Law Office of Frank Chen

TRAFFIC/DWI/CRIMINAL DEFENSE

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TRAFFIC LAW

Attorney Frank Chen is pleased to write the following about traffic law.  This is just a general guideline.

TRAFFIC LAW

Speeding

Speeding is usually by far the most common traffic offense that people are cited for.  It is pretty much universally known as an every man’s crime.  The points associated with speeding tickets vary, depending on the number of miles an hour over the limit as well as the speed of conviction.  In addition, school zone and work zone tickets carry an additional penalty. 

It should be noted that when a speeding charge is reduced down to 9 mph or less over the speed limit, the driver is generally eligible for an insurance point waiver, provided that they have not received any other violations or been involved in a car accident where their insurance company paid out in the last 3 years.  It is important to note that license points and insurance points are not the same thing.  Even though the person’s insurance premium does not rise, they may still receive driver’s license points.

When a person is convicted of a speeding charge where the overall speed of conviction is higher than 55 mph and the person was convicted of speeding over 15 mph over the speed limit, the person may have his or her license revoked by DMV.  What this means is that a 61mph in a 45 mph zone will cause a license revocation.  A 56 mph in a 40 mph zone will also trigger a revocation.  Interestingly enough, a 54mph in a 20 mph school zone actually will not trigger an automatic revocation because the speed is under 55 mph.

A school zone ticket carries a mandatory minimum fine of $25 while work zone tickets carry a fine of at least $250.   While every county has a different set of policies, some prosecutors will negotiate tickets out of school zone or work zones.  A few Judges may also consider a Prayer for Judgment in exchange for some community service on school zone tickets.  Be aware that while a reduction to 9 miles an hour over the speed limit on a work zone ticket still allows one to receive an insurance waiver, a reduction to 9 miles an hour over in a school zone ticket is usually worthless because it is not eligible for an insurance waiver.  It is important to note that all work zone tickets are classified as infractions no matter how high the speed the offender was charged with.  What this means is that one can mail all work zone tickets in.  This can actually be a trap since the revocation rules still apply.  Thus, a person who mails a speeding ticket in a work zone in for an 82mph in a 65mph zone will lose his or her license.

Although not available in all counties, an improper equipment is a non-moving violation offense that some prosecutors use.  What often happens is that minor speeding tickets get reduced to an improper equipment so that the offender will not receive any license or insurance points.

Stop Signs and Redlights

The penalty for running a red light or failing to stop for a stop sign is generally the same in NC.  If an accident was involved, there is usually a fairly good chance that the charges can be dismissed upon furnishing evidence that all the damages have been paid out and settled by the offender’s insurance company.  Sometimes these charges can be reduced to city codes or improper equipments which do not carry insurance or license points.  Again, it often depends on the county whether this is possible or not.  Prayer for Judgments are frequently used to allow offenders to receive no license points or insurance points for stop sign and red light tickets in some counties.

Careless and Reckless

A common misconception is that a careless and reckless driving conviction will result in the automatic suspension of one’s license.  This is not true, although a C+R is a misdemeanor and carries both 4 dmv points and 4 insurance points.  This generally results in a 90% or higher increase in one’s insurance upon conviction.  Careless and reckless driving is governed by NCGS 20-140.  For one to be guilty of this offense, one must drive a vehicle, “upon a highway or any public vehicular area carelessly and heedlessly in willful or wanton disregard of the rights or safety of others,” or “without due caution and circumspection and at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property.”

License Suspension

There are many ways for one to get their NC Driver’s License suspended or their NC driving privileges suspended.  The following are a number of the more frequently seen reasons:

1)      Accumulating 12 or more points (dmv pts) within a 3-year period

2)      Within a 12 month period: a) been convicted of 2 speeding tickets where the speed of conviction was greater than 55 mph, b) convicted of careless and reckless driving as well as a speeding ticket greater than 55 mph, or c) convicted of aggressive driving as well as a speeding ticket greater than 55 mph.

