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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.                     

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.      

License Suspensions –Common Causes

(Revised October 8, 2013)

There are all kinds of reasons that a person’s license may get suspended.  Here are some of the more common ones I see.

The first one is failure to take care of a ticket.  If you get a ticket, you’ve got to resolve it in some way.  If you just ignore it, the court will note you as having  “failed to appear.”   If you don’t take care of the case within 20 days after that, the court will notify DMV, and they will send you a letter telling you that unless you resolve the case your license will be revoked.  If you still don’t resolve it, DMV revokes your license.  Then, three months  — or three years — later you get stopped at a license check or for another speeding ticket and are informed that your license is revoked, which is a very serious matter.  The officer may very well arrest a person charged with driving while license revoked (also known as “DWLR”).  Perhaps even worse, DWLR carries eight insurance points (which would result in a 220% increase in your insurance rates for three years).

At that point, I may get a call.  What we have to do is take care of both the old ticket and the new one.  We file a motion to put the old ticket back on the court docket and work out a plea.  Then, once that’s cleared up, the D.A. is often willing to allow the person to plead to the reduced charge of simply driving without a license (only one insurance point) or will consent to allowing the person to have a prayer for judgment continued, which may not result in any insurance points.

Another common reason people get their license revoked is for speeding higher than 80 mph, or for speeding more than 15 mph over the limit while at the same time driving in excess of 55 mph.  Those are automatic thirty-day suspensions.  (N.C.G.S. 20-16.1).

Yet another cause of a license suspension is getting convicted within a twelve month period of:  two charges of speeding in excess of 55 mph; or a charge speeding more that 55 mph and a charge of reckless driving, or a charge of speeding in excess of 55 mph and a charge of aggressive driving. (N.C.G.S. 20-16).

If any of the above situations might apply to you, please give me a call at 919-683-2175.  You may think you have no hope to keep your license, but all of us make mistakes and I have found that District Attorneys and judges are usually willing to work with people to help them avoid some of these harsh outcomes.  Sometimes we just have to ask for a second — or a third — chance.

 

“Oops! I missed my court date.”

Revised 6 February 2014 

Missing a court date can be frustrating.  I’d be happy to help you out!  Give me a call at 919-683-2175

If you forgot to go to traffic court last week (or last month, or last year, or five years ago), I probably can help you avoid some or all of the consequences.

The first situation I will discuss is the very-recently-missed court date.  By “recent” I mean within the past 20 days.  If it has been 20 days or less since you missed your court date, I can ask for a new court date.  Then, on that new date, I handle the case in the normal fashion, and you probably will have avoided the consequences of missing your court date.

If your missed court date was more than 20 days ago, the clerk of court will notify the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  DMV then will send you a letter stating that  unless you take care of the ticket by such-and-such a date, your license will be suspended. In that situation, you will need to get a new court date and resolve the ticket before the suspension date listed on DMV’s letter.

An unpleasant consequence that  kicks in after 20 days is the failure-to-appear (“FTA”) fee.  Unless you have a really good excuse for missing your court date and then not resolving it within the first 20 days, the court adds a $200 late fee to your court costs.  (That’s  harsh,  especially since until a few years ago the FTA fee was only $50. . . .)  In any case, we sometimes can get the court to forgive the late fee, but you do need to have a good excuse — more than it just slipped your mind.

Sometimes people will call me, often from another state, saying that they went to their local DMV to get their license renewed and were told that their license was suspended because of an unresolved ticket in North Carolina from two — or ten! — years ago.  In that situation, the process is basically the same. I file a motion to reopen the old case, and we work out a plea reduction if possible, and enter the plea.  You then pay the fine and court costs (including the $200 late fee in almost all of those cases).

In many old cases there is one more step before you are “cleared” to renew your license.  North Carolina DMV may charge a fee  to remove you from the national database of persons who are blocked from getting a license because of unresolved tickets.  Click here to read my post about that.

So, it’s a good idea to take care of your ticket on your court date.  But everybody makes mistakes, and if you’ve  missed your court date, there are ways to straighten things out.

 

Why Choose Kenneth Duke?

First, clients benefit from the expertise that I have developed through 26 years of law practice in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina.   I have tried cases in the district and superior courts, and I have tried many workers compensation claims before the North Carolina Industrial Commission.  I  know my way around workers’ comp, personal injury and traffic law. 
Further, you usually will be dealing directly with me.  I do have an assistant, but when you call, as likely as not I will answer the phone.  I usually answer client emails myself.  I am willing to discuss directly with you the pros and cons of the various courses of action to be taken in your case, whether it’s a traffic, personal injury, or workers’ compensation claim. 
Call or email me right now and put my skills to work for you.