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speeding ticket

What to Do After You Get a Speeding Ticket

Were you pulled over for a speeding ticket? It’s never fun, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 1 in 10 drivers in the U.S. are caught speeding each year. Speeding tickets can come with heavy fines, points on your license, and even the risk of losing your driver’s license completely. Deciding what to do next can be confusing. Would it be better to fight a ticket or just pay the fine and get it over with? Here are your options, and what to consider.

Don’t Ignore the Ticket.

No matter how you decide to handle your speeding ticket, the last thing you want to do is ignore it. This could lead to higher fines, points on your driver’s’ license, or even the suspension of your license.

Should I just pay the fine?

If you’d rather not spend the time and effort to contest a speeding ticket, or you don’t think it would do any good, you always have the option to simply pay the fine. If you do decide to just pay off a speeding ticket, expect your auto insurance rates to go up.

The amount owed will vary based on your state and the amount you were speeding. For example, if you were driving 25 mph over the speed limit, you’ll pay a higher fine than you would for driving only 10 mph over. The amount you owe will be listed on your ticket, as well as instructions for payment. Be sure to follow all instructions and pay your speeding ticket on time to avoid additional fines.

What if I want to contest the speeding ticket?

If you can show that you weren’t speeding or you feel your ticket was unjustified for other reasons, you can choose to fight the speeding ticket. In North Carolina, you will need to schedule a court appearance. Your ticket will have instructions for pleading not guilty and fighting your speeding ticket.

What else can I do?

If this is your first offense, or you haven’t had a traffic violation in years, you may be able to mitigate the charges and get a reduced fine. Certain mitigation options will keep the traffic violation off your driving record, meaning you won’t face higher insurance rates or points on your license. First-time offenders may be given the option of taking a driver’s course in order to remove the charge from your driving record. You also have the option of seeking reduced fines or payment extensions.

Will I need a lawyer?

To learn more about your options, or if you want someone to represent you in court, contact a traffic ticket attorney who is experienced in speeding cases. If you’re facing more serious penalties such as suspension of your license, a lawyer may be able to help you reduce the charges or find an alternative. Hiring a lawyer doesn’t mean you’ll get the outcome you want, but you will have a better chance with representation.

Have you been pulled over for speeding or another traffic violation? Need an attorney in Winston Salem? Let Surratt & Thompson help you with your options. Contact us today at 336-725-8323.

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Emotional Legal Battle Consolation

How To Support Your Loved One in the Midst of a Legal Battle

Divorce, physical assault, mental abuse, custody battles, claims of defamation. These are all types of legal battles that involve two parties almost always in opposition of one another. They are so often ugly, angry and emotional. We don’t wish any of the above on anyone, yet we know they occur.

We also know that it can be difficult standing on the sideline, watching someone you love go through something so heart-wrenching and painful as they seek justice or fight to keep others from being harmed. How can you even begin to support someone going through something so difficult?

Apples and Oranges

Many of us have family members or friends that have been through divorces, ugly custody hearings, or similar legal proceedings. That doesn’t, however, make us all experts on divorce, ugly custody hearings, or similar legal proceedings. It’s easy to draw comparisons between two cases and try to offer comfort because ‘your cousin went through a divorce and won full custody,’ however no two cases play out the same. Judges are different, individuals involved are different and often state laws are different.

Support through ‘comparisons’ is rarely helpful. Remember: each case is made up of individuals making no two cases alike.

Emotional Legal Battle Consolation

Support Their Decisions

Difficult decisions are often made amidst legal battles, usually under the careful guidance of a legal professional. You might not always agree with those decisions, however, your friend/relative needs you to support those decisions. Legal battles are often settled by coming to a mutual agreement between two parties. It might feel like your loved one has ‘lost,’ and you might even feel frustrated with the outcome, but that is when they need you in their corner the most. Trust in them and back them all the way.

Stay Neutral

This, above all else, feels impossible. You want to side with your loved one, cheering them on to victory! ‘Victory,’ however, is often not the end goal. It’s justice or reparation, possibly a favorable parenting agreement that works well for both parents. It’s alright to take sides, but try to keep neutral and level-headed when discussing the legal battle. They are hurting, angry, frustrated, sad – any number of emotions and don’t need any fuel added to the fire. They need a friend and calming influence.

