No matter if you’ve been driving for six months or 60 years, getting tickets is a fact of life. Now you’ve found yourself with one. Whether this is your first citation or you’ve had a few, what you do next is what matters.
After receiving a North Carolina traffic ticket, you are faced with some choices. Do you just pay it and put it behind you? Do you fight it? Do you hire an attorney? Do you “throw yourself on the mercy of the court” and hope they can help? Or, do you just ignore it and hope it goes away? Once you know your options step by step, you can pick the one that works best for you.
Let’s take a look at how you might attack the problem of getting a ticket. Of course, you should start by weighing your options but, after that, what’s next?
- Hire an attorney?
- Talk to the court?
- Take a driver safety course?
(I’m going to save you a little suspense here. That last step, the “safety course” one? That one is almost always your best choice, but who knows? One of the others might work just as well.)
You Got a Ticket. Now What?
Drivers react differently to getting tickets. Some get angry or indignant. Some are gracious, accepting the citation as an invitation to learn better for next time. Others view the infraction karmic-ly, figuring that even if they didn’t deserve the ticket this time, they probably got away with it (or worse) a dozen times in the past.
It’s not important if you experienced one of these reactions or something completely different. What is important is what you choose to do next. All you know is that you want to deal with this inconvenience with as little effort and expense as possible.
You could choose the zero effort and expense route and do nothing. I tried that once. It did not go well.
You could just pay the darn thing and chalk the fine up to hard-earned experience. This option is fairly low on the effort scale but fairly high on the expense side. And it won’t just be expensive now; it’ll be expensive later when your insurance renews.
You may feel that your ticket represented an attack on your driving superiority, and now you’re out for justice. What will it take to beat your ticket with an attorney?
Hire a Lawyer and Fight, Fight, Fight
Maybe you’ve seen billboards with pictures of smiling (or sometimes scowling) attorneys promising to join in your traffic-related crusade. Is this your best answer in terms of time and expense?
The internet is crawling with attorneys ready to go to war for you over your traffic ticket. Don’t believe me? Google “fight ticket with North Carolina attorney” and see how many results you get.
Most of these sites will boast of a 90%+ success rate, and many will make promises like
“Full refund if we are unable to keep the ticket off your record!”
Some of these will claim they’ll pay for your ticket as well.
These sites will also offer statistics encouraging you to employ them by implying you’d be stupid not to.
“One in four tickets is issued in error, yet only 5% of drivers contest their traffic tickets.”
Do you want to be in the 95% of suckers who don’t?
If you’re the type who likes to drive fast all the time, this may be an option. Many law firms have monthly memberships that will allow you to have…
“Unlimited back-and-forth with traffic lawyers. Chat with certified lawyers until you’re satisfied. About any legal issue—from big to small, and everything in between.”
The fight-it-with-a-lawyer option works like this:
- Spend time researching traffic lawyers and hire one. Once you’ve paid the required fees, the attorney will:
- Request a contested hearing
- Request discovery for your case
- Represent you in court
- Negotiate with the prosecutor to have your charges dropped or reduced
Factoring in the time spent shopping for a lawyer, this option is fairly moderate on the effort scale. But, depending on what the firm charges, it may remain pretty high on the expense chart. At least your insurance won’t go up if the attorney manages to keep the ticket off your record.
But Your Honor, You Have to Understand…
You could skip hiring an attorney and head to the courthouse yourself and request one of three things:
- A mitigation hearing
- A contested hearing
- Permission to take a driver safety course
A mitigation hearing is one where you request leniency because the fine represents an excessive financial burden. If you are successful, the court may reduce your fine, put you on a monthly payment plan, or allow you to work off your debt with community service.
A contested hearing is one you attend to try getting the conviction overturned.
Requesting permission to take a driver safety course is exactly what it sounds like.
For most minor violations, traffic courts in North Carolina may allow you to dismiss your ticket by completing a traffic school course.
The decision to allow dismissal with a driver safety course is made on a case by case basis, depending on the nature of the violation and your previous driving history. The court’s considerations include things like:
- If you have dismissed a ticket with a driver safety course before and, if so, when?
- Was your ticket written for excessive speed over the posted limit? (Generally 25+ MPH over)
- Was your ticket written in a school or work zone?
- Do you hold a Commercial Drivers License (CDL)?
If the answer to these questions is no, you’re generally good to go.
If the court does grant permission, you will be given information as to how the process works, including:
- The type of course you will need to take
- The date by which that course must be completed
- If you will need to provide any other documentation
- If there are additional fees you may owe
IMPORTANT NOTE: Just like playing “Mother May I” when you were a kid, DO NOT start a traffic school course before receiving permission. You’ll wind up paying for a second one and starting all over. Also, while most courts will accept an online course, you’ll want to make very sure your court will.
Taking Your North Carolina Traffic School Course
All driver safety courses follow the same basic curriculum. Your course will touch on topics such as:
- North Carolina traffic law
- Safe driving techniques
- How to avoid an accident
- How to handle an emergency
- How to share the road safely with others
At the end of the course, you will be required to pass a test over the presented material to be awarded a completion certificate. This certificate of completion can then be submitted to your court, keeping the conviction and associated points off of your driving record.
North Carolina drivers who complete traffic school may be eligible for one of the following benefits:
- Traffic ticket dismissal
- Fulfillment of a court order
- The possibility of lower insurance premiums
You can find traffic school courses taught both live in classrooms and online. Online is often the more convenient option because it can be worked on wherever and whenever the student has the time.
Most courts in North Carolina will dismiss tickets with traffic school if you meet their qualifications. Each court is individual in its requirements, but generally, you will need to meet the following criteria:
- You must hold a valid North Carolina driver’s license
- You must not have more than one current violation
- Your citation must not have been received while driving a commercial vehicle
If you meet these requirements, you may be eligible for ticket dismissal. In some cases, depending on the severity of your violation and previous driving history, you may be required to take traffic school as a part of your sentencing.
In either case, you will receive procedural instructions from your court about which course you must take, the date the course must be completed, and any additional fines, fees, or documents you may need to submit.
ANOTHER IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on individual circumstances, some drivers may not be approved for ticket dismissal with a driver safety class, but it never hurts to ask!
If Your Court Says Yes
North Carolina Approved Traffic School
North Carolina traffic school can be completed online or in a classroom. The most important point here is that the course must be approved by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.
For most busy folks, an online traffic school course makes the most sense. Taking your course this way allows you to complete it all at once or a piece at a time, whenever you have the time. Online traffic school is fast becoming the first choice for many North Carolina drivers.
A Final Word
No matter the reason you are taking traffic school, there may be no better reason than this: The review and reminders that you will receive from a traffic school course can help you break old habits and become a more responsible driver. Being safer and more confident behind the wheel will reduce your chances of being in an accident, making your choice of taking a North Carolina driver safety course a good one for yourself, your passengers, and all those others you’re sharing the road with.
Ticket dismissal is not the only reason to take traffic school. Find out how taking a course can keep you safer and put money in your pocket.
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