Drivers hoping to negotiate Mecklenburg County speeding and other traffic violations can once again do so in-person without having to wait for a court date.
The prosecutor-staffed duty desk, which Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather announced had reopened on Thursday, allows drivers to reduce or drop many speeding and noncompliance charges. The duty desk is on the second floor of the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
Here’s what you should know before going to the desk.
What kind of cases does the desk handle?
According to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg District Attorney’s Office, cases processed at the duty desk include:
▪ Speeding tickets
▪ Driving with expired vehicle registration
▪ Driving with lapsed insurance
▪ Driving with an expired driver’s license
The desk sometimes reduces speeding violations to lesser charges, said Assistant District Attorney Sheena Gatehouse. And compliance cases that involve driving with incomplete or expired documents are often dismissed if a driver presents proof that they’ve gotten the necessary documents.
The duty desk does not process other, more serious traffic charges, Gatehouse said. These include:
▪ Driving while impaired (DWI) cases
▪ Driving at speeds over 100 mph
The duty desk also can’t process a case if a defendant has hired an attorney to contest it, Gatehouse said.
Do I have to go in person?
No. Drivers can also dispute traffic violations through the state’s Electronic Compliance and Dismissal portal (ECAD). This portal can only be used by North Carolina residents, Gatehouse said.
ECAD also has the following restrictions, the Observer previously reported:
▪ You must submit your request at least seven business days before your scheduled court date
▪ The charged speed in your ticket must be 10-19 mph over the posted limit and below 80 mph
▪ If the district attorney’s office agrees to reduce the ticket, it will either drop the speed to 9 mph over the limit or replace the speeding ticket with one for improper equipment. Other reductions require a court appearance. You will receive an email that includes the reduced charge and the associated costs
What are the desk’s hours?
The duty desk is open five days a week: 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Fridays, according to Merriweather’s announcement.
These are longer hours than the desk previously offered, Gatehouse said. Before the pandemic, the desk was only open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
When will I be able to contest my case in court?
If a driver doesn’t use ECAD or go to the duty desk, it’s unclear when they will be able to contest their traffic violation in court.
Much of the Mecklenburg courthouse remains shut down due to COVID-19 concerns. One courtroom began processing driving while impaired (DWI) cases in early June, but no other traffic cases have seen a courtroom since last spring, The Observer previously reported. In fact, the only misdemeanors currently being processed are DWI and domestic violence cases.
The county has not released a timeline for the courthouse’s next steps in reopening.