What to Do When You Receive a Traffic Ticket - Part 3
Dec 28, 2017
Have you received a traffic citation? If so, you're in the right place.
North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers has been defending traffic matters for 25 years. In this episode, Attorney Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you receive a traffic ticket.
While we're sitting here in Charlotte, which is on the South Carolina border, I mean not that I can see Russia from my front door, but it's not that far away and a lot of people live in Fort Milne and work in Charlotte and there's this, they just assume while I'm cross the state lines it's no big deal. Well it is a big deal between South Carolina licensees and North Caroline licensees and sometimes things get reported back, some things sometimes they don't.
Robert Ingalls: Gotcha. So if you were to get a citation in North Carolina could it be affected differently in South Carolina?
Bill Powers: Absolutely. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. And that's true in any state. I regularly get calls from people flying, "I was in Washington State, I was flying to the West Coast or something. Rented a car. Got a doozy of a ticket. Didn't figure I was gonna be back anytime soon. Didn't take care of the ticket. Now I've got a notice from NCE, North Carolina Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles, DMV. I've got a letter from them saying they were suspending my license. Why?" And then they realize, "Oh I forgot about that." Forgot about using hand quotes that you can't see really on sound, but they forgot about the citation.
Yeah, out-of-state tickets can ... There's this new thing and they're called computers and the internet. I don't know, maybe you've heard of them?
Robert Ingalls: It's ruined everything.
Bill Powers: I know, it's ruined the ability to skip town and not take care of your ticket. And that's ... You know I've actually had tickets where people were driving in gosh, I had someone in Barcelona that got a pretty decent ticket and they thought "Yeah, I'm not gonna do anything about it" and I'm not gonna say that particular one affected North Carolina license, but there were some questions asked and it had more to do with the ability to travel back to Spain.
Robert Ingalls: Wow.
Bill Powers: Yeah. It was a pretty serious case, but yeah, don't just assume that if you cross the state line, you may not be violating the Man Act or anything like that, but you should consider and take seriously all tickets. And if it's not that big of a deal, we'll tell you.
Robert Ingalls: Now let's say somebody actually does go online and they pay that ticket and then they realize, or they're listening to the podcast now and they paid the ticket yesterday, are there steps they can take? Or is it too late?
Bill Powers: Yes and no. That's a really good question and it kind of depends. Now the reason is, is because this is really a developing area right now and to my knowledge right now, they're greatly limiting the type of citations that they're willing to work with you online.
And some jurisdictions, for example Charlotte has for years had kind of an internal protocol and now this is being layered on that. So generally speaking the overall rule is if you pay a ticket off and if that ain't good, as far as re-opening it, there are exceptions for example, a Prayer for Judgment Continued or some people refer to it as a PJC. I've heard it called a PJC, a PFC, a PBJ. Every iteration of that acronym under the sun. But because the judgment is technically continued, you may have some ability to have a court address that.
And there is something called a Motion for Appropriate Relief. It's an option where, and I think it's sometimes misused to be honest with you, but it is a possibility. So that generally speaking when we tell a person, we wouldn't say, "Let's reopen the case." I'd first want to ask why you want to reopen that case. Meaning, kind of going back and doing what I would have done in the first place is to see what are truly the consequences gonna be. Sometimes people call up and say, "I did a terrible thing. I paid the ticket off and I don't want to do it. I want to open it up." And I say, "Well, hold on a second. Let's back up. Maybe you didn't do the wrong thing. Maybe you're just second-guessing your decision. Let's see what the consequences are for doing that and see if you really need to reopen the case."
There's again, there's this assumption sometimes people have that you know they talk to uncle Freddy, they talk to cousin Steve who said, "Oh I did this and DA's office dismissed the case and heck, they came over to my house and washed my car and did my dishes and-"
Robert Ingalls: Yeah, cousin Steve is the worse attorney.
Bill Powers: Yeah. Cousin. I always say, "Uncle Freddy", but yeah the anecdotal evidence there is, it's amazing how people will listen to friends and relatives, but not seek out the people that work in the profession who will talk to you for free and really get the straight scoop. We'll tell you one way or the other. So the answer to your question in kind of a long, roundabout way is there are times, it depends on the type of citation.
Where really I do see it happen and where I do think it is appropriate is where people ... I call it the "Do the right thing effect" where they try to do the right thing. They've had a ticket or a series of tickets that they haven't taken care of. They start having this dance, this slow waltz with DMV with their license being suspended for longer, and longer, and longer and then maybe they get a little bit older. Maybe they have a job that says "Yeah, take care of these tickets. It actually, you would probably do better in life if you have an ability to drive around legally in North Carolina." And so they go to DMV and DMV says, "Yeah just pay off these tickets and we'll give you your license back."
And again there's no nefarious purpose, I don't think the DMV person necessarily understands what will happen when they do that. And so they, my clients are people who have tried to do the right thing. They pay off the tickets. Sometimes thousands of dollars because there's you know, North Caroline charges some pretty hefty Failure to Appear, late fees, court costs, fines. Court costs are unconscionably high in North Carolina, even for the most basic of citation. And they get their plastic license back; they take a picture of it. They post it online, "I finally have my license back". And then 10 days later they get a letter from DMV that says "Your license has been revoked" and those are instances definitely where we not often, it's not only some question about it's appropriate to go back in and say, "Hey listen, he appeared pro-se, he had been provided some bad information, or he or she had, and this was the consequence of that."