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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

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. 

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.

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.  

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.

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.

 

“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. 

 

“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.