Don’t Be An Expert

The internet is a wonderful, vast and dangerous landscape, filled with misinformation and opinion. Don’t take it upon yourself to solve their case for them by delving into the deep web. Each state, county, even city handles all manner of cases differently and someone from California offering legal tips on a message board for abused mothers won’t be much help to someone going through a divorce in North Carolina.

Just like you should avoid cancer diagnoses on WebMD, you shouldn’t try to become an attorney in an attempt to help your loved one.

Listen

What your loved one needs more than anything else, more than an expert, more than a protector, is someone to hear them. Just listen. Don’t judge, don’t offer unsolicited advice. Just love them and listen as they go through this hard time.

Often our intentions are pure and we only want to help. Often we end up doing the opposite. Be there for your loved one and support them emotionally. Let us handle the ugly, gritty court battles. Your work is, at the end of the day, far more important and impactful than even ours.

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Accused of a Crime you did not commit featured image

Have You Been Accused of a Crime You Did Not Commit?

It could happen. A witness makes a mistake. Evidence points in the wrong direction. Someone lies in order to protect himself. And you find yourself in the frightening position of being accused of a crime even though you’re innocent. What should you do if this happens to you or a loved one?

Exercise Your Right to Remain Silent

If you are falsely accuse of a crime, the overwhelming temptation is to immediately explain yourself to the police–to tell your side of the story. Don’t do it. Absolutely everything you say to the police can be used against you. But what you don’t say can never be used. Your Constitutional right to remain silent exists at the very first stages of an investigation. The police must remind you of this right only if you are in custody and about to be questioned. So stay calm, be straightforward, and remain firm—don’t say anything.

Get an Attorney to Help You

If the police want to question you about a crime, you need a criminal defense attorney. Definitely. Don’t wait to contact one—do it right away. Experts agree that the innocent need an attorney as much as, or more than, the guilty do. In many cases, an attorney is brought in too late to be as useful as they could be had they been contacted earlier.

A trusted criminal defense attorney is an invaluable ally. They can advise you of your rights, determine exactly what charges might be filed, discover what evidence the police have, and explain all your options if a case proceeds. And remember that the attorney-client relationship is privileged: Feel free to talk about all aspects of your situation with your criminal defense attorney. The more they know, the better.

Accused of a Crime you did not commit police interrogation

Additional Legal Advice

If you are falsely accused of a crime, gather any material you think can help demonstrate your innocence: emails, receipts, documents, phone records, and so on. Share it with your attorney. It’s also a good idea to draw up a list of witnesses who could help prove your position. And, if the situation warrants—if you are in a fight, for example, that might lead to a false accusation—being the first to call 911 will help your case.

What Not to Do

Do not tamper with or destroy any records or evidence you think looks bad. Doing so will only make your situation worse. Likewise, do not try to talk with the victim or accuser. This will likely hurt your case as well, perhaps quite seriously. You should also refuse to submit to any type of testing the authorities might ask of you until you’ve consulted a criminal defense attorney. And never allow the police to conduct a search without a warrant. Having one ensures that all parties are following the correct procedures.

Being accused of a crime you did not commit is extremely stressful. Knowing your rights, bringing in help and proceeding with caution will all help make the best of a bad situation.

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Traffic Stop

Pulled Over? 10 Traffic Stop Rules You Need to Know

Lets face, it we’ve all been there, seeing flashing lights in our rear-view mirror and hearing the scream of the siren. Getting pulled over is a nerve-racking obstacle that has to be endured from time to time. But how do you properly interact with law enforcement officials after being pulled over?

Acknowledge the officer by turning on flashers. To let the officer know that you’ve seen his/her lights and hear his/her siren. This also lets the police officer know that you plan on pulling over. This is also recommended if you think you’ll need to drive a distance before you can find a safe place to pull over.

Traffic Stop

Pull over to a safe area. Typically, you want to pull over to the right side of the road. When looking for a spot to pull over to, think “safety first” for both you and the officer. Look for an area with a wide shoulder so passing traffic isn’t a hazard. If it’s nighttime, look for place that’s well lit if possible. That will help put the officer at ease. Parking lots and well-lit side streets are other safe places to pull over.

