Did you know if you get caught speeding anywhere in the United States, the State of North Carolina can punish you — on top of whatever punishment you received from the state you were speeding in?
That’s right. According to North Carolina Statute § 20-16, North Carolina reserves the right to suspend your license for any crime committed in another state if that crime would result in a suspension here in North Carolina.
You might ask, well, what’s so bad about that? Let’s just say you get caught speeding in another state. You pay the ticket, or even get a lawyer and go to court. You go through the entire process. You think everything is over.
A few months pass and you receive notice from North Carolina. Your license will be suspended. This is exactly what happened to a North Carolina resident, an active duty soldier traveling in Alabama. When caught speeding, this LT did the responsible thing by not contesting and paying his ticket. Despite this, North Carolina punished him a second time, by suspending his license.
As written, NC § 20-16 serves to unnecessarily punish North Carolina State Citizens — just because we call North Carolina home. We are not waived from punishment for violating the traffic crimes committed in other states. Just like every other United States Citizen, we are required to fulfill all punitive sentences for violations of that state law. This statute serves to add an additional punishment, beyond that of the original state.
When our citizens have fulfilled their duty for a traffic violation, it is unnecessary and unjust for North Carolina to submit them to additional punishments, simply because they are a North Carolina resident. This LT is a perfect example of how our citizens are burdened by this law. He “thought [I] was doing the right thing” by accepting responsibility and paying the ticket.
And he DID do the right thing. This LT is an upstanding, successful representation of North Carolina, as are the thousands of residents that travel throughout the country every year.
You might ask, don’t states have the right to punish how they want? Well, yes and no. Our constitution delineates a separation between federal and state powers. Essentially, states are allowed to govern themselves, but not 100 percent. This law acts as an overextension of North Carolina’s state powers.
States are given the ability to govern the action of their own citizens within their state; however, governing the actions of their citizens in every other state is an over reach of power. Additionally, this law violates the Double Jeopardy clause guaranteed in our constitution.
This clause prevents a citizen from being punished twice for the same crime. When a North Carolina Citizen violates a traffic law in another state, they are subject to the punishment. To punish a North Carolina citizen a second time amounts to a violation of the Double Jeopardy clause.
There is a reason our constitution created a balance between federal and state powers. The combination creates a balance for the American citizen — a balance that helps protect our individual rights. When this balance is thrown off, as in this case, we suffer. It’s time for North Carolina to revise this law, because as is, every resident could suffer, and many already have.