Traffic Tickets And Selected Criminal Issues

Why A Traffic Ticket Attorney?

North Carolina has adopted a system whereby every moving violation is assigned a point value under two different systems. The first of these systems is the driver's license system. This is the point system that the Division of Motor Vehicles follows for determining when driver's licenses are suspended for an accumulation of points.

The second system is the insurance points system. The insurance points system is part of something known as the Safe Driver Insurance Plan (SDIP), which establishes classifications of drivers based on their history of accidents and convictions for violations. The SDIP as approved and modified from time to time sets the basic automobile insurance rates. Each point total has its own surcharge, or percentage increase in insurance premium, which follows a conviction of that offense.

I should stress that both of these points systems apply only to North Carolina licensed drivers. If you are licensed in a different state, the division of motor vehicles in that state determines what, if any, points system applies and what the consequences of each moving violation will be on your privilege to drive and/or your insurance rate. This may only be determined by consulting with an experienced, skilled traffic practitioner in your own home state, as we do not purport to provide information on insurance consequences or driver's license consequences in any state other than North Carolina.

It should be noted that we have used the term "moving violation" as compared to "ticket," "charge," or "citation" or "conviction." Under North Carolina law, only moving violations carry insurance points or license points. That is why our first objective in any case is to determine whether an appropriate nonmoving violation is available as an alternative.

Let us give you an example of just how serious a traffic matter can be. When traveling South on Interstate 85 from Raleigh to Charlotte you pass, within the space of a few miles, from a 70 mph zone into a 65 mph zone into a 55 mph zone. Assuming for the purposes of this example that a person was traveling at what they thought was 9 mph over the posted speed limit of 70 mph (a common practice) and they missed the speed limit changes (another common occurrence) and their speedometer was off a little (also common), he ends up being charged with speeding 81 mph in a 55 mph zone. If he shows up for court and pleads guilty as charged (reasoning that, since he is guilty he should plead guilty), he faces revocation of his license for one year, an increase in his insurance premium (based on four insurance points) of 90 percent per year for the next three years, plus an additional surcharge whose amount depends on the county of residence.

Presuming the driver to be paying $1,000 per year for liability insurance, the new insurance bill would be $1,900 per year. If the policy had previously been ceded to the reinsurance facility (not uncommon if there were any other tickets or accidents in the past three years), then the total bill might be considerably higher, perhaps up to 52 percent higher. It would also result in the loss of a clean criminal record, as this is a misdemeanor charge.

Traffic Ticket FAQs

Why do I need a lawyer?

There are many things you never knew that you never knew about handling a traffic ticket, as we have illustrated above. Without at least consulting with an experienced traffic lawyer who is familiar with the local rules of court and the practices of the local district attorney and the local judges, you are going into court literally blind as to the available remedies and consequences.

Do I have to show up for court? My ticket says I can mail in the money.

You do not have to show up for court, but mailing in the money is an admission of guilt that will result in a conviction to the charge shown on the ticket. You should never simply pay off a ticket without speaking with an experienced traffic attorney first. The consequences can be severe.

Aren't there any cases I can handle myself?

Occasionally, there are circumstances where you can handle a ticket on your own. We will tell you what those cases are and give you the option of having us do it for you, if you simply do not want to go to court, or handling it yourself. Even then you have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that you are handling the case correctly, knowing what the outcome and consequences should be before you get to the courthouse, and being prepared to meet them.

But won't the district attorney make me a deal anyway, even without a lawyer?

The prosecutor might offer you a "deal" and he might not. In any event, he is not allowed by law to give you legal advice because he is your opponent. Neither he nor the judge can advise you on what you should do, or what the consequences are, should he make you a plea offer and you accept it, and he cannot tell you what remedies are available and what is the best thing to ask for. As a final concern, he does not have to know the driver's license and insurance consequences of each charge, so you run the risk of getting a bad result even from a well-meaning prosecutor.

But I could save money by doing it myself, can't I?

There is a reason people pay attorneys to handle traffic tickets. Making the wrong decision could cost significantly more in increased insurance premiums than any attorney fee you could be charged. As an example, a lady told us of this experience she had that illustrates the point. She had heard that if your ticket was only 9 mph over the speed limit, then your insurance would not go up. She got two speeding tickets in the space of 13 months. She went to court herself and got both tickets reduced from speeding 69 mph in a 55 mph zone to speeding 64 mph in a 55 mph zone. As a result, her insurance went up a total of four points, virtually doubling. If she had come to us to handle the tickets, she would have had no points on her license or insurance.

By our estimate, she cost herself roughly $3,000 to save a couple of hundred dollars in attorney fees.

How bad could it really be if I do mess it up?

Really bad, as illustrated above. Not being able to drive for up to a year or paying thousands of dollars more in insurance premiums is pretty bad. Most of us need to drive to be able to work, take care of our children and run our households. Anything that can affect that should be taken very seriously.

What are "points"?

As we have explained above, there are two types of points in North Carolina: license and insurance. Since it takes 12 driver's license points to revoke a license for accumulation of excessive points (though there are many other ways to lose it), most people are rightly more worried about insurance points than the driver's license points. Insurance costs are high enough without the steep increases that accompany convictions of moving violations.

Why should I hire you to handle this ticket for me?

We have successfully handled thousands of traffic tickets and understand the interplay between the two points systems. Because we understand how important the case is to you and how valuable a driver's license really is. Because it really is not something everyone understands how to do. Because we do understand what the local rules are and know what to ask for in any given situation and know how to get it, if possible. Because other attorneys ask us for advice in handling their tickets. Because we believe that no one can get a better result for you than we can.

I got letters from several other attorneys, offering low fees. Why shouldn't I choose one of them?

This is one area where you really get what you pay for. The letters you get usually do not tell you everything you need to know about court costs and fines, leaving you the impression that they can resolve your case for just the quoted attorneys' fee. You should question how that these attorneys, who are usually from another county, can afford to drive here to properly handle your case and if they can really be familiar enough with the local practices to know what the best possible result is for your case. You should also know that the difference in attorneys' fees is usually in the neighborhood of $100 or less.

I have decided I want to hire you. How does this work?

Our goal is to maximize your convenience while getting the best possible result. We are happy to meet with you in person to discuss the matter, or will handle it by telephone, mail or email as best suits your schedule and your circumstances. We will send you a waiver of appearance form to sign and have notarized so that we may appear on your behalf and you will not have to appear in court, and ask you to send back a copy of your ticket, the signed waiver and the money quoted for your particular ticket. If you need additional time to come up with the money, we can usually arrange for that by continuing your case. If you are an out-of-state resident, we may need to get you to sign an authorization form so that we can obtain your driving record from your home state. Then we take care of the case, pay the fines and costs on your behalf out of the money you have sent us, and send you a letter telling you the outcome of the case.

If I hire you do I still have to show up for court? My ticket says I do.

Usually (almost always) we can handle it by waiver without you having to be there. For those few cases where you would have to appear in court, we will always tell you what cases those are and remind you of your court date in writing.