Traffic Ticket and Violation Lawyers
In North Carolina, traffic offenses encompass a broad variety of violations, from minor offenses like speeding tickets to serious crimes like driving while impaired (DWI). Many people know that it is wise to hire an experienced attorney for very serious offenses, people often brush off the minor ones. Although the upfront penalties may be a small fine, there are many other long-term consequences of traffic tickets, including increased insurance rates, potential loss of driving privileges, and with habitual or more serious offenses, possibly jail time.
At Polk Law we represent clients facing the full range of traffic violation charges. We know that even minor offenses can be very costly if you just plead guilty and pay the fine, and can promise you that the long-term cost of doing so far outweighs any legal fees of hiring an experienced defense lawyer. Whatever the circumstances of your case may be, if you are dealing with a traffic ticket or facing any charges for traffic violations, reach out to us for help.
North Carolina's Point System and Minor Traffic Violations
Many traffic violations are minor offenses which can result in a fine and points against your driving record, but will not impact your criminal record with a misdemeanor or felony. If you get 12 points against your driving record within a three-year period, you could have your license suspended for up to 60 days. After your license is reinstated, it will only take 8 points within three years to get another suspension for up to 6 months. A third suspension could last a whole year, but after that year the points are voided. Additionally, you will have to pay a fine that typically ranges from $10 to $250, but will be more for misdemeanor offenses and does not include any court costs.
Some examples of minor traffic violations and their respective points are:
|Littering from a Vehicle
Speeding (10 mph or less over the limit,
where the speed limit is less than 55mph)
|Speeding in a School Zone
|Driving Without Liability Insurance
|Failure to Yield Right of Way
|Stop Sign/Stop Light Violations
Traffic Violations with Criminal Charges
Some traffic violations are far more serious and will involve criminal proceedings that could lead to a conviction. Most of the serious vehicle crimes we tied to DWI/DUI or vehicular manslaughter and hit and run crimes, but there are many other traffic violations that can subject you to more serious criminal proceedings and a potential misdemeanor or felony conviction.
Driving with a Revoked License
In North Carolina, when a driver’s license is revoked, their driving privileges are terminated and can only be reinstated if they meet eligibility requirements and any conditions set forth in a hearing by the N.C Division of Motor Vehicles. This is different from a suspension, which is a temporary withdrawal of driving privileges, and not the same as driving without a valid license.
Driving with a revoked license can result in criminal penalties, with a conviction punished as a class 1 misdemeanor under most circumstances.
There are three variations of this crime:
Driving While License Revoked
A person is guilty of this offense if they drive a vehicle on a highway while knowing that their driver’s license is revoked.
Punishment can be reduced from a class 1 misdemeanor to a class 2 misdemeanor under the following circumstances:
- Revocation was due to an implied consent offense like refusing to take a chemical DWI analysis, if the driving offense took place after a certain period of time since the license was revoked.
- License forfeiture for failure to pay child support or comply with a subpoena related to child-support.
- Revocation was due to a refusal to register a motor vehicle or hunting, fishing or trapping license.
Driving While License Revoked for an Impaired Driving Revocation
If a person’s license was revoked for a DWI, the penalty for driving with that revoked license will always be a class 1 misdemeanor. Aside from stemming from a DWI, this offense is different from the previous as it does not require the perpetrator to have knowingly been driving with a revoked license. It only requires that a notification had been sent by the DMV of their license revocation.
Driving While Commercial Driver's License Disqualified
A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is generally required to operate heavier vehicles such as trucks used for commercial transport purposes. When a CDL is “disqualified” it means the driver has lost their privileges to drive such vehicles for a period of time. This disqualification does not apply to a regular license, though if a person gets their CDL disqualified they may simultaneously face a regular license suspension or revocation.
A CDL gets disqualified for one year if the driver is convicted of any felony involving a motor vehicle as well as a chemical test refusal.
There is no opportunity for reduced punishment, so this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor.
Reckless Driving, Aggressive Driving, and Racing
Some people may use the terms “aggressive driving” and “reckless driving” interchangeable, but under North Carolina law they mean different things and are all misdemeanor crimes.
There are two ways a person can commit this offense while driving a vehicle in a public area:
- “Carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights and safety of others.”
- “Without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner that endangers or is likely to endanger any person or property.”
For the first form of reckless driving, recklessness is judges based on whether the defendant committed an act of “criminal negligence”. This means that the defendant was either aware of the danger they could have caused to others and did not care, or gave the safety of others no thought.
The second form differs from the first in that the state of mind of the defendant does not matter, only whether their actions endangered or was likely to endanger others.
A conviction of either form of reckless driving is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor.
Aggressive driving is almost the same as reckless driving “carelessly and heedlessly”, but with the additional requirement that the perpetrator must have also been speeding.
