When you get a traffic ticket in North Carolina, your first inclination may be to just ignore it, especially if you are merely passing through this state on the way to or from your home state to or from somewhere else. Making such a decision, however, could get you in more trouble than you realize. The ticket and its underlying charge(s) will not go away, especially if you fail to appear on your scheduled court date, and could easily come back to haunt you in the future.
Your second inclination may be to mail in the fine noted on your ticket. This decision, too, could have unintended consequences. When you mail in a fine, this acts as your admission of guilt that you committed the traffic offense(s) listed on the ticket. In other words, mailing in a fine “convicts” you of the alleged traffic offense(s).
If you blow off your court date, the judge likely will issue a bench warrant because you failed to appear in court when you should have. This bench warrant provides law enforcement officials with the requisite authority to arrest you for contempt of court wherever and whenever they find you. It also adds yet another charge against you, i.e., contempt of court for failing to appear. This charge and the fine and court costs associated with it are in addition to whatever traffic offense(s) the original ticket alleged you committed.
Admittedly, you do not face much chance of officers showing up at your door to arrest you for failing to appear in court on a minor traffic charge. This is especially true if you do not reside in North Carolina. Nevertheless, due to the nationwide computer system called the Interstate Compact, your home state now has a record of your bench warrant. The next time officers pull you over for an alleged traffic violation, they will check to see if you have any outstanding warrants against you. When they discover your outstanding bench warrant, they can arrest you.
Remember, a bench warrant never expires unless and until you and your attorney get it lifted and you also resolve the underlying alleged traffic violation(s).