The Traffic Ticket: Showing Up is Half the Battle

Before I went to college, my Dad, who spent forty years as a college professor, advised, “Showing up is half the battle.” That advice seems applicable not just to attending class but to all aspects of life, including showing up for your court date for the dreaded traffic ticket. But what happens if you don’t show up?

In North Carolina, skipping your court date for even the most minor traffic offenses can have serious consequences, including additional costs, loss of driving privileges, criminal charges, and even (albeit rarely) jail time.

Let’s take the most mundane of driving offenses – the simple speeding ticket – for example. If you fail to appear in court to handle your speeding ticket, the court is required to notify the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within twenty days pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-24.2. The DMV then mails you notification that your driver’s license will be revoked sixty days from the date the notice is mailed, as required by N.C.G.S. § 20-24.1. Once your license is revoked, you cannot drive legally. If you drive anyway, you can be charged with the additional criminal offense of driving while license revoked, a crime with a greater potential penalty than the speeding ticket that got you in this predicament in the first place. This is where the snowball rolling downhill gains momentum, and you wish you would have taken care of your speeding ticket. Your license will remain revoked until you handle the original speeding ticket, which will likely carry an additional court cost of $200 for failing to appear as authorized by N.C.G.S. § 7A-304(a)(6).

Failing to appear for other driving offenses carries more significant penalties. Take a Driving While Impaired offense, for instance. North Carolina has established a separate crime for failing to appear for a DWI that is codified in N.C.G.S. § 20-28(a3). If convicted, your driver’s license is revoked for a period of one year for a first offense, and additional time for subsequent offenses. In addition, you could be convicted of the underlying DWI if the State can still prove the offense despite passage of time.

All told, it saves money, hassle, and legal expenses if you follow the adage that showing up is half the battle. But if that advice has come too late, feel free to contact me at (828) 265-0016 or