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Key Points in this Article

  • Your insurance could increase for the next three years if you just paying your ticket (and thus pleading guilty)
  • 9 miles per hour over the speed limit  (or less) will NOT result in insurance points
  • Speeding more than 25 miles per hour will result in your license being revoked
  • Only 1 person in your housefhold can use a PJC once every 3 years

Intro

Speeding! This is an area of the law that we have all likely faced at some point in our life.  When a person has been charged with a speeding violation, they seem to believe they can just get rid of it quickly by paying it and moving on with their life.

Let me advise you, although quick, that is not the smart way to handle a speeding citation. It is actually the worst thing you can do.  By submitting payment for a ticket, not only are you admitting guilt, but you face court costs, fines, driver’s license points, insurance points, and depending on your prior driving record, revocation of your driver’s license.  If you were speeding in a work or school zone there is an additional mandatory fine of $250, in addition to court costs you will pay and points that you will receive. Speeding 15 mph over the speed limit will result in revocation of your license.  What you think may be simple and not a big deal could cost you thousands of dollars over the course of three years if you fail to handle a traffic citation properly.  Specifically, your insurance could increase for three years.  There are several ways you can handle a traffic citation.

Reduction

One way to handle a traffic citation is to have it reduced.  If you are charged speeding 15-20 mph over the speed limit, you can seek a reduction to nine (9) mph over.  North Carolina is somewhat forgiving for those who receive a speeding citation for the first time and who were citied for driving less than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit.  Nine miles per hour or less over the speed limit will not result in insurance points; however, you may still receive three DMV license points.  DMV license points will come off of your driving record after three years. So long as you do not accumulate 12 license points within three years, your license will not be suspended. If you are charged speeding 25 mph over the speed limit, you can seek a reduction to 14 mph over; however, you will still receive insurance and three DMV license points.  Speeding more than 25 miles per hour will result in your license being revoked unless you are able to obtain a reduction to a careless and reckless driving charge and obtain a Prayer for Judgment (PJC).  It may be possible for you to have a moving violation reduced to a non-moving violation, which will only incur two drivers license and insurance points, as opposed to three or more.

Certain counties allow traffic violations to be reduced to an improper equipment, while other North Carolina counties do not.  An improper equipment reduction will prevent you from incurring DMV license and insurance points.

Prayer For Judgment Continued (PJC)

A PJC is in essence a guilty plea, but it is not entered in the court record as a conviction. (NCGS 15A-101(4a))  Judgment is simply “continued” or set aside provided you abide by certain conditions for a period of time.  Once you have been granted a PJC, you cannot get another moving violation within three years. If you do get another moving violation within three years you will then have to answer for the new charge as well as the charge for which you obtained the PJC.  Therefore, your PJC will be revoked.  Speeding more than 25 miles per hour over the posted speed limit will disqualify you from receiving a PJC even if that is your first traffic violation.  PJCs are a great option when you have a driving violation that cannot be reduced to a lesser included offense.

Moreover, the other requirements to obtain a PJC include:

  1. Only one person in your household may get a PJC within three years for insurance purposes.
  2. Any person in your household may get two PJCs within five years for DMV purposes.
  3. A PJC is not allowed if you were speeding more than 25 mph over the posted speed limit, have been charged with a DWI, with passing a stopped school bus, or you have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).
  4. Typically, the judge will require the driver (persons over age 25) to perform community service as a condition.  In some cases, the judge may grant a PJC if the driver takes an 8 hour driving course in lieu of community service.  Drivers under the age of 25 will be required to complete a 4 hour driving course, instead of community service, as a condition.

If the Judge grants you a PJC, make sure he does not give you a fine as that will be deemed a conviction by the DMV and you will receive license points as well as insurance points.

Before seeking a PJC consider:

  1. The citation (the charging instrument) – Make sure that the document states all of the elements of the charge; otherwise failure to allege all of the elements will result in a dismissal of the charge.
  2. The nature of the charge – If you are cited for speeding 15 miles over the speed limit and your driving record is clean, a PJC would not be the best decision, because you can obtain a reduction to nine (9) over and not receive any insurance points.  More serious charges such as speeding in a school or work zone would be a better use of a PJC to keep from having to pay the mandatory $250 fine and receiving insurance and DMV points.
  3. Who resides in your household – If you have an underage driver in your household (i.e. 16 year old child), it may be wise to reserve that PJC for them in case they receive a speeding citation.  An underaged driver who receives a speeding citation will likely have their license suspended for a period of time to be determined by the DMV.
  4. What is on your driving record – A prior PJC within three years will disqualify you from receiving another PJC for insurance purposes until after the expiration of three years from the date of the offense for which you received the PJC. With speeding tickets, points are considered from occurrence to occurrence (not conviction to conviction), so even if a citation has fallen off (because it is beyond 3 years), the DMV may still consider it if the new citation is within 3 years of the previous offense date.

If you are granted a PJC, you will only have to pay the cost of court.  Remember, you must ensure the Judge does not issue a fine so that you will not sustain a conviction and license and insurance points. A PJC for a traffic violation is an infraction and not a criminal offense.

*Although PJCs can be used for other offenses, this article only deals with PJC's as it relates to resolving speeding citations.

Trial

The last option for resolving a speeding citation is to have a trial before a District Court Judge.  Most traffic violations are resolved by plea, a person accused of violating a traffic law may choose to have a trial.  The trial will be without a jury.  The grounds for challenging a traffic citation by trial is if the officer violated a person’s rights, such as if the traffic stop was illegal.  Another ground for a trial would be because the officer’s radar was not calibrated or functioning properly.  Keep in mind that if you choose to have a trial, you may lose your opportunity to negotiate a plea with the District Attorney.

Benefits of Hiring An Attorney

If you have any questions about a speeding citation you received and how best to resolve it, it is advised that you speak with a traffic attorney and let them explain all of your options.  Depending on the citation and your prior driving history, an attorney may be able to help you get the charges reduced or even dismissed.

There are several benefits to hiring an attorney to handle your traffic matter. The obvious reason is that an attorney is more knowledgeable about the court system and is likely able to work out a deal with the District Attorney that you may not be aware of. Moreover, hiring an attorney will prevent you from having to appear in court.  With a signed waiver, an attorney can appear in court on your behalf and get your case resolved without the need for you to take time off work and have to spend several hours out of your day sitting in court.

It is important to know the local rules of your area before you present in court. Some counties do not allow certain dispositions, while others do.  For instance, Wake County does not allow traffic citations to be reduced to an improper equipment while other North Carolina counties do. An attorney will be able to make these determinations to find the solutions that will best fit your particular situation.

The goal of resolving any traffic violation is to lessen the effects of license and insurance points, which could result in expensive fines and court costs, and keep you from losing your license.

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