To be guilty of this crime, the defendant must have been speeding while having committed at least two of the following offenses:
- failure to yield right of way
- following too closely
- illegal passing or overtaking
- running a red light
- running a stop sign
A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor.
A person is guilty of a racing offense when they operate a vehicle on a street or highway and willfully engage in a speeding competition with another vehicle.
If the racing was prearranged with that other vehicle, the conviction is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. If the person engaged in it more spontaneously or agreed to race while driving, it is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor.
School Bus Offenses
Anybody who drives a vehicle should already know that they are required to stop for a stopped school bus, but many people do not know that failure to do so can result in criminal penalties. Additionally, a bus driver is punished more severely for certain driving violations than other drivers, and can face criminal penalties for certain actions.
Passing or Failing to Stop for a Stopped School Bus
A person is guilty of this crime if they are driving and approach a stopped school bus from any direction on the same street or highway and passes, attempts to pass, or fails to remain stopped. A “stopped” school bus must be displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and be stopped for the purpose of receiving or dropping off passengers.
This crime can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony as follows:
- Class H felony if the defendant strikes another person resulting in that person’s death.
- Class I felony if the defendant strikes any person, not resulting in death.
- Class 1 misdemeanor if nobody was struck.
Using a Cell Phone or Texting While Operating a School Bus
If a school bus driver uses a mobile phone for any purpose other than communicating in an emergency situation while driving the bus, they will be guilty of this crime.
Most mobile phone activity is only punishable if it is performed while the bus is in motion, but texting and reading text or electronic mail is punishable at any time the bus is in operation, such as stopped at an intersection.
A conviction of this crime is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor.
Emergency Vehicle Offenses
North Carolina drivers are required to move out of the way and slow down or stop when an emergency vehicle is approaching and giving its audible warning signal. There are two general circumstances where this can be a crime:
Failure to Stop for an Oncoming Emergency Vehicle
If an emergency vehicle is approaching you and giving their warning signal, you are required to drive to the right-hand edge or curb and stop when it is safe to do so, and remain stopped until the vehicles have passed.
Under regular circumstances a conviction of this crime is punished as a class 2 misdemeanor. If the failure to stop caused any property damage in the immediate area of the emergency vehicle in excess of $500, or caused injury to any emergency officers or vehicle operators, it is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. If the failure to stop causes the death of any emergency response officer or vehicle operator, the crime is punished as a class I felony.
Failure to Move Over and Slow Down for a Stopped Emergency Vehicle
It is also a crime to not move out of the way and slow down as you approach a stopped emergency vehicle that is displaying its warning signal with the appropriate lights, if failure to do so causes any damages.
If the damage is only to property in excess of $500, or causes injury to any emergency personnel, the crime is punished as a class 1 misdemeanor. If the violation results in emergency personnel or a law enforcement officer dying, the crime is punished as a class I felony.
Speeding to Elude Arrest
While speeding on its own is usually a minor traffic offense, if you speed for the purpose of eluding arrest, you can be convicted of a misdemeanor or felony.
Misdemeanor Speeding to Elude Arrest
If a person is speeding to flee or elude a law enforcement officer who is lawfully performing his or her duties, they will be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor.
Felony Speeding to Elude Arrest
This crime is similar to the above, but with two or more additional aggravating factors from the following:
- Driving when the person’s driving license is revoked.
- Driving with a child under the age of 12 in the vehicle.
- Impairment of the person’s faculties due to consumption of an impairing substance, or a BAC of 0.14 or more within a relevant time after driving.
- Negligent driving leading to an accident causing property damage in excess of $1,000, or personal injury.
- Passing a stopped school bus.
- Reckless driving.
- Speeding in excess of 15 miles per hour over the legal limit.
- Speeding on school property or in excess of a posted speed limit during school bus hours, or in a highway work zone.
A conviction of this crime is punished as a class H felony, unless the perpetrator additionally caused the death of any person, which increases the punishment to a class E felony.
Defending Against Speeding Tickets and Traffic Violation Charges
As there is such a wide variety of traffic violations, our defense approach heavily depends on the specific charges and circumstances. We believe it is always in your best interest, no matter the circumstances, to speak to an experienced lawyer before paying any ticket or speaking with law enforcement. Even minor violations can lead to serious consequences, and the costs alone from increased insurance rates will eventually outweigh any lawyer fees.
The lawyers at Polk Law have a great deal of experience dealing with all kinds of traffic violations. Whether you are a North Carolina native or out of state driver, whether you are an young driver or experienced one, we can help you understand the charges you are facing and develop and effective strategy or help you make a more informed decision on either waiving your ticket or using a prayer for judgement.