The Implications of Your Traffic Ticket
Your simple traffic ticket can quickly add up to increased insurance premiums and points on your driver’s license. Hiring an attorney can potentially save you from some of the most costly administrative and insurance consequences associated with a traffic violation.
When a driver violates one or more motor vehicle statutes, they are given a citation by the police officer listing which statute(s) they supposedly violated. The traffic ticket or citation is technically an order to appear in court at a specified date and time. The police issue traffic tickets so they don’t have to take the driver into immediate custody.
A traffic ticket might seem like no big deal, but this is hardly the case. There are two different types of traffic offenses: they are waivable and non-waivable offenses. With a waivable offense, you are allowed to simply plead guilty and pay the fine; however, paying the fine is an automatic admission of guilt. With a waivable offense, you can pay the fine and waive your court appearance.
On the other hand, with a non-waivable offense (one that is deemed more serious), your presence at court is mandatory. Failure to appear in court can result in the judge ordering your arrest, and this is not a good thing. The majority of traffic violations in North Carolina are considered infractions with penalties adding up to around $500; however, in more serious cases the driver faces higher monetary fines and/or imprisonment. A common example of a serious violation would be hit & run with bodily injury, or DWI/DUI.
Traffic violations are for either moving or non-moving offenses. This means that the vehicle was in motion during the traffic violation. Moving violations include but aren’t limited to the following: speeding, reckless driving, driving without a seat belt, running a red light, running a stop sign, failure to use a turn signal, illegal passing, driving without liability insurance, driving too slowly, driving on the wrong side of the road and more.
Non-moving violations include: parking in a handicapped zone, illegal parking, having a missing licensed plate, and having invalid registration tags. Points on your driver’s license are associated with traffic violations. Once you accumulate 12 points on your driving record within 3 years, your driver’s license is suspended. Offenses for reckless driving, tailgating, and illegal passing cost you 4 points, while running a stop sign, or speeding over 55 mph costs you 3 points.
In addition to points on your driver’s license, the auto insurance industry assigns their own point system to an infraction. One auto insurance point adds 25% to your insurance premiums, whereas 5 points increases your insurance premiums by 120%! This is an entirely separate point system that penalizes you for traffic convictions and drastically increases the cost of driving.
For drivers with a clean driving record who are ticketed, the most expensive consequence isn’t the fine for the ticket but the increase in their insurance premiums. In North Carolina, if you are convicted of DWI, the auto insurance industry assigns you 12 points. What does this mean? This means a 400% increase in your insurance premiums! So, if you were used to paying $800 dollars a year in insurance, you can expect to pay around $3,200 a year after a DWI conviction. As you can see, anything you can do to mitigate the consequences of a traffic ticket is important and can potentially save you insurance points and driver’s license points. A skilled attorney can represent you at trial and in front of a judge. The right attorney will have extensive experience defending clients in DWI and traffic violation cases; they will also be familiar with local DCDOTs, their administrative staff, local courts, judges and prosecutors. Your attorney’s relationship with your local judge can have a bearing on the outcome of your case and this is important during negotiations. Therefore, you are far better off with skilled legal representation than appearing in court without a lawyer.