for Waiving a Traffic Ticket in Charlotte
When you are waiving a traffic ticket, you are pleading guilty and paying the fine and costs before the scheduled court hearing. You can only waive certain offenses, and there are currently over 40 traffic violations that qualify. Some examples include exceeding a safe speed, not wearing a seat belt, not yielding for a pedestrian, and failing to yield at a stop sign.
You have three ways to waive your traffic ticket. Your traffic ticket should state whether the infraction is waivable and include waiver instructions. Here is how you can do this:
- Online. You can waive your ticket online through the North Carolina Judicial Branch’s online services. You would need to pay the fine and costs with a credit or debit card before your court hearing date.
- In person. To waive your ticket in person, you must sign the waiver portion of your traffic ticket in front of the court clerk or magistrate and pay what you owe. You can pay by cash, certified check, cashier’s check, money order, credit card, or debit card.
- By mail. You also have the option of waiving by mail. To do this, you must date and sign the waivable part of your citation and mail it with your payment to the Clerk of the Superior Court of the county where you were ticketed. The address to mail the signed citation and your payment to should be listed in the waiver instructions on the ticket. You can only pay by certified check, cashier’s check, or money order.
How to Decide Whether to Waive a Traffic Offense
While you may believe it is easier to just waive a traffic offense and pay the fines and costs that you owe, this may not be in your best interests. Besides the hefty fine you must pay, you could face long-term consequences, such as points on your driving record and increased insurance costs.
Before making a decision on whether to fight a traffic ticket or waive it, you should consult with an experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyer. You may have defenses, even if you are guilty, that can result in the ticket being dismissed or reduced to a less serious infraction. Our lawyers can explain your options to you and may be able to represent you at your court hearing so that you do not need to attend it. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation today.
What can I do if I cannot afford to pay my traffic ticket?
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.