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What Are North Carolina Traffic Court Records?

North Carolina traffic court records are the legal documents and case files created from the proceedings of the traffic courts in the State. These include records related to both moving violations and non-moving offenses per the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Code.

Are North Carolina Traffic Court Records Public Records?

North Carolina traffic court records are public records and may be accessed and viewed by members of the public, except where these records have been restricted from public access by a judge.

Getting a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina

A traffic ticket, also referred to as a Uniform Citation Ticket, is usually a computer-generated long-form issued for North Carolina traffic violations and infractions. This is a sworn statement from the officer describing the observed violation. It is issued by a state, county, or municipal police or sheriff department officer and will be completed by the officer. It will show the bio-data of the offender, including full name, date of birth, social security number, physical & mailing addresses (if different), and details of the license and vehicle involved. The nature of the charge being cited will also be listed, along with the location where the alleged offense occurred and the date and time.

The statute or ordinance the offender is accused of violating may also be included on the ticket, as well as the county where the violation occurred and the court in which the offender will need to appear. The ticket should also show the amount to be paid, the due date for a response, and whether a court appearance will be required. If the fine to be paid is not listed on the ticket, then you will need to contact the county court listed. There is typically an option where the offender (by signing the citation and the box being checked) can pay all applicable fines and charges without having to make a court appearance. Doing this is seen as an admission of guilt.

North Carolina traffic tickets come with financial repercussions. These could include penalty fines and court fees. The offender also faces the possibility of points being added to their driving record, which can lead to license suspension or revocation. Fines vary by violation (determined by presiding laws and statutes), so a fine for speeding above the designated limit will differ from a fine for a DUI. The ticket will also include information on contesting the charge.

In addition to fines, some penalties can be incurred based on the nature of the cited violation and the outcome. The offender’s license type and driving record history may also affect these penalties. A specific number of penalty points, again based on the violation, will be added to the record of a convicted driver. Accumulating a certain number of points over a certain period, usually up to 12 points within 36 months, will result in a suspension, and you will need to pay a fee to reinstate your license.

Traffic violations are classified as moving and non-moving violations. Moving violations are traffic laws a vehicle violates in motion while Non-moving violations relate to parking or faulty violations. Non-moving violations can also occur when the car is moving but are differentiated by the treatment of the courts and the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), as non-moving violations are not reported to the DMV and will not appear on your driving record.

What to Do When You Get a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina?

Upon receiving a traffic ticket in North Carolina, offenders must respond by:

  • Paying the traffic ticket
  • Contesting the ticket

If you choose to pay your ticket, it may be considered the equivalent of pleading guilty to the citation. You have consented to accept responsibility for the violation and agreed to all associated penalties, including all fines, fees, and surcharges arising from this plea. You have also consented to waive your right to challenge the ticket in court.

  • If a court appearance is not mandated, the ticket can be paid in person at the office of the court clerk, via mail and online. If you choose this route, the ticket citation, your driver’s license, and proof of insurance will be required (no matter the chosen mode of payment). Different courts may require other forms of payment, so verification with the particular court should be made beforehand.
  • If a court appearance is required, the first appearance (arraignment) will be where you will enter your GUILTY plea and pay off your fines and associated charges. Your ticket cannot be paid off beforehand if a court appearance is required. This conviction may result in points being added to your license.

Contesting a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina

If you choose to contest the ticket, this may be considered the same as choosing to plead NOT GUILTY to the citation.

  • You will be required to make a court appearance on the designated date and time for the arraignment to enter your plea. After entering your plea, a date for your trial will be set, of which you must appear or risk being found GUILTY in your absence. If this happens, then you are liable for all penalties and court charges.
  • You will have to prepare your defense and should consider professional representation.
  • On completion of the trial, if you are found NOT GUILTY by the court, then all charges will be dropped, and there will be no fines, penalties, or points added to your driving record. However, you will be liable for court costs.
  • On completion of the trial, if you are found GUILTY, you will be instructed on your penalties by the court, and these could include fines and other penalties (depending on the severity of the charge), and points will be added to your driving record. You will also be liable for court costs.

What to Expect in North Carolina Traffic Court

There is a possibility of reaching an agreement (plea bargain) with the prosecutor (usually an ADA), which might prevent points from being added to your driving record, but this must be done before the trial date. Being convicted of traffic violations in North Carolina earns you both license points and insurance points. This conviction can be by the admission of guilt (choosing to pay ticket) or losing at trial.

Failure to appear on your court date will result in your case being deemed as “called and failed.” Failure to appear thereafter, a “Failure to Appear” (FTA) will be issued against you, and this may result in an additional fee (FTA fee) if found guilty. After 20 days of your FTA and you still have not appeared or been disposed of by the court, the North Carolina DMV will be notified, and your license will be suspended indefinitely until you have resolved the case. In extreme cases, a bench warrant can be issued for your arrest. If you miss your court date, you can reschedule with the court clerk's office, particularly if you have no order of arrest against you.

How Do I Find North Carolina Traffic Court Records?

Traffic court records may be available on each county or municipality court’s website. In all jurisdictions, the public may gain access to physical court records by approaching the custodian of all such records, the municipal court clerk’s office. To view or obtain physical traffic court records from any court, the applicant may visit the court clerk’s office where the case was filed and the records were created. The applicant may be able to look through the records free of charge if they do not request a copy. Copying of court records may attract fees.

Additionally, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:

  • The name of someone involved, providing it is not a juvenile
  • The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name

Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels.

What information is required to obtain North Carolina Traffic Court Records?

Any person interested in obtaining traffic court records must provide necessary information such as the first and last name of the person whose traffic court records are requested. Depending on the type of record required, whether an abbreviated or a complete abstract, the interested person may be required to provide valid identification for verification of their identity. Payment of court fees, if and where applicable, is also a prerequisite for obtaining court records in North Carolina.

Are all Traffic Violations handled the same way in North Carolina?

While the fines and penalties differ for North Carolina traffic violations and these are indicated on the ticket, the process for handling a citation is executed in the same manner, regardless of the type or severity of the citation. So while the penalties associated with not wearing a seatbelt will most likely be less than the penalties for a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), the process for responding to both citations, and the subsequent processes, will be the same.

Can North Carolina Traffic Records be Sealed or Expunged?

In the state of North Carolina, you are only eligible for one expungement in your lifetime. That said records for traffic violations can be expunged with the exception of DUI/DWIs (unless you were found not guilty or the case was dismissed), though the circumstances behind the case could affect the outcome. This applies to moving and non-moving violations and can be expunged in all states.

How Does One End Up In A North Carolina State Traffic Court?

You end up in a North Carolina state traffic court if, after receiving a traffic ticket from a ticketing officer, he indicates on the ticket that a court appearance is required. This usually occurs when the offense is considered more serious than a minor traffic violation.

You can also end up in traffic court if the ticketing officer indicates no court appearance is required on the ticket, but you choose to contest the ticket by pleading not guilty and requesting a trial. A court appearance will be required to enter the plea, as it must be done in person.

Which Courts in North Carolina Have Jurisdiction To Hear Traffic Violation Matters?

In North Carolina, traffic cases are assigned for hearing in the district courts and county courts where the violations are alleged to have occurred and are heard by the requisite district or county courts.

How to Prepare for Traffic Court

To prepare for a traffic court date, motorists are advised to consult an attorney or simply employ legal representation. This is because traffic offenses are addressed uniquely depending on the circumstance, the offender, and the extent of any resulting damage (if applicable). Consequently, a traffic attorney will be helpful for navigating the legal system most appropriately.

North Carolina Traffic Court Records
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