Written by attorney David A. Coolidge Jr.

Important Information that you should know about Speeding Tickets and Moving Violations

  1. Can I fight my speeding ticket with a trial? Yes. You can always fight your traffic ticket with a trial. The trial would be held in District Court, where a Judge and not a Jury would decide the case. If tried and convicted, you would be convicted of your traffic ticket as charged. For example, if you received a speeding ticket for 53 mph in a 35 mph zone and had a trial on your ticket, and then were found guilty, your conviction would be to 53 mph in a 35 zone. The Judge is under no duty or obligation to find you guilty of a lesser included offense, such as speeding 44 mph in a 35 zone. 2. How does radar work? Radar measures relative motion. Radar works by bouncing beams off of two objects, and by calculating the distance to the objects and the rate of change, it's able to figure out a speed. Anything that interferes with this process affects the radar. For example, the tires of a vehicle going 60 mph move anywhere between 0 mph and 120 mph, depending on the point where the radar hits the tire - the top of the tire is doing 120 mph relative to the road, and the bottom of the tire (which touches the road) is doing 0 mph. Foreign objects, such a rainfall, are also factors. 3. Is radar proof of guilt? No. Radar alone is not sufficient evidence for a conviction at trial. The State must offer some opinion testimony, almost always by a police officer, that the vehicle was in fact speeding. Radar evidence corroborates the opinion testimony. 4. Can I pay my citation by mailing it to the Clerk along with payment? It depends on the citation. Some citations can be paid through the mail, and others cannot. Judges across North Carolina have decided which citations can be paid through the mail. However, keep in mind that you will be convicted of the offense as charged, should you choose to deal with your citation that way. You should always consult with an attorney rather than pay a citation through the mail. 5. Should I pay my citation by mailing it to the Clerk along with payment? No. It is rarely a good idea to pay off a citation through the mail. You will be entering a plea to the speed as charged. That is, a speeding ticket for 53 mph in a 35 mph zone, paid through the mail, will result in a conviction for 53 mph in a 35 mph zone and the consequences of that conviction. A plea bargain is not available. A court appearance, whether or not through an attorney, creates the possibility of having the ticket reduced. 6. How does a plea bargain work? A plea bargain is where a charge is reduced, or among charges one is dismissed, in exchange for a plea. For example, you might plead "not guilty" to a speeding ticket for 53 mph in a 35 zone but would plead responsible to speeding 44 mph in a 35 zone. 7. What is the purpose of a plea bargain? Since the Prosecutor has a very high volume of cases to handle, it's not possible to have a trial on every single case. Thus, the Prosecutor has an incentive to try to "work out deals," which many times can be in your favor. 8. Who issues a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC)? The presiding Judge chooses whether to issue a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). The Prosecutor doesn't have the authority to give you one. However, the Prosecutor does have a "right to be heard" in open court and may approve or disapprove of the PJC. 9. Is a PJC always a good thing? No. A PJC is not always a good thing. You need the advice of an experienced lawyer on this matter. 10. What is a driving school? Driving school is used to promote driver education. Courses usually run between four and eight hours in length. The North Carolina Heath and Safety Council sponsors driving courses across the state, including the Raleigh area. Driving courses are only mandatory if ordered by a Judge. However, drivers, upon the advice of an experienced attorney, can go to an appropriate driving course before their court date, in order to be in a position to get the best deal possible. 11. Should I sign up for driving school? You need the advice of an experienced attorney, because all cases are different. 12. Do I need to appear in court? It depends on your case. Sometimes you can pay off a citation through the mail. Many times you can hire a lawyer to go to court for you. Should you not want to go to court, but do want to prudently take care of your case, you should always hire a lawyer to look after the matter. A lawyer will be able to try to plea bargain the ticket, to get the best deal possible for your situation. Paying the citation through the mail is like giving up. 13. Should I hire a lawyer? You should always hire a lawyer if you are charged with a crime. You should never face the criminal justice system alone. It's because we care that we say that. If you were to ask a Prosecutor or a Judge whether you should hire a lawyer, neither one can answer the question because it violates their ethical duties. However, a Prosecutor quoting a Judge said onetime: "I can't answer that question. But I can tell you that if I had a daughter, and she received a seatbelt ticket, I would hire a lawyer for her." 14. Can my case be postponed to a later date? It depends on your case. However, it is regular for at least one postponement, or continuance, to be allowed. Be warned that you should never go to court without an attorney, and count on the case being continued. 15. Will the Prosecutor give me legal advice? No. The Prosecutor cannot give you any advice about your case. The Prosecutor represents the State of North Carolina. 16. How many Driver's License Points am I allowed before my license is taken away? It depends. For North Carolinians, usually a maximum of twelve points is allowed before your license can be taken away by the NC DMV. However, certain convictions, certain combinations of convictions, or certain circumstances can also trigger a revocation, even though you have fewer than twelve license points. You should always seek the advice of an experienced lawyer if you've received a traffic citation. 17. Is it possible to lose my license for a single ticket? Yes. It's possible for you to lose your license for a single conviction. You should always seek the advice of an experienced lawyer if you've received a traffic citation, because the lawyer knows the law. The law of the road is more involved and complex than it may first appear to be. 18. What are insurance points? Insurance points are assigned to certain traffic citation convictions. They can add up over time. Points for a given conviction can stay with you for only three years. The total number of insurance points you have at any particular time corresponds to fixed percentage amounts that your rates will increase by. Keep in mind, that there are other ways for your rates to increase due to a traffic conviction. 19. Will the cost of my car insurance go up because of my ticket? It's impossible to answer that question without knowing the facts of your case. The bottom line is that certain convictions carry insurance points, some more than others. Your insurance company could also sell your policy to the North Carolina Reinsurance Facility, which pools policies of "high-risk" drivers, which could raise your rates. There is no substitute for an experienced attorney to counsel you about these matters. 20. Could I go to jail for my traffic ticket? It depends on your ticket and the circumstances. For a speeding ticket or other non-alcohol related moving violation, it's the small minority of cases that result in a jail sentence. Your ticket would have to be an offense greater than an infraction for jail to be a possibility. The Judge determines whether jail is appropriate, not the Prosecutor, but the Prosecutor would have a right "to be heard" to express approval or disapproval. As always when facing the criminal justice system, the advice of a lawyer is invaluable in knowing possible outcomes and attempting to control them. SEE MORE QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS on

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