Frequently Asked Questions

How do I obtain a North Carolina Drivers License?

What are the rules for out-of-state drivers?

How does a teen get a graduated drivers license?

Who do I call for a traffic ticket?

I lost my ticket. What do I do?

How do I obtain a crash report?

What is the N.C. Seat Belt Law?

What are the laws on child safety seats?

Who do I call about concealed handgun reciprocity?

What is the law on having handguns in vehicles?

Where do I get a criminal background check?

What are the five levels of Driving While Impaired?

What are the laws on having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle? 

What are the current roadway conditions?

 

Obtaining a North Carolina Drivers License

The Highway Patrol does NOT issue drivers licenses. Drivers licenses must be obtained from the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) of the Department of Transportation.

The location of the nearest DMV office can be obtained by consulting the telephone directory under State Government or by contacting DMV via e-mail. Proof of insurance is required in order to obtain a drivers license.

Out-of-State Drivers

Residents from other states or countries may operate vehicles in North Carolina using their drivers licenses. The same restrictions or limitations as imposed by their home states or countries apply in North Carolina.

A learners permit from another state is valid in North Carolina, but only if the driver is age sixteen or older. The International Drivers License is NOT recognized in North Carolina and cannot be used as a drivers license. 

A person who moves to North Carolina and establishes residency has sixty (60) days to obtain a North Carolina drivers license.

Graduated Drivers License

Limited Learner's Permit

A person at least age 15 and under age 18 may obtain a limited learner's permit if the person has passed a driver education course and a written test administered by DMV.

Level 1 restrictions apply to persons with limited learner's permits. The driver:

Must have the permit in his or her possession
Must have a supervising driver in front seat (parent, guardian or person who signs application for permit)
Must have no other person in front seat
Must for first six months, drive only between the hours of 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.-- (after first six months, may drive anytime with supervision)
Must have all persons in a vehicle use seatbelts or child safety restraints

Limited Provisional License

A person who is at least 16 years old but less than 18 may obtain a limited provisional license: if the person has held a limited learner's permit for at least 12 months, has not been convicted of a motor vehicle moving violation or seatbelt infraction during the preceding six months and has passed a road test administered by DMV.

Level 2 restrictions apply to the driver holding a limited provisional license. These restrictions are that the driver: Must have the license in the driver's possession. May drive without a supervising driver when driving to and from work. May drive without a supervising driver when driving to and from an activity of a volunteer fire department, rescue squad, or emergency medical services, if the driver is a member May drive without a supervising driver for any other purpose from 5:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. only. Must drive at any other time with a supervising driver where the supervising driver is seated beside the license holder but need not be the only other front seat passenger. Must have all persons in vehicle use seatbelts or child safety restraints.

Full Provisional License

A person who is at least 16 but less than 18 may obtain a full provisional license if the person: has held a limited provisional license for at least six months and has not been convicted of a motor vehicle moving violation or seatbelt infraction during the preceding six months.

Level 3 restrictions apply to the full provisional licensee. The driver is granted full driving privileges at Level 3.

Traffic Tickets

Who to Call
Questions concerning a traffic ticket issued by a N.C. State Trooper or other law enforcement officer should be directed to the District Attorney for the county in which the ticket was issued.

The telephone number for the District Attorney can be located in the State Government section of the local telephone directory.  

Questions about the court date or location should be directed to the Clerk of Superior Court of the county in which the ticket was issued.  Click here to access the court system's judicial directory.

The telephone number for the county clerk of court is listed in the State Government section of the local telephone directory under judicial or courts. 

Court Costs
Court costs are $130 for District Court.

Payment of fines and costs are NOT made to the officer but to the clerk of Superior Court. The clerk DOES NOT accept personal checks, only money orders or bank checks. The clerk will accept cash only when paying in person.

The Conference of Chief District Court Judges, not the officer, establishes a list of charges which may be paid without a mandatory court appearance and those which require a court appearance.

The fine entered by the officer on the back of the ticket is set by the Conference of Chief District Court Judges and not by the officer.

Failure to Appear
The Division of Motor Vehicles will revoke a person's drivers license or the right to drive on an out-of-state license if the person fails to appear in court or fails to pay the fine and costs. The revocation will remain in effect until the ticket is paid and the person goes to court.

Advertising
Some lawyers may send a letter to a person receiving a ticket. The lawyers obtain the names and addresses from the Clerk of Superior Court. The officer issuing the ticket has no control over the advertising. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that lawyers have a constitutional right to advertise.

