Traffic Ticket Frequently Asked Questions

I was issued a citation for speeding. The back of the ticket says I can just mail in my payment before court. Why do I need a lawyer?

A citation for speeding in a non-school zone and non-work zone for 1 to 15 mph over the limit is a “waivable” offense, meaning you can pay it without anyone going to court. This is almost never a good idea. By paying it you are pleading guilty as charged. The citation will be reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and 2-3 points will be assessed against your license. You will also receive insurance points in most cases, particularly if you are cited for speeding more than 10 mph over the limit. Speeding over 55 can result in 2 insurance points, and a 45% increase in your insurance rate, each year for the next three years. That is, if your insurance rate is $500 per year, it can increase to $725 per year for just one ticket. That is an increase of $225 each year for three years, $675. And that is in addition to the fine and court costs which are also over $200.
DMV can also suspend your license for two offenses of speeding over 55 mph in 12 months. Mishandling even a minor offense can easily cost you $1000 and could cost you your license.

My Citation is for speeding. My Citation says I must appear in court. Can you appear on my behalf?

Speeding 16 mph over the limit or more is a class 2 Misdemeanor. In most speeding cases, though, an attorney can still appear on your behalf with a properly written waiver of appearance.
Speeding more than 15 mph over the limit and also over 55 mph will result in a mandatory license suspension.
(For example, 71 in a 55 zone, or 81 in a 65 zone)
Often, your attorney can negotiate with the district attorney (the State) and plea to a lesser offense, which will help keep your license and save $$$ on your insurance.
Speeding in excess of 75 mph will result in 4 insurance points and an increase in your insurance rate by 90%, each year for the next three years.

Can my spouse/parent/friend appear for me?

In almost all cases, no. Only you or your attorney may appear.

What happens If I ignore the ticket?

If you ignore the ticket, NC will suspend your driving privilege. NC will report the violation to your state, and according to the National Drivers License Compact, will report any license suspension to your state. Your state will then suspend your license until the NC charge is resolved. In some cases, your state may not alow you to renew your license until the case is resolved. In this case, it may be more difficult to get a good plea on your case, and you could then suffer an additional suspension. How your ticket in NC is handled will affect your insurance and your license in your state.
IN ALL CASES:
If you do not handle your case on your court date or pay it if allowed, NC will suspend your license and report the suspension to your state.
An additional $200 late charge will be assessed by the State for not handling this charge on your court date.

My license is from another state. What effect will this ticket have on me?

Your states insurance and point law will apply. You may want to contact an attorney in your state, or discuss your citation with your insurance provider in order to determine the impact on your license and insurance. If you are charged with speeding 16 mph or more over the limit, or if you want to try and get the charge reduced, a court appearance is mandatory unless you have an attorney. If you ignore the ticket, NC will suspend your driving privilege. NC will report the violation to your state, and according to the National Drivers License Compact, will report any license suspension to your state. Your state will then suspend your license until the NC charge is resolved. How your ticket in NC is handled will affect your insurance and your license in your state. We will try our best to handle your citation with an eye toward what the eventual effect will be in your state, but urge you to contact an attorney in your state if you have specific questions.

Do Police Officers have “quotas”?

I have often heard the comment that the officer must have been “getting his quota”. I too had heard rumors that officers had to write a certain number of tickets, or that their paycheck depended on how many tickents they wrote. I was curious myself when I started practicing, and I inquired of several officers if this was true. The answer was simply, “no, there is not a “quota”. But if you are out all day doing traffic enforcement and you come back having only written one or two citations, your supervisor may wonder what the hell you have been doing all day”

This seemed to make sense. But recently, I found that the state offers incentives to law enforcement agencies based solely on the numbers. This is disturbing to me. And I hope it is to you as well. I stumbled across this webpage and thought you might find it interesting- Governors Highway Safety Program

What happens when someone is arrested?

Some people are contacted by the Sheriff about a minor, unserved warrant, and asked to come down and “turn themselves in” on the warrant. Some people are arrested on a warrant that was sworn out by another individual or a law enforcement officer.  Some are arrested on the spot because of acts committed in the presence of the law enforcement officer.  Some people are simply “given a ticket”, or a summons, and told to appear in court on a certain date and time to answer the charges against them.

