North Carolina has two different systems for awarding points based on traffic violations. One system is created by the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) that assigns points based on convictions for traffic violations. Another system is the insurance point system that is created by the Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP).
Drivers can receive different DMV points for moving and non-moving violation convictions. Depending on the severity of the moving or non-moving violations:
1 point for littering pursuant to N.C.G.S. 14-399 when the littering involves the use of a motor vehicle
2 points for all other moving violations
2 points for failure to properly restrain a child in a seatbelt
3 points for speeding in a school zone in excess of the posted school zone speed limit
3 points for failure to report accident where such report is required
3 points for no liability insurance
3 points for driving through safety zone
3 points for failure to stop for siren
3 points for no driver license or license expired for one year
3 points for running through a red light
3 points for failure to yield the right of way
3 points for speeding in excess of 55 mph
3 points for running through a stop sign
4 points for failure to yield right of way to bicycle, motor scooter or motorcycle
4 points for failure to yield right of way to pedestrian pursuant to N.C.G.S. 20-158(b)(2)b.
4 points for illegal passing
4 points for driving on wrong side of road
4 points for following too closely
4 points for hit and run, property damage only
4 points for reckless driving
5 points for aggressive driving
5 points for passing a stopped school bus.
This point system including points awarded for convictions while driving a commercial motor vehicle can be found on pages 28-30 of the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles 2012 Driver Handbook.
Subsequently, your driving privileges can be revoked if you are convicted of:
- Driving any vehicle more than 15 miles per hour over the speed limit, if you are driving at a speed higher than 55 mph.
It will be taken for 60 days if you are convicted of:
- A second charge of speeding over 55mph and more than 15mph above the speed limit within one year; or
- Speeding plus reckelss driving on the same occasion.
(Page 30, NCDMV 2012 Drivers Handbook)
The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles will accept two PJCs within a 5 year period so that your license may not be suspended. However, as discussed below, for insurance points only one PJC is recognized every three years within a household/insurance policy so that your insurance rates do not increase.
Insurance points are given using a different point system that is set up through the North Carolina Department of Insurance. These points can cause a percentage increase to your insurance policy based on the driving conviction you received. However, THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS to receiving insurance points:
Speeding 10 mph or less over the posted speed limit; provided all of the following are true:
- The violation did not occur in a school zone; and
- There is not another moving violation for the experience period (an isolated Prayer for Judgement Continued [PJC] will not count as a prior conviction for the purpose of this exception).
One PJC for each household every three years; however:
- A second PJC may cause points to be charged according to the underlying convictions.
It is important that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you receive a PJC or moving violation that will not affect your driving record - including points with the DMV or insurance points. Call Raleigh and Wake County traffic ticket attorney Wiley Nickel today to discuss your options for your traffic ticket.
Effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2013, § 18B.13.(a) of Session Law 2013-360 amends G.S. 15A-1340.23 to provide that, unless otherwise noted, the maximum punishment for a person who is convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor and who has no more than three prior convictions shall be a $200 fine. Thus, unless otherwise noted, an indigent defendant who is charged with committing a Class 3 misdemeanor on or after that date and who has no more than three prior convictions will no longer be entitled to appointed counsel and IDS will no longer have authority to pay for appointed representation regardless of the defendant's indigency status.
So this means that pubic defenders and court appointed lawyers will not be made available to those who cannot afford an attorney.
It also means that a $200 fine is the maximum punishment for those charged with minor drug offenses.
Sentencing Commission Annual Statistical Report has been released.
Here's a link to the full report. Here is a summary of the North Carolina misdemeanor data.
Misdemeanor Convictions in North Carolina
During Fiscal Year 2011/12, sentences for 140,833 misdemeanor convictions were imposed under Structured Sentencing. (Note: This number excludes Driving While Impaired convictions, cases disposed of by magistrates, Class 2 and Class 3 criminal traffic offenses, and local ordinance offenses.)
Nine percent of misdemeanor convictions fell into Offense Class A1, 59% fell into Offense Class 1, 15% fell into Offense Class 2, and 17% fell into Offense Class 3.