Lost Traffic Citation

The Highway Patrol does not maintain a database on traffic citations issued.  To locate  information:

1. If you know the county you were in when you received the traffic citation, you may contact the Clerk of Court in that county for further information regarding your traffic citation; or

2. If you are unsure of the county, you must contact the Administrative Office of the Courts during business hours at (919) 890-1000.

Obtaining a Crash Report

Crash reports investigated by all of North Carolina's law enforcement agencies are forwarded to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles.

 The Division only provides certified crash reports. The fee for an crash report is five dollars ($5.00).

You may obtain copies of crash reports from the Division of Motor Vehicles by calling (919) 861-3068, or in person by visiting DMV at:

DMV Headquarters 
1100 New Bern Ave. Annex Building, Room 112
Raleigh, N.C.

In writing by sending your request to:

NCDOT-DMV
Traffic Records Section
3105 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, N.C. 27699-3105

For crash reports, click here, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

For DMV traffic records, click here.

N.C. Seat Belt Law

The Seat Belt Law:   G.S. 20-135.2A

Sumary:

Ages/Positions Covered

All drivers, front seat passengers and back seat passengers ages 16 and older must wear their seat belts. Children less than age 16 are covered by the NC child passenger safety law.

Vehicles Covered

The seat belt law applies to all passenger vehicles with capacity of less than 11 occupants required by federal standards to have seat belts. In general, these are cars made after 1967 and light trucks and vans made after 1971.

Restraint Required

The full restraint system provided for the seating position must be properly worn. Both the lap and shoulder belt must be properly worn even if the position is equipped with an automatic shoulder belt or air bag. Placing the shoulder belt behind the back or under the arm is not allowed.

Exemptions

Vehicles not required to have belts:

  • In general, these are cars made before 1968 and light trucks and vans made before 1972.
  • Professionally certified medical condition or mental phobia preventing use.
  • Rural letter carriers and newspaper carriers while performing duties.
  • A driver or passenger frequently stopping and leaving the vehicle or delivering property from the vehicle if the speed of the vehicle between stops does not exceed 20 miles per hour."
  • Vehicles with "Farm" or "Commercial" license plates while being used for agricultural purposes.

Responsibility/Penalties

The driver of the vehicle is responsible for himself and all children less than sixteen.
Passengers ages sixteen and older are responsible for themselves.

Penalty of $25.50
$153.50 court costs
No driver license or insurance points are assessed.

 

Child Seat Safety

G.S. 20-137.1(a1) reads as: "(a1) A child less than eight years of age and less than 80 pounds in weight shall be properly secured in a weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system. In vehicles equipped with an active passenger-side front air bag, if the vehicle has a rear seat, a child less than five years of age and less than 40 pounds in weight shall be properly secured in a rear seat, unless the child restraint system is designed for use with air bags. If no seating position equipped with a lap and shoulder belt to properly secure the weight-appropriate child passenger restraint system is available, a child less than eight years of age and between 40 and 80 pounds may be restrained by a properly fitted lap belt only."

NOTE: Senate Bill 1218, was ratified by the N.C. Legislature on July 15, 2004. The changes went into effect Jan. 1, 2005.
 

Ages/Positions Covered

Children less than age 16 in front or back seats are covered under this law. Drivers and passengers sixteen years old and older are covered by the N.C. Seat Belt Law.

Vehicles Covered

All vehicles required by federal standards to have seat belts. In general, these are cars made after 1967 and light trucks and vans made after 1971.

Exemptions

Vehicles not required to have belts (such as cars made before 1968 and pickup trucks, SUVs, and vans made before 1972, and large buses)

  • Ambulances and other emergency vehicles
  • If child's "personal needs" are being tended to
  • If all seating positions with belts are occupied

Responsibility/Penalties

Driver responsible for all children less than sixteen

  • Penalty not to exceed $25
  • Full court costs apply ($263)
  • Two (2) driver license points
  • No insurance points
  • No conviction if child is less than four and proof presented at trial that CRD has been acquired since violation

Concealed Weapon Carry Permits

The N.C. Attorney General's Office oversees Concealed Handgun Reciprocity in North Carolina

North Carolina firearms, gun laws

 North Carolina automatically recognizes concealed carry permits issued in any other state. (Effective Dec. 1, 2011).

Handguns in Vehicles

It is unlawful to carry a concealed handgun in a vehicle unless the person has a valid concealed carry permit.

A person who is not a convicted felon may carry a handgun if not concealed.

A handgun is concealed in a vehicle if it cannot be readily seen by a person approaching and if it is readily accessible. A handgun under the front seat or in an unlocked glove box or console is illegal. A handgun openly displayed or in a locked glove box, locked console, or in the trunk is lawful.