When a person is “arrested” they are formally taken into police custody, taken before a magistrate either immediately or as soon as reasonably possible, in order to set conditions and amount of bond.  The defendant may be given a secured bond,  an unsecured bond, or a written promise to appear in court. IF the defendant cannot make bond, he or she will remain in jail until someone posts the bond, the case is taken before a district court judge on  a motion to modify the bond, or until the case is resolved.

The police officer may continue to build evidence- interview witnesses, collect evidence, make notes. If the charge is a serios one, the officer or detective continues to put together evidence and a “report” which is eventually submitted to the District Attorney (Prosecutor).  the prosecutor may review the report, discuss the case with the officers involved, and decide to dismiss the case or proceed with indictment.  The next step is usually the arraignment in court.

 

How does someone get bailed out? Do I get bail money back when it is over?

In very serious cases, the Judge may decide not to grant bail. In this case, the defendant may not be released until trial.

Secured bond is a bond with three options. You can pay the full amount of the bond, call a
bondsman , or put up property (Real Estate) for the bond.

Cash bond is a bond requiring the entire amount to be paid in Cash. When the case is complete,
you can be reimbursed for that amount, provided you kept the green receipt given to you, upon
posting the bond.

Unsecured bond is a bond that is not paid, but signed for. If the bond is $5,000 unsecured, the
paperwork is signed (by the inmate) in front of the Magistrate and the inmate is saying that he is
responsible for paying $5,000 in the event that he fails to appear in court.

In less serious cases, though, some conditions of bond will be set.  The least serious condition is a written promise to appear. If someone is given a written promise to appear in court, then obviously they do not need to post any bond at all- they just need to promise to appear in court. If the person is given an unsecured bond, then they must appear in court or they will owe the amount of that bond to the court.

If the person uses a bondsman, then they will have to pay a percentage of the bond to the bondsman, usually 10-20%, depending on the case. Once the case is concluded, if the person posted the bond themselves, they will get that money back (Or the person who posted it for them will get it back).  If the person uses a bondsman, then they will usually not get that money back. This is because if the person does not appear in court, the bondsman may have to pay the full amount of the bond to the court, or chase down the defendant and get them to court.

I did it. Why do I need a criminal lawyer?

Just because you did it, does not mean you are legally guilty.  Often, a criminal defendant committed the act they are accused of, but for various reasons, they should not be held responsible for the criminal act. In some cases, the defendant must have had what is known as “specific intent” or “mens rea”, as an element of the crime. That is, the mental state a person must have been in while committing a crime for it to be intentional. It can refer to a general intent to break the law or a specific, premeditated plan to commit a particular offense.

In far more cases, no specific intent is required, but there may still be defenses available. The defendant may have acted in self defense, may have had a legal right to use force, may have been acting with a diminished capacity, temporary insanity, acting under duress, or committing a criminal act in an emergency situation.  These and other defenses may result in the defendant being found not guilty, of mitigating, or lessening the severity of their act, of mitigating the sentence that the judge hands down, or reducing the seriousness of the charge that the prosecutor ultimately charges the defendant with. There also may be holes in the case, weak evidence in key areas of the case, essential witnesses that may not be available, and you need a good lawyer to recognize these factors, negotiate your charges, and take the state to task in proving the case against you. You need The Curtis Sluder Law Firm, pc.

I was falsely accused. Why do I need a criminal attorney?

Many cases are resolved with police just closing their files, because the evidence of a crime is simply insufficient. The court system does not get involved. However, as with many things in life, the world is not perfect and police officers do make mistakes. People have been falsely accused of rape, domestic violence, murder, and even drug possession because officers were either making negligent mistakes in their investigation, intentionally framing suspects, or intentionally lying about probable cause to justify an otherwise unlawful search of a home, car, or even of someone’s person. Innocent people have served years in prison only to be released upon DNA testing. We have heard clients say “Hey, I am innocent! I figured I would go explain the events to the police and this would all go away!” Unfortunately they were wrong. At times police officers are inclined to disbelieve what a suspect tells them, and they may not have the time or motivation to fully investigate a client’s story. What happens? The next thing the suspect knows is that he/she is arrested, placed into custody, and does not know how to clear his/her name. The attorneys at The Curtis Sluder Law Firm, pc have had personal experience with representing clients who are simply innocent — these have proven to be some of the most difficult cases. In sum, someone who is completely innocent may be in the greatest need of representation. We have experience with client’s who have been arrested and jailed pending a trial, who we have ultimately proven did not commit the offense at all. Cases have been dismissed after the Attorneys at The Curtis Sluder Law Firm, pc have proven their clients have been falsely accused of crimes they did not commit.

