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“My charge was dismissed. Why is it still on my criminal record?”

NORTH CAROLINA EXPUNCTIONS

I’ve been a lawyer for almost 20 years, and one of the most commonly asked questions is why a dismissed criminal charge is still showing on an individual’s criminal record.  During those nearly twenty years of experience, I realize that the law regarding North Carolina expunction law is one of the most misunderstood areas of North Carolina criminal law.

Many people incorrectly believe that their criminal charges are automatically removed from their criminal record when they are found not guilty of those criminal charges or if those charges are dismissed.  In some states, criminal charges that do not result in a conviction are automatically removed from the criminal record.  North Carolina, however, is not one of those states.

So what exactly does it mean when you are charged with a North Carolina crime but not convicted?  It means that if you are applying for a job, an apartment, or even filling out a college application, you are able to answer that you were not convicted of a crime.  However, what it also means is that if a criminal record is reviewed, and an expunction has not occurred, the person, agency, or entity conducting the criminal record check will be able to see the original charges.  In some instances, even when a conviction has not occurred, the criminal charge itself may negatively influence the person who is reviewing your record.

For example, one of my former high school classmates was sharing an apartment with her boyfriend.  One day while she was at work, and her boyfriend was home, the police came to her apartment and ultimately arrested her boyfriend for several North Carolina felony drug charges.  Although she was not home at the time of the arrest, her name was on the lease, and she was also charged with several North Carolina felony drug charges.  Her charges were later dismissed, but she never sought an expunction.

Years later, while applying for a job, she was interviewed and subsequently asked about criminal charges that were discovered during her criminal background check.   Because the charges had been dismissed, she believed that no one would be able to see those dismissed charges.  In addition, I am certain that the person interviewing her wanted to know why she was ever charged in the first place.

My friend’s situation is the perfect illustration of why charges, even when they have been dismissed, can still have an impact.  Therefore, if you have been charged with a North Carolina crime that has been dismissed or there has been a finding of not guilty, I encourage you to speak with a North Carolina criminal attorney with experience in North Carolina expunction law.  An experienced Winston-Salem expunction attorney, with experience in North Carolina expunction law, will guide you through this process to make sure that all of your rights are being protected and that all possible expungement opportunities are being considered.  Please call us at (336) 725-6559 and schedule a free consultation with a Winston-Salem expunction lawyer to assist you.  Our office is located for your convenience in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

 

 

“My license has been indefinitely suspended. What can I do to get my license back?”

Perhaps you have received THAT letter – the one from the DMV which says your license is scheduled for an indefinite suspension.  What has caused you to receive this letter, and what should be your next step?

For most people, the indefinite suspension happens for two reasons:  (1) you failed to appear (FTA) at your scheduled court appearance for a a North Carolina traffic offense or (2) you failed to comply (FTC) with the monetary obligations for a North Carolina traffic ticket that was previously resolved.

Your failure to appear or your failure to pay can have serious consequences which lead to the suspension of your license.  What most people don’t realize, however, is that your North Carolina license isn’t immediately suspended for either reason.  For example, when you initially miss your scheduled court appearance, your ticket is marked as “called and failed”.  As long as your ticket is rescheduled within 20 days, the DMV will not be notified, and thus, you will never get the dreaded, aforementioned letter.

The problem is that most people do not reschedule their North Carolina traffic ticket within 20 days, which then leads to the DMV being notified, and a “failure to appear” being entered.   At that point, their license is still not suspended, however they must now resolve the case within 60 days.  Otherwise, their license will be suspended at 12:00 a.m. on the 60th day.

What I have discovered is that many people confuse resolving the case with rescheduling the case.  As a result, they have the mistaken belief that rescheduling the case halts the suspension process.   Once the “failure to appear” is entered, the case must be rescheduled, disposed, and all applicable court costs, fine, and fees must be paid prior to the date and time indicated in the DMV letter.

