Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here

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.

_____________

*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

______________

*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.                     

“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.

 

How much are the attorney’s fees in a traffic case?

My goal is to charge a fee that anyone with a car and a license can pay.  Having said that, the fee varies with the case. For example, the fee would be less for a  “basic” ticket (such as 48 mph in a 35 mph zone)  than it would for a more serious case.  An example of a more serious case would be one in which you might get more than one insurance point or which might suspend  your license.  The fee also is higher if there is more than one charge arising from the same incident.

My fee does not include the court costs or fines.  Often, the court costs and fine will be written on the ticket.  However, those amounts, especially the fine, may change depending upon how we resolve your case  (the amounts written on the ticket assume that you plead guilty as charged). If  we get the charges reduced the fine may change. If we use a prayer for judgment continued (PJC), there will be no fine, only the court costs.

 

 

Background on Traffic Cases

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

Some background information about traffic cases:

Most tickets will cause your insurance to go up. The amount of the increase depends on the ticket. For example, driving 68 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone would result in two insurance points, which would mean a 45% increase.   Driving 78 mph in a 65 mph zone is more serious, and would result in four points, and in an increase of 80%. Usually, I can get these types of charges reduced so that your insurance does not go up as much or not at all.

Some tickets will cause your license to be suspended unless they are reduced. The most common type of suspension occurs when both of these things are true: You are driving over 55 miles per hour and, at the same time your speed is more than 15 miles per hour over the limit. For example, a charge of 74 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone would result in a thirty-day suspension. Again, I usually can get these cases reduced to prevent the suspension.

 Please call  now at 919-683-2175  for a free consultation.