In North Carolina, the world of traffic law is full of nuance and complexity, a fact that can make dealing with a citation on your own a very tedious process. For some people, the uncertainty that comes with getting a ticket makes the process seem so scary that they ignore the citation completely or end up handling the situation in a way that results in negative consequences. If you get a ticket in Gaston County, there are a number of questions to be asked, for which the answer is not always clear.
Do I have to go to court for my Gaston County, NC ticket?
Aside from certain low level offenses, North Carolina law requires in-person court appearance for individuals who have received a traffic ticket. Appearing in court to handle your own traffic citation can be an uphill battle for someone who is not an attorney acclimated to the quirks of North Carolina traffic law. Thankfully, if you receive a ticket and do not wish to appear, it is possible to hire an attorney to appear on your behalf. That said, it is important to note that certain high level offenses like Driving While Impaired (DWI) or exceptionally high speeding charges may still require your appearance in court. When a person faces charges of a more serious nature, it is important that they manage their expectations and understand what is and is not possible in court. It would be the job of your attorney to educate you on the options available and to help you prioritize what is in your best interest when negotiating your case.
What if I missed my Court Date?
We understand that life is busy. If you ended up missing your court date, it's possible that the Court will assess a $200 additional Failure to Appear (FTA) fine on top of the usual court costs. If this FTA is not handled in a timely manner, missing your court date could also result in the suspension of your driver's license. Most importantly, for more serious matters, an FTA could possibly lead to your arrest. If you have lost your speeding ticket or traffic citation, one way to locate your case information is to visit the North Carolina Court System website to search for your case. There you can confirm your charges as well as other important information about your case by checking the court calendar. Much of this information can also be accessed via links on our website, iTicket.law. In situations where a court date has been missed, it is possible for your attorney to petition the Court to strike (remove) the FTA as well as the $200 FTA fee. That said, whether to allow such a motion is at the discretion of the Court.
What if I just pay off my ticket?
In most cases, simply paying off your speeding ticket is an unwise idea. As discussed, with certain low level tickets you may be able to avoid court by paying your ticket online. This option may seem more convenient than going to court or hiring an attorney. Sometimes, the citing officer may even advise you that this is the easiest option. While the officer may be well-intentioned, it is not wise to take advice from the person who just issued your citation. By paying your ticket, you are effectively admitting guilt to the original offense. This decision may unintentionally lead to the revocation of your driver's license and would almost certainly cause an increase in your insurance costs. While it would be nice if the State of North Carolina provided a warning before allowing you to make a decision that could lead to a suspension of your license, result in a criminal record, and increase your insurance premium 80% or more over the next three years, they are not required to do so. Before making a decision about paying off your ticket, it is wise to at the very least seek legal counsel from our Gaston County traffic attorney to make sure you aren’t accidentally pleading guilty to an offense that could have drastic repercussions.
What is going to happen to my North Carolina insurance?
The impact of a traffic ticket can be harsh in several respects, including your family’s insurance premium. Even the lowest level offenses can cause a 30% increase to your insurance premium over the next three years, potentially resulting in hundreds of dollars in added costs. The goal of hiring an attorney for a traffic ticket in Gaston County would be to try to prevent any increase to your insurance or at least minimize the impact as much as possible. Depending on your circumstances, it may be possible to seek a reduction, or even a full dismissal, of your traffic citation.
What if I have already paid off my ticket?
If you have already paid off your ticket and plead guilty to your charge(s), it may be possible to reopen your case through a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR). Filing a MAR may be available if you have represented yourself in court, or paid your ticket online, and resolved your case with an unfavorable outcome without having the benefit of the knowledge of North Carolina traffic law. While an MAR may be an option for undoing the mess created by simply paying off a ticket, whether to allow an MAR is at the discretion of the Court. Thus, it is important to discuss this option with an attorney before proceeding with an MAR to make sure that such a request would have any realistic chance of being granted by the Court.
Am I going to lose my license?
Not all tickets in Gaston County are created equal - some tickets can be classified as a criminal level charge while some are only infraction level offenses. Due to NC’s comparatively harsh traffic laws, it can be surprisingly easy to accidentally plead yourself into a license suspension or a criminal conviction. For example, any conviction of speeding over 80 mph results in a suspension of your North Carolina driving privilege and a criminal record. Even lower level speeding violations can sometimes lead to a revocation of your driver's license if they were preceded by certain prior convictions. The goal of obtaining the effective representation of an experienced traffic attorney is to prevent this from happening and to prevent any increases related to points on your driver's license or insurance.
What if my license is from a state other than North Carolina?
If you are licensed in a state other than North Carolina but received a traffic citation while traveling through Gaston County, there is a possibility that it could affect your license in your home state. 45 of the 50 US states are part of a reciprocal agreement, called the Drivers License Compact (DLC), which allows the member states to share traffic citation information with one another. Each state is unique in its specific DMV rules and insurance regulations. Nonetheless, a traffic conviction has a good chance of being translated to your home state and impacting you accordingly.
Based on your state of licensure, if a traffic conviction received in NC is added to your driving record, it could lead to the assessment of points on your license and a potential increase to your insurance rates. Another important factor to consider if you have received a traffic ticket in North Carolina is the National Driver Register (NDR). All 50 states, as well as Washington DC, are members of the NDR, which keeps records of drivers who have had their driving privilege suspended in any state as well as records of all serious traffic convictions. If you fail to handle a citation you received in North Carolina, this would result in the suspension of your NC driving privilege and very possibly a corresponding suspension of the license issued by your home state.
Do I have to go to Driving School in Gaston County, NC?
In some situations, the completion of driving school may be required by the District Attorney in order to obtain the best available outcome for your case. For the most part, courses are taken either in-person or online (depending on the DA’s requirement) and classes can range from 4 hours to 8 hours. The cost for the driving school can range, depending on the length of the course, from $50.00-120.00. If required in your case, all details about the particular driving school required will be provided by your attorney if you choose to hire one. If you received a ticket in Gaston County but live in another area, you can still take a driving school course for your case as long as the local driving school conforms to certain requirements
As should be apparent from this article, the world of traffic law is complicated and full of nuances that are unclear to individuals unfamiliar with the legal system. If you get a ticket, there are a number of questions to be asked, for which the answer is not always clear. In order to make sure you are handling the situation appropriately, it is important to reach out to an attorney with experience in the field, local to Gaston County.
Have more questions? Give us a call at 919-200-0822 if you'd like to learn what possible outcomes may be available in your case