Running Through a Red Light or Stop Sign in North Carolina

A red light traffic signal with blue sky copy space concept

If you received a traffic ticket for running a red light or running a stop sign, you might be tempted to handle it on your own, pay the fine, and move on with your life. But “just paying the ticket” is the same as pleading guilty. And a guilty plea, even to a so-called “minor infraction” like running a red light or a stop sign, can result in an increase in insurance rates, loss of your driving privileges, and enhanced penalties for later offenses.

You have the right to challenge the ticket, especially if you believe there was no basis for it.

Based in Salisbury, North Carolina, criminal defense attorney Ryan Stowe has extensive experience resolving traffic tickets for people in Rowan County and the surrounding areas.

Why Should You Hire a Lawyer for Failure to Stop at a Red Light or Stop Sign?

Even though a traffic ticket seems like a relatively minor offense, depending on your circumstances, the consequences could be severe. Hiring a lawyer gives you a better chance of beating the ticket and avoiding some of the more severe penalties that can arise.

You Could Lose Your NC Driver’s License

Paying the fine for running a red light or stop sign means you are pleading guilty. Pleading guilty to a traffic offense will result in points on your license and might affect your criminal record. Accumulating too many points on your license or having a criminal record, even for moving violations, can result in the suspension or revocation of your North Carolina driver’s license.

Your Insurance Rates Will Increase

A traffic ticket, even for a “minor offense” like running a traffic light or a stop sign, will likely increase your insurance rates. Insurance companies are in the business of evaluating risk. If you do not have any traffic tickets, the insurance company views you as a low-risk driver, and you will receive preferential insurance rates. But to your insurance company, a ticket is a sign that you are a potentially unsafe driver. They will use the ticket as a justification to increase your insurance rates.

North Carolina Traffic Laws

Like all states, North Carolina has laws that dictate where to stop at a red light or a stop sign.

  • When you approach a red light or a stop sign, you are required to come to a complete stop at the crosswalk, a marked stop line, or before entering the intersection, whichever is closer.
  • After coming to a stop, drivers can turn right on red with caution. Drivers must yield the right of way when making the right turn.
  • In North Carolina, it is illegal to turn left on red.
  • A yellow is a warning that the light is about to turn red. A driver is allowed to enter the intersection while the light is yellow, but not after it has turned red.

Special Rules for Motorcycles

Some intersections are equipped with sensors that detect the presence of a vehicle at the intersection. The sensor triggers the light to change to green. Sometimes the sensors do not detect the presence of a motorcycle because of its size or weight.

North Carolina motorcyclists who received a ticket for running a red light can avoid a ticket if they can show:

  • They came to a complete stop;
  • They waited at least three minutes at the light;
  • No other vehicle had the right of way at the intersection; and
  • No pedestrians were attempting to cross the intersection.

Penalties for Running a Stop Sign or Red Light

Running a red light and running a stop sign are infractions. If you received a ticket for one of these offenses, you face the following penalties:

  • A fine of up to $100;
  • 3 points on your driving record; and
  • 3 points on your insurance record

You will also need to pay court costs.

If you receive 12 or more points in a three-year period, your driver’s license could be suspended. The points on your driver’s license might also increase your insurance rates.

Resolving a Red Light or Stop Sign Ticket

You have several options available if you received a ticket for running a red light or running a stop sign. You can:

  • Appear in court and plead guilty or no contest;
  • Plead guilty or no contest by paying the fine by mail or online;
  • Plead not guilty and request a trial; or
  • Complete a traffic diversion program (also called traffic school)

How a Lawyer Can Help

Hiring a North Carolina traffic ticket defense lawyer gives you the best chance of a successful outcome in your case.

When you receive a red light ticket or a stop sign ticket, your case will be heard in the county where the offense occurred. However, every county in North Carolina handles traffic violations differently. North Carolina red light and stop sign defense attorney Ryan Stowe knows the local rules of court and will be able to help you resolve your red light or stop sign ticket.

In some cases, Attorney Stowe will be able to challenge the red light or stop sign ticket and have the case dismissed.

Other times, he will have your ticket reduced to a violation for Improper Equipment. Improper Equipment is a non-moving violation that will not affect your car insurance rates.

Traffic Court Trials

If you want to contest your red light ticket or stop sign ticket, you will begin by pleading not guilty. In most cases, you will need to appear in court and enter your not guilty plea before the judge. The judge will set a trial date and order you and the officer who issued the ticket to come back to court on that day.

A traffic ticket trial begins with the officer testifying to their version of the events. Your attorney can question the officer. Once the officer has testified, your attorney can call witnesses and offer other evidence in your defense. In cases for running a traffic light or stop sign, defendants often present evidence from an eyewitness who saw you enter the intersection before the light turned red.

When the trial is over, the judge will either find you guilty or not guilty. If you are found not guilty, you beat the ticket. If you are found guilty, you will need to pay the fine and the infraction will go on your record.

The Stowe Law Firm: Red Light Lawyer Serving Salisbury, North Carolina

If you received a ticket for running a stop sign or running a red light, attorney Ryan Stowe can help. Contact the Stowe Law Firm today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.

Based in Salisbury, North Carolina, The Stowe Law Firm handles red light and stop sign tickets throughout Rowan County, Mecklenburg County, Davidson County, Cabarrus County, and Stanly County.