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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

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!!

 

 

 

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.                     

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.

 

Prayer for Judgment Continued (or “PJC”)

(Updated March 27, 2013)

What about Prayer for Judgment Continued?

 

With a prayer for judgment continued (or “PJC”), you plead guilty to a charge, but the judge never enters an official judgment — at your request ( or “prayer,” in legalese) entry of the judgment is postponed (or “continued”) indefinitely.

For insurance purposes, each household (not just each person) may have one (1) PJC every three years.  So, if you plead guilty to a charge that would result in insurance points, but the judge gives you a PJC, your insurance rates will not go up, as long as your household has not had any other PJCs in the past three years.

PJC’s also are useful if a driver is facing a license suspension.  For drivers license purposes, each driver is allowed two (2) PJCs every five years.  Here is an example of how a PJC could save a person’s license:

North Carolina DMV may suspend the licenses of drivers who get two convictions of speeding over 55 mph within a 12-month period.   So, if you plead guilty to driving 64 in a 55 mph zone in March, and then the following February, you plead guilty to driving 68 in a 55, DMV will suspend your license.  But, if the judge gives you a PJC on that second charge, your license will not be suspended.

 

Are you Entitled to a PJC?

No.  Just because you have not “used up” your PJCs does not mean that you are entitled to one.  Whether a driver will be given a PJC is within the judge’s discretion.  A driver (and their lawyer) may have to persuade the judge to give the driver a PJC  — so it helps to be polite to the officer and to wear a coat and tie to court!

 

A Common Misperception about PJCs

Many people believe that if they get a PJC, and then get another ticket a year or so later, the insurance points for that former PJC case will kick in.  That’s not how it works.  What you can not do is use another PJC on the second case.  If you do that, the two PJCs within a three-year period will cancel each other out, and you’ll get the points for both cases.   However, if you plead guilty to the second ticket without using a PJC, you will only get the insurance points, if any, that go with the second charge.

Note: This information is for general purposes only.  It is not meant to apply to a specific case. Also, this information is based on North Carolina law.  If you are licensed in another state, I suggest that you verify how a plea to a traffic case in North Carolina will affect your license where you live.

Have a traffic ticket? Please call me now at 919-683-2175  for a free consultation.