North Carolina Criminal Law 20-157(f) – Unlawfully Passing an Emergency or Public Service Vehicle

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Legally reviewed by:
King Law
May 4, 2023

In North Carolina, if you see an emergency or public service vehicle giving a warning signal with lights while parked or standing within 12 feet of a roadway, you must either: (1) move your vehicle to the furthest lane until clear, if it’s safe and won’t interfere with traffic, or (2) slow down and be prepared to stop until you have passed the vehicle if you can’t safely change lanes. Failing to do so is considered negligent driving and can result in traffic citations and fines.

At King Law, we often represent clients cited for violations like this. Our lawyers can help you understand the charges, work with the court and other parties, and fight to keep your record clean. In this article, we’ll discuss what you need to know about what happens when you violate N.C.G.S. § 20-157 (f) in North Carolina.

What Is North Carolina General Statute § 20-157?

N.C.G.S. § 20-157 is a state general statute sometimes known as the “Move Over Law” or “Officer Jason Quick Act”. It covers the rules for how drivers should respond when they encounter an emergency or public service vehicle that is giving a warning signal with lights while parked or standing within 12 feet of a roadway. Additionally, it outlines several definitions of the types of official vehicles that one must give the right-of-way and includes a list of the appropriate responses that drivers must take when they see one of these vehicles.

In essence, an official vehicle that drivers must yield to is defined as any vehicle owned by a government agency, such as a police car, fire truck, game warden, rescue squad, or ambulance. It also includes any vehicle owned by a public utility, such as a tow truck or utility truck.

In addition to giving guidance on not blocking official vehicles from performing their duties, N.C.G.S. § 20-157 (f) outlines the consequences of not slowing down or changing lanes for emergency vehicles that are stopped on the side of the road. This section of the statute is the most commonly violated, and it states that drivers must either move to the furthest lane away from the vehicle if they can safely do so or must slow down and be prepared to stop until they have passed the stopped vehicle.

What Is the Definition of a Public Service Vehicle Under N.C.G.S. § 20-157?

Emergency vehicles, as defined under North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) § 20-157, are any publicly owned or operated vehicles used to respond to emergencies. This includes, but is not limited to, police cars, fire engines, ambulances, and rescue vehicles used for:

  • Helping with wrecks or disabled vehicles
  • Utility services (electric, cable, telephone, communications, and gas)
  • Collecting refuse, solid waste, or recycling
  • State or local government-owned or contracted highway maintenance vehicle operating an amber-colored flashing light authorized by G.S. 20-130.2.

Wreckers must have an amber-colored flashing light visible from 500 feet and activate it during an accident or recovery operation or when towing a vehicle wider than 96 inches. Other vehicles, such as maintenance, construction, or REACT vehicles, can also use a similar warning light.

It’s generally illegal for vehicles to use flashing or strobing amber lights while in motion. Still, there are exceptions for law enforcement, emergency response vehicles, oversize loads, DOT-required situations, vehicles impeding traffic, and during a state of emergency.

What Are the Consequences of Violating N.C.G.S. § 20-157 (f)?

If a driver fails to obey the instructions in N.G.C.S. § 20-157 (f), they may be subject to citation for a negligent driving infraction. In North Carolina, this infraction comes with a $250 fine. However, if the negligent act results in an accident, the consequences can be more severe and can include fines, points on the driver’s license, and even criminal charges. Depending on your violation, these can include:

  • Fines and court costs: These can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars.
  • Points on your driver’s license: Points can remain on your record for up to three years and can lead to increased insurance rates and even license suspension or revocation.
  • Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license: In more serious cases, you may be required to surrender your license for a set period or even permanently.

In 2019, the law was amended to the “Officer Jason Quick Act” which was named after Officer Jason Quick who died after a vehicle struck him as he was working an accident scene. The amendments increased the penalties for violating the law. If a driver fails to slow down or change lanes away from a parked emergency vehicle and causes an excess of $500 in damages, the driver will automatically be charged with a Class I felony, regardless of whether the injured party died as a result of the injuries. The penalties for a Class I felony include three (3) to twelve (12) months in jail and fines as imposed by the court. 

If the injured party dies as a result of their injuries, the driver will automatically be charged with a Class F felony, which carries a much heftier sentence of ten (10) to forty-one (41) months in jail. Additionally, the driver will have their license suspended for up to six (6) months.

Get Help Navigating North Carolina Vehicle Violations With King Law 

Traffic violations can carry serious consequences, including fines, court costs, points on your driver’s license, and increased insurance rates. At King Law, we understand that mistakes happen and that even the most law-abiding citizens can find themselves in a legal bind. We provide experienced legal representation to clients facing traffic charges.

Our experienced lawyers can help you negotiate a favorable resolution to your traffic charges. We’ll review all the evidence and work to get the best possible outcome for your case and minimize any negative impacts on your record. Contact us at (888) 748-5464 or (888) 748-KING or fill out our contact form today to learn more about how we can help you with your North Carolina traffic violations.

Legally reviewed by:
King Law
Carolina Attorneys
May 4, 2023

This blog post has been reviewed and verified by legal experts at King Law. Our team is dedicated to providing premium legal services with compassion, innovation, trust, and advocacy. Serving Western North Carolina and Upstate South Carolina, we offer flexible meeting options and strive to exceed client expectations with high-quality legal representation and exceptional client relationships.

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