Unfortunately, many of the calls that I receive on a daily basis involve the dreaded School Zone violation.
A School Zone speeding violation is just an infraction as are many other citations issued on a daily basis. An infraction speeding violation is simply a violation where the charged speed is 15 m.p.h. or less over the posted speed limit. The drastic difference is in the penalty imposed between a “standard” speeding violation and one in a School Zone.
School Zone violations are governed by N.C.G.S. 20-141.1. The mandatory fine for a School Zone violation is $250 as opposed to much lower fines for all other speeding infractions. This is in addition to the already high cost of court currently at $188. A Work Zone violation also has a mandatory statutory fine of $250 which makes this violation essentially the same severity of a School Zone violation. The only difference is that the Work Zone violation is governed by N.C.G.S. 20-141(j2).
You will also be assessed insurance points based upon the speed in which you are ultimately convicted of, or plead guilty to. Just two insurance points assessed against you can result in up to a 45% increase in your insurance premiums for the next three years.
While the penalties for a School Zone violation are certainly stiff, you may have options in defending against this charge. State law puts very clear guidelines into place regarding the school zone itself. For example, a school zone must be marked by signs that: state the days of the week that school is in session, the hours that school is in session, and the reduced speed limit through the school zone itself. School zone speed limits are not to be less than 20 m.p.h. You may have a defense to the charge of speeding in the school zone if you were cited outside of school zone hours or there were not signs marking the reduced speed limit.
In the worst-case scenario of having no defense to the charge, all is not lost. Many times a Prayer for Judgment Continued (PJC) is available to drivers depending upon his or her driving record. This means that you would essentially plead guilty to the underlying offense of speeding in a school zone yet judgment is not entered against you and you will not be assessed any license or insurance points. After three years, the conviction simply falls off of your record. You are only allowed a certain number of PJCs and it is best to discuss your record in detail with your attorney.
In summary, a school zone violation is probably the most serious infraction offense in this State. A good rule of thumb is to simply slow down to the speed limit regardless of whether or not school is in session. Officers are human beings and frequently make mistakes; they may cite you outside of posted hours and though you have a defense, you still have been charged with a crime and bear the burden of going to court to defend yourself. It is more prudent to slow down and not to worry about the person behind you being agitated that you are going too slow for his or her tastes.
If you should find yourself with a ticket for speeding in a school or work zone, give me a call any time and I would glad to discuss your case and options.