North Carolina Teen With a Drivers License and Car KeysHaving your teen start driving can be a scary and also liberating experience with the convenience of not having to drive him everywhere. Fortunately, North Carolina has a graduated license system to give your teen practice driving under supervision before receiving independent driving privileges. However, the law is very strict when a teenager receives a moving violation, and it is important that you and your teen understand these harsh consequences.

North Carolina’s Provisional Licensing Stages for Teens

A provisional license is one that allows a teenager to drive in limited circumstances that are set out in North Carolina’s law. The state uses a graduated system before a teenager is able to obtain his full license. The stages are:

  • Limited Learner’s Permit. Once a teen has turned 15 years old, he can apply for a limited learner’s permit. In order to qualify, he must have successfully completed an approved driver’s education course and present a Driving Eligibility Certificate from a school administrator. This permit allows him to drive from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm with a supervising licensed driver, such as a parent, grandparent, or guardian, for the first six months. Once this period has elapsed, he can apply for a limited provisional license if he has no conviction for moving violations or seat belt or cell phone infractions in the preceding six months.
  • Limited Provisional License. To obtain a limited provisional license, a teenager must have 60 hours of driving, with 10 hours being at night, and pass a driving test at the Department of Motor Vehicles. He must also have a high school diploma, GED, or Driving Eligibility Certificate. The limited provisional license allows a teen to drive without a supervising licensed driver between 5:00 am and 9:00 pm unless driving to and from work. Only one non-household passenger under 18 years old is permitted, and none are allowed if a household member until 18 years old is a passenger. A violation of the driving hours rule is a Class 3 misdemeanor, and a violation of the passenger requirements is a civil infraction. Like with the limited learner’s permit, the teen driver is not eligible for a full provisional license unless he has no convictions for moving, seat belt, or cell phone violations for the last six months.
  • Full Provisional License. If there are no moving or other violations and the teen has driven an additional 12 hours, with six being at night, he is eligible for a full provisional license. This allows him to drive without supervision or limitations on passengers and with no time-of-day driving restrictions.

When Can a Teen’s Provisional License Be Suspended?

If a young driver has a provisional license and receives a moving violation, he can have his license suspended. However, for purposes of this law, a motor vehicle moving violation does not include one that does not result in points being assessed on a driving record. Here are the basic rules on a provisional license being suspended:

  • First offense. The provisional license will not be suspended for the first moving violation.
  • Second offense. If there is a conviction of a second moving offense within 12 months of the first violation, the teen’s license may be suspended for up to 30 days.
  • Third offense. A provisional license may be suspended for up to 90 days for a conviction of a third moving offense within 12 months of the date of the first violation.
  • Fourth offense. A fourth conviction of a moving violation within 12 months of the first conviction can result in a six-month suspension.

If there are two convictions for the same incident, it is only treated as one offense when determining how long a provisional license should be suspended. These suspensions can be with or without a hearing. If a provisional license is suspended for 90 days or more, a parent or guardian may be able to petition the Department of Motor Vehicles for a probationary reinstatement. However, there may be a lengthy period before a hearing is scheduled—up to half the time of the suspension.

A teen’s provisional license can also be suspended if he fails to meet other certain requirements, such as enrollment in school or a high school equivalent. A suspension under this rule could last until he turns 18 years old.

Revocation of Provisional Licenses

In some cases, a teen can face a revocation of his provisional license. There is an automatic 30-day revocation of a provisional license if the teen driver is charged with a criminal traffic violation which is punishable as a misdemeanor or felony. This rule applies to drivers who are 16 or 17 years old and have a limited learner’s permit or a provisional license. Criminal traffic offenses include:

  • Driving while impaired (DWI)
  • Driving while impaired when driving a commercial vehicle
  • Operating a motor vehicle by a person less than 21 years old after consuming alcohol or drugs
  • Habitual impaired driver
  • Driving with an open container of alcohol in the passenger area of the vehicle and where the driver is consuming or was consuming alcohol
  • Felony, aggravated felony, and misdemeanor death by vehicle
  • Felony and aggravated felony serious injury by vehicle

In addition, a provisional license will be revoked if a teen is convicted of certain crimes, such as DWI under both the DWI statute and the statute governing provisional licenses.

Have you Received a Traffic Citation in Charlotte, NC?

If you received a traffic citation, you need to speak with an experienced traffic ticket attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Charlotte office directly at 980.207.3355 to schedule your free consultation.


Howard W. Long, II
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Charlotte Criminal Defense and DWI Lawyer