The process for suspension is similar when North Carolina traffic tickets are not paid in a timely manner.  Once the speeding ticket or other North Carolina traffic offense is resolved, you must pay the ordered court costs, fine, and applicable fees by the ordered compliance date.  Normally, if you fail to pay within 20 days of that compliance date, the DMV will be notified and a “failure to comply” will be entered.  Once again, the DMV will send a letter of notice which indicates that the person’s North Carolina license will be suspended unless the total amount due is not paid within 60 days.  Once the “failure to comply” is entered, an additional fee of $50.00 will be owed.

Therefore, if your North Carolina license is suspended, or if you have received a North Carolina speeding ticket or some other type of citation for a North Carolina traffic offense, your best option is to call an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about North Carolina speeding and traffic tickets.  By hiring an attorney, you may be able to have this case resolved without ever appearing in court.  In addition, you don’t have to worry about missing work to appear, and your attorney will appear to make sure that you don’t receive a failure to appear.

An experienced traffic attorney, with experience in North Carolina traffic law, will guide you through this process to make sure that all of your rights are being protected and that all of your possible defenses are being asserted.  Please call us at (336) 725-6559 and schedule a free consultation with a Winston-Salem traffic lawyer to assist you.  Our office is located for your convenience in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Woman Sentenced to Eight Years for Smuggling Cocaine on Cruise Ship

Melina Roberge was traveling around the world, and documenting her extravagant lifestyle by posting pictures on Instagram. Her Instagram followers, however, probably had no idea that she was funding this lifestyle by smuggling cocaine.

Roberge was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday after pleading guilty to smuggling 95 kilos of cocaine into Australia.

So what would have been the result if Roberge had been charged in North Carolina?  There are a number of North Carolina criminal laws related to the possession of cocaine, possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine, sell and/or deliver cocaine, and trafficking cocaine.  The type of charge that a defendant will face is based upon the amount of cocaine and the circumstances surrounding the arrest and investigation.

In Roberge’s case, based upon the amount of cocaine, she would have likely been charged with trafficking cocaine.  Under North Carolina criminal law, criminal charges involving the possession of cocaine are distinguished in the following manner:

A charge involving 28–199 grams of cocaine will be charged as as Class G felony.
A charge involving 200–399 grams of cocaine will be charged as a class F felony.
A charge involving 400 or more grams of cocaine will be charged as a class Class D felony.

North Carolina felony drug charges have serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime in Winston-Salem such as possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine (PWISD cocaine) or trafficking in cocaine in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney in Winston-Salem.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney with knowledge about drug charges to review your case and to discuss your options.

Members of Migos’ Entourage Faces Drug Charges After Concert in North Carolina

First of all, let’s be clear.  No member of the Grammy-nominated hip-hip group Migos has been charged.   The group recently performed at Appalachian State University, and police stopped their tour bus after smelling the odor of marijuana coming from the bus.  After the stop, a search of the bus occurred, and that search resulted in the police find 420 grams of marijuana, which is still less than a pound of marijuana.

Two passengers on the bus were charged with misdemeanor drug possession for charges involving marijuana, Codeine, and Xanax.  Jharon Murphy, who is not a member of the group, was charged with the most serious charges.   Murpy was charged with possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana (PWISD marijuana), which is a class I felony.  Under North Carolina criminal law, a person charged with this offense faces a maximum penalty of 24 months in prison.  Does that mean that he automatically faces 2 years in prison for this charge?  Absolutely not.

With structured sentencing guidelines in North Carolina, a person’s prior record is taken into account along with the type of North Carolina criminal charge.  With that sentencing framework, judges are then provided guidance regarding the type of sentence they are able to impose.  In addition, there may be some type of plea bargain that the State and the defendant’s attorney will ask the judge to consider and accept, and that plea arrangement may provide additional terms and conditions for the judge to consider.

In any event, if you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime such as misdemeanor possession of marijuana, possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana (PWISD marijuana), trafficking in marijuana in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties such as Guilford County, Davie County,  or Davidson County), you need to speak with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.  North Carolina felony drug charges have serious penalties and consequences, but you have rights and options.  Please call our office in Winston-Salem at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney with the experience and knowledge about drug charges to review your case and to discuss your options.

