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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

______________

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

 

 

 

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

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.  

Figuring Lost Wage Benefits

If you are out of work due to a work-related injury, one of your benefits will be compensation for lost wages.  Generally speaking, workers compensation wage benefits are figured at 2/3 of your pre-injury gross average weekly wage.  So, if you were making $500 per week before you got hurt, then, while you are out for your injury your “comp rate” (as it’s called) will 2/3 of $500, or $333.33 per week.

Remember, the comp rate is based on your gross wages, meaning your wages before taxes and other deductions.

Many will say, “How can I live on 2/3 of my salary?”  Hopefully, this will only be a temporary situation — in fact the wage loss benefits that a person receives while completely out of work are called “temporary total disability,” or “TTD.”   More important, however, is the fact that workers compensation benefits tax free.  No taxes will be deducted from your workers compensation checks, nor will you have to pay any state or federal taxes on worker comp benefits you receive.

The above is a general summary of benefit calculations. There are a number of exceptions and additions that might apply to your case.  If you are wondering whether you are receiving the correct amount of comp benefits, please give me a call at 919-683-2175.       

Traffic Lawyers and Guarantees

Potential clients will sometimes ask me if I guarantee the results in traffic cases. It’s an understandable question.  Unfortunately, the answer is “no.”  Now, before you go on to the next website, let me explain why.  The North Carolina State Bar prohibits it.  Legal ethics rules do not allow lawyers to have “contingent fees” in criminal cases.  And generally speaking, even though traffic cases can be very minor, they still are treated like criminal cases.  So, let’s say you are charged with speeding 69 mph in 55 mph zone.  If a lawyer were to tell you, “If I don’t get this ticket reduced enough to keep you from getting any insurance points, you won’t owe me anything,” that would be an improper contingent fee.  That’s because the lawyer’s fee depends on — is contingent upon — the results. One reason for this rule is that lawyers who have not guaranteed a result may not be tempted to do something improper, like offer a bribe or lie, to obtain the desired result.

Do you have a traffic case?  Call me now at 919-683-2175.  I can’t make a guarantee, but I will do my best to get a result that will be worth your money.

“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. 

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.