If I did not do anything wrong, do I need to worry?

Yes, you do need to worry. Innocence is not a legal defense, it is a conclusion. Innocent people are arrested, convicted and incarcerated.

Our legal system is far from perfect. Persons who are innocent are sometimes convicted. It is not uncommon to hear of citizens being released after having been incarcerated for years. DNA technology has had a profound impact on the criminal justice system and has been use to prove that innocent persons have been convicted of crimes and wrongfully incarcerated. The fact that a person is innocent of the charges alleged against them should never lead to the conclusion that they do not need the very best legal defense they can secure.

The Curtis Sluder Law Firm, pc is aware of the urgency to prepare a defense for our clients. Time is of the essence, and by waiting to secure legal representation, valuable advantages can be lost. If you or a loved one is charged with a crime, do not wait to secure legal representation in the hope that the Government will “drop the charges”. The Government will make every effort to secure a conviction; you need a criminal defense attorney.

The person who called the police doesnt want to prosecute. Why do I still need an attorney?

Not necessarily. Once the charges have been filed, the case becomes “The State of North Carolina vs. YOU”.  There may be many reasons why the person who originally filed the charges wants to drop them, but they do not have the final say in whether or not the case will be dropped. The police and the prosecutor know that the person who originally filed the charges may have had a change of heart, but that does not change what acts were committed. It may be that the “victim” is scared to proceed with the charges.  It may also be that the officers, while investigating the case, were able to accumulate sufficient evidence to prove the case without the victims testimony. And it is especially unlikely that charges are “dropped” by the state in domestic violence cases.

What happens at the first court date? What is an arraignment?

Exactly what will happen at the first court date will vary from county to county, based on local rules, and within the requirements of NC Law. Generally, at the first court date, the defendant will be advised of their right to remain silent- anything they say can be used against them,  just what the charges against him or her are, the maximum possible penalty for those charges, his or her rights to an attorney, that if they are determined to be unable to afford an attorney, one will be appointed to them by the court. A court appointed attorney is not a free attorney- if they plead or are found guilty, they will be required to pay the state back the cost of that court appointed attorney.  Once the determination is made about the attorney, the defendant may be arraigned and plead guilty, tried for the charges against them, given a new court date to prepare for their case and speak to their lawyer, given a hearing on bond (though this is usually scheduled for another date after they have had time to speak to an attorney  and the state has had time to prepare as well).

Arraignment is the initial court proceeding where a defendant is advised of his charges, and usually enters a “Not Guilty” plea. If a defendant is out on bail, he/she stays out of custody unless the prosecutor demonstrates to the court that the defendant is a risk of flight or non-appearance. In other words, the prosecutor has to explain to the judge why the defendant needs to be rearrested when he has already voluntarily shown up to court after posting bail. The prosecutor clearly has the burden of proof here, and bail gets increased in cases where the defendant is on probation, there are new charges filed, or the source of bail (the monies used) are connected to illegal conduct.

What is a misdemeanor? What is a Felony?

§ 14-1.  Felonies and misdemeanors defined.

A felony is a crime which:

(1)        Was a felony at common law;

(2)        Is or may be punishable by death;

(3)        Is or may be punishable by imprisonment in the State’s prison; or

(4)        Is denominated as a felony by statute.

