A few years ago, my babysitter texted me that she was going to be late because she had been pulled over by a police officer on the way to our house. When she arrived, I was in full-on substitute parent and attorney mode. Are you okay, I asked? What happened? She was nonplussed by the whole affair. Her registration had expired a few months before. She hadn’t noticed. The officer explained that if she renewed her registration and provided proof of that to the assistant district attorney on her court date, the charges would be dismissed. Oh, I said (slightly deflated that she needed absolutely no input from me—a so-called expert). But she did have to go to court to clear all this up. And that required parking in downtown Raleigh on a weekday, finding her way to the appropriate courtroom and standing in line to pay her ticket. A new procedure, soon to be rolled out statewide by the Administrative Office of the Courts, will do away with this last step, preventing hundreds of thousands of citizens from having to appear in court to have their motor vehicle law charges dismissed upon proof of compliance with the law.
The new procedure is called ECAD, short for Electronic Compliance and Dismissal.
Here’s how it works. A driver cited for any of the following eight offenses will have the option of making an on-line request for dismissal of the charges once he or she has obtained or renewed his or her license or registration:
- No operator’s license (G.S. 20-7(a))
- Failure to carry a valid driver’s license (G.S. 20-7(a))
- Driving with an expired license (G.S. 20-7(f))
- Driving with no or an expired inspection (G.S. 20-183.8(a)(1))
- Driving or allowing another to drive a vehicle without displaying a current registration plate (G.S. 20-111(1))
- Driving or allowing another to drive a vehicle without or with an expired registration (G.S. 20-111(1))
- Displaying a canceled, revoked or suspended registration plate (G.S. 20-111(2))
- Willfully displaying an expired license or registration plate (G.S. 20-111(2))
The citation issued to the driver will inform him or her that he or she “may be able to request dismissal online at OnlineServices.NCCourts.org.”
ECAD connects directly to the computer systems maintained by the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles. As a result, a person charged with an eligible offense will be unable to submit a request for a dismissal unless ECAD verifies compliance with the underlying inspection, license, or registration requirements.
The requests will be submitted to the district attorney, who may then act upon the request. The requester receives an email notifying him or her as to whether the request for dismissal has been granted or denied.
ECAD will be available in Wake County beginning in May 2016 and will be implemented statewide in July 2016. The program is expected to reduce foot traffic in courthouses across the state. The Administrative Office of the Courts estimates that in some counties, ECAD eligible offenses account for 30 percent of traffic cases. It may also lead to a happier motoring public.