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 defenses could I raise if I was charged with hit and run driving?
A hit and run offense is a serious crime in North Carolina, and there is more than one way a driver can violate this law. If you have been arrested for causing a hit and run accident, you could be facing a lengthy jail or prison sentence and large fines. In addition, you would have a permanent criminal record that can affect your ability to obtain a job, housing, education and more.
If you want to avoid the harsh consequences you face, you need to retain an experienced traffic ticket lawyer as soon as possible. They can mount a strong defense that may result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a much less serious offense.
What Is a Hit and Run Offense?
Hit and run can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony in North Carolina. There are six ways that a person can commit this offense in our state. Under N.C.G.S. 20-166, it is a crime to do the following:
- Failing to stop or remain at the scene of an accident when someone was seriously injured or killed
- Failing to stop or remain at the crash scene when a victim suffered a personal injury
- Failing to provide information or assistance when someone suffered a personal injury in the accident
- Failing to stop at the scene when there was property damage but no apparent personal injuries or death caused by the collision
- Failing to provide information when there was no obvious personal injuries or death but there was property damage as a result of the crash
- Failing to notify the police of a reportable accident
Penalties for Hit and Run
North Carolina follows a complex sentencing system that takes into account the circumstances of the crime and the defendant’s past criminal history. If convicted, an individual could face these penalties:
- Misdemeanor. Hit and run is often charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. A defendant could be sentenced to up to 120 days in jail and a fine.
- Felony. Hit and run would be charged as a Class H felony if a victim suffered personal injuries and a Class F felony if the accident resulted in serious injuries or death. The punishment for a Class H felony is 4 to 25 months in jail or prison and an expensive fine. If the conviction is for a Class F felony, the sentence could include 10 to 41 months in prison and a hefty fine.
In addition to these penalties, a defendant could have their driver’s license revoked for up to two years without the right to obtain a restricted license.
Defenses to Hit and Run Offenses
Raising the right defenses is crucial when fighting hit and run charges. The right defense can establish that you did not commit the crime or raise reasonable doubt, which can prevent the prosecutor from proving their case beyond a reasonable doubt—which is a high standard of proof to meet.
At Browning & Long, PLLC, our knowledgeable lawyers are former prosecutors who understand how the prosecution will try to convict someone charged with a hit and run crime. We know how important it is to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding a hit and run arrest to develop a defense strategy tailored to achieve the best result for our clients. Here are some defenses that can work in these cases—even if you believe you are guilty.
Lack of Knowledge
Knowledge is a key element that the prosecutor must prove to convict you of causing a hit and run accident. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to argue:
- You did not know that you were involved in an accident.
- You did not know that the collision caused any property damage, personal injuries, or death.
Leaving the Scene Temporarily
Depending on your situation, you may be able to argue that you only left the scene temporarily and intended to return. You would need to show that you had a legitimate reason for leaving.
Responding to an Emergency
If you got in a hit and run accident while driving due to an emergency, you may be able to argue that this was a valid reason not to stop. This defense could work if you were driving to the hospital or urgent care facility due to a medical emergency someone else or you were experiencing or you had another family or other crisis.
In a hit and run accident, the accused must be identified by the police, victim, or witnesses in some fashion. It may be possible to challenge your identification as the person who committed the crime even if you believe you are guilty.
Unfortunately, the police make mistakes and sometimes falsely accuse people of a crime they did not commit. If you are innocent of causing a hit and run accident, proving that you were falsely accused could result in the charges against you being dismissed.
Were you arrested for hit and run in Mecklenburg County? Call our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation to learn how we will aggressively fight the charges you face.
What happens if I miss my traffic court hearing scheduled for my traffic ticket case?
In North Carolina, you must attend a mandatory court hearing to resolve many traffic ticket violations. You cannot just plead guilty and mail in your payment like in other states. In addition, you face harsh penalties if you do not attend your scheduled court hearing.
When Are You Required to Attend a Court Hearing to Resolve a Traffic Ticket?
There are at least 17 traffic violations in our state that require you to attend a mandatory court hearing to find out your sentence. Even if you are able to waive going to court, it is rarely in your best interests to simply plead guilty given the serious punishments and long-term consequences you face. Here are a few common traffic infractions where you must go to court:
- Driving when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked
- Driving while intoxicated
- Driving with an open container of alcohol in your vehicle after drinking
- Reckless driving
- Speeding by 15 mph or more while driving over 55 mph
- Aggressive driving
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Driving without required auto insurance
Penalties You Face If You Miss Your Court Hearing
If you fail to appear at your court hearing, you will be given 20 days to make up the missed court hearing. After this 20-day period elapses, the judge would issue a Failure to Appear (FTA). Here is what could happen to you once a FTA is issued:
- You would be assessed an additional $200 late fee that must be paid in addition to the fine for the traffic violation.
- The court clerk would report your FTA to the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV would send you a letter advising you that they would revoke your driver’s license if you do not resolve your court hearing by a certain deadline.
- If your traffic violation was a misdemeanor offense, such as reckless driving, the judge could immediately issue a FTA instead of giving you 20 days to attend a new hearing and issue a warrant for your arrest.
What Should You Do If You Missed Your Court Hearing?
If you realize that you did not attend a required court hearing, you should contact the court clerk immediately to reschedule your hearing. Then you should retain an experienced traffic ticket attorney who can mount a strong defense so that the traffic ticket is dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Were you issued a traffic violation in Mecklenburg County? Did you miss your court hearing? Our knowledgeable legal team will explain your options and defenses to you and fight so that you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.