Criminal Background Checks

The North Carolina Court System has the complete database of charges and convictions made by state, county and city law enforcement agencies across North Carolina. 

Adult Correction web site contains information on individuals who were sentenced to prison or probation or who are on parole.

You may also call your local clerk of court office in your county.

Obtaining a North Carolina Driving Record

You may obtain a copy of your driving record upon prepayment of the required fees by writing to or visiting:

N.C. Department of Transportation Division of Motor Vehicles Driver License Section 1100 New Bern Avenue Raleigh, N.C. 27697-0001

Please include your full name, date of birth and driver license number if available, with your request and indicate the type of record that you are seeking.

Three- and seven-year driving record checks normally are used for insurance and employment purposes and cost $5. A certified driver license record check usually is required for court appearances and costs $7. For the record check to include crash information, the request must include the written permission of the driver.

Click here for further information on obtaining a copy of a North Carolina driving record.

Driving While Impaired

There are five levels of misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated. Level I is the most serious and Level V the least.

Level V

Punishable by a fine up to $200 and a minimum jail sentence of 24 hours and a maximum of 60 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 24 hours in jail, perform 24 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 30 days.

Level IV

Punishable by a fine up to $500 and a minimum jail sentence of 48 hours and a maximum of 120 days. A judge can suspend the sentence but upon completion that the driver spend 48 hours in jail, perform 48 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 60 days.

Level III

Punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 72 hours and a maximum of six months. A judge can suspend the sentence only upon completion that the driver spend at least 72 hours in jail, perform 72 hours of community service or not operate a vehicle for 90 days.

Level II

Punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and a minimum jail sentence of seven days and a maximum of one year. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.

Level I

Punishable by a fine up to $4,000 and a minimum jail sentence of 30 days and a maximum of two years. A judge CANNOT suspend the minimum sentence.

Level I and II drivers are repeat offenders, persons whose license are revoked, impaired drivers, impaired drivers who are transporting young children and impaired drivers who hurt someone in a crash. Impaired drivers must complete a substance abuse assessment and comply with any recommended treatment as a condition for having their drivers license restored at the end of the revocation period.

Felony DWI

For Habitual DWI offenders, drivers who have had three prior DWI convictions within the past seven years, DWI becomes a more severe felony. But more importantly, the Habitual DWI statute now mandates a minimum active jail term of one year -- a sentence that CANNOT be suspended. Offenders must also go through a substance abuse program while in jail or as a condition of parole.

Seizure and Forfeiture of Vehicles

The Governor's DWI Initiative takes away from repeat DWI offenders the means to drive while impaired; namely, their cars. Under the new provision, a law enforcement officer can seize a driver's car if the officer charges that person with DWI and that person was driving while his or her license was revoked due to a previous impaired driving offense. The seizure happens at the time of the arrest and NOT after the case has come to trial.

If a court convicts the driver of DWI and of committing the offense while driving with a revoked license due to a previous impaired driving offense, the judge will order the vehicle forfeited. The school board can then sell the vehicle and keep the proceeds, sharing the money with any other school systems in the county, or keep the car for its own use. The law does allow vehicle owners to get their cars back if they were not the driver convicted of DWI but only if they satisfy the court that they are an innocent party.

Zero Tolerance for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

It's unlawful for the operator of a commercial motor vehicle to drink and drive. The first offense results in a 10 day disqualification to operate a commercial motor vehicle. The second or subsequent offense revokes the drivers license to operate any vehicle.

Zero tolerance for school bus and school activity bus drivers and child care vehicle drivers drivers.

It is unlawful for school bus and school activity bus drivers and child care vehicle operators (day care van etc.) to drink and drive.

Offenders Under Age 21

Prior to the enactment of the new statutes, North Carolina had already taken a zero-tolerance stance against drivers who were under the legal drinking age who nevertheless drank or used drugs illegally and then got behind the wheel. People under age 21 simply cannot drive with any alcohol or illegally-used drugs in their systems -- period. Any amount of alcohol will result in an immediate 30 day pretrial revocation. If an underage drinking driver refuses to take such a test, he or she now need only have the smell of alcohol on the breath to be convicted of driving after drinking. Offenders will have their licenses revoked for one year but can get limited driving privileges instated by a judge if the driver was at least 18 years old at the time of the offense and did not have a prior conviction.

Drug Testing

The Initiative also recognized North Carolina's inability to prosecute and convict someone for driving while impaired by something other than alcohol. Under the new provision, law officers can now order chemical tests for drugs. It also amends the old law to allow for the revocation of a driver's license if he or she refuses to take such a test.

