“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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

Felony Sentencing: I was charged with a felony. Is it mandatory that I go to jail?

One of the most common questions that I often receive is whether someone who is charged with a felony is required to go to prison.  The simple answer is “no”.  However, the answer is still more complicated that you think.

In North Carolina, individuals who are convicted of felony crimes are subjected to felony sentencing guidelines.  As a result, to determine whether an individual is required to serve an active sentence depends on two factors:  the class of felony and the individual’s prior criminal record.  Therefore, although a judge has a lot of discretion, the guidelines also assist the judge in determining the type of judgment that may be ordered.

For example, felonies in North Carolina range from class A (most serious) to class I (least serious).  All criminal charges are obviously serious matters, but the type of punishment varies greatly from the most serious class A felony (murder) to the lease serious class I felony (possession of cocaine, possession of marijuana, etc.)

After determining the class of felony, it is then necessary to determine the individual’s prior criminal record.  For certain prior convictions, an individual will receive certain points, and those points will ultimately determine the individual’s record level for sentencing purposes.  The judge will then consider the felony conviction and the record level and issue a judgment based on the felony sentencing guidelines.

A felony conviction in North Carolina carries serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged with a North Carolina felony in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with a Forsyth County criminal defense attorney to represent you.  Please call our office at (336) 725-6559 to speak with an experienced and aggressive Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney.

 

Penalty for Unnecessary Roughness: Panthers Fan Charged with Simple Assault

The manner in which the Carolina Panthers lost to the Philadelphia Eagles was ugly.  However, the conduct displayed by one Panthers fan during the game was even worse.  During the game last Thursday, Kyle Maraghy was caught on tape punching another fan.  As a result of that conduct, Maraghy was later arrested and charged with simple assault.

In North Carolina, simple assault is a class 2 misdemeanor.  As a result, the maximum punishment for this crime is an active jail sentence of 60 days in jail.  By comparison, the crime of simple assault carries the same maximum punishment as carrying a concealed weapon, resisting/delaying a public officer, and disorderly conduct.

If you are charged with simple assault 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.

Have you previously been denied an expunction in North Carolina? Now, you may be eligible.

A criminal conviction has lasting consequences, and there are many people who could dramatically improve their lives if they were able to expunge a previously dismissed criminal charge or a prior criminal conviction from their criminal record. However, due to a new law in North Carolina, some of those people will now receive the relief and assistance they have been so desperately seeking. On December 1, 2017, new expunction laws in North Carolina will take effect that will provide broader relief for people who are looking to have their criminal records expunged. Although many people will remain ineligible for an expunction, the new law will be quite beneficial in two meaningful situations.

First, under current North Carolina law, North Carolina General Statute 15A-146 allows for one expunction for charges which are either dismissed or where there is a finding of “not guilty”. As a result, if a person is charged with multiple offenses which are later dismissed or there is a finding of “not guilty”, that person is prevented from expunging multiple offenses unless these offenses “occurred within the same 12-month period of time or if the charges are dismissed or findings are made at the same term of court”. However, under the new law, an individual will now be entitled to an unlimited number of expunctions whenever a charge is dismissed or there is a finding of “not guilty”.

Consider the following scenario:

A defendant was charged with Possession of Marijuana Less than 1/2 Ounce, a class 3 misdemeanor, on January 1, 2014. After a trial, the defendant was found “not guilty”. For the purpose of this hypothetical scenario, let’s imagine that the same defendant was then subsequently charged with Misdemeanor Larceny, a class 1 misdemeanor, on March 4, 2016. Let’s also imagine that his larceny charge was dismissed six months later after the defendant successfully completed the Deferred Prosecution Program.

Under the current law, the defendant in the previous scenario would be forced to choose which charge he would want to expunge from his criminal record. However, under the new North Carolina expunction law, the defendant will able to expunge both charges from his criminal record and still be able to expunge any future charges that are either dismissed or where there is a finding of “not guilty”.

The second situation in which the new North Carolina expunction law will be more beneficial involves individuals who are trying to expunge a prior criminal conviction. Expunging a criminal conviction in North Carolina is more difficult than most people realize because it depends on the type of crime which led to the conviction, the amount of time that has passed since the conviction occurred, a person’s age at the time of the offense, and whether there have been other criminal convictions. North Carolina General Statute 15A-145 allows for expunctions for certain misdemeanors if the offense was committed prior to the individual’s 18th birthday and for some additional misdemeanors that were committed prior to the individual’s 21st birthday. N.C.G.S. 15A-145 remains unchanged by the new expunction law.