Thirty-five percent of misdemeanor convictions fell into Prior Conviction Level I (0 points), 40% fell into Prior Conviction Level II (1-4 points), and 25% fell into Prior Conviction Level III (5 or more points).
Seventy-five percent of convictions were for male offenders; 33% of convictions were for offenders under the age of 26; and 47% of convictions were for Black offenders.
Twenty-eight percent of misdemeanor convictions resulted in an Active punishment, 2% resulted in an Intermediate punishment, and 70% resulted in a Community punishment.
Public order offenses accounted for the majority of misdemeanor convictions (46%), while misdemeanor person offenses accounted for the lowest proportion (11%). Convictions for person offenses were most likely to result in an Active punishment (33%). Person offenses resulted in the longest average Active sentences.
Where a specific intermediate sanction was indicated in the AOC database, Special Probation was the most frequently invoked (76%). Offenders who received Special Probation were most likely convicted of a Class 1 offense with Prior Conviction Level III.
Of all misdemeanor offenders who received a Community punishment, 47% received Unsupervised Probation; 35% received Supervised Probation; and 9% were ordered to perform community service, pay restitution and/or a fine as their most serious punishment. The remainder had no sanction specified.
The new budget contains provisions that will impact misdemeanor sentencing and the appointment of counsel. This change will effect thousands of cases each year.
Republican leaders in both chambers have endorsed the bill. The General Assembly is expected to approve it in the next two days, and Governor McCrory is expected to sign it.
Change to Structured Sentencing grid.
Section 18B.13.(a) of the budget changes the misdemeanor Structured Sentencing grid as follows, effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2013:
Many Class 3 misdemeanors will only be punishable by a fine. The same section states that “[u]nless otherwise provided for a specific offense, the judgment for a person convicted of a Class 3 misdemeanor who has no more than three prior convictions shall consist only of a fine.” Fines for Class 3 misdemeanors generally may not exceed $200. G.S. 15A-1340.23(b).
In addition to changing the punishments for Class 3 misdemeanors, the budget also creates more of them. Section 18B.14 reclassifies a number of misdemeanors – most currently Class 2 – as Class 3 offenses. The new Class 3 misdemeanors include:
» Obtaining property by worthless check, G.S. 14-106
» Simple worthless check, G.S. 14-107
» Failure to return hired property, G.S. 14-167
» Conversion by bailee, G.S. 14-168.1
» Failure to return rental property with purchase option, G.S. 14-168.4
» DWLR, G.S. 20-28 (unless revoked for DWI, then still Class 1)
» Certain motor vehicle misdemeanors that were Class 2 under G.S. 20-35, including: » Most NOLs, G.S. 20-7
» Failure to tell DMV of address change by driver, G.S. 20-7.1
» Allowing vehicle to be driven by unlicensed person, G.S. 20-34
» Certain motor vehicle misdemeanors that were Class 2 under 20-176, including: » Failure to carry registration card in vehicle, G.S. 20-57(c)
» Failure to sign registration card, G.S. 20-57(c)
» Failure to tell DMV of address change by vehicle, G.S. 20-67
» Certain license plate/registration violations, G.S. 20-111
» Window tinting violations, G.S. 20-127(d)
» Misdemeanor speeding, G.S. 20-141(j1)
» No insurance, G.S. 20-313(a)
» Repeat fishing without a license, G.S. 113-135(a) (referring to 113-174.1 and -270.1B)
Also, section 18B.15 of the budget reclassifies a number of boating safety offenses from Class 3 misdemeanors to infractions.
A main goal of these provisions was to save money on court appointed counsel for indigent defendants. The report states that IDS’s budget (the agency that provides money for court appointed lawyers) will be reduced by $2,000,000 annually because the budget “[r]eclassifies low-level misdemeanors that rarely result in incarceration as Class 3 misdemeanors or infractions and modifies the sentencing structure for Class 3 misdemeanors so that the first three charges are fineable offenses. With no possibility of incarceration, these offenses do not require legal counsel.”
The changes made by the budget will provide that a defendant charged only with a Class 3 misdemeanor, and who has no more than three prior convictions, will be facing a potential sentence of a fine of $200 or less.
