The simple answer to this question is no. You do not need an attorney to handle a traffic ticket. However, there are a few things you need to be aware of before you make the decision to handle your ticket on your own.
Any traffic ticket for more than fifteen (15) miles over the posted speed limit is considered a criminal misdemeanor charge requiring a mandatory appearance in court, (see Chapter 3 of the North Carolina Driver’s Handbook). You may sign a waiver however, allowing an attorney to appear on your behalf. Many misdemeanor charges can be reduced to infractions through negotiations with the Assistant District Attorney.
A high number of traffic violations could lead to a suspension or revocation of your license. Your driving record starts at zero (0) points. For each conviction of a moving violation, you will receive points against your license. You are allowed to accumulate twelve (12) points on your driving record prior to suspension. Each violation is assigned a specific number of points. For example, running through a red light will give you three (3) points against your license. The number of points assessed will increase with the seriousness of the conviction.
You should be aware of the North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP). This plan allows your insurance provider to increase car insurance premiums of those individuals who are convicted of moving traffic violations, based on their driving records. A one (1) point increase in your insurance rates could raise your premiums by twenty-five percent (25%) a year. A twelve (12) point increase in your rates could lead to a four hundred percent (400%) increase in your premiums.
There are a few ways to work around receiving points on your license or insurance points when convicted of a moving violation. First is the Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). This can be a fantastic tool, if used correctly. Receiving a PJC will hold judgment open so no points will hit your record or insurance. The use of a PJC can only be used every three years and only by one driver per household. However, if the driver should be convicted of another moving violation within three years of the PJC, the PJC will disappear and the original points will hit your record, as well as any points from your new conviction.
Another option you may be eligible for is pleading to less than ten (10) mph over the posted speed limit. Your insurance provider should not increase your rates with this conviction as long as you have no prior moving violations within the last three (3) years.
Also, some (but not all) counties will allow a charge to be reduced to an Improper Equipment (IE) charge. An IE is considered a non-moving violation and will not give you any points against your driver’s license or result in an increase in your insurance rates.
Considering the above information, it may seem fairly easy to negotiate traffic tickets. However, each county handles moving violations differently. Unless you are familiar with the process and procedure used in your county, you should consult a lawyer prior to settling your ticket. If you have multiple points on your license, or if you are facing multiple moving violations from one incident, you can contact us for a free consultation to discuss the options available to you.