Probation Violations

Remember Ethan Couch? He was driving drunk when he was 16 years old and killed four people. However, instead of going to jail, he was placed on probation after his attorneys successfully argued that he suffered from affluenza. Essentially, his lawyers claimed that he was unable to understand the consequences of his actions because of his financial status and/or privilege.
 
He later fled to Mexico and violated his probation, and his case was subsequently transferred to adult court.  Although Couch’s case happened in Texas, probation violation cases have a lot of similarities regardless of the state where the violation occurs.  For example, once a defendant is placed on probation, all of the terms and conditions of that probation must be followed in order to avoid having the probation revoked and the sentence or judgment activated.  Sometimes, even if a violation is found, additional terms and conditions may be added or the probation period may be extended to allow additional time to complete the terms and conditions that were previously ordered.
If you are charged with a North Carolina probation violation in Forsyth County or one of the surrounding counties, you need to speak with an experienced Winston-Salem criminal lawyer to represent you.  Please call us at (336) 725-6559 and schedule a free consultation in office which is located in downtown Winston-Salem.

Woman Charged with Animal Cruelty for Taping a Dog’s Mouth Shut

A  woman is facing a misdemeanor charge of Cruelty to Animals in Wake County District Court for allegedly taping her dog’s mouth shut.  The investigation began after Katharine Lamansky allegedly duct-taped her dog’s mouth and posted the pictures on Facebook.  Animal control officers investigated and  have not taken the dog from Ms. Lamansky after noting that the dog was not injured and was “well cared for.”

In North Carolina, a charge for animal cruelty is a class 1 misdemeanor.  As a result, the maximum punishment is 120 days in jail. If you are charged with animal cruelty or some other North Carolina crime, you need an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney.  Please call us today for a free consultation at (336) 725-6559 in our office which is located in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  In addition to Forsyth County, we also handle cases in the counties of Davidson, Davie, Guilford, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin.

NC Supreme Court Says No Facebook for Sex Offenders

Sex offenders who are registered in North Carolina are already prohibited from going certain places and doing certain things. The North Carolina Supreme Court recently added another restriction. On Friday, the Court ruled that sex offenders are also prohibited from accessing social media sites such as Facebook.

The obvious question is who is required to register.   Under North Carolina law, any person who has a “reportable conviction” and who resides in North Carolina, moves to North Carolina, or is a nonresident student or nonresident worker in North Carolina must maintain registration.  A “reportable conviction” is  a final conviction for a sex offense against a minor, a sexually violent offense, or an attempt to commit any of those offenses.  Some of the most common offenses include but are not limited to the following:  rape, indecent liberties with a minor, and sexual battery.

If you are charged with a sex offense or with some other crime in Forsyth County, North Carolina, you need an experienced and aggressive North Carolina criminal defense lawyer.  Call our office today, which is located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation.

 

Jury Selection

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Foster vs. Chatman. In this case, the central issue to be determined is whether black jurors were improperly excluded due to their race. The Supreme Court has previously held in the case of Batson v. Kentucky that excluding jurors based on their race is unconstitutional. If we’re really serious about reforming the criminal justice system, all aspects of our system have be considered, and jury selection is an important part of the process.

In North Carolina, if you are charged with a misdemeanor, your trial occurs in District Court.  Therefore, in addition to making decisions about evidence and other criminal procedure issues, the presiding judge also serves as the jury and renders a verdict.   If a defendant is found guilty in District Court, the defendant may then appeal that decision within ten (10) days to Superior Court.   In Superior Court, the misdemeanor appeal result in a trial in front of a jury who will then have the duty of rendering a verdict.  If a defendant in North Carolina is charged with a felony, that trial will always take place in Superior Court, and once again with the option of having a jury trial.

Being charged with a crime is a serious matter, and if you go to trial, jury selection is an important part of that process.  If you are charged with a crime in North Carolina, call our office at (336) 725-6559 for a free consultation with an experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney to discuss all of your rights and options with respect to your case.

DRUG PARAPHERNALIA:  A MODEST PROPOSAL

While there are many laws that I would like to see modified, perhaps one of the laws that is most deserving of modification is the offense of possession of drug paraphernalia.  According to North Carolina General Statute 90-113.22, “it is unlawful for any person to knowingly use, or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, package, repackage, store, contain, or conceal a controlled substance which it would be unlawful to possess, or to inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the body a controlled substance which it would be unlawful to possess.” So what is drug paraphernalia?  Under North Carolina General Statute 90-113.21, drug paraphernalia is defined as “all equipment, products and materials of any kind that are used to facilitate, or intended or designed to facilitate, violations of the Controlled Substances Act, including planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, and concealing controlled substances and injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing controlled substances into the human body”  Along with this broad definition, the statute also lists several specific examples of items that are classified as drug paraphernalia.  Some of those examples include scales, plastic bags, rolling papers, pipes, and