3)      Been convicted of speeding at a speed greater than 75 mph when the speed limit was under 70 mph

4)      Been convicted of speeding over 80 mph where the speed limit is 70 mph

5)      Been convicted of a moving violation while the person’s license was in a state of revocation

6)      Been convicted of Driving While License Revoked

7)      Been convicted of DWI or other alcohol related offenses

8)      Been convicted of pre-arranged racing

 

Driving While License Revoked

Driving While License Revoked is actually a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to 120 days in jail.  It also carries a mandatory additional license suspension that can range from 1 year to permanent revocation.  Many people are not arrested for this offense and do not treat it nearly as seriously as he or she probably should.  In general, most prosecutors and judges look at these cases in two categories based on whether the person’s license was revoked for an alcohol related offense or not. 

The most common way a person’s license is revoked is when a person neglects to take care of other traffic matters and misses court.  As a result of the failure to appear, the person’s license is indefinitely suspended.  Then the next time a police officer runs that person’s plates, the officer finds out that the person’s license is suspended. Generally, these cases can be handled best when the person goes back and resolves all the cases that they neglected in the first place.  Then the person pays all restoration fees and gets their license back.  Upon re-issuance, the person is much better equipped to deal with the Driving While License Revoked charges.  Sometimes people fail to appear for multiple charges and also fail to appear on other driving while license revoked charges.  These cases can become extremely complicated very quickly and can be very time consuming. 

Alcohol related suspensions triggering driving while license revoked charges are of a different nature.  The sentences associated are frequently tougher.

License Restoration

When one loses his or her license due to numerous failure to appears and driving while license revoked charges, it may be possible for an attorney to sift through the mess and find a way for the person to pay off certain tickets, get certain charges dismissed, have certain charges PJC’ed, and eventually get a license restoration.  Sometimes the process is fairly simple.  Sometimes it is extremely complex, difficult, and can span several counties if the person picked up various charges in different counties throughout the state.  Nonetheless, for a $50 fee I will pull anyone’s driving record no matter how hopeless it seems and have a consultation with him or her about the prospects of a license restoration.  Again, if the chances are slim to none, I will certainly let the person know and will not advertise false hope.

Prayer for Judgment

I probably hear more misinformation regarding what a Prayer for Judgment (PJC) is or what the consequences of receiving one is than anything else.  To receive a PJC, one must first plead guilty or responsible in front of a Judge to be considered for one.  Thus, the plea is technically guilty.  What the Judge is doing is indefinitely continuing the judgment, generally upon payment of court costs.  So what does this mean?  Well, it technically does not count as a conviction on your record.  However, it will show up as a PJC in both DMV and court records.  The DMV allows two PJC’s every 5-years for DMV purposes while insurance companies generally only allow 1 PJC per household every 3-years.  PJC’s are also ineffective for those holding Commercial Drivers Licenses (CDLs).  It should also be noted that PJCs do count as convictions for sentencing purposes under the felony punishment chart for sentencing of felonies.  In addition, PJCs for speeding tickets where the rate of speed is greater than 25 mph over the speed limit are ineffective.  In addition, PJCs are entirely at the Judge’s discretion.  It is NOT a given right.  Sometimes a person is denied a PJC on a relatively minor traffic matter such as running a stop sign because when the Judge asks the charging officer if the person was polite and cooperative, the officer tells the Judge that the person was profane and rude.  It never helps to be combative or rude with law enforcement.  It should also be noted that PJCs are usually used for minor traffic offenses and sometimes non-traffic misdemeanors on rare occasion when there is good reason.

Accident Cases

Oftentimes when one gets involved in an automobile accident, he or she gets cited for charges such as following too closely, failure to yield, exceeding safe speed, etc.  Generally these cases can be dismissed upon furnishing an insurance letter stating that all of the claims have been settled and that the insurance company has accepted full liability.  A general rule for a good insurance letter would be that the letter contain 3 things. 1) The letter must be on the company letterhead. 2) The letter must state that all of the damages have been paid and settled and that liability has been accepted. 3) There should be a dollar amount on the letter stating just how much they paid. 

Sometimes insurance companies deny liability or people receive these charges when near accidents occur.  If this occurs, another route can generally be taken to reduce or dismiss the charges.

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Resources courtesy of:

Law Offices of Frank Chen
555 New Bern Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27601
(919) 358-6531
FAX (919) 834-6994
frank@nctraffic-criminal.com

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