When do you have to go to court for a traffic offense?

You may be able to simply pay the fine indicated on your North Carolina traffic ticket and forgo the trip to court. However, the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts lists a number of circumstances when going to court for a traffic offense is a must.

No matter what the offense is, if you want to get out of paying the ticket, you must go to court in order to plead not guilty and fight the charge. However, some offenses specifically require a court appearance.

License issues

You must have a valid driver’s license to operate the vehicle you are driving. So, you will have to go to court if an officer finds that you have a suspended, revoked, altered, fake or disqualified license. Driving a commercial vehicle without a commercial driver’s license will also result in a court date.


There are a number of laws regarding impaired driving that require you to go before a judge, such as driving after consuming alcohol or another impairing substance, including driving a school bus, commercial vehicle, child care vehicle or emergency services vehicle. Drinking and/or having an open container of alcohol in the vehicle while you drive is also a mandatory court offense, as is driving after consuming any amount of a controlled substance or alcohol for anyone under the age of 21.

Dangerous driving

Speeding on its own may not send you to court, but if you are going more than 15 mph over the posted limit or over 80 mph, it may. Racing, aggressive driving, careless driving or driving to get away from law enforcement also lead to a mandatory court appearance.

This is not an exhaustive list of the traffic offenses, and your case may have specifics that affect whether or not you must or should go to court. Therefore, this general information should not be considered legal advice.

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