North Carolina’s Motor Vehicle Code
North Carolina’s rules of the road and traffic violations are outlined in North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) Chapter 20. It covers almost everything related to your vehicle, including registration, licensing, emissions, insurance, vehicle safety, and operational rules. It also defines when violations are a traffic offense, punishable by fines and points on your driving record, and when they are crimes, punishable by fines, points, incarceration, and probation.
Keep in mind, while state law dictates the rules of the road and traffic offenses, municipalities can also enact local vehicle and traffic laws. You can be ticketed for violating local rules as well as state law.
Common North Carolina Traffic Offenses
You can be ticketed for all sorts of traffic offenses, some of which are infractions and others that are more serious crimes. Depending on the level of the violation, you may only face fines and driver’s license points. These may not seem too serious. However, they can lead to harsher consequences, such as higher auto insurance premiums and the loss of your driver’s license for a period of time. Traffic offenses that are charged as misdemeanors and felonies are inherently serious, and you should always speak with a traffic ticket lawyer about how to defend yourself.
Common traffic offenses in North Carolina include:
- Speeding Tickets (NCGS 20-141): You can be ticketed if you drive faster than the posted speed limit, faster than the lawful speed limit for an unmarked area, or faster than is reasonable and prudent for current conditions. You may be ticketed for going one mph over the relevant limit. However, the faster you are driving over the speed limit, the greater the fine you face. When facing a speeding ticket, contact a traffic lawyer in Charlotte, NC.
- Hit and Run (NCGS 20-166): North Carolina law requires that you stop after an accident. If you fail to stop, contact the police, provide information, and/or provide assistance, then you can be charged with a crime. A hit and run can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. If you are accused of a hit-and-run accident, call a Charlotte traffic attorney immediately.
- Running a Stop Light/Stop Sign (NCGS 20-158): You are required to obey all traffic signals and signs while on the road, including stop lights, stop signs, and yield signs. If you run through a red light or you roll through a stop sign, you can be ticketed. Whether you obtained a red light camera ticket or were ticketed by an officer who witnesses the apparent violation, contact an attorney today to discuss how to handle the situation best.
- Failing to Yield to the Right of Way (NCGS 20-158 & 160.1): A rule of the road people often forget or fail to abide by is when and how to yield to the right of way. In other words, who gets to go first, or who must stop and wait for another vehicle to pass. If an officer witnesses you fail to yield when you should have, you can be ticketed. An attorney can advise you on how to best fight the traffic ticket.
- Reckless Driving (NCGS 20-140): If an officer witnesses you carelessly driving in willful or wanton disregard for the rights or safety of other people, then you can be ticketed for reckless driving. This can include driving significantly faster than the speed limit, swerving between lanes, tailgating, and other dangerous maneuvers. A reckless driving ticket is typically charged as a misdemeanor.
- Driving on a Suspended/Revoked License (NCGS 20-28): You are only allowed to drive when you have a valid driver’s license, whether it was issued in North Carolina or another state. If your driver’s license was suspended or revoked for any reason, you cannot drive. If you are caught driving, you can be charged with a misdemeanor and have the duration of your license suspension or revocation extended. In this situation, it is best to call our Charlotte traffic lawyers for advice and guidance.
- Texting While Driving (NCGS 20-137.3 – 137.4A): In North Carolina, it is unlawful for anyone under the age of 18 years old or for school bus drivers to use a mobile phone while driving. For juveniles, this is an infraction. For bus drivers, it is a misdemeanor. It is also illegal for anyone to use a mobile phone to text, email, or write, read, or send other electronic messages while driving. Texting while driving is an infraction, except for school bus drivers, who will face a misdemeanor. If you were ticketed for being on the phone while driving, call a traffic lawyer right away.
Penalties for North Carolina Traffic Offenses
Many people don’t think of traffic tickets being handled through the criminal justice process, but the potential penalties you face for a traffic offense will depend on whether the violation is an infraction, misdemeanor, or felony.
Fines and Fees
Infractions are typically punished with fines, fees, and points on your driving record. You cannot be jailed for an infraction. The fines and fees can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Do not be fooled if you look up the ticket online and see a relatively low fine. Once you add in fees and court costs, the price of a ticket can be much more than you expect.
Driving Record Points
Whenever you are convicted of a traffic offense in the state, a certain number of points are placed on your record. The number of points are based on the specific traffic offense and examples include:
- Speeding in a School Zone: three points
- Speeding in Excess of 55 mph: three points
- Other Speeding: two points
- Hit and Run, Property Damage Only: four points
- Reckless Driving: four points
- Failure to Yield to Pedestrian, Bicycle, Scooter, Motorcycle: four points
- Failure to Yield to Right of Way: three points
- Running a Stop Sign: three points
- Running a Red Light: three points
Driver’s License Suspension
A few points on your record may not have any serious consequences. However, if you are convicted of multiple traffic violations, these points add up. If you accumulate 12 points within three years, then your driver’s license will be suspended. If you accumulate eight points within three years after your license was reinstated from a suspension or revocation, then your license will be suspended again. A first suspension is for 60 days. A second is for six months, and a third suspension is for one year.
There are also many traffic offenses that lead to an automatic license suspension, such as driving more than 15 mph over the speed limit at a speed that is more than 55 mph or when you are speeding and driving recklessly at the same time.
To fight a driver’s license suspension, contact a traffic attorney in Charlotte, NC right away. For automatic civil license suspensions, you only have a brief period to appeal the decision. You should also speak with your lawyer about applying for a hardship license, which you may be able to do after some time passes.
Some traffic offenses are charged as misdemeanors or felonies. In addition to the penalties above, you may also face incarceration if you are convicted. The term of incarceration you face for a misdemeanor depends on whether it is a first or subsequent offense.
For first-time offenses, you may be jailed:
- Class A1 Misdemeanor: One to 60 days
- Class 1 Misdemeanor: One to 45 days
- Class 2 Misdemeanor: One to 30 days
- Class 3 Misdemeanor: One to 10 days
North Carolina utilizes a more complex sentencing grid for felonies. The court will look at the class of the felony charge as well as your criminal history to determine the minimum and maximum term of imprisonment. When charged with a misdemeanor or felony traffic offense, contact a skilled traffic violation lawyer from Randall & Stump, PLLC immediately.