Understanding Traffic Laws

Recently, a client hired us for a traffic case that emphasized the complexities and nuances of NC traffic law. Once we studied this particular client’s driving record, the traffic ticket and the client’s outcome was not even as complicated or unusual but really highlighted the fact that traffic tickets can be much more complex than they initially appear.

Let’s start with a very basic principle, traffic law is not easy. I’m certain many people assume a traffic attorney takes your money, gets a reduction, and calls it a day. In reality, even simple traffic matters can be complicated. The most complicated matter about traffic cases in North Carolina is the fact that we have two point systems for traffic violations: insurance points and license points. The former affects how much your insurance will increase as a result of a conviction, the latter addresses whether your license will be suspended as a result of too many license points. Most importantly, being able to assess a driving record and knowing your county’s rules as well as a judge’s proclivities for reductions, fines, PJCs, etc. One thing that can come up that is definitely very serious is Driving While License Revoked charges, which is what occurred in the case referenced above.

First, there are two types of DWLR’s, one originating because of Impaired Driving, and one for any other reason (which can include speeding violations, too many driver’s license points, failure to pay fines, failure to appear in court, etc.). Driving While License Revoked – Impaired Driving is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and can result in a sentence beyond the typical court costs and fine, it (and has) included probation and even jail time. On top of that, your license will be suspended for one year for your first offense, two years for your second, and permanent for your third and subsequent conviction. A non-impaired DWLR conviction is now considered a non-moving violation, so it, in itself, will not result in further suspension of your license, but other charges may. Any conviction of a moving violation during a period of suspension will result in further suspension of your license. Hopefully, now you can see how complicated these cases can be (and we haven’t even talked about PJC’s).

So, my client had a couple of simple traffic matters a few years back that he did not go to court for. He was eventually listed as Failure to Appear and it resulted in a suspension of his license. A year or so later, he was caught driving and received some charges of Driving While License Revoked (back then, there was only the one kind, and a conviction of it resulted in license suspension). He hired an attorney who ultimately got some of the charges dismissed and pled him to two counts of DWLR, resulting in a two year suspension of his license. The problem was, the attorney did not resolve the original charges when the client missed his original court dates which started this whole situation. So, after having gone two years without driving, my client believing that all of his traffic tickets were handled, begin driving. However, his license was still suspended, and he received new charges. What should have been a simple plea negotiation was screwed up by his attorney, and resulted in further suspension of his license, added costs for attorney services and new court costs. The good news is, as part of my plea negotiations, I was able to get his old charges dismissed and plead to certain charges, in a specific way, that he was now able to get his license and was no longer under a suspension. Needless to say he was very appreciative.

What’s the moral of this story? Traffic laws are tricky! When hiring an attorney to clean up your driving record, make sure they are looking at the ENTIRE picture and not just what you currently have pending. If you have a suspended license, make sure the attorney is taking care of your current charges as well as anything that may have caused the suspension.

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