Be Careful What You Say…Your Words May Be a Crime

Former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin made headlines a a few years ago when he accused several of his Miami Dolphins teammates of bullying him and creating a hostile work environment. He eventually left the team and has not played in the NFL since 2015.

Martin is now back in the news because he was recently charged with four felony counts of making criminal threats on social media against some of his former teammates and one misdemeanor count of carrying a loaded weapon. He has pleaded not guilty to these charges.

Martin was charged in California, and the maximum punishment that he is facing far exceeds the punishment he would receive in some of the other states. In California, depending on the allegations and circumstances, a prosecutor has the option of charging this offense as felony (maximum sentence up to 4 years) or a misdemeanor (maximum sentence up to 1 year).

So what type of crimes would Jonathan Martin face in North Carolina?  First of all, let’s address the threats he allegedly made online.  Our laws generally designate the crime of communicating threats as a class 1 misdemeanor. As a result, if Martin were charged with only  communicating threats in North Carolina, he would face a maximum sentence of 120 days.  However, because his threat involved a school, Martin’s alleged conduct could result in the class H felony of making false reports concerning mass violence on educational property.  What is interesting about this charge is that the State must prove that the report of mass violence was made, but also that the defendant knew or had reason to know the report was false.  The maximum penalty for a class H felony is 39 months in prison.

With respect to gun charges in North Carolina, North Carolina is an “open carry” state with some obvious limitations and restrictions.  Convicted felons may not carry a gun, and a violation will result in a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon, which is a class G felony and punishable up to 47 months in jail.  Likewise, even if it is lawful for a person to carry a gun, the gun may not be concealed without a concealed weapons permit.   A violation of that concealed weapons permit requirement will result in the charge of carrying a concealed weapon, which is a class 2 misdemeanor and punishable up to 60 days in jail.

Being charged with a North Carolina crime such as communicating threats, firearm by a felon, or carrying a concealed weapon can have serious consequences and penalties.   If you are charged with a North Carolina crime in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties (Davie, Davidson, Guilford, and Yadkin), you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney in Winston-Salem.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney with knowledge about North Carolina criminal charges to review your case and to discuss your options.

Former NBA Player Steve Francis Charged with Public Intoxication

Alcoholism affects so many people, and unfortunately it can lead to other alcohol-related criminal charges such as driving while impaired (DWI), possession of an open container of alcohol, and underage drinking. Alcoholism can also play a role in other criminal offenses where intoxication or the possession of alcohol is not an element of the crime such as assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.

Steve Francis has battled alcoholism for a number of years, and he was recently charged for public intoxication in California.  While public intoxication does not seem like a charge with severe penalties or consequences, the penalty in California is more harsh than in most states. In California,the misdemeanor charge of public intoxication includes a maximum sentence up to six months in jail.

In contrast, North Carolina treats the charge of public intoxication much differently. This charge is still a misdemeanor offense, but it is a class 3 misdemeanor, which is the lowest level of misdemeanor with which a person can be charged. As a result, the maximum penalty in North Carolina for a charge of public intoxication is 20 days in jail.

It is also important to note that simply being intoxicated in public is not enough to be convicted. In order to be convicted in North Carolina, in addition to being intoxicated, the State must prove in N.C.G.S. 14-444 that the defendant was disruptive in one of the following ways:

(1) Blocking or otherwise interfering with traffic on a highway or public
vehicular area, or
(2) Blocking or lying across or otherwise preventing or interfering with access to or passage across a sidewalk or entrance to a building, or
(3) Grabbing, shoving, pushing or fighting others or challenging others to fight, or
(4) Cursing or shouting at or otherwise rudely insulting others, or
(5) Begging for money or other property.

If you are charged with a North Carolina alcohol crime such as public intoxication, underage drinking, driving while impaired (DWI)  in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney in Winston-Salem.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney with knowledge about alcohol charges  such as public intoxication or DWI to review your case and to discuss your options.

