DUI AND TRAFFIC OFFENSES IN NC
Should you hire a lawyer for a traffic offense?
David Hands, Managing Attorney
Your heart is racing at the sight of blue lights in your rearview mirror and your mind is in overdrive. From admonishing yourself for your lead foot to worrying about what the final cost is going to be to your wallet as you pull over, you start focusing on your interactions with the police officer approaching your car. The most traumatic aspect of a speeding ticket may be about to get underway but the most important issue- how you handle that ticket- is yet to come. It may seem second nature to just decide to pay the fine, but many times, hiring an experienced traffic attorney can change the impact that ticket may have on you and your driving record. In today’s blog post, I am going to explain the ends and outs of one option you might have that will spare you some costs on your insurance.
One option for handling a moving violation is to request a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). This request is made by your attorney after pleading responsible for the crime/infraction. This option is unique to North Carolina and should not be your first choice in handling that ticket unless you have no other choice. A PJC will not cause your insurance premium to increase and will not cost you any driving points on your record SO LONG as you do not receive any other moving violation within the next three years. Sounds good, right? The catch is that when it comes to insurance, the companies base the amount of your premium on you and the driving records of every other driver on your policy. According to the law, a PJC can only be received by ONE driver per plan every three years. Receiving a second moving violation within that three-year window could result in your premium rising not just for one but two offenses.
Our office recently had a client who had already received a reduction on an earlier traffic offense where the Assistant District Attorney allowed the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge of an improper equipment plea. A few months later, the client received another ticket for an improper lane change. The only option available for this client, in order to reduce license points and insurance costs for the entire family, was a PJC. When informing the client’s father of the successful court date to enter a PJC plea, however, he did not understand why the family would be affected by the actions of this one driver not only on their insurance premiums but also on the rules related to the use of a PJC. As I explained to him, unfortunately, I cannot control how insurance companies rate policy holders or how the General Assembly wrote the parameters of a PJC, but the law explicitly states this is how a PJC operates.
So my message is this: if you have any other option to resolve your ticket, I advise you NOT to use a PJC. Yes, a PJC can be a very forgiving device. However, it carries a strong bite if another ticket is issued before the end of that three year window. One of my clients and her family are now about to experience the financial pain that comes with a PJC after a second ticket is issued before the end of that three year window. In May, my client was granted a PJC motivated by the desire to keep the insurance costs for both herself and her family (since she was on her parent’s insurance policy) unaffected by a speeding ticket that could not be reduced down to improper equipment. Just last week, I received an exasperated phone call from her mother telling me that her daughter had gotten another speeding ticket. So now both charges, along with all of the costs and fines, are about to hit her daughter and her family next time insurance renewal comes.
While Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, it is also the third most expensive place in the state to get a speeding ticket.”
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While North Carolina’s average car insurance premium is a very reasonable $902.67, drivers who are caught speeding will pay an average of $1,369.89 each year- a hike of 51.81% or $467.21- provided they switch insurers.
As in many states, North Carolina drivers experience premium increases for three years after a traffic offense. This means they’re actually on the hook for an average of $1,401.63 in additional insurance payments as the result of one ticket.
On average, a driver convicted of driving 15 miles an hour over the speed limit will pay $1,619.63 once fines, court fees and three years’ worth of car insurance increases are factored in.
While Charlotte is North Carolina’s largest city, it is also the third most expensive place in the state to get a speeding ticket.