26Jan, 2020

NC’s Driver Point System: Criminal Traffic Charge v. Traffic Violation
Posted By: Schlosser & Pritchett

NC's Driver Point System: Criminal Traffic Charge v. Traffic Violation

Here in North Carolina, traffic violations and other driving-related infractions are tallied on a driver point system. Every traffic transgression is worth a certain number of points, and eventually, when you lose enough of them, you can lose your license. 

Every single traffic violation comes with attendant penalties. Make no mistake, minor offenses can add up quickly, and the number of points rises quickly with the severity of the violation. 

Furthermore, should you lose enough points quickly enough, you can lose your license entirely. We don’t have to tell you that having your driver’s license revoked can make daily life nearly impossible. 

Understanding how you lose points – and how quickly they can disappear – can prevent you from having first-hand knowledge of life without the independence of driving.

Differences Between Normal and Criminal Traffic Violations in NC

North Carolina drivers can face a variety of different penalties for actions taken on the road. The big difference is whether the penalties are for a normal traffic violation or a criminal traffic charge. It could mean the difference between a ticket and jail time. 

Normal Traffic Violations

Not all traffic violations are criminal charges. A speeding ticket, for instance, doesn’t go through the court system every single time. Instead, minor offenses are often handled by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Other minor infractions include ignoring a stop sign, failing to use a turn signal, and driving without insurance. 

Criminal Traffic Violations

Some traffic violations are taken more seriously, though. These are considered criminal traffic violations and often involve the criminal justice system. Like most crimes, traffic violations can be misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the severity of the action. 

Traffic Misdemeanors

Actions that lead to traffic misdemeanor charges are serious and might have lead to someone’s injury or death, but usually did not result in actual harm. DWIs and reckless driving are two common traffic misdemeanors. 

Traffic Felonies

Traffic felonies are deadly serious. Charges of traffic felonies are made in cases where serious injury or death occurred, or when the offender has multiple previous charges. Vehicular manslaughter is one such traffic felony, and habitual DWI is another.

Differences Between Normal and Criminal Traffic Violations in NC

No matter how serious or how minor the charge is, a conviction will still affect your standing with the DMV’s points system. 

How North Carolina’s Driver Point System Works 

Because every traffic violation is worth points against your license, it would take days to list everyone here. Besides, you can look up specific point values here

Suffice to say the points system works on a rolling basis, and here are the general rules: 

  • Points remain on your license for three years 
  • The bar for a first-time suspension is 12 points in three years 
  • After your first suspension, only 8 points in a 3-year period get you another suspension

A few other key pieces to the NC driver point system: 

Plenty of Traffic Violations Have Arbitrary Point Assignments

Speeding could be two or three points depending on your speed. Other violations have specific values, to begin with. For example, tailgating, illegal passing, and reckless driving are all worth four points. 

Length of Revocation Depends Upon Suspension History

The length of license revocation or suspension increases based on prior suspensions. A first-time suspension is 60 days, and a second suspension is six months. All subsequent suspensions are a year in length. 

Traffic Crimes Involving Injury or Death Equal Automatic Suspension

Some violations automatically suspend your license, so the assumed point value is 12. These violations include racing, DWIs, hit-and-runs, and negligent manslaughter. 

A general rule of thumb: It takes two speeding tickets a year to result in a suspended license; even if you haven’t harmed anyone, you can lose your driving privileges. 

Getting Your License Reinstated in NC

Getting your license reinstated involves some bureaucracy and fees. Here’s a quick breakdown of initial charges: 

  • There is always a $65 reinstatement fee to the DMV for the privilege of having your license reinstated. 
  • Didn’t hand over your license to the DMV before your suspension began? Pay an additional $50. 
  • If your license was suspended due to a DWI conviction, add $130. 

The total can be up to $245 just for being allowed to reapply for a license. If you need to get a new physical license, those fees will be added on top. Then, once all fees are paid, you must actually reapply for your license. 

Reapplying often includes taking tests required by the state for receiving a license, and there’s no guarantee you’ll pass simply because you did back when you turned 16. 

Getting Your License Reinstated in NC

Losing your license makes life harder in almost every respect, and ultimately, the North Carolina points system is straightforward, but it can (and often does) sneak up on people. 

As little as one traffic violation in six months can add up to a suspended license and months of difficulty for you. It’s better to avoid traffic charge convictions, if at all possible. 

For those who believe that you were unjustly charged, it’s a good idea to fight it, so you don’t lose the points or have to deal with fines or prison time.