A misdemeanor is considered a less serious crime, punishable by jail time, but a shorter period of incarceration. Under NC law, a misdemeanor is any crime that is not a felony.  A misdemeanor under former law was a charge that could carry up to 2 years incarceration.  Current sentencing guidelines cap the maximum sentence for misdemeanors at 150 days, though two misdemeanors may be sentenced consecutively, up to 300 days. (DWI charges, which are considered misdemeanors, can carry 3 year sentences under current law- this is not served in local confinement, which technically makes it a felony based on sentencing, yet no other felony protections exist. I expect this issue to be taken up by the NC Court of Appeals soon)

 

Felonies are classified by a “letter” designation, with Class A-1 felonies being the most serious, and class H felonies being the least serious. Each class of felony has a “sentencing range” the judge must follow, also a mitigated range, and an aggravated range. Certain factors can also allow the judge some deviation from these guidelines.

Misdemeanors are classified by number, 1-A being the most serious, and Class 3 Misdemeanors being the least serious. Punishment can range from a fine, community service, treatment programs, other community based programs, probation, and jail.

In a traffic case, should I pay the ticket online?

No. No. NO and NO.  Call us at The Curtis Sluder Law Firm first. If your charge is one that you should just pay, we will tell you. Examples of such charges are seatbelt violations.  The cost to fight a seatbelt violation exceeds the cost of the violation in most cases, and without n obvious way to win a seatbelt case, you are better off just paying it. Speeding violations,stop sign violations, unsafe movement violations, inspection and registration charges, and about any charge that you CAN pay on line, you should NOT pay on line. When you pay a citation online, you are pleading guilty as charged, and you can expect points on your drivers license, possible license revocation, an almost certain insurance increase, and other consequences and complications that the State will not tell you about. Call us free about your traffic case, and we will tell you how we can help you save money and protect your license and insurance rates.

In a traffic case, should I just plead guilty?
In a DUI case, should I just plead guilty without a lawyer?
What do I do if I feel the police violated my constitutional rights?
If the derendant is not a US citizen, how will the arrest affect them?
How is drug and alcohol addiction addressed by the court system, and by your criminal law practice?
How do I clear up a warrant for my arrest?
Can you guarantee results?

No lawyer can guarantee results. It would be unethical. Guaranteeing results means the lawyer would be refunding the fee if the results promised are not obtained. This would make it a contingent fee, and contingent fees are not ethically allowed in criminal cases. If an attorney guarantees a result, get it in writing. (Then forward it to the State Bar). If they will not give it to you in writing, then they are lying to you.

WE promise to work diligently for you, to put forth all of our experience, intelligence, legal knowledge and skill. Aside from it being unethical to guarantee results, it is actually impossible- There are too many actors in the process- different fact situations, different judges, different prosecutors, and different feelings, emotions,  and actions among these human variables. The best results will consistently be obtained by experience, hard work, and wise choices on the timing and presentation of your case.

 

Will any lawyer do?
Why should I hire The Curtis Sluder Law Firm?
Do you accept payments?
Can I just represent myself?

Yes but, that would be a Bad…
Very Bad…
Very Very Bad Mistake!

“Why would you want to?”

You have a Constitutional Right to represent yourself. However, given that the prosecuting attorney is a lawyer; and that a lawyer undergoes years of education, practice, and continuing legal education, the average citizens are unable to adequately represent themselves in a criminal case. Further, consider that most attorneys would never represent themselves in their own case. The best response to the question is, “why would you want to?”

We have all heard the saying, “a person who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Well, it’s true.

If you are charged with a crime…

If you are being questioned by the police…

If you are under criminal investigation…

You need a lawyer!

When a citizen is charged with a crime, the State or Federal Government is seeking to take away that citizen’s liberty. If you are convicted of a Federal or State crime you could be fined and/or incarcerated. You could permanently lose certain rights. A criminal conviction will remain on your record for the rest of your life and may mean you are disqualified from certain types of employment or benefits in the future. Prior convictions may be used to increase the sentence for subsequent convictions. Certain minor crimes (misdemeanors) may become felonies for repeat offenses.

If you are charged with a crime or are being questioned by the police or other law enforcement and have a question about whether you need a lawyer, contact The Curtis Sluder Law Firm, pc  for a free consultation. Your right to counsel is so important that, if The Curtis Sluder Law Firm can not help you, we will refer you to other criminal defense resources.