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 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.
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.
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.
I received a ticket in North Carolina for unsafe movements involving a motorcycle. What is this offense and what penalties could I face?
While receiving a ticket for unsafe driving that involved a motorcycle may not seem like a big deal that requires a lawyer’s assistance, it can result in a hefty fine and long-term consequences in your life. Retaining an experienced Charlotte traffic ticket attorney can help avoid these harsh penalties.
Unsafe Movement That Involves a Motorcycle Traffic Offense and Penalties in Charlotte
Making unsafe movements when driving can apply to many unsafe driving practices, such as unsafe lane changes or improper turns. This ticket is often issued when there is a near-accident or collision. Under an amendment to this statute, the legislature made the penalties even harsher when a motorcycle is involved in the violation. You can be ticketed for this offense if you make an unsafe movement and cause a vehicle to change travel lanes or to leave a public road or highway. Here are the potential penalties you could face if convicted:
- The minimum fine assessed is $200.
- If the unsafe movement results in property damage or injuries to the motorcycle rider or his passengers, the fine could be increased to a minimum of $500 and may be even more.
- If the property damage is more than $5,000 or the rider or a passenger suffers serious bodily injury, the minimum fine increases to $750. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended for up to 30 days. However, you may be able to obtain limited driving privileges during this time period.
In addition to the large fines that you may have to pay, you could also incur other long-term expenses. Four points will be added to your driver’s license. This can increase your insurance premiums by as much as 25 percent.
Even if you want to just pay the ticket, you will need to attend at least one court hearing to resolve your citation. However, a lawyer may be able to appear on your behalf so that you do not have to take time off work to do so.
Contact a Lawyer For Unsafe Movement Ticket
You may have defenses to an unsafe movement ticket that can result in it being dismissed or reduced to a less serious traffic violation—even if you violated this law. To learn more about your options, call our office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyers.
Can I be charged with reckless driving in North Carolina if I live out-of-state?
If you live in another state, you can be charged with reckless driving and face the same punishment as a person who resides in North Carolina. Unfortunately, reckless driving is not the same as a traffic violation in our state. It is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and the penalties if convicted include a jail sentence of up to 60 days, fine of up to $1,000, driver’s license suspension, and points on your driving record. You would also have a permanent criminal record.
Will You Have to Attend a Court Hearing If Charged With Reckless Driving in North Carolina?
Reckless driving is not a “waivable offense” where you can pay the fine before the court hearing date and not appear in court. You must attend the scheduled court hearing even if you just want to plead guilty. If you fail to appear, you could owe additional court costs, and the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest. However, our experienced reckless driving attorneys may be able to attend your court hearing on your behalf without the need for you to be present.
How Will a North Carolina Reckless Driving Conviction Affect Your Driving Record in Your Home State?
North Carolina is a member of the Driver License Compact. It is an interstate compact of states used to exchange information about driver’s license suspensions and traffic violations of non-residents. Currently, 45 states are members of the compact.
The Department of Motor Vehicles in North Carolina would report your driver’s license suspension and reckless driving conviction to your home state if it is a member of the Driver License Compact. Your state would treat the conviction as it if occurred in the state where you live.
Facing Reckless Driving Charges?
If you live in another state and are charged with reckless driving in North Carolina, you must retain an attorney licensed in our state to represent you in court. Our experienced Charlotte reckless driving attorneys have the added advantage of being former prosecutors, so we understand their strategies in these cases. To learn about our extensive experience and commitment to providing our clients with the best possible defense, start an online chat or call our office to schedule your free consultation today.
What racing crimes could I be charged with in North Carolina?
Illegally racing a vehicle is a serious crime in North Carolina, and if convicted, you could face many long-term consequences. These are misdemeanor offenses which can result in you having a permanent criminal record. Besides the punishments for a misdemeanor, you may lose your driver’s license for a lengthy period of time and have your vehicle seized.
Common Racing Offenses in North Carolina
There are two offenses that you can be charged with for illegal racing. They are:
- Prearranged racing. It is unlawful for a person to operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway willfully in a prearranged race with another motor vehicle. This is a Class 1 misdemeanor with possible penalties of a fine, probation, and jail time depending on your prior criminal record. If convicted, your driver’s license would be revoked for three years, but you may request that it be reinstated after 18 months. In addition, your vehicle would be seized at your arrest. It would be sold, and you would incur 12 insurance points if you are convicted.
- Willful racing. It is also a crime to operate a motor vehicle on a street or highway willfully in a speed competition with another vehicle. This is a Class 2 misdemeanor, and the punishment includes possible driver’s license revocation for one year. However, this is discretionary. Ten insurance points would be incurred. The police are not authorized to seize and sell your vehicle if you are convicted.
There are other crimes associated with illegal racing that are also Class 1 misdemeanors:
- Loaning a vehicle for racing. It is illegal to loan a motor vehicle for use in prearranged racing. If convicted, the owner would face a three-year suspension of his driver’s license but could request that it be reinstated after 18 months. He would also incur 10 insurance points.
- Betting on a prearranged race. You could be charged with this offense for placing or receiving a bet on the outcome of a prearranged race on a street or highway. If convicted, your driver’s license would be suspended for three years—the same as if you were found guilty of prearranged racing.
Facing Racing Charges?
Have you been charged with illegal racing in North Carolina? Our experienced traffic ticket attorneys are here to mount a strong defense so that you achieve the best possible outcome. To schedule your free consultation, call our office or start an online chat today.
Is it illegal to text and drive in North Carolina?
Any form of distracted driving is unsafe, but using a cell phone while driving is one of the most dangerous types of distractions that lead to accidents. In North Carolina, it is illegal to text and drive. Violating this law can result in stiff fines and harsh penalties if you are a school bus or commercial truck driver.
What Is North Carolina’s Law on Texting and Driving?
While most motorists over 18 years old are allowed to talk on a cell phone while driving, texting while driving is banned. North Carolina is a “primary law” state, which means that the police can stop you and issue you a ticket solely for violating this law. It is illegal for drivers to:
- Manually enter letters or text in a cell phone in an effort to communicate with another individual
- Read an e-mail or text transmitted to or stored in an electronic device
There are exceptions to this ban on texting and driving. It will not apply in these situations:
- The driver is lawfully parked or stopped
- The person is a police officer, firefighter, or ambulance driver texting while they are performing official duties
- The technology used is a factory-installed or after-purchased GPS
- The person is using voice-operated technology
Fines and Drivers' License Points
A violation of this traffic law is a civil infraction that is punishable by a $100 fine. A person will not have drivers’ license points placed on his driving record or face higher insurance costs.
If the individual violating the texting ban is a school bus driver, it would be a Class 2 misdemeanor, not a civil infraction. The penalty is a fine of at least $100.
There are more severe penalties if the person is driving a commercial vehicle. Commercial truck drivers are also prohibited from texting and driving under federal regulations. Two convictions within three years will result in the person’s commercial license being suspended for 60 days while three convictions within this time period could result in a 120-day revocation.
Speak To a Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today
Did you receive a traffic ticket for texting while driving in Charlotte? Our experienced criminal defense attorneys are here to answer your questions and help you achieve the best possible outcome with fewer long-term consequences. Call our Charlotte office today to schedule your free consultation.