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“Exceeding a Safe Speed”

The non-specific  charge of “exceeding a safe speed” (often referred to as either “ESS” or just “exceeding”) can be a useful reduction when other reductions, such as improper equipment or nine-over, may not be available or as helpful.  For example, a person is charged with driving 83 mph in a 70 mph zone — a four-insurance-point violation — and the DA will not reduce the case to improper equipment.  If the driver already has a moving violation on her record within the past three years, then reducing the ticket to 79 in a 70 (nine-over) would still result in two insurance points. If the DA would instead agree to reduce the case to “exceeding a safe speed,” there would only be one insurance point.    

Put my expertise to work in coming up with a good result in your case. 919-683-2175.            

The Do-Not-License List and Clearance Letters

Updated January 13, 2016

In another post I wrote about folks who had found that, when trying to renew their licenses, their renewals were being blocked by  old pending tickets here in North Carolina. I wrote that the solution to that problem was to have the old cases placed back on the court calendar, and then to take care of them.

However, once a driver has taken care of an old case, including paying any court costs and fines, there is one last step to get their name off  the “do not license” list:  Pay  one or more fees to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

The National Driver’s Registry

 

This is what NC-DMV has told me about “blocked” licenses and restoration fees.

” Most states will not issue a driver license to a person whose driving privilege is not valid in another state.”  Hence, the “National Driver Registry (NDR), . . . a nationwide database” that allows the DMV of one state to know whether an applicant may get a license in another state.

“If the driver’s North Carolina driving privilege has gone into suspension,” they wrote,  “whether licensed in NC or out-of-state, they must pay the applicable restoration fees prior to reinstatement.”  (KJD comment: Even of you are licensed in another state, you can have your “privilege” to drive in this state suspended. Then, when you try to renew your license in your home state, you are blocked by the pending ticket in NC.)  

They also said that, “There are two kinds of restoration fees. The $130* DWI restoration fee is due when the driving privilege is being reinstated after a suspension for driving while impaired. All other suspensions require a $65* restoration fee.”

“The other reinstatement fee is the $50 service fee. The service fee is owed if the driver held a NC driver license at the time the suspension went into effect and they did not surrender the license to the Division prior to the suspension.”  (KJD comment: NC-DMV sends letters to people they are planning to suspend.  The letter says something like “Mail your license to us by such-and-such a date or we will send someone to pick it up.”  They charge a $50 service fee to send that person out.)

“Obviously, if (a driver) is licensed in another state (the pick-up-license) fee will most likely not be required for them to reinstate their NC driving privilege.” (KJD comment:  NC-DMV does not usually physically take the driver’s license of someone who is licensed in another state.  Hence, there is no $50 service fee for not turning in the license).

Clearance Letters

 

Once NC-DMV takes your name off the NDR, the Divisions of Motor Vehicles of other states can see that online.  That can serve as your “clearance letter.”

If you think you owe a restoration fee or service fee to NC-DMV, here’s an email link to conact them.  You can also call NC-DMV at 919-715-7000.

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*Those fee amounts became effective in 2016.  Kjd

 Need help getting your license back because of old tickets?  Give me a call at 919-683-2175.   Ken Duke

Seat Belt Tickets

Now and then potential clients tell me they got a ticket for not wearing their seat belt and they wonder if there is anything I can do for them.    Unfortunately,  I almost always say no.  Why?  First, by statute, conviction of a seat belt violation does not cause one’s insurance to go up nor does it result in any driver’s license points. N.C.G.S. Section 135-2A(f).  That’s what most folks are interested in, so there is nothing that we’d have to “reduce it to” to keep their insurance from going up.   Second, I have observed over the course of almost 29 years of practicing law that when people plead not guilty to seat belt charges, they are almost always found guilty.  In fact, as I sit here writing this, I cannot remember the last time I saw a judge find someone not guilty in a seat belt case.  I have seen many people found not guilty of more serious cases, such as DWI, but not seat belt violations.

About the only way I can get a seat belt charge dismissed is if the person is charged with something in addition to the seat belt charge. In such a case, the D.A.’s office will sometimes dismiss the seat belt charge if the client will plead guilty to the other charge.

 

Points

Driver’s License Points

People often ask, “How many points will I get for this?”

First, you need to know that there are two point systems:  Driver’s License Points and Insurance Points.  License points result from moving violations (such as running a stop sign, speeding, etc.)  Many people are worried about getting driver’s license points. However, because most minor tickets only carry two or three license points, and you have to get twelve license points to have your license suspended, most people don’t need to be so concerned about them.  (On the other hand, if you have a knack for getting tickets, you might want to remember that 12 driver’s license points will get your license suspended!)

Insurance Points

Insurance points are another matter.  Just one insurance point will cause your rates to increase 30% for three years  (So much for the money you saved by changing insurance companies).  Four points, which would result from a conviction of driving 76 mph in a 65 mph zone, would result in a 80% increase for three years.  The charging of higher rates for people with traffic convictions is part of North Carolina’s Safe Driver Incentive Plan.  Here is a chart that lists how many insurance points apply to each type of conviction and the resulting insurance rate increase (go to page two of the link).