I'm often asked what someone should do during a traffic stop. If you're pulled over in North Carolina for any traffic offense here is my general list of Do's and Don'ts.
- Always be "polite and cooperative." Police officers have a ton of discretion and can make your life totally miserable if you give them attitude. They have egos just like anyone else and if your behavior is offensive they can use their discretion to follow the letter of the law and add some extra charges. If you're later in court and the oficer says you were not "polite and cooperative" there are many judges who will use their discretion to give you stiffer penalties. Be respectful at all times. Being a police officer is a tough and thankless job and they truly deserve your respect for the sacrifices they make to keep everyone safe. It really just doesn't pay to be a jerk.
- Now when I say "cooperative" I do not mean that you should give up your Constitutional rights. You are only required to give your name, driver's license and vehicle registration. If the Officer orders you out of the car you should comply. You should be cooperative with all orders but that does not mean you need to answer other qestions. All of the officer's questions are designed to trip you up and make you admit to something that will improve the officer's case against you or to give him probable cause to arrest you or to search your vehicle. I advise people to avoid giving direct answers to these questions (i.e. Do you know why I pulled you over? Do you know how fast you were going? Have you had anything to drink tonight?). They're asking you these questions to make you admit guilt or to give the officer probable cause to later arrest you. Generally I find it's best not to say anything. Just remember to be very respectful when you do not directly answer the officer's questions. You can ask if you're under arrest and you have every right to politely tell the officer that you need to move along and do not have time to answer questions. There's really no one size fits all answer for what to tell an officer. Just generally be aware that anything you say will likely be used against you later on if you are given a ticket or arrested.
- Keep your registration current and check your lights ahead of time. Driving when your vehicle is not regsitered is surprising a moving violation. If you do not have your registration it is an offense where you should not pay your ticket and you should hire an attorney to get the ticket dismissed upon proof of current registration. Hit this link for more about vehicle registration offenses.
- Stay in your car. Do not get out of the vehicle. Keep your hands visible on the steering wheel at all times. While it is scary for you to get pulled over it is also very scary for a police officer to pull you over. In their mind every car they pull over could be an armed dangerous criminal with an arrest warrant. Every year police officers are shot and killed during routine traffic stops by convicted felons. Make their job easier and less stressful by keeping your hands visible on the steering wheel and by not leaving your car.
- Have your license, registration and proof of insurance together and ready as soon as the officer gets to your vehicle. Your registration and insurance should always be together, current and easily accesible from your seat. Plan ahead whenever you drive and make sure those documents are ready at all times.
- Don't ask "What's the problem officer?" The police officer will tell you. Again it's best to say as little as possible (if not anything at all). The more you talk the deeper you'll dig yourself in a hole. Also avoid giving the officer advice about the law. It's one of the bigger pet peeves for police officers to be told about the law by someone they're about to give aticket to. Nothing good will come other than pissing off the officer. Less is more when it comes to speaking during a traffic stop.
- Generally avoid giving "consent" to search your vehicle. The police will look inside your car. Don't have anything visible that could get the officer's attention. If you have something embarassing in the car or something you don't want the officer to see you have every right in the world to avoid giving "consent" for a search. Once you give "consent" for a search then you have no legal arguments down the road to throw out an unconstitutional search of your vehicle. Usually if an officer is asking for your consent to search your vehicle they're trying to get a look at something that they cannot do without violating your constitutional rights. Of course every situation is unique but generally there's not a lot of good that can come from giving up your rights by consenting to a search.
If you've received a traffic ticket the Law Offices of Wiley Nickel can help. We serve Wake County, Durham County, Orange County and Chatham County in North Carolina. Our office is in Cary, NC and is conveniently located in the middle of the research triangle. We offer free consultations.
Punishment for criminal offenses mainly depends on two factors in North Carolina: (1) the classification of the crime and (2) the defendant's prior record level. The prior record level is determined by the number of prior convictions.
Misdemeanors generally fall into one of four categories:
A class A1 is the most serious type of misdemeanor in North Carolina. Assault Inflicting Serious Injury, Stalking and Sexual Battery are examples. Even for a first offender a class A1 misdemeanor can be punishable by jail time.
