I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen it: Someone gets a traffic ticket, they shove in the glove compartment with a, “I’ll take care of that later,” and they completely forget about it. The next thing they know they are in jail, owing hundreds of dollars to the court. How can this happen?
People often think that missing their court date for a traffic ticket isn’t a big deal… “it’s only a traffic ticket!” But that’s not the right way to look at it. Yes, a traffic ticket isn’t like a first degree murder charge, I agree, but it can have a huge impact on your life. Even if it’s just speeding, not handling the charge correctly can be costly at best, but missing your court date altogether can do you a great deal of harm. Here’s what happens in most counties in North Carolina when you miss your court date for your traffic ticket:
If the ticket is an Infraction (a lower severity charge, defined more accurately by statute but too much for this post) then the ticket goes in what is called the “20 day drawer.” That means you have 20 days to get this ticket back on the calendar. If you don’t, then the clerk’s office will notify DMV of your failure to appear (FTA). Once you have that FTA, you are assessed a $200 fine, in addition to whatever cost of court/fine you’re going to have to pay when you eventually handle the ticket. Arguably worse is that DMV will revoke your license indefinitely if you don’t handle it by a date they deem as your deadline. Yep, even a seat belt ticket can get your license revoked if you don’t handle it correctly. So a ticket that might have cost you about $210 will end up costing you at least $410, and maybe more.
If the ticket is a Misdemeanor (worse than an Infraction…speeding greater than 15 mph over the limit is a Misdemeanor!) then, depending on the county, it may go in the 20 day drawer as above, or you might get the FTA placed on it immediately, AND the court might issue a warrant for your arrest. Yes, they will send law enforcement out to find you and bring you to jail for missing your court date. And yes, you then have to deal with that extra fine, too.
Parenthetically, what often happens in these situations is the person who missed their court date also hasn’t updated their address with DMV, so when DMV sends their warning letter about the FTA and impending revocation, the person doesn’t get it! So they continue to forget about the ticket, are driving on a revoked license, and then they get pulled over again. Driving With Licensed Revoked (DWLR) is a Class 2 Misdemeanor in North Carolina, and you can go to jail for it. In the business, we call this snowballing, because what starts out as an easy ticket to handle starts rolling down the hill and turns into a much bigger and more dangerous problem, just like the snowballs rolling downhill turn into snowboulders in cartoons.
In addition to costing your more in fines, and revoking your license, the cost of getting help can increase, too. Often times, attorneys have to charge you more than they would have on a current ticket because they have to do more work to help dig you out of help because of the likely extra trips to court.
This can happen to you! If you have an Orange County, Alamance County, Durham County, Wake County, or Chatham County ticket, and you don’t want to go to court (or forget to go to court!) you need someone to help. Call me at 919-929-2992 or 888-929-5241 and I’ll be glad to help. Don’t let a little problem turn into a big one. Call me now if you have a ticket!