Stay in the car. If you get out of the car as soon as you stop, it may give the impression to the officer that you’re going to be aggressive or you have something to hide in the car.

Turn off your engine and roll down your window. As soon as you come to a stop, turn off your engine and roll down your window. If it’s dark out, turn on your interior lights so the officer can see what’s going on inside the vehicle.

Traffic Stop

Stay calm. It’s common for you to feel as if your heart sinks in your chest, your palms start sweating, and to be nervous whenever you get pulled over. Take some deep breaths and relax. Unless you’ve done something outright criminal (i.e. driving intoxicated, possessing illegal drugs, etc.) there’s nothing to be nervous about. The worst that can happen during a routine traffic stop is that you’ll have to pay a fine.  Remember that the officer is probably nervous too.

Move deliberately. Keep your hands resting on the wheel in plain sight and don’t make any sudden movements. You don’t want to give him or her any reason to believe you’re a threat. Wait for the officer to ask for your documents so they know what you’re doing. Don’t try to expedite the process by getting your license and registration ready while the officer approaches your car. If your documents are somewhere other than your glove compartment, let the officer know that you’ll be reaching somewhere unexpected. After you’ve handed the officer your paperwork, return your hands to the steering wheel. It keeps them visible to the officer.

Traffic Stop

Be civil. Be polite and respectful in your communications with the officer. Yes, it is frustrating to get a ticket, but calling the officer names, threatening them, or being rude won’t get you anywhere. In fact, it could make things worse. If the officer happens to be a woman, refer to her as “officer” or “ma’am,” not “sweetheart” or “honey.” She’s an officer of the law and deserves respect.

If you plan on fighting your ticket, keep your answers short and don’t directly admit wrongdoing since everything you say to an officer is admissible in court.  However, do not lie or give false information to a law enforcement officer, as that could subject you to further charges.  

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution protects you from self-incrimination; it does NOT give you the right to lie or deceive law enforcement officers. Regardless of the initial reason for the stop, giving false information to an officer is sure to complicate the situation.

Don’t Consent to Search. You don’t have to consent to a search. In order to search your vehicle without your consent, an officer needs probable cause (i.e. a liquor bottle on your seat or a visible controlled substance). If they don’t have probable cause but want to search your car anyway, they’ll need your consent and may ask you something like, “You don’t mind me taking a look in your car, do you?” Even if you haven’t done anything illegal, it’s usually a good idea to exercise your Fourth Amendment right in this situation and decline the search. Be polite when declining the search but clearly state, “I don’t consent to a search, officer,” loud enough so it gets on the police recorder.

At that point, if the officer believes he has probable cause to detain you and search your vehicle, cooperate with him politely while reiterating that you did not consent to the search. This search can be argued in court later.

Arguments are for the court room, not for the field.

Be safe when merging back into traffic. Take your time to store your belongings before you re-enter traffic.  If you’re upset, collect yourself before driving away.  When you’re ready, turn on your signal and merge back into traffic.

Contact an attorney.  If you received a citation, contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss how to proceed appropriately.  Attorneys can often get your charges reduced to avoid costly points on your insurance or license.

Have you been pulled over and need an attorney? Let Surratt & Thompson help you with your Traffic Offenses. Contact us today at 336.725.8323.

Guest author: Emily Sells-Salie, Paralegal

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speeding ticket

What Happens to My License if I Get a Speeding Ticket?

We’ve all been there… running late for a morning meeting and driving along the highway a little too quickly trying to make up the time. You look up in the rear view mirror to see blue lights flashing behind you and you get that sinking feeling in your stomach. You’re pulled over by the police and issued a traffic citation for speeding.

A speeding ticket might not seem like a big deal because, hey, we all make mistakes, right? But the consequences of a speeding violation can go far beyond having to pay a simple fine. They can dig deeply into your wallet—as well as affect your driver’s license, road privileges, driving record and insurance rates.

speeding ticket

So now that you’ve been ticketed for speeding, what’s the next step?

