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Published: September 6, 2018 

READ this BEFORE you pay that ticket

Categories: #traffic-tickets, #criminal-defense 

JOSEPH C BOWMAN

Attorney at Law

Joseph Bowman headshot

Contrary to popular belief, nothing is very simple about a traffic ticket. It’s true that some violations only carry a small fine, but others will cause a huge spike in your insurance premiums for at least three years. For example, a speeding ticket for 66 mph in a 55 zone (i.e., only 11 over the posted limit) may raise your insurance rates by 30% for the next 36 months.

North Carolina introduced the Safe Driver Incentive Plan (or “SDIP”) in 1957. Since then, SDIP has given North Carolinians a financial incentive to obey traffic laws and avoid unsafe driving habits that increase the risk for collisions. The program offers insurance companies the ability to charge higher auto premiums for drivers who have incurred SDIP points. For your reference, a chart has been included below that breaks down the current point-system. (Credit for that goes to the NC Department of Insurance, which publishes an information pamphlet periodically with the up-to-date points chart.)

In some jurisdictions, such as Buncombe County, NC, the local district attorney’s office and district court have begun implementing an online payment option for handling minor traffic infractions. If you use their online portal to pay off your ticket and make it “go away,” then really you’ve just admitted guilt to the underlying offense and–if it’s among those that qualify for SDIP points–you’ll soon find that your auto insurance premium is noticeably higher than it was on your last bill. At that point, the damage is done and it’s too late to fix.

On the other hand, let’s say that you decide to miss a day (or half-day) from work, and you appear at court to beg, plead, and sweet-talk, or maybe just to ask the prosecuting Assistant District Attorney some questions about it. Unfortunately, the rules prevent them from discussing anything with you about the insurance consequences that you will suffer or anything else that might resemble giving you legal advice. So then, do you just take your best guess and hope it works out?

If it doesn’t, then you may still have one card left to play, which is called a Motion for Appropriate Relief (or “MAR” for short). An MAR involves a much more involved process than the original ticket did, so you will end up spending a considerable amount of money fixing the mistake, which could’ve been avoided by hiring an attorney from the get-go.

The lesson here: Avoid falling victim to the uncertainty of insurance points, which will continue to cost you money for years to come. Instead, speak with an attorney who regularly handles traffic cases in the county courts where you received the ticket. Oftentimes, more can be done with your ticket if you hire a lawyer early in the process, because this enables him/her to start advocating for a favorable outcome well before your court date arrives. Also, for most traffic violations, you can “waive appearance” and let your attorney show up to handle everything while you’re at work or enjoying your day elsewhere. So, for lesson #2: We can do a lot more with a fresh ticket; so don’t wait around to call.

And remember, most attorneys charge very little to handle a traffic ticket, but much more for an MAR if you go for it alone and make a bad deal. Nonetheless, we do handle plenty of MAR situations, in addition to tickets, so either way, we are here to help.  

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