Depending on your prior record, and what you’re charged with, there are several ways that to keep your insurance rates from increasing as much, or at all. I have explained some of those methods, such as prayer for judgment continuednine over, and improper equipment, in other posts.  There are other options as well.

Concerned that a ticket is going to cause your insurance rates to skyrocket?  Call me now at 919-683-2175  for a free consultation. 

Working with Your Lawyer to Get the Best Results (and to Avoid Mistakes!)

Revised 11 March 2017

Sometimes people call and say that five or six (or ten!) years ago they got a ticket in Raleigh, Durham or Chapel Hill. They say they hired a lawyer to take care of it. Now they are unable to renew their license because of the ticket they thought the lawyer they had hired all those years ago had resolved it.  They then hire me to reopen the case and take care of it. How might we might prevent these problems?

Help Head Off a Problem

Even though lawyers are expected to represent their clients competently and reliably, Rule 1 is that it is still your case. Please don’t hire a lawyer and then forget about it. Follow up. Let’s take the example of a traffic case like the one above. After your court date give your lawyer a day or two to contact you with the results, but if you don’t hear from them within three or four days, call or email your lawyer.  If it turns your your lawyer missed the court date, it’s easy to fix the problem so early in the process.

 Most lawyers are glad for such follow-up. It helps prevent a minor mistake like a missed court date from snowballing into something much more serious, like a license revocation (a consequence that will leave the lawyer scrambling to clean up).

This advice is similar to what many medical groups advise to avoid medical errors. An excellent article by Debra Wood, RN of Harvard’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center urged patients to not just let things be done to them, but to take an active role to make sure they are getting the right medicines and procedures. “How can you avoid a medical mistake? ‘Patients are the center of the health care team,’ says Cathy Barry-Ipema, spokesperson for the Joint Commission . . . . You need to be an active participant. You need to be informed, and if something does not seem right, ask . . . .”

That same principle applies to your legal case.

Plan B

Now suppose you have not followed up and your lawyer has missed your court date.  Sticking with our traffic example, several weeks after your missed court date, you get a letter from DMV saying that you missed your court date and that if you don’t take care of the case by such-and-such a date, your license will be revoked.   You think, “Hey, I hired a lawyer to resolve that for me!”  What should you do?   Call (or email) your lawyer now!! Here’s a suggested script:  “Good morning, Ms. Florrick,* I got a letter from DMV today saying that my license is scheduled for revocation because I didn’t go to court last month. If I’m not mistaken, that’s the case I hired you for.  Would you check on that for me?  Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.”

When attorney Florrick hears that message, she’s going to go into high gear to straighten this out before the suspension date listed in your DMV letter.   And because you called her as soon as you discovered her mistake, it may be possible to correct this without incurring late fees or other penalties.

Even if you find it hard to deliver such a civil phone message as the one I described above (i.e.,  your phone message is more like, “Ms. Florrick!! I hired you to take care of that case for me, and DMV now says you didn’t. What kind of sloppy operation are you running?) it’s still better to call your lawyer than to just ignore the problem.  Why?  Remember Rule 1.

And believe it or not, Lawyer Florrick would rather hear from you, whether or not your message is polite,  than for her mistake to snowball and cause a missed court date to become a suspended driver’s license.

Kjd

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*The names used in this post are totally random and have no connection to any person, real or fictional!!

 

 

 

Safe Driving Schools

Often, people with tickets wonder if it will help them to go to “traffic school.”   Without meaning to sound flippant, my answer is, “It depends.”  My information is based only on my experience in the North Carolina counties of Wake, Durham, Orange and Chatham.

First, as a general matter, it’s certainly not going to hurt you to take a safe driving class.   You might learn something that could save your life.  And, it’s nice when I can say to the assistant D.A., “And look, here’s her safe-driving-class certificate.”

As to whether or not you must take a class, or whether it really may help you legally, that depends on the D.A.’s office in each county.

In Wake County, if you are under twenty years old and you want a reduction in the charge, you may have to take a class.  If you are older than twenty, they are not going to be too impressed with a class, and will likely offer you the same reduction, if any,  with or without a class.

Durham County’s safe-driving-class policy is that they do not have one.  Doesn’t hurt, may help.

Orange and Chatham County have the same D.A., and they do have a policy:  They like people to take classes.  If you are 19 or younger, they may require you to take a two-day, in-person class in order to get the best reduction.   If you are older than that, and the charge is not too serious, you can probably get by with an online class.

Which Class to Attend?

If you don’t have a lawyer I suggest you go to your first court date and ask the assistant D.A. whether he or she wants you to take a class, and ask them which class to take.  Your case will be continued (put off) for a month or so to give you time to complete the class and then you can come back with your certificate.

If you are represented by a lawyer (for example, me), I will find out which class you need to take and let you know.

The Original Certificate

Please note that the D.A.s’ offices will only accept the original certificate issued by the school.  They do not accept copies.  If I am representing you, you can ask the school to send the original directly to me.

