TRAFFIC TICKETS MAY COST MORE THAN YOU THINK
If you receive a traffic citation, the fine and court costs which are imposed upon conviction may not be the only costs you incur. With some exceptions, convictions for moving violations cause you to accumulate both division of motor vehicle points (DMV points) and insurance points. Accumulation of insurance points cause insurance premiums to increase for three years, and accumulation of DMV points or even one conviction for certain violations can cause you to lose your drivers license.
For example, in North Carolina, if you are convicted of speeding 81 mph in a 70 mph zone, you will lose your license for 30 days and possibly up to one year. If convicted of speeding 56 mph in a 45 mph zone twice in one year, you may lose your license for up to six months. In both cases, your insurance premiums can increase by 90%. Upon a first conviction for driving while impaired (DWI), your license will be suspended for one year (however, you may be eligible for a limited privilege), your insurance can increase by 400%, and a jail sentence may be imposed. Penalties for repeat offenders are more severe. In many cases jail sentences are mandatory and you can lose your driver's license permanently.
Further, multiple convictions of less serious violations may result in the suspension of your driving privilege and cause increased insurance premiums. Accumulation of more than 12 DMV points in a three year period will result in drivers license suspension. If your driver’s license had been suspended within the last three years and you accumulate 8 DMV points within three years following the reinstatement of your license, your license will again be suspended. The rules are more strict for provisional licensees (drivers under 18 years of age).
There are ways that these additional costs may be avoided. The law is complicated, and an attorney can help you avoid costs of convictions and sometimes avoid conviction altogether. An example of a way to avoid additional costs is a called a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). A driver will not receive DMV points if a PJC is granted, but only if no more than one prior PJC was granted to that driver during the preceding five years. The law with respect to insurance points is different. No insurance points are assessed if a PJC is granted if neither the driver nor anyone else in the driver's household has received a PJC in the preceding three years. However, a PJC is not always the best disposition for a driver to seek.
Another way additional costs may be avoided is to have a speeding charge reduced to less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. In North Carolina, if a driver has no convictions other than one for speeding less than 10 mph over the speed limit in the past three years, insurance premiums will not increase (except for school zone violations). However, if convicted of another moving violation within three years, the second conviction will cause insurance points to be assessed for both the new and previous violations. But again, this is not always the best disposition for a driver. In some counties for certain violations, you may qualify for the defensive driving program implemented by the district attorney's office. If eligible, upon completion of the class and payment of the applicable fees, your charge may be reduced to improper equipment. A conviction for improper equipment will not result in any insurance or DMV points. However, a driver can attend the safe driver's program only once in a three year period.
This article is not a complete statement of traffic law, but is only a brief overview of some of the laws regarding traffic violations and consequences in North Carolina. In addition, traffic laws (as with all areas of law) change regularly. If you are charged with a traffic violation─or any crime─you should immediately consult with an attorney.