Class 1 misdemeanors are below class A1 in terms of the punishment level. Examples of Class 1misdemeanors include:
Larceny ($1,000 of less)
Possession of Drug Paraphernalia
Possession of Marijuana (more than ½ ounce)
Possession of Stolen Goods
Driving while License Revoked (DWLR).
Examples of Class 2 misdemeanors include:
Carrying a Concealed Weapon
1st Degree Trespassing
Class 3 misdemeanors are the least serious type of misdemeanor in North Carolina.
Examples of class 3 misdemeanors include:
Possession of marijuana (less than ½ ounce)
Second Degree Trespass
Intoxicated and Disruptive
Below is the statutory grid for misdemeanor sentencing in North Carolina.
“C” means community punishment (aka probation)
“I” means intermediate punishment (i.e. house arrest or intensive probation).
“A” means active jail time.
CLASS I - No Priors II - One to Four Priors III - Five Plus Priors
A1 1-60 Days 1-75 Days 1-150 Days
C/I/A C/I/A C/I/A
1 1-45 Days 1-45 Days 1-120 Days
C C/I/A C/I/A
2 1-30 Days 1-45 Days 1-60 Days
C C/I C/I/A
3 1-10 Days 1-15 Days 1-20 Days
C C/I C/I/A
If you have been charged with a misdemeanor your case will be heard in District Court. You have a range of options for your case.
1. You can plead “Not Guilty” and request a trial. The state will be required to prove their entire case beyond a reasonable doubt.
2. You can negotiate a plea agreement with the State and plead guilty to a lesser offense.
3. You can plead guilty
4. You can work with your attorney to have your case dismissed.
There are many options available in you are a first offender in North Carolina where you can ultimately have your case dismissed as part of a conditional discharge program under § 90-96. In exchange for staying out of trouble for a short period of time (usually six months) and doing things like community service and/or substance abuse treatment the District Attorney will dismiss your case after you’ve completed the goals of the program.
District Court trials take place before a judge (not a jury) who will hear evidence and determine whether the State has proved your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge finds you “not guilty” the case ends and you go free. If the judge finds you guilty he/she will impose a sentence ranging from a fine to probation to jail time. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor in District Court you are allowed to appeal your conviction to Superior Court. In Superior Court you are entitled to a brand new trial before a jury of twelve randomly selected members of the public.
In District Court you need a skilled attorney who will protect your rights. If the state doesn’t have enough evidence to prove your case you may be entitled to a reduction of your charge or a dismissal of the case. If the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights you may also be able to suppress the evidence and thereby have your case dismissed. Contact the Law Offices of Wiley Nickel to discuss your case and receive a free initial consultation at 919-585-1486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A PJC is something unique to North Carolina. In many ways it's a free pass from the judge. It's a judge granted remedy that is a finding of guilt without an entry of judgment for a criminal or traffic offense.
A criminal defendant who receives a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) on a traffic ticket will receive no Division of Motor Vehicle (DMV) points or insurance points under certain circumstances. When one uses a Prayer for Judgment Continued, the courts will not asses a fine, although court costs (usually about $190) will have to be paid. An individual may use one PJC every three (3) years per household for insurance point purposes and two (2) Prayer for Judgments every five (5) years for DMV points. So under certain situations it's essentially a free pass to avoid a fine and the consequences that come with it.
A PJC can't be used for all traffic citations. It won't help speeders going 25 mph or more over the limit and isn't available for those charged with DWI's or those who have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL).
A Prayer for Judgment may not always be the best option. As an example, since each household is only entitled to one (1) Prayer for Judgment every three (3) years for insurance purposes, obtaining a PJC may limit the options for other household members. Additionally, some traffic offenses can't be reduced to lesser included offenses so a Prayer for Judgment (if previously used) would no longer be available when needed.
Also, if you have a clean driving record and plead guilty to driving 10 mph or less over the posted speed limit you have another free pass in North Carolina. In that one isolated situation no insurance points will be charged and it's probably better to save the PJC for another day.
Please call the Law Offices of Wiley Nickel for a free consultation to determine if a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) is appropriate for your case. We are based out of Cary and serve most of the area surrounding Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.