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I just got a traffic ticket. Am I in danger of losing my license?

This SHOULD be the most common question that I get as a traffic law attorney, but it’s not. Most people think of a traffic ticket as a nuisance.  They want to know what the fine is or if their insurance will go up.  Many people don’t think about what threat the ticket poses to their license, but they SHOULD.  When you are charged with a ticket, here’s what you should consider about your license.

1) Automatic Suspension

Certain traffic offenses will automatically result in suspension of your license upon conviction.

  • DWI (Driving while intoxicated)
  • DWLR (Driving while license revoked): will lengthen your time of suspension
  • Flee to Elude
  • Speeding over 80 mph
  • Speeding over 75 mph in a 65 mph zone
  • Speeding over 55 mph and more than 15 over

Options if charged?

  • Plead to lesser charge
  • Prayer-for-Judgment-Continued (PJC).

2) “Two strike” offense

If you are convicted of two of these charges within one year (12 months), that will suspend your license regardless of how many points you’ve previously accumulated.

  • Speeding over 55 mph
  • Reckless Driving
  • Aggressive Driving

Options

  • Plead to lesser charge
  • PJC
  • Continue case until outside 12-month window.

3) Too many points

If a NC driver accumulates 12 points within a 3 year (36 month period), their license will be suspended.  If the driver’s license was previously suspended, then there will be another suspension if the driver accumulates 8 points for the first three years after suspension.  Here are some common traffic offenses and how many points you will accumulate for each offense.

  • Aggressive Driving: 5
  • Passing a Stopped School Bus: 5
  • Reckless Driving: 4
  • Hit & Run: 4
  • Speeding over 55 mph: 3
  • Running Stop Sign or Red Light: 3
  • Speeding in a School Zone: 3
  • No Operator’s License (NOL): 3
  • Speeding if 55 mph or less: 2
  • Child Seatbelt Violation: 2
  • Littering using a motor vehicle: 1
  • Improper Equipment: 0
  • Driver Seatbelt Violation: 0
  • Expired Registration: 0
  • Use PJC: 0

Options:

  • Plead to a lesser offense
  • PJC
  • Take Driving School to remove 3 points from record

In every case you have the option of going to trial if you choose, you can only be convicted if the prosecution proves your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  However both judges and juries give great weight to their police officer testimony, and most traffic cases that go to trial are won by the prosecution despite this high burden.  If you go to trial and lose, then you will not be able to plead to a lesser offense. For example, if you are charged with speeding 82 in a 65 zone and it is your first offense, many counties will allow you to plead to improper equipment, which is a 0 point offense.  However if you go to trial and lose, you will be convicted of 82 in a 65, which is a criminal misdemeanor, you’ll lose your license, and your insurance premiums will go up by 80%.  It’s just not worth the risk.

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