Drivers License Revocation

All persons charged with DWI who refuse to take an Intoxilyzer test or has results of 0.08 or more, 0.04 if commercial motor vehicle, or under age 21 and the results are above 0.04, will have their license revoked immediately for 30 days. There is a limited driving privilege available after 10 days. Upon conviction of DWI for first offense, the license is revoked for one year. A limited driving privilege may be granted by the judge, but only if the driver did not hurt anyone, did not have a child under sixteen years of age in the car at the time of the drunk driving, and the driver obtains a substance abuse assessment. In order to have a license restored at the end of one year, the driver must go to treatment or school as recommended by the assessment. Upon conviction of a second offense within three years, the revocation is four years.

Refusing a Test

A driver who is stopped by a Trooper or other officer for certain alcohol-related offenses will be requested to submit to a breath test or blood test or both to determine alcohol concentration or the presence of drugs in the blood. The results of the test will be used in court.

If the driver refuses the test, an immediate 30-day revocation is imposed and an additional one-year revocation is imposed after an opportunity for a hearing.

Even if the driver is found not guilty of DWI in court, the one-year revocation is imposed for refusing the test.

A limited driving privilege may be granted but only after a six-month revocation period.

History

Before 1999, North Carolina already had some of the strictest drinking and driving statutes ever adopted in the United States. The Governor's DWI Initiative has made those regulations even tougher.

In December, 1998, the cars of repeat offenders are being seized and sold with the money given to the local school system. In excess of 8,000 vehicles have been seized since then. Starting in the year 2000 any person who is convicted of DWI and has their drivers license reinstated will not be able to drink and drive. Instead of an alcohol concentration of 0.08, these drivers will lose their license if they have limits of 0.04 or higher, depending upon their driving record and if they were charged and convicted after 1 July 2001. An ignition interlock system where the car will not start if the driver has been drinking will be required for some repeat offenders. The repeat offenders are being targeted and for good reason.

In 1998, 469 people died in alcohol-related crashes on North Carolina highways. Another 10,629 were injured. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol arrested nearly 40,000 people for driving while impaired (DWI) in 1998 and more than 43,000 the year before that. The combined DWI arrests for all law enforcement agencies in North Carolina totaled nearly 80,000 for each of those two years, respectively. Though they pale in comparison to the human loss, the financial costs in lawyer fees, court costs, fines, increased insurance rates, and the like to a person convicted of DWI are also great. They range from $6,000 to $8,000 over three years. The bottom line: Never drive after drinking any amount of alcohol!

In North Carolina, it is illegal to drive a vehicle while noticeably impaired or with an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher. When driving a commercial motor vehicle, the limit is 0.04. The most significant aspects of the state's new DWI law make punishment more severe for the impaired driver in general and the repeat offender in particular.

Transportation of Open Container of Alcohol

Open and closed containers of all alcoholic beverages are prohibited in all commercial motor vehicles (bus, eighteen-wheeler, dump truck, etc.) except as listed below. An open container of any alcoholic beverage is prohibited in the passenger area of any motor vehicle (commercial or non-commercial) located on the highway or highway right of way - even if the vehicle is parked except as listed below.

If the seal on a container of alcoholic beverage has been broken, it is open.

"Passenger area of a motor vehicle" means the area designed to seat the driver and passengers and any area within the reach of a seated driver or passenger, including the glove compartment. In the case of a station wagon, hatchback or similar vehicle, the area behind the last upright back seat is not considered part of the passenger area.

If the driver has not consumed any alcohol, an open container of a malt beverage (beer, malt liquor, ale, hard lemonade) or unfortified wine (table wine, champagne) is not prohibited:

  • In the passenger area of a motor vehicle designed, manufactured and used primarily for transportation of persons for compensation (buses, taxi-cabs, etc.);
  • In the living quarters of a motor home or home car;
  • In a house trailer.

Open containers of spirituous liquor (bourbon, gin, vodka, etc.), mixed drinks or fortified wine (wine with higher alcohol content, i.e., 17% to 24%, such as sherry or port) in the passenger area of any motor vehicle is always unlawful.

The amount of unopened alcoholic beverage which may be transported without a permit is as follows:

  • Not more than 80 liters of malt beverages, other than draft malt beverages in kegs
  • Any amount of draft malt beverages in kegs
  • Not more than 20 liters of unfortified wine
  • Not more than eight liters of either fortified wine or spirituous liquor, or eight liters of the two combined.

Current Roadway Conditions

Citizens should not call the Highway Patrol for roadway conditions. 

Current Roadway Conditions