Have a question about a traffic ticket?  Give me a call at 919-683-2175.

 

 

 

 

 

Durham City Code Violations

Updated Jan. 9, 2016

Another tool we might use to avoid insurance and driver’s license points, at least in Durham,  is the “City Code Violation.”  Here’s how it works.  When you get a ticket the officer charges you under the North Carolina General Statutes. Many cities, including Durham, have city traffic laws that track some of the State traffic statutes.   When the D.A. agrees to re-charge you under one of these city laws instead of under the state statute, no insurance or license points result — the charges don’t even show up on your record.

About the only downside of a city code violation is you have to pay the fine and court costs that same day (unlike in most traffic cases, in which you have up to 40 days after court to pay).

Think a city code violation might be what you need?  Give me a call!  919-683-2175

Lawyers and Orange and Chatham County Cases

I handle traffic cases in Durham, Granville, Wake, Orange and Chatham Counties.  In Durham, Granville, and Wake, I can go to court for you on your court date and most likely take care of it that day. They do things a little different in Orange and Chatham Counties.  In Orange and Chatham Counties, which are part of the same judicial district (District 15B), they do all the minor traffic cases in which the defendants have lawyers on an administrative day, also called “lawyer’s day.”  That’s the third Wednesday of every month in Orange, and the second Thursday of every month in Chatham.

This is the process in Orange County:  After being retained, your lawyer goes to the Clerk of Court and asks them to  place the case on an upcoming lawyer’s day.

This is the way they do it in Chatham County:  Traffic court is the 1st Thursday of every month.  Folks who don’t have lawyers can show up then and resolve their cases on their own.  The left-over cases, which would include cases in which the defendants have hired lawyers, are automatically continued over to the next Thursday — lawyer’s day — when lawyers show up and take care of the cases for which they have been retained.

So, if you retain me (or any other lawyer) for a minor traffic case in Orange or Chatham County, we will not resolve your case on the court date printed on the ticket.  Rather, we will resolve it on lawyer’s day.

Do I Have to Come to Court?

Updated July 23, 2014

A useful thing a lawyer may do for you is go to court for you,  so you won’t have to miss work or travel back to North Carolina. Whether a lawyer can do that depends upon whether the charge is  “waivable.”   We all have the right to be present when our case is heard (and we also have the duty to be there).  However, in minor traffic cases, the defendant may waive their right to be in court, and allow a lawyer to handle the case.   The Waiver of Appearance is a paper that you sign and return to your lawyer.

Click below to see  a sample of the waiver I send clients to sign and return to me  (You’ll have to click twice. The first click gets you to another screen with the phrase “Sample Waiver. ”  Then click on that phrase again to see the form).

Sample Waiver

Common waivable charges are  improper passing,  minor speeding tickets, stop sign and traffic light tickets,  possession of an open alcohol container, failure to yield, and  driving the wrong way.

Some offenses that require you to be in court are driving with a revoked license,  possession of  stolen or fictitious plates, DWI, reckless driving, high-speed tickets, failure to stop at the scene of an accident,  and failure to have insurance.  [Source:  Uniform Policies Related to Traffic Offenses, NC Administrative Office of the Courts (2011)]

Even if you are charged with a non-waivable offense, I may still appear for you.  How?  By pleading down your non-waivable offense down to a lesser charge that is waivable. For example, you are charged with driving 82 mph in a 65 mph zone.  If I can get that reduced to 74 in a 65,  I can usually enter that reduced plea using a waiver form.

Let me go to court for you — call me now for a free consult!  919-683-2175.                     

“Nine Over”

(Updated 6 February 2014) 

There are several ways to avoid getting insurance points from a traffic ticket.  Besides getting the case reduced to improper equipment, or using a prayer for judgment continued (“PJC”) , there is something called  “nine over.”  What does this mean?  North Carolina’s Safe Driver Incentive Plan, otherwise known as the insurance point system, states how many insurance points a driver gets with each type of conviction.  For example, according to the insurance point chart,  a driver who pleads guilty to driving 58 mph in a 45 mph zone  would receive two (2) insurance points, which would result in a 45% increase in her insurance rates for three years.  However, the same insurance point system has an exception, one that traffic lawyers call “nine over.”  The insurance chart says that a driver will not get any points for:

Speeding 10 mph or less over the posted speed limit; provided all of the following are
true:
• The violation did not occur in a school zone; and
• There is not another moving traffic violation for the experience period (an isolated
Prayer for Judgement Continued (PJC) will not count as a prior conviction for the
purpose of this exception).

So, if  the driver is charged with 58 in a 45, and the ticket is not in a school zone, and she has a clean record for the past three years, then one way to keep her insurance from going up would be to ask the D.A.’s office to reduce the charge to 54 in a 45 (nine mph over the speed limit, or “nine over”), and the driver’s insurance would not increase. (Note: Depending on the circumstances, I might be able to help this person even if she got the ticket in a school zone).

Have a ticket?  Give me a call — Don’t risk losing all those savings you got from changing insurance companies!   919-683-2175.