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  • Fight Traffic Ticket in North Carolina

    SUMMARY: How to Fight a North Carolina Traffic Ticket

    To plead "not guilty" and fight your NC traffic ticket, you'll need to schedule a court hearing.

    For specific instructions on fighting your moving violation, refer to your traffic ticket or contact the appropriate county court.

    Keep reading this page to learn how to fight your traffic ticket in North Carolina.

    Fighting Your NC Traffic Ticket

    You have several plea options in North Carolina:

    • Guilty.
    • No contest (nolo contendere).
    • Not guilty.

    Regardless of how you plea, you must enter it with the traffic court before the appearance date on your NC traffic ticket. If you've lost your ticket, visit our section on Lost Traffic Tickets.

    Pay Ticket
    (Plead Guilty or No Contest)

    • Pay the fine.
    • Plea bargain for a reduced charge.
    • Receive points on your driving record.
    • Incur possible jump in auto insurance rates.
    • Possible option to attend driver improvement school.

    Learn more about
    paying your traffic ticket »

    Fight Ticket
    (Plead Not Guilty)

    • Challenge traffic ticket via trial.
    • Enter not guilty plea and then request for a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC).
    • Possibly lose option to plea bargain for lesser charges.
    • Have charges dismissed; pay court and legal fees.
    • Be found guilty; pay fines, court and legal fees.

    Learn more below.

    What It Means to Fight Your NC Traffic Ticket

    If you opt against paying your North Carolina traffic ticket (an admission of guilt), you can appear in court and fight the charge.

    In North Carolina, fighting your traffic ticket means:

    • You may enter a "not guilty" plea and then request a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). If the judge honors your request, your charge will not be entered on record, sparing you of points on your NC driving record and all related penalties. Read more about PJC on our Traffic Ticket FAQ page.
    • If no plea agreement is reached before your initial hearing, you may lose all chance at a plea bargain once a trial date is set.
    • If the judge dismisses all charges, you'll still be required to pay court and legal fees (if applicable).
    • Or, if the judge finds you "guilty," you'll be required to pay the traffic ticket fine, and court and legal fees (if applicable).

    Pleading "not guilty" comes with risks. Should you lose the trial, you won't have the chance to negotiate a plea, and you may be required to appear in court several times if the state is not prepared to prosecute the case.

    Pleading Guilty or No Contest

    Pleading "guilty" or "no contest" waives your right to a trial. After pleading "guilty," you may request that the court grant you a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC). The judge may honor the request but only if you agree to certain conditions, such as a performing a specified number of hours of community service.

    Since the PJC withholds your conviction from being entered, you won't be charged a fine, and points, in most cases, will not be added to your North Carolina driving record. For more information on PJC, visit our Traffic Ticket FAQ page.

    Avoid Being Issued a Warrant

    Failing to enter a plea before the appearance date posted on your NC traffic ticket, could prompt the court to issue a warrant for your arrest.

    Notify the NC County Court

    Locate the County Court

    North Carolina traffic tickets are handled on the county level. If you've misplaced your citation and don't recall which county you were ticketed in, call the Administrative Office of the Court at (919) 890-1000 for assistance.

    Inform the Court In Person

    You must appear in court to fight your traffic ticket. If you cannot appear on the date listed on your citation, call the Clerk of Court and ask for a new hearing date. It may or may not be granted; or, in some cases, a traffic ticket attorney may be allowed to appear for you.

    Hire a NC Traffic Ticket Attorney

    Consulting a traffic ticket lawyer in North Carolina can increase your chances of reaching a plea bargain agreement for reduced charges, or for having the traffic ticket dismissed. This may not only prevent your NC driver's license from getting suspended, but also spare you from increased car insurance rates.

    Prepare Your Case

    After entering a "not guilty" plea, the presiding judge will issue a trial date. Until then, you'll need to build your case. Strongly consider getting legal counsel to handle your defense if your budget allows. Otherwise, you'll need to contact witnesses and gather facts yourself.

    Negotiate a Plea Deal

    This is when hiring a traffic ticket lawyer in NC can be a big help. On the day of your trial, before your case is called, you will have the opportunity to negotiate with the assistant district attorney (ADA). Depending on your case, the ADA may be willing to dismiss a moving violation in exchange for a "guilty" plea to a non-moving violation, which would spare you points on your driver's license and increased car insurance rates.

    In other situations, the ADA may make conditional demands (e.g., community service, driver improvement school, etc.) in exchange for a reduced charge.

    Plead Your Case Before a Judge or Jury

    You'll present your case before a judge sitting without a jury. After hearing the case, the judge will then render a verdict. If found "guilty," you will be informed of your fines and penalties.

    Check Your NC Driving Record

    After your case, regardless of verdict, check your North Carolina driving record for any potential inaccuracies.

    Otherwise, you could experience an unnecessary jump in your auto insurance rates if a traffic ticket (including speeding tickets) the court dismissed erroneously stays on your NC driving record. Check our page on North Carolina's point system for a better understanding of points and their repercussions.

    Shop for Better Auto Insurance Rates

    Any type of NC moving violation appearing on your driving record could cause a spike in your car insurance rates. Rather than stretch your budget, you always have the option to shop online for lower car insurance rates.

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