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How to Fight a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina

A traffic ticket, also known as a citation, is an official document that a law enforcement officer or authorized official of the State Highway Patrol issues suspected violators of traffic laws in North Carolina. The ticket contains information on the violation, the driver, vehicle, date, and circumstances surrounding the violation, as well as applicable fines or the hearing date.

A traffic ticket recipient has two options: admit guilt and incur the criminal or civil liabilities resulting from the violation, or fight the ticket in court. Contesting a traffic ticket is the personal decision for the recipient–one that should not be taken without careful consideration of the pros and cons. If the suspected violator chooses to contest a ticket, then he/she will go to trial in a North Carolina court.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

Is it Worth it To Fight a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina?

It depends. There is no general formula for contesting a traffic ticket, and resolutions for different tickets received by the same person are not the same. However, considering North Carolina has some of the most punitive traffic laws in the country, contesting a ticket after careful consideration can be worth it. It helps to avoid several financial and legal implications such as increased insurance premiums, license suspension, and in some cases, a permanent criminal record. Generally, under state laws, a road user who did not commit a traffic misdemeanor or felony has the option of contesting the ticket.

Ways to Fight a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina

  • Self-representation: For most traffic tickets, the suspected violator can choose to contest the ticket in court. However, the success of self-representation in court is dependent on several factors. These include knowledge of state traffic laws, articulation of the circumstances surrounding the violation, and the ability to prove that the prosecutor failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. To begin, the contestant must enter a not guilty plea at the court stated on the ticket. The court will then schedule a trial date for the case. Traffic trials follow the conventional criminal proceedings, but arguments occur before a judge—not a jury of peers. While self-representation may be a cost-effective way to go, the probability of success is low without adequate knowledge and preparation.
  • Attorney representation: Hiring an experienced traffic attorney is the most practical option to contest a traffic ticket. The attorney examines the merits of the case, carries out independent investigations, and gathers evidence to exonerate the suspected violator. The attorney also articulates the violator’s case before the judge while weakening the prosecutor’s argument. Suffice to say that the probability of successfully contesting a ticket increases with attorney representation. However, attorney fees make conceding an attractive short-term solution, but considering the long-term implications of a traffic ticket, attorney representation may be worth it.
  • Third-party agencies: Several agencies offer to contest and resolve traffic tickets on their clients’ behalf. Many of these services are subscription-based, and the client will need to provide the necessary details to aid the process. Agency resolution is no different from hiring an attorney, as the agency will eventually outsource the case to an attorney. However, a subtle difference is the subscription model and the difference in fees.

The choice of how to contest a traffic ticket is the violator’s decision. If the person has justifiable reasons for committing a minor traffic infraction, self-representation is a viable option. In most cases, the court will provide legal resources—in the form of DIY guides—for persons who choose self-representation. To confirm these guides’ availability, visit the office of the Clerk of Courts handling the traffic case.

How to Fight a Traffic Ticket Without Going to Trial

Many third-party agencies market their services with a unique selling point—the allure of resolving a traffic court without stepping in court. While there are cases where this is possible, it is not advisable if the court has scheduled the traffic case for trial. Failure to show up at the hearing is a sanctionable offense in North Carolina.

Once a case is set for trial, the defendant may reach a plea bargain with the prosecutor before the trial. The plea bargain is not an outright exoneration but an agreement to accept a lighter punishment like probation, community service, or completing safety training. The prosecutor is likely to consider a plea bargain to prevent a protracted case and conserve time and resources better spent on prosecuting core criminal cases.

How Do You Get a Traffic Ticket Reduced in North Carolina?

The court bases the fines from a traffic ticket on the value of penalty points accessed per violation based on a schedule of points per G. S. § 20–16. While a violator may not negotiate the amount of fine on a ticket, he or she may petition the court to set up a payment schedule for paying the fines. To apply and receive consideration, the violator must demonstrate financial need or circumstances that require him or her to pay in installments.

Can you get a Speeding Ticket Dismissed in North Carolina?

Yes, but this will only happen under specific circumstances and often involve the help of an attorney. First, the suspected violator must enter a not guilty plea and contest the ticket. The court will generally dismiss a speeding ticket if the issuing officer fails to appear in court. In this case, the prosecutor cannot provide a principal witness, and the defense can move to dismiss the case. In another scenario, the suspected violator may successfully cause the court to dismiss a speeding ticket if they can demonstrate prejudice or bad faith in the officer. However, this is a gray legal area and difficult to prove without witnesses or an attorney.

In many cases, the defense can get a ticket dismissed if it can prove that the prosecutor fails to substantiate its argument. Demonstrating faulty equipment or casting real doubt on the officer’s ability to perceive the violation accurately can help get a dismissal. Also, if there is a clerical error on the ticket, there is a good chance of getting the ticket dismissed.

What Happens if You Plead Guilty to a Traffic Ticket in North Carolina?

Choosing to pay a traffic ticket is an automatic guilty plea in North Carolina, and the violator will have to pay the traffic fines associated with the ticket. If the violator loses a ticket contest in court, he or she must pay court fees in addition to the fines. Either way, a guilty plea awards the penalty points against the individual’s driving record, and there are consequences for point accumulation.

According to the DMV, accruing as many as 12 points within three years results in the suspension of the individual’s license. The individual must then apply for and meet the requirements for reinstatement. The DMV shall cancel all pending points on the driver’s record but accumulating eight (8) points within three years of reinstatement can result in an additional suspension. Besides, even before license suspension, a higher number of points on a license inadvertently results in increased auto insurance quotes.

Furthermore, a habitual violator runs the risk of being charged with a misdemeanor—especially for a DUI. If this happens, the violator runs the risk of imprisonment, fines, or some form of community restitution. The misdemeanor will also remain on the individual’s publicly available criminal record. Anyone, including members of the public, prospective employers, and government agencies, has access to these records. Thus, pleading guilty to a traffic ticket is not a choice to consider lightly.

How to Find a Traffic Ticket Attorney in North Carolina

The role of an attorney in exonerating a suspected traffic violator cannot be understated. The bottom line is that the violator is better off with a traffic attorney than not. The best way to find a traffic ticket attorney is through a referral from a friend, family member, or a trusted source.

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