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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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Accidents, Tickets and Insurance Rates

If you have a wreck and the officer thinks it’s your fault, they may give you a ticket for failure to reduce speed, or failure to yield the right of way, or some other “safe movement” violation.   Hopefully, the accident is not too serious, and your main concern is whether it will cause your insurance to go up!  If you’ve gotten an accident-related ticket, I can probably help you get it dismissed. Usually, I contact your insurance company and ask them to send me a letter stating that they have paid for the damages to the the other person’s car, or have settled any personal injury claim that has been made against you. I then take that letter to an assistant D.A. and usually they will dismiss the ticket.  Depending upon how much your insurance company paid the other driver or injured person to resolve the case, that dismissal may keep your insurance rates from going up. If you have gotten an accident-related ticket, please give me a call at 919-683-2175 so we can figure out the best way to handle your specific case.      

“Improper Equipment”

Updated September 17, 2014 and June 4, 2015.

 

Don’t just pay that ticket!  Let me try to get it reduced for you, maybe to  “improper equipment.”  Read below to find out why, and then call me at 919-683-2175.

Many District Attorneys will allow a person charged with a speeding ticket or other moving violation to plead responsible to the reduced charge of   “improper equipment,” also known as “I.E.”  How is this helpful?  Improper equipment is not a moving violation.  It carries no driver’s license or insurance points.  It’s the next best thing to having the case dismissed.

When an IE is not available, there may be  other ways to keep a driver’s insurance from going up, such as “prayer for judgment continued,” which I  have discussed in another post.

Finally, some people wonder how it’s right to let someone who is charged with a speeding ticket or improper passing to plead to improper equipment.  The simple answer is that it is an act of grace or mercy on the part of the State and of the judge.  And who among us does not need a bit or grace or mercy at least a few times in our lives? I know I do!

 Now, please do the proper thing and call or email me about helping you get an improper equipment!  919-683-2175. 

 

New Court Costs — RE-amended Post!

Here’s my latest experience on court costs.  If you plead guilty to a traffic infraction, the basic court costs will be $188. If you plead guilty to a non-infraction ticket, the basic costs will be $190.  (How to tell if your case is an infraction or a “regular” ticket?   You’ll need to know the file number, which is separate from the citation number.  If the letters between the numbers are “IF,” it’s an infraction.  If the letters are “CR,” it’s not an infraction. )

If we get your case reduced to improper equipment, which is just about the best break there is, short of dismissal, then there will be an extra court cost of $50.  If the judge wants to (but they usually don’t), he or she can also add a fine.

Finally, let me warn you about the “late fees” that came into effect in August of 2011. If you miss your court date by more than twenty days, you will be charged a $200 late fee!  Occasionally, we can get those forgiven, but just be aware of that if you’ve got a pending ticket.

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

Areas (Places) I Cover

(Revised February 19, 2014)

I handle most types of traffic cases in Durham, Orange, Chatham and Wake Counties.  Some the cities and towns in this area include Raleigh, Apex, Morrisville, Cary, Durham, Rougemont, Timberlake, RTP (Research Triangle Park), Siler City, Pittsboro, Goldston, Bynum, Hillsborough, Chapel Hill, Carrboro,  and Efland.  Major Roads include I-85, I-40 and Highways  15-501 (the Durham-Chapel Hill Blvd), 54, 55, 64, 70, 86, and 147 (the Durham Freeway).

There are several large universities in the area, and their police departments can give tickets. These include  NC State University, Duke University, NC Central University, and UNC-Chapel Hill.

You can even get a ticket from the police officers at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport!

If you have had a traffic “run-in” with any of these towns or organizations, give me a call at 919-683-2175!