Yes, we know, you always obey the posted speed limits when you drive because you never break the law when operating a vehicle. Right. Now for the remaining 99 percent of us, here is what you need to know in case you are ticketed while trying to hurry to your arrival at your new residence in the Triangle, for example. Basically, be prepared for a tough ordeal.
The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles puts the situation to you bluntly on its Web site: “Getting a traffic ticket in North Carolina can be a serious ordeal. Not only will it affect your driving record, but it will also impact your wallet. In addition to fines and court costs, insurance companies have their own points systems, separate from the DMV’s. So your insurance rates could skyrocket for common violations like speeding.”
Leaving aside the insurance system, the state point system just mentioned allocates three points for drivers convicted of speeding more than 55 mph, speeding through a school zone or speeding through a safety zone. If they find that you engaged in reckless driving, that earns you four points. (These points are greater if you are operating a commercial vehicle.) If you are found guilty of excessive speeding, your driver’s license may be suspended (which will require at least a $50 fee to restore your license once your suspension period ends) or even revoked.
If you earn seven or more points, you may be required to attend a Driver Improvement Clinic that costs $50 and will lower three points from your record if you complete it successfully. In the Triangle, these clinics are located at Troop C Headquarters off Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh and at 101 S. Miami Blvd. in Durham (the Durham one covers Orange and Durham counties).
On the other hand, if you somehow manage to accumulate 12 or more points within a three-year period, your N.C. driver’s license could be suspended. These conditions all apply the same whether you are cited by the North Carolina Highway Patrol, a sheriff’s deputy in a county or a city patrol officer.
Questions concerning a traffic ticket issued by a N.C. law enforcement officer should be directed to the District Attorney for the county which the ticket was issued. To find who that is, click here. Questions about the court date or location should be directed to the Clerk of Superior Court of the county in which the ticket was issued, and that person may be found here. Payment of fines and costs are not made to the officer but to the Clerk of Superior Court. The clerk does not accept personal checks, only money orders, bank checks and cash only when paying in person.
The fine entered by the officer on the back of the ticket is set by the Conference of Chief District Court Judges and not by the officer. The Division of Motor Vehicles will revoke a person’s driver’s license or the right to drive on an out-of-state license if the person fails to appear in court or fails to pay the fine and costs. The revocation will remain in effect until the ticket is paid and the person goes to court.
If any or all of your charges are non-waivable, you will have to go to court, whether you are pleading guilty or not guilty. There is no choice to enter a guilty plea and pay a fine. Your appearance in court is mandatory, and if you fail to appear, a judge can order that you be arrested.
Here is the really scary part: some lawyers may send you a letter offering you their services if they see you have earned a speeding ticket. The lawyers obtain the names and addresses from the Clerk of Superior Court. The officer issuing the ticket has no control over the advertising – the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lawyers have a constitutional right to advertise. Talk about adding insult to injury.
So if you are going to speed – and yes, we realize that most of you will – be prudent in your judgment and avoid doing it around school zones (which are fairly heavily patrolled in the Triangle even when school is not in session) and for prolonged periods of time. The cost in time and money simply is not worth it – plus you have lawyers soliciting you for business as well. Need we say more?