What’s an Improper Equipment? (And Why Does it Cost So Much?)

If you’ve received a speeding ticket in North Carolina, you have a number of ways to resolve it. You can:

  1. Have a trial;
  2. Plead guilty and request a prayer for judgment continued;
  3. Request a reduction in the speed and then plead guilty to the lesser speed; or,
  4. Seek an improper equipment.

Most people choose the last option – seeking an improper equipment – and for good reason: the law prohibits an increase in your insurance premiums or points on your driver’s license for an improper equipment conviction thanks to N.C.G.S. § 20-123.2. So, what is an improper equipment? Having “improper equipment” basically means your speedometer was not working correctly. In most cases, this is a legal fiction because the speedometer on the vast majority of vehicles is working perfectly fine. But, it is a convenient way to avoid the negative consequences a speeding ticket can carry. When improper equipments became a popular option for drivers seeking reductions, a cottage industry was born. Mechanics would calibrate a vehicle’s speedometer and, not so coincidentally, determine that the speedometer showed a slower speed than the actual speed. Most district attorney’s offices have eliminated the step of visiting your local mechanic and will reduce the charge to improper equipment if you meet various criteria, which differ across the State. Typically, though, the formula for receiving the reduction involves a combination of factors such as having an attorney, attending driving school, your driving history, and how fast you were going. Much to the chagrin of drivers across the State, the popularity of improper equipments apparently caught the attention of the North Carolina State Legislature. In 2011, the Legislature imposed an extra $50 fee for anyone convicted of improper equipment.[1] This $50 fee is in addition to $191 of court costs and a fine of up to $25 pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-123.2. Here’s the unpleasant math: $191   Court Costs $  50     Fee +  $  25     Fine $266     Total   Yes, (ouch), a speeding ticket reduced to improper equipment costs $263, and that’s just the money that goes to the Court system. In addition to that, you may have an attorney’s fee, the time and cost of driving school, and/or a trip or two to court to handle the ticket. Despite the high price tag, an improper equipment is usually worth the price because it virtually guarantees no long-term consequences to your insurance or driver’s license. But it also goes to show that the government isn’t going to pass up an opportunity to make money.         [1] A bit of useless trivia that doesn’t lessen the financial pain: the $50 fee goes to the State to help pay the costs of confining people for misdemeanor convictions.