The new expunction law, however, directly addresses which convictions are eligible for expunction under North Carolina General Statute 15A-145.5. Under current North Carolina law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145.5, certain non-violent felonies and misdemeanors are eligible to be expunged regardless of the person’s age at the time of the offense.  For those qualifying misdemeanors, the new law reduces the waiting period to file for the expunction from 10 years to 5 years. For those qualifying felonies, the new expunction law reduces the waiting period to file for the expunction from 15 years to 10 years. For both situations, however, that filing period does not begin until “after the date of the conviction or when any active sentence, period of probation, and post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later”.

To illustrate how the new expunction law, as opposed to the current expunction law, would apply to some qualifying criminal offenses, please consider the following hypothetical scenario:

On October 15, 2002, a defendant was charged with Felony Larceny, and the defendant was over the age of 18 at the time of the offense. The defendant pleaded guilty to that felony in Forsyth County District on December 2, 2002. As a result, the judge sentenced the defendant to supervised probation for 24 months, and the defendant successfully completed the probation. Therefore, the December was released from probation in December 2004. Let’s assume for the purpose of this hypothetical situation that the defendant did not have a prior record prior to this charge, and the defendant has not been charged or convicted of any subsequent criminal offenses.

Under current North Carolina expunction law, the defendant in the above-referenced scenario would not be eligible for an expunction of this conviction until some time in December 2019 – fifteen years after his probation has ended. However, with the new North Carolina expunction law reducing the filing period to 10 years for prior qualifying felony convictions, that defendant will be eligible to petition for his record to be expunged on or after December 1, 2017.

The changes to our current law are promising because this law will now benefit countless people and finally allow them to move past the hindrance that is often caused by not having a clean criminal record.  Hopefully, this change in our North Carolina expunction law is the first of many changes that will provide even greater expunction eligibility for more people who are seeking to have their record expunged in North Carolina.

If you are interested in having your record expunged in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, North Carolina or one of the surrounding counties in North Carolina, you need an experienced North Carolina criminal expunction attorney to handle your case.   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.

 

Revenge Porn: It’s Classless and Illegal

With the advent of cell phones with cameras and the increasing popularity of social media, acts of revenge against ex-spouses, ex-girlfriends, and ex-boyfriends have become more widespread. Unfortunately, it has become more commonplace for people to commit these acts of revenge by displaying nude and/or sexually explicit images of their ex on the internet. This form of revenge is known as “revenge porn”, and it has been a hot topic lately due to Rob Kardashian allegedly posting nude images of his ex-girlfriend, Blac Chyna.

To combat these acts of “revenge porn”, most states have enacted laws, and generally these laws makes it a crime to disclose private, sexually explicit images of another person without that other person’s consent. Just in case you’re wondering, North Carolina also has a law addressing “revenge porn”, and that law has recently been amended to include even more scenarios.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a North Carolina crime in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney to represent you.  A Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney, with experience in North Carolina law, will guide you through this process to make sure that all of your rights are being protected.  If have been charged with a  crime in North Carolina, please call us at (336) 725-6559 and schedule a free consultation with a Winston-Salem criminal defense lawyer to assist you.  Our office which is located for your convenience in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Possible Change to Carrying a Concealed Weapon in North Carolina

Under current North Carolina (N.C.G.S. 14-269), it is a class 2 misdmeanor to carry a conceal gun without possessing a concealed carry permit.  A second or subsequent offense, shall result in a Class H felony, which carries a maximum sentence of 39 months in prison.  Currently however, a bill to eliminate this concealed carry permit requirement has passed through the North Carolina State House, and this bill is now being considered in the North Carolina State Senate.

If you or someone you know has been charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon or some other North Carolina crime in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney to represent you.  A Winston-Salem criminal defense attorney, with experience in North Carolina law, will guide you through this process to make sure that all of your rights are being protected.  If have been charged with a  crime in North Carolina, please call us at (336) 725-6559 and schedule a free consultation with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal defense lawyer to assist you.  Our office which is located for your convenience in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.