Fight Traffic Ticket in North Carolina

If you think you undeservedly received a traffic citation AND have the means to prove your innocence, keep reading to learn how you can fight your North Carolina ticket.

Pleading Not Guilty to Your Ticket

To begin the process of fighting your traffic ticket, you'll need to plead “not guilty” in person, with the NC court overseeing your case.

The deadline to enter your plea AND the specific court you need to notify will be printed on your citation. If you misplaced your ticket, read our guide on lost citations in North Carolina for help.

After accepting the “not guilty” plea, the court will assign you a date to return for a pre-trial conference OR trial before a judge or jury.

Do not lose track of this date! If you miss ANY scheduled court appearance, you could face:

  • Driver's license revocation.
  • Additional fines.
  • A warrant for your arrest.

If you need to reschedule a court date OR still have questions about pleading “not guilty,” contact the North Carolina court handling your case.

What Does a Not Guilty Plea Mean?

When you plead “not guilty,” you're exercising your legal right to make a case for your innocence before a North Carolina judge. You're also confirming that you:

  • Understand points could be added to your driving record if found guilty.
  • Have the time to appear in court, potentially on multiple occasions.
  • Know you could face incarceration if convicted of a serious charge, like DWI.

Still not sure if you should fight your traffic ticket? Jump over to our When to Fight a Traffic Ticket page for more.

Contesting Your NC Ticket in Court

The process for contesting your North Carolina traffic ticket could include a:

  • Pre-trial conference.
    • The severity of your charges and the local court rules will determine whether you receive a pre-trial conference.
  • Trial before a judge or jury.
    • Infractions and misdemeanor traffic violations are only tried before a judge. If you're facing a felony traffic charge, you can request a jury trial.
      • Misdemeanor: A relatively seriously charge which could lead to fines and/or jail time.
      • Felony: The most serious type of charge (e.g. repeat DWI), punishable by fines and/or incarceration.

If you're facing serious and/or multiple charges, consider hiring a traffic ticket attorney PRIOR to your assigned court date. The NC courts may appoint representation for you if you:

  • Can prove general indigence and a lack of funds to hire a lawyer on your own.
  • Are facing charges that could land you in jail.

If you're still undecided about hiring an attorney, take a look at our guide, When to Hire a Traffic Ticket Lawyer, to see if your circumstances warrant representation.

Pre-Trial Conference

During a pre-trial conference, you (or your attorney) and a NC state prosecutor will attempt to work out a plea agreement, which usually entails:

  • Changing your plea to “guilty.”
  • Lessening the penalties for your charges.

A plea agreement can help you avoid the time and hassle going to trial, though if one cannot be reached, the court will assign you a date to return for trial before a judge or jury.

Agreeing to Pay More?

DID YOU KNOW: If you're convicted of a traffic violation, your car insurance rates could increase significantly. Before accepting a plea agreement, make sure you know how traffic convictions can affect what you pay for auto insurance.


In general, trial before a judge or jury will follow these steps:

  • Opening arguments from yourself (or your attorney) and the North Carolina state prosecutor.
  • Presentation of:
    • Witnesses.
    • Evidence.
  • Rebuttals and/or witness cross-examinations.
  • Closing arguments from both sides.
  • Judge or jury's verdict.
    • If you're found guilty, the judge will then administer your sentence.

If you'd like to appeal a verdict, you can:

If you still have questions about filing an appeal, call the North Carolina Court of Appeals clerk at (919) 831-3600.

Consequences of Fighting Your Ticket

The outcome of your traffic case will determine whether you face positive OR negative consequences as a result of fighting your NC traffic ticket.

If You Lose

In the unfortunate event you lose your case, the consequences you'll face will depend on the severity of your charges and could include:

  • Fines.
  • Driver's license suspension.
  • Additional points on your North Carolina record.
  • Mandatory enrollment in a driver improvement clinic.
  • Community service.
  • Incarceration.

NOTE: If you have a valid NC commercial driver's license, federal law requires that you notify your employer of ANY traffic charges (except for parking violations) within 30 days of the conviction date. If you are convicted out-of-state you need to inform the DMV within 30 days.

Don't Lose Your License!

After accruing enough points on your record for traffic convictions, you could be at risk for driver's license suspension.

Enroll in a NC defensive driving course—successful completion can reduce points from your driving record, keeping your driving privileges safe and sound.

If You Win

Should you win your traffic ticket case, you can look forward to:

  • Dismissal of all charges.
  • No fines or penalties to deal with.
  • No increase in auto insurance rates.
  • No additional points on your record.

Once your trial has ended, it's important to check the accuracy of your North Carolina driving record. Any erroneous information can lead to undue stress, fines, and penalties down the road for you.

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