Close-up of vehicle form with pen

We understand that life can get busy, and it’s easy to overlook details like car registrations and vehicle inspection dates. If you’ve found yourself in this situation and received a traffic ticket for driving without a valid registration in North Carolina, know you’re not alone. 

Mistakes happen, and when they do, the attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith are here to help you. With a wealth of experience representing clients throughout North Carolina, our traffic ticket defense attorneys are well-equipped to fight your ticket for driving without a valid registration. We’ll be by your side, guiding you through the legal process every step of the way. 

Driving without a Valid Registration is a Class 3 Misdemeanor

Under North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. 20-111), it is a serious offense for a person to drive a motor vehicle on the highway without a valid registration with the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Failure to display a current registration on a license plate can also result in a charge. 

Additionally, drivers can be charged for violating registration requirements when they knowingly permit a vehicle they own to be driven on a highway without a valid registration. This is not a simple traffic infraction. Instead, it’s considered a Class 3 misdemeanor charge in North Carolina, a matter that should not be taken lightly. 

Displaying an Invalid or Fake Car Registration Is a Class 3 Misdemeanor

Displaying a registration card, registration number plate, or certificate of title that is fictitious or has been revoked, canceled, suspended, or altered is also prohibited in North Carolina. Similarly, willfully displaying an expired registration plate on a vehicle while knowing it’s expired is prohibited and can also result in a Class 3 misdemeanor charge. It’s also unlawful to give, lend, or borrow a license plate to use it on another motor vehicle. 

When license plates are improperly used, they can be revoked or canceled, requiring the driver to purchase new plates. Finally, using a fictitious or false name when applying for a vehicle registration or a renewal of registration is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina.

The Penalties for Driving with an Expired Registration in North Carolina

Most traffic tickets issued regarding car registrations are for driving with an expired registration, a Class 3 misdemeanor. Although this offense is not considered a moving violation for the purposes of auto insurance premiums, the penalties of being convicted and not fighting the ticket can be serious. 

Because driving without a valid registration is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, if you pay the fine and do not fight to have the ticket dismissed, the conviction will show up on a background check. If you continue to drive without renewing your car registration, your driver’s license could eventually be revoked, and you may be arrested for failure to appear in court.

Facing Charges in Addition to Driving without a Valid Registration

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be facing additional charges in addition to driving with an expired registration. For example, suppose a police officer pulls a driver over because the registration tags are expired. In that case, the officer may discover other reasons to charge the driver with a more serious crime. 

For example, the police officer may detect the scent of marijuana or see an open container of alcohol in the front seat of the vehicle. The police officer may insist on searching the vehicle. It’s important that you don’t consent to a search. Traffic infractions such as the failure to update your auto registration can lead to much more serious charges like drug possession, DWIs, or possession of a gun without a valid concealed carry permit.

Defending Yourself Against Charges for Driving with an Expired Registration

The best way to defend yourself against the charge of driving with an expired motor vehicle registration is to renew your registration as quickly as possible. To renew your registration, you will need to  take the following steps:

  • Obtain an inspection of your vehicle
  • Pay the property taxes due on your vehicle
  • Provide proof of insurance (DL-123 or an insurance policy card)

You will need to prove that you have purchased the minimum required amount of auto insurance. Currently, drivers need to purchase $30,000 of bodily injury coverage for one person, $60,000 of bodily injury coverage for two more people, and $25,000 in coverage for property damage. Depending on the limits of your policy, it may need to include coverage for uninsured or uninsured/ underinsured motorists. The DMV has the right to stop you from renewing your car registration for the following:

  • Owing money to the DMV
  • Failure to have the vehicle inspected
  • A lapse and insurance coverage
  • Unpaid toll fines
  • DWI-related seizure of the vehicle
  • Failure to pay vehicle taxes
  • Falsifying information regarding
  • Failure to pay child support
  • Submitting a worthless check to the DMV

Discuss Your Traffic Violation with a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’re one of the many drivers in North Carolina who receives a ticket for driving with an expired car registration, you aren’t alone. Don’t let an expired registration or inspection charge create additional problems for you by ignoring the charges. 

The experienced criminal defense attorneys at Greene Wilson Crow & Smith are prepared to fight your traffic ticket for you. Our traffic ticket defense attorneys are regularly in front of local judges. We have relationships among prosecutors and fellow attorneys and know how to navigate the system to benefit our clients. We represent clients in New Bern and throughout North Carolina and have experience defending clients from a wide range of traffic-related charges. Contact Greene Wilson Crow & Smith to schedule a complimentary case evaluation and learn more about how we can fight for your rights.