How can I find a copy of my traffic ticket if I lost it?
If you lost your traffic ticket issued in Charlotte, you may not think it is a big deal, but it really is. Unlike in other states, you are required to attend a mandatory court hearing to resolve many traffic offenses, such as speeding, passing a school bus, and improper passing. You could face serious consequences if you do not appear at it.
How to Locate a Copy of Your Traffic Ticket
You should act quickly if you lose your traffic ticket. Ways to obtain a copy of it include:
- Court website. You can find your traffic citation on the North Carolina Court’s website. You can search on the Citation Lookup Page by the traffic citation number or your name.
- Traffic court. You can contact the traffic court in the county where you were issued your ticket and obtain a copy of it. You should check the court’s website to see if you can order your ticket online.
If you obtain your traffic on the court’s website, it may not provide you with all the information you need to resolve your ticket. You may need to contact the traffic court directly to find out these details.
You Face Serious Consequences If You Fail to Attend Your Court Hearing in Your Traffic Ticket Case
You could face severe consequences if you miss your court hearing. You could be assessed an additional $200 or more in fines, or your driver’s license could be suspended or revoked. If the traffic offense was serious, the judge could issue a warrant for your arrest, or you could face additional criminal charges.
Did you receive a traffic ticket in Mecklenburg County? Even if you believe that you committed the traffic violation, you may have defenses that can help you get the ticket dismissed or reduced to a less serious infraction. Our experienced traffic ticket attorneys are here to explain your options and defenses and fight so that you achieve the best possible outcome. To learn more, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.
Will filing a motion for appropriate relief help my traffic ticket case?
A motion for appropriate relief (MAR) is a motion filed in a traffic or other criminal case to correct errors made at the trial or other criminal proceeding. If you were convicted of speeding, reckless driving, hit and run violations, or other serious traffic offenses, filing a motion for appropriate relief may help you avoid the conviction and harsh penalties you face.
What Is a Motion for Appropriate Relief?
Under N.C.G.S. § 15A-1420, an individual is allowed to file a MAR to challenge their conviction if there has been an error made in finding them guilty. It is not an appeal, and the court can conduct an evidentiary hearing when deciding the motion.
Grounds for a MAR include:
- The person did not understand the consequences of pleading guilty.
- The judge misapplied the law or used an incorrect law.
- The evidence did not support the jury’s finding that the defendant was guilty of the traffic offense.
- New evidence has become available or new technology has been developed to analyze the evidence.
- The individual’s attorney was ineffective in representing them.
- A new law was passed that retroactively affects the conviction.
How Do You File a Motion for Appropriate Relief?
A MAR is most often a written motion filed with the court. In some cases, this motion can be raised orally at a court hearing. It cannot be filed until after a person is found guilty of the crime. When filing the motion, the defendant must show the following:
- They have reviewed the trial transcript.
- They have identified a legal basis for filing a MAR.
- They are filing the motion in good faith.
The motion for appropriate relief should be filed in the superior court in the district where the defendant was convicted. The District Attorney must be served with the motion.
The judge has discretion on whether or not to hear the motion and can schedule an evidentiary hearing if they believe this is necessary. If they grant the motion, they will order appropriate relief, which can result in the conviction being overturned.
Contact Top Charlotte Traffic Attorneys Today
Were you convicted of a traffic offense in Mecklenburg County? Our knowledgeable traffic ticket lawyers can help you decide whether filing a MAR is a good option in your case. Call our Charlotte office today to schedule your free consultation to discuss your situation.
What should I say to the police if I’m stopped for reckless driving in Charlotte?
If a police officer pulls you over and charges you with reckless driving in Mecklenburg County, it is important to know how to handle talking to them. What you say and do can make your situation better or worse. Here is what you need to do to protect your legal rights and help an experienced traffic ticket attorney build a strong defense for you.
How to Talk to the Police If You Are Being Charged With Reckless Driving
The first crucial thing you must understand is that reckless driving is a Class 2 misdemeanor in North Carolina. It is a crime that comes with harsh punishments if you are convicted. Here is what you need to do to best protect yourself and avoid being charged with other crimes too:
- Cooperate. You need to remain polite and cooperate with the officer’s request for your driver’s license and vehicle registration. You are required to provide this information to them when they pull you over for a traffic stop.
- Remain silent. Exercise your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent. Remember that anything you say can be used against you and can hurt your lawyer’s ability to defend you.
- Do not answer questions. Do not be surprised if the police ask you questions like “Do you know why I pulled you over?” or “How fast were you going?” in an effort to get you to admit that you are guilty of reckless driving. Do not answer these or other questions.
- Get a lawyer. You should retain a knowledgeable reckless driving lawyer as soon as possible after being charged with reckless driving. A lawyer can develop a strong defense strategy to help get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense and can attend all court hearings with you.
Consult Our Experienced Traffic Defense Attorneys Today
Were you charged with reckless driving in Mecklenburg County? Contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation to learn how we can defend you and how we have helped other clients like you obtain a successful outcome in their reckless driving case.
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.
Talk To Our Experienced Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today
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.
Need To Fight A Traffic Ticket In Charlotte? Talk To A Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today
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.
Need To Fight A Traffic Ticket In Charlotte? Talk To A Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today
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.