First, let’s explore the statistics. An average speeding ticket fine in North Carolina is about $30, plus around $190 in court costs. In addition to fines, drivers who have been cited for speeding can potentially receive points against their licence. These points are issued based on several factors, such as the speed limit in the zone where the driver was caught speeding, the speed they were driving at, and where the infraction took place. Car insurance companies use these points to decide what premium to charge drivers. The more points a driver has on their record, the higher the insurance premium.

According to nerdwallet.com, drivers pay an average of $1,619.63 for a $30 speeding ticket in insurance premium increases because of the points against their license. That’s a whole lot of unnecessary cash to shell out for a speeding ticket!

Now let’s talk about the consequences…

License Suspension

Every state has different driving laws as well as varying punishments for violating these laws. The laws in North Carolina are similar to those of many states. According to the state’s official Driver’s Handbook, your driver’s license can be suspended for 30 days if you are caught going more than 15 MPH over the speed limit at a speed of more than 55 MPH. So getting nabbed going 71 in a 55 zone means goodbye license for a month. A second such violation within 12 months results in a 60-day suspension.

The Insurance and License Point System

A speeding violation adds 3 points to your driving record, and 12 points (4 speeding violations) within 3 years most likely results in a suspended license. If this happens, 8 points in the 3 years following means a longer suspension. And out-of-state violations count toward the point total.

Getting a license reinstated isn’t necessarily easy. It requires:

  • a payment of $65
  • proof of identification and valid insurance
  • and tests, if applicable.

In some cases, drivers must complete a driving clinic before regaining their license and pay clinic attendance fees.

speeding ticket

Teen Drivers Face Greater Penalties

For teenage drivers, the consequences of a speeding violation are much greater. In most cases, any violation means a suspended license, for 30, 60 or 90 days, effective immediately. Drivers with a learner’s permit face additional months spent in the permit period if they’re caught speeding—or they might have to start the permit period all over.

The High Cost of Speeding

The financial impact of a speeding ticket can be high, too, sometimes much higher than expected. Although a fine for speeding is usually $30 (which might seem like small change), the addition of court costs brings the total to over $200. And a violator’s insurance rates will almost certainly go up. Insurance companies use a point system to adjust rates as they see fit (this system is not the same as the DMV’s). Rate hikes can be steep. In Winston-Salem, for example, annual insurance rates on average jump about $450 after a speeding violation.

What can you do to prevent it?

What’s the best effective way to avoid these consequences? Stay alert behind the wheel, keep from getting distracted—and don’t press hard on the gas pedal. Staying under the limit is cheaper, and safer, for everyone.

speeding ticket

What if you already got a speeding ticket?

Fortunately, there is some good news; drivers do have some options. Hiring an attorney will give drivers an advocate and advisor. An attorney can assist you in working with the courts to reduce the charge or possibly get the case dismissed. Reduced charges typically assess less points, if any, against a driver’s license. Less points means less insurance premium hikes, which, in turn, will save the driver money in the long run.

For example, an attorney may be able to help you plead guilty to a an improper equipment citation. An improper equipment citation is usually around $263 in Forsyth County and can be even higher in surrounding counties. However, an improper equipment citation is a non-moving violation. Therefore, it does not assess any points against a driver’s license.

If a charge cannot be reduced, an attorney may be able to assist drivers in entering a Prayer for Judgment Continued. A driver entering into a Prayer for Judgment Continued recognizes their guilt and receives a conviction, however, there are no insurance consequences. Prayers for Judgment Continued have many rules and restrictions, but an attorney can help a driver navigate these rules and decide if this is the best course of action for the driver.

Bottom line, a driver who has been issued a citation for speeding should consider hiring an attorney. An experienced traffic attorney may save a driver money in the long run and help avoid unnecessary insurance premium hikes.

If you received a speeding ticket recently, the experienced attorneys of Surratt & Thompson are ready to help you. Click here to learn more about our traffic law services and contact us.

Contributing Author:

Maxwell Baker is a Juris Doctor Candidate at Elon University School of Law, Class of December 2017. He graduated from Goldey-Beacom College in Wilmington, DE with a degree in Business Administration. In his free time, Maxwell enjoys playing golf and enjoying the outdoors.

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