Traffic tickets are pretty much always a pain in the butt. You shell out a few hundred bucks have to wait in line at the DMV or fight the ticket in court for a reduced rate.
It’s annoying. It’s frustrating. It’s time-consuming.
For many, though, it’s way worse than that.
If you are one of the many people in North Carolina who is struggling to make ends meet and cannot take off work at a moment’s notice, a traffic ticket could force you to choose between keeping your license and paying rent — a situation in which there is no good decision.
This is exactly why the North Carolina DMV in the middle of a lawsuit.
Local Man Sues DMV after DWLR Laws Forced Him Out of His Home
In the summer of 2017, a 28-year-old father of three was pulled over in a routine traffic stop and told that his license had been revoked and that he needed to pay $700 in traffic fines. He didn’t have the money to pay both his rent and the fines, though, so he had to make a hard choice. He chose to pay the fines and was forced to move back in with his family.
Worse, while his license was reinstated after the stop, he was cited for driving with a revoked license and forced to pay another fine and court costs. These expenses added up to $308, but Johnson could only afford to pay $100 on the day of his hearing. This meant that he was hit with another fine of $20 for not being able to pay that day.
After everything, he decided to file a lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles. The lawsuit is claiming that the state’s DWLR laws unfairly target people in poverty, and three other plaintiffs have joined him.
The case is still in the courts and is definitely one to keep an eye on. Already it has caused big debates over whether driving with licensed revoked (DWLR) laws are unfair to North Carolina’s impoverished population.
What Are These NC Laws in the First Place?
If you haven’t faced a license suspension before, you may not know how the process works.
When you get a ticket, you will have to make a payment by a certain date unless you request a trial or try to contest the ticket. If you fail to pay by that date, the North Carolina DMV will receive a notification 40 days after the date. At that point, your license will be automatically revoked and you will face criminal charges for driving with your license.
That means if you can’t pay — or even if you don’t receive proper notification of your traffic ticket (due to change of address, miscommunication, etc.) — you may be driving on a suspended license and risking criminal charges without knowing it.
Does that sound fair?
In 2017, WRAL reported that 1 in 9 North Carolina drivers had a suspended license due to unpaid traffic tickets. That’s almost one million drivers in our state alone.
The case mentioned above hopes to change these policies and processes. The Charlotte Post has reported that one of the goals of the lawsuit is to “challenge DMV’s automatic revocations without providing notice of alternatives to full payment under state law and a hearing to ensure indigent drivers won’t lose their license.”
North Carolina’s DWLR Laws Are More Than Just a Minor Nuisance
A driver’s license isn’t just a form of identification. It’s a way to get to work and pay your bills and live a productive life. Without one, you face the risk of getting fired and falling behind on payments — including fines attached to your driver’s license.
As we can see in the case above, fines can quickly become a slippery slope — missed deadlines and license revocations can result in criminal charges. If you are caught driving while your license is revoked, you could be charged with a class 3 misdemeanor.
Don’t let the charges pile up. If you have unpaid traffic tickets or you are afraid that your license may be revoked, you may need to talk to a North Carolina criminal lawyer. There are ways to fight traffic tickets and charges without facing high fees. Reach out for information on your case and what you can do to protect yourself.