With school coming back in Wake County, everyone probably needs a refresher of all of the consequences for speeding in a school zone. First, let’s talk about what a school zone is and how you know you are in one.
School zones are specific areas designated by signs, where the speed limit is reduced from the actual speed limit of the road during a specific period of time. In some limited cases, the speed is not reduced but the zone is still marked as a school zone and so extra caution should be taken.
You should be able to identify when you are entering and leaving a school zone based on the signage that is on both sides of the school zone. Typically, the signage is broken up into two categories. First, the school zone sign will indicate under what hours the school zone is in effect. If you are driving on the road, through that zone during the designated times posted on the school zone sign, then you need to abide by the school zone posted speed limit. For these types of signage, unless the sign says otherwise, take caution that even if school is not in session that day, the school zone is likely still enforceable at the discretion of the police officer. The second type of signage indicates that the school zone is in affect when the lights on the school zone are flashing. So, it is important to pay attention to what the signage says. In both cases, there should be a second sign which indicates you are leaving the school zone (and therefore you can breathe a sigh of relief).
Next, let’s talk about the consequences of speeding through a school zone. Beyond the obvious risks to parents and children, there are legal ramifications as well. First, the charge for speeding in a school zone can be found in North Carolina General Statute 20-141.1. This charge is an infraction, as opposed to a misdemeanor, which is good news. However, this charge carries a $250 fine on top of the court costs. Additionally, you will receive 3 points on your license, however the insurance points vary depending on the speed you are traveling.
Now, on how these cases are resolved is a harder question to answer. Each jurisdiction has its own policies in how these cases are handled. Assuming you cannot receive a reduction to something outside of a school zone charge, then your only hope to avoid some of the consequences is to have a Prayer for Judgement Continued granted by the Judge. First, the District Attorneys cannot grant a PJC, only a Judge can. However, the DA’s office can oppose the granting of a PJC which the Judge will consider when determining whether to grant one. In some jurisdictions, there may be nothing that needs to be done in order to secure a PJC. In others, it may require driving school and/or community service for a PJC to be granted.
So, what does a PJC provide? First, it will prevent you from receiving any fine from the court, including the statutory required $250 fine, you will only owe court costs. Second, it will prohibit your insurance from going up. Obviously, unless you can somehow get the charge dismissed or reduced to something outside of the school zone, the PJC is your best bet. For more about PJCs see our blog!
So, that is a brief tutorial on school zone tickets. I would recommend to anyone that receives this type of ticket to contact an attorney to assist you. Due to the issues involving local jurisdiction policies, these charges can be complicated, it is hard to know what to expect if you go to court. In addition, an attorney can figure out whether you have a PJC available and/or what will be required to be granted a PJC. Therefore, it is best to let an attorney with experience with your jurisdiction to resolve this ticket for you.
I hope you find this helpful. If you find yourself with a this type of ticket or any other traffic or criminal matter in Wake County, please contact us, we will be happy to assist you.