Former NBA Player Faces Drug Charges

Most people still don’t realize that the odor of marijuana provides probable cause for the police to search your car or your home. Consider the case of former NBA player, Glen Davis, who was recently arrested on drug charges.  The court records indicate that the reason the police were called was due to the fact that the hotel owner smelled marijuana. After entering Glen Davis’ room, the police found 126 grams of marijuana and $92,000 in cash.

Davis was charged in Maryland, but let’s consider these facts and circumstances under North Carolina law.  The amount of marijuana found in Davis’ room may seem like an extremely large amount until you do the math. It takes 448 grams to equal one pound of marijuana.  It takes an excess of 10 pounds of marijuana to be charged with trafficking marijuana.  Therefore, under North Carolina law, the drug charge that Davis would most likely face is possession with intent to sell and deliver marijuana (PWISD marijuana).  PWISD marijuana is a class I felony, which is the lowest class of felony under North Carolina law.  The maximum punishment is 24 months in prison, however a prison sentence for a class I felony is not mandatory which is quite different from trafficking marijuana.  A conviction in North Carolina for trafficking marijuana includes a mandatory active sentence depending on the amount of marijuana.

According to North Carolina General Statute 90-95(h), here are the following punishments for trafficking marijuana:

a.          Is in excess of 10 pounds, but less than 50 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class H felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 25 months and a maximum term of 39 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000);

b.         Is 50 pounds or more, but less than 2,000 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class G felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 35 months and a maximum term of 51 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000);

c.         Is 2,000 pounds or more, but less than 10,000 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class F felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 70 months and a maximum term of 93 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than fifty thousand dollars ($50,000);

d.         Is 10,000 pounds or more, such person shall be punished as a Class D felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 175 months and a maximum term of 222 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).

Davis’ attorney has issued a statement saying that his clients both maintains his innocence and looks forward to clearing his name of these charges.

North Carolina felony drug charges have serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime such as possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana (PWISD marijuana) or trafficking in marijuana in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney in Winston-Salem.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney with knowledge about drug charges to review your case and to discuss your options.

Former Asheville Police Officer Charged with Assault

In August 2017, former Asheville police officer Christopher Hickman encountered Johnnie Rush and later charged him with jaywalking and resisting a public officer. Hickman’s body camera subsequently revealed conduct which resulted in the former officer being removed from patrol duty. A review of that video also resulted in the Rush’s charges being dismissed. In January, Hickman resigned from the police department on the day he was going to be terminated. Yesterday, a warrant was issued against Hickman for criminal charges of assault by strangulation, assault inflicting serious injury, and communicating threats.

Assault by strangulation is a class H felony with a maximum penalty of 39 months in jail. Assault inflicting serious injury can be a misdemeanor or a felony charge depending on the severity of the injuries. The felony charge for this type of assault is a class F felony with a maximum penalty of 59 months in jail , while the misdemeanor charge for this type of assault is a class A1 misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 150 days in jail. The charge of communicating threats is a class 1 misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 120 days in jail.

If you are charged with criminal charges in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina or one of the surrounding counties, you need an experienced North Carolina criminal law attorney to handle your case.   An experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense lawyer, with experience in North Carolina criminal law, will guide you through this process to make sure that all of your rights are being protected and that all of your possible defenses are being asserted.  Please call us at (336) 725-6559 and schedule a free consultation with a Winston-Salem criminal attorney to assist you. Our office is located for your convenience in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Now That Marijuana is Legal in California, Thousands of Prior Convictions Will Be Dismissed

In 2016, California voters passed an initiative which made it legal to possess marijuana for recreational purposes.  That law paved the way for recreational maijuana sales in January 2018.  Last week, in response to that law, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced that his office would be dismissing thousands of marijuana-related convictions dating back to 1975.  As a result, almost 5000 felony convictions and more than 3000 misdemeanor convictions will be reviewed as a result of this decision.

