Does NC DMV Learn of Convictions in Other States?

(Author’s Note: This post was updated on July 22, 2022, to note that NC DMV reports all in-state convictions for drivers licensed in another state to the state of record.)

If a North Carolina resident with a North Carolina driver’s license is convicted of a motor vehicle offense in Virginia, will the NC DMV learn of the conviction?

Yes.

If a Virginia resident with a Virginia driver’s license is convicted of a motor vehicle offense in North Carolina, will the Virginia DMV learn of the conviction?

Yes.

Keep reading to find out why.

Drivers License Compact. North Carolina and Virginia (along with 43 other states and the District of Columbia) are members of the Drivers License Compact. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.21 – 4.30; Va. Code Ann. § 46.2-483 – 488. This compact is an agreement among states to report motor vehicle convictions to one another when a driver licensed in one member state is convicted in another member state. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.24(a). The purpose of the compact is two-fold: (1) to promote compliance with motor vehicle laws in member states; and (2) to make overall compliance with motor vehicle laws a condition precedent to obtaining or maintaining a license in a member state. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.23(b)(2).

For four types of convictions, the licensing state must treat the out-of-state conviction the same as it would if the conviction had occurred in licensing state. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.24(a).

These convictions are:

  • Manslaughter or negligent homicide resulting from the operation of a motor vehicle.
  • Driving a motor vehicle while impaired.
  • A felony in the commission of which a motor vehicle was used.
  • Failure to stop and render aid in the event of a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death or personal injury of another.

Each of these types of convictions results in license revocation in North Carolina. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-17(a).

In many circumstances, the laws of the two states will not use the same words to define the offenses, but the licensing state is to construe the description from the other state to apply to substantially similar offenses in the licensing state. N.C. Gen. Stat.  20-4.24(a). So, for example, the reporting to North Carolina of a North Carolinian’s conviction of “driving while intoxicated” in Virginia, see Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-266, will trigger NC DMV to impose a one-year license revocation, just as it would had the person been convicted of driving while impaired in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-138.1. See also N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-16(a)(7); Sykes v. Hiatt, 98 N.C. App. 688 (1990) (affirming trial court’s determination that DMV validly suspended the petitioner’s driver’s license based on the forfeiture of his bond — tantamount to a conviction — for DWI charges in South Carolina).

As mentioned above, Driver’s License Compact states report to one another motor vehicle convictions that do not fall within one of the four categories listed above. (Moreover, in practice NC DMV reports all in-state convictions for drivers licensed in another state to the state of record.) When North Carolina receives a report of a conviction that is outside the four categories, its response to those records is governed by N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-23. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.24(b) (providing that N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-23 governs the effect in NC of convictions that are not required to be reported under N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.24(a)). N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-23 provides that NC DMV may revoke the license of any state resident upon receiving notice of an out-of-state conviction for an offense listed in N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-26(a). Those offenses are:

  • exceeding a stated speed limit of 55 miles per hour or more by more than 15 miles per hour,
  • driving while license suspended or revoked,
  •  careless and reckless driving,
  • engaging in prearranged speed competition,
  • engaging willfully in speed competition,
  •  hit-and-run driving resulting in damage to property,
  • unlawfully passing a stopped school bus,
  •  illegal transportation of alcoholic beverages,
  • the offenses included in N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-17, and
  • any serious traffic violation that involves a commercial motor vehicle.

In addition, N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-16(a)(7) authorizes NC DMV to suspend the license of a person based upon records establishing that the person committed an offense in another state that would result in suspension or revocation in North Carolina. A list of the convictions that result in driver’s license revocations in North Carolina is available here.

Note that while the accumulation of points for motor vehicle convictions can lead to the suspension of a North Carolina driver’s license, points are only charged for violations and convictions that take place in North Carolina. N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-16(c).

Non-Resident Violator Compact. The Drivers License Compact is related to, but not the same as, the Non-Resident Violator Compact, of which North Carolina also is a member. The Nonresident Violator Compact requires participating states to report to each other when a driver licensed in one state fails to appear in court or pay the fine associated with a citation, summons or ticket for a traffic violation issued in another state. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-4.18 – 4.20. Upon receiving a report of noncompliance, NC DMV must suspend the person’s license and must notify the person that his or her license will remain suspended until NC DMV receives evidence of compliance with the out-of-state citation. See Palmer v. Wilkins, 73 N.C. App. 171 (1985) (holding that the petitioner had no statutory right to appeal from NC DMV’s suspension of his driver’s license for noncompliance with a South Carolina speeding citation).

Reporting for CDL holders. The rules for reporting violations by the holders of commercial drivers’ licenses are even more comprehensive. All states must report traffic violations by persons who have a commercial driver’s license issued by another state to that other state within 10 days of conviction. They must do the same for persons licensed by another state who are convicted of violating traffic laws by operating a commercial vehicle without a commercial driver’s license. See 49 U.S.C.A. § 31311 (West).

Checking the National Driver Register. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also maintains a National Driver Register. Within that register is a Problem Driver Pointer System (PDPS), which contains information about persons whose driving privileges have been revoked. States are required before issuing or renewing a license to check the National Driver Register to confirm that the person’s driving privileges are not suspended or revoked. 49 U.S.C.A. § 30304 (West).

Your input. I wrote this post in response to an email suggesting that this would be a good topic to review. If you have input about — or corrections to make — to the substance of the post or think it would be helpful to hear about a related topic, please contact me at denning@sog.unc.edu.