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The very model of a modern court system: Buncombe pilot streamlines traffic offenses

Getting a speeding ticket or other minor citation is never a good thing, per se, but the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts announced recently that it is taking steps to make the process of dealing with the summons easier for all.

First, the agency rolled out a pilot program allowing Buncombe County citizens to go online and request reductions of speeding offenses, saving motorists a trip to the courthouse.

Judge Marion Warren, NCAOC director, said that online reductions are more efficient and convenient to process the most commonly cited traffic offenses.

“Court technology and online services are modernizing the way the public does business with our courts,” Warren said.

Buncombe County Clerk of Superior Court Steven Cogburn praised the service, saying it is beneficial to both the public and the courts.

“This reduces the number of cases on the court docket in Buncombe County and gives our prosecutors and the court more time to focus on other cases,” Cogburn said.

One of those prosecutors, District Attorney Todd Williams, said that while he doesn’t condone speeding, the “convenient” service will offer a fast and easy way to pay costs and fines.

“This resource should increase the timely resolution of traffic matters and provide a model for new online services to come,” Williams said.

The program is expected to expand by four counties by the end of August should be available statewide by late fall, officials said.

North Carolina’s online court services portal was also upgraded, boasting enhanced functionality providing a single lookup that, interfacing with the DMV and court system, evaluates eligibility for all online services based on the user’s individual circumstances and history.

Here are a few quick facts provided by the NCAOC:

  • No costs are associated with requesting a reduction online.
  • Requestors will receive email confirmation of their submission and the outcome of their request after review by the district attorney’s office with an offer or denial of reduction.
  • The arraigned/charged speed must be between 10 and 19 miles over the posted limit, and must not exceed 80 mph.
  • If the district attorney offers an online reduction, the reduced charge, in the district attorney’s discretion, will be nine miles over the posted limit or improper equipment. Other reductions require a court appearance. Citizens will receive an email including the reduced offense and associated cost.
  • If accepted, online reduction offers must be paid via by midnight of the assigned court date or the offer will be vacated.
  • If a citizen does not accept an offer of reduction, or if the district attorney denies the request for reduction, they must appear in court on their assigned court date.

According to a NCAOC release, the updates follow the vision of Chief Justice Mark Martin for establishing eCourts and a modern court system, bolstering the judicial branch’s commitment to providing “broader and more convenient access to justice.”

“It is part of a multi-phase initiative to provide the public a convenient, user-friendly means of resolving most waivable offenses online, and enable the courts to efficiently process citations outside of the courtroom,” the release states. “For judicial staff, it means less paperwork, less data entry, and shorter lines in traffic court and courthouses across the state. For citizens, it means timely resolutions of court matters without the hassle of taking off work and standing in line at the courthouse.”

Follow Heath Hamacher on Twitter @NCLWHamacher

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