CHARLOTTE, NC – For the first time, NBC Charlotte cameras were allowed inside traffic court at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse recently as part of our ongoing “Streets of Speed” series targeting dangerous and speedy drivers.
On the day our cameras were allowed in, the docket featured a woman charged with going 92 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone.
“We’ll see speeds of 130, 135, 140,” said Bruce Lillie, Assistant District Attorney in administrative courtroom 1130, or “traffic court” as it’s widely known.
Most weekdays, a line of 700 to 1,300 people forms outside the courtroom before 9 a.m. The line is filled with people who have speeding tickets, compliance issues and more serious criminal misdemeanors, making their first court appearance. Those with minor violations and relatively clean criminal histories are often met with by assistant district attorneys in the hallway.
In many instances, the cases are dismissed before they enter the courtroom.
“I’m not sure they’ll always get what they want. But we speak to them about the case before it goes to trial court…If someone’s got a really high speed or somebody’s got a bad record, or as the cases get more serious, we’re not going to be making plea offers on those cases,” explained Lillie.
Otherwise, defendants enter the first of two rooms, all part of Courtroom 1130. It looks more like an auditorium, with assistant district attorneys standing at the front and the defendants sitting in what would be the audience seats. In minor traffic cases, the A.D.A. may reduce a traffic ticket or assign someone to driving school. In those cases, the defendants are free to leave court afterwards.
If not, the remaining few, more serious, cases go in front of a judge in a small courtroom. These cases usually include driving while intoxicated, driving without a license or excessive speeding.
Standing in a long line is not the only option. The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office also offers an online traffic resolution center where you can resolve some minor traffic citations.