So, you are driving up I-85 through China Grove or Salisbury, NC. Traffic is moving at a brisk pace, but you are patiently driving in the right hand lane. When an 18-wheeler pulls out in front you, you feel the safe thing to do is to pull into the left hand lane to pass him. You would not want the maniacs speeding behind you to hit you, right? Of course, however, at the very moment you pass the speed limit, you notice the state trooper ahead.
Or, you are cruising through the countryside of Mt. Ulla in western Rowan County. You push the gas, since no one is around. But, as you enter a curve, you are certain that you slow down below the speed limit. In the curve, you and a sheriff’s deputy cross paths.
In either situation, you either feel that you are not guilty of speeding or that it was safer to speed just a little. These are very reasonable responses. However, the officer disagrees and writes you a speeding ticket and now you have a court date with a judge in the Rowan County courthouse. What makes it even worse is that you don’t think you were speeding or going as fast as what is on the ticket. You have a constitutional right to a trial, and by God you want one!
You are not alone. Not only do a lot of our clients feel this way, but we have been there ourselves. In fact, we have taken speeding tickets to trial. However, the costs of a trial are higher than taking a plea-bargain. There is a good chance your case will be continued and you will miss time from work or other obligations. Sometimes it is just more economical to negotiate your ticket instead of fight it.
“Can I really lose my license if I represent myself?” Absolutely. But, you read about other people fighting their traffic tickets and winning, so why shouldn’t you? In some cases you should. However, North Carolina General Statute §20-16.1(a) states that the NC DMV “shall suspend for a period of 30 days the license of any driver without preliminary hearing on receiving a record of the driver’s conviction of exceeding by more than 15 miles per hour the speed limit . . . if the person was also driving at a speed in excess of 55 miles per hour at the time of the offense.” That means if you are charged with speeding 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, you have a trial and the judge finds that you were speeding as charged, then the DMV is required to suspend your license for thirty (30) days! We see people representing themselves make the mistake to take their traffic ticket to trial, only to lose their license.
Giving up your money AND your constitutional right to a trial can be hard to accept. However, most of the time it is better to spend a smaller amount of money on an attorney to avoid a suspended license and higher insurance rates. To avoid headaches, losing your license and spending more time or money than you should, please consult with an attorney at Sherrill & Cameron, PLLC before handling your ticket yourself.