Although this news is great news for for some California residents, the possession of marijuana is still illegal in the State of North Carolina.  Some of the most common crimes related to the possession of marijuana in North Carolina are the following:

Possession of Marijuana less than 1/2 Ounce – Class 3 misdmeanor

Possession of Marijuana greater than 1/2 Ounce up to 1 1/2 Ounces – Class 1 misdemeanor

Felony Possession of Marijuana – Class I felony

Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver Marijuana – Class I felony

Of course, these crimes don’t include trafficking marijuana, which involve the possession of larger amounts of marijuana and more serious consequences and penalties.  Under N.C.G.S. 90-95 (h)(1), “any person who sells, manufactures, delivers, transports, or possesses in excess of 10 pounds (avoirdupois) of marijuana shall be guilty of a felony which felony shall be known as ‘trafficking in marijuana’ and if the quantity of such substance involved:

     a.         Is in excess of 10 pounds, but less than 50 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class H felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum           term of 25 months and a maximum term of 39 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000);

     b.         Is 50 pounds or more, but less than 2,000 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class G felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum           term of 35 months and a maximum term of 51 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than twenty-five thousand dollars ($25,000);

      c.         Is 2,000 pounds or more, but less than 10,000 pounds, such person shall be punished as a Class F felon and shall be sentenced to a                        minimum term of 70 months and a maximum term of 93 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than fifty thousand dollars                    ($50,000);

      d.         Is 10,000 pounds or more, such person shall be punished as a Class D felon and shall be sentenced to a minimum term of 175 months and a        maximum term of 222 months in the State’s prison and shall be fined not less than two hundred thousand dollars ($200,000).”

North Carolina drug charges involving marijuana  can have varying penalties and consequences depending on the amount of marijuana as well as an individual’s prior record.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime involving marijuana such as Felony Possession of Marijuana, PWISD Marijuana, Trafficking Marijuana or some misdemeanor marijuana charge in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney  with experience handling drug charges.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney to review your drug case involving drug charges and to discuss your options.

 

NEW OPIOID LAW IN NORTH CAROLINA

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in the number of criminal charges related to the abuse and illegal possession of opioid drugs such as hydrocodone and oxycodone.  Studies show that many young people who later used heroin had been previously using some form of opioid medication that is normally obtained by a prescription.   According to research done by the National Institute on Drug Abuse,  nearly 90 percent  of  young opioid drug users “had used opioid pain relievers nonmedically prior to using heroin, and their initiation into nonmedical use was characterized by three main sources of opioids: family, friends, or personal prescriptions.”

As a result, North Carolina has addressed this problem by passing a law that goes into effect on January 1, 2018.  Under the Stop Act, doctors are limited to prescribing five days’ worth of medication for people with acute injuries and seven days’ worth of medication for people who are recovering from a surgery.

Possession of Heroin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone are all class I felonies in North Carolina.  Although a class I felony is the lowest felony class in North Carolina, an individual charged with a class I felony is subject to a maximum penalty of 24 months in prison.  However, an active prison sentence for a class I felony is not mandatory, depending on the individuals’s prior criminal record.  In fact, based upon North Carolina’s felony sentencing guidelines, many individuals who are charged with Possession of Heroin, Oxycodone, and Hydrocodone are also eligible for some form of punishment that does not involve an active prison sentence.

If an individual is charged with Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver (PWISD) Heroin, Oxycodone, or Hydrocone, that individual will then be charged with a class H felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 39 months in prison.  Although a sentence that does not include active prison time is still possible, a conviction for PWISD Heroin, Oxycodone,  or Hydrocodone will likely result in a more severe punishment depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.   Once again, an individual’s prior criminal record will also be considered.  In some instances, an active sentence is mandatory for a class H felony if an individual’s prior criminal record requires the judge to order an active prison sentence.

Finally, depending on the amount of drugs involved, you could also be subjected to a charge of Trafficking.  Trafficking involves possessing larger amount of drugs with the implication that the possession of such a large amount of drugs has occurred by an individual who is somehow engaged in the sale of these illegal drugs.  When an individual is convicted of trafficking, that punishment includes a mandatory active prison sentence, and the potential active prison sentence increases depending upon the amount of drugs that were seized during the arrest.

North Carolina felony drug charges can have serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina drug crime such as Possession of Heroin or PWISD Heroin in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney to review your case and to discuss your options.