The ‘Carolina Squat’ trucks and the move to make them illegal. Can they get away with it?
So, an interesting piece of legislation is moving its way through North Carolina’s House of representatives. Specifically, House Bill 692 would restrict certain lifts that are certain distances from the manufacturer’s original height. So, for those that enjoy lifting or lowering vehicles, you probably would like some input on this.
First, let me say, I’m coming from a place of experience. I am into older Ford trucks, specifically Ford Broncos (not the new ones, the old school ‘Big Broncos’ from 1978-1996). I have installed several lift kits, (both body and suspension lifts) in my lifetime, and currently own two Broncos with modified suspensions.
The first crazy part of this is, the law is specifically targeting ‘Carolina Squat’ trucks while eliminating those who just want to lift their vehicles (lifted trucks or ‘Donks’ fall in this category) or those that lower the vehicles (lower rider’s specifically). Now, why they are targeting ‘Squat Trucks’ over other height modified vehicles makes no sense, but if this passes, it will be the law of the land.
First, it is currently illegal to lift or lower a vehicle more than 6 inches from factory under N.C.G.S. 20-135.4. The proposed bill, “Carolina Squat”, would eliminate that language and replace it with “A private passenger automobile shall not be modified or altered by elevating the automobile more than 3 inches from the manufacturer’s specified height in the front and lowering the automobile more than 2 inches from the manufacturer’s specified height in the rear.” You should pay particular attention to the word ‘and’ as it means that both the front and rear of the vehicle would have to be modified in order to violate this law. For example, one could lift the front beyond 3 inches and leave the rear at factory or no more than 2 inches and you are still legal.
Second, enforcing this law will be particularly tricky. The Officer, and eventually the DA’s office, will have to know the factory height before they can determine whether the front is more than 3 inches and the rear is more than 2 inches from factory. This becomes particularly difficult for them should this go to trial. Should the State attempt to introduce evidence as to the original height of the truck, most Judge’s would likely prohibit the evidence coming in under the Hearsay exception to evidence or testimony.
So, what I mean by that is, let’s say the officer ‘looked it up’ and attempts to testify to what he learned. He does not have personal knowledge of the actual original height without the assistance of information provided by a third party who would not be present in court. Typically, that is not allowed, and if the Judge sustains an objection by the defense, then the State is left with “well, it looked outside the original height.” That should not be enough evidences to convict the Defendant.
First off, this charge is an infraction, not a criminal charge. My expectation would be, most DA’s office would dismiss the charge if you modified your truck back to be in line with the law. Of course, I doubt most of these driver’s will not want to do that. I also doubt there is a different charge they would ‘reduce’ your charge to, since it is already an infraction. Lastly, if you attempt to get a Prayer for Judgement Continued (better known as a ‘PJC’) so as to not affect your insurance, it’s possible a Judge won’t grant it since you haven’t fixed it.
Also be aware that, under this proposed change to the law, a third or subsequent conviction of this law will result in a 1-year suspension of your driving privileges. While you may be able to get a Limited Driving Privilege for that one year, it still sucks driving with restrictions for this type of charge.
Lastly, the way the law is written, any modification you make counts towards the law. So, it’s not just suspension lifts/lowering kits, it could be aftermarket wheels/tires or bumper/body modifications creating the change in factory height.
So, where does that leave us on “Carolina Squat”?
It isn’t a law yet, but the old law still prohibits modifications of the front or rear by more than 6 inches, so for those really ‘flexing your squat’ (I just came up with that, feel free to use it) you could be currently illegal. That all being said, I have practiced traffic law in Wake county for over 10 years and in that time, I have handled thousands of traffic tickets. Not once have I had to handle a violation of this law. I have had tint violations, light violations, muffler violations, but never lift/lowered vehicles.
I hope that provided some insight on what the law for the “Carolina Squat” currently is, and what could be. If anyone does receive this ticket in Wake County, and interested in testing the waters of trial, please reach out to us. I think it would be a lot of fun, and I would just charge you our normal traffic ticket charge, and not my trial fee.