Fight Traffic Ticket in North CarolinaPage Overview
You have three plea options in North Carolina: guilty, no contest (nolo contendre) and not guilty. Regardless of how you plea, you must enter it with the court before the appearance date on your NC traffic ticket expires. If you’ve lost your ticket, visit our section on Lost Traffic Tickets.
(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 »
(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
If you opt against paying your ticket, which is an admission of guilt, you can appear in court and contest the citation. Challenging your NC traffic ticket means:
- You may enter a not guilty plea and then request a PJC. If the judge honors your request, your charge will not be entered on record, sparing you of points on your driver's license 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, if applicable, legal fees
- Or if the judge finds you guilty, you'll be required to pay the traffic ticket fine, court and, if applicable, legal fees.
Keep in mind that 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. Because 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 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 passes could prompt the court to issue a warrant for your arrest.
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 enter a not guilty plea. 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.
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.
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, if you opt to represent yourself, you’ll need to contact witnesses and gather facts.
Negotiate a Plea Deal
This is when hiring a lawyer familiar with traffic court and NC traffic laws 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. Or, the ADA may make conditional demands―community service, driver improvement school―in exchange for a reduced charge.
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 instructed of fines and penalties.
After your case, regardless of verdict, check your driving record for any potential inaccuracies. Otherwise, you could experience an unnecessary jump in your auto insurance rates if a speeding ticket the court dismissed erroneously stays on your driving record. Check our page on North Carolina’s point system for a better understanding of points and their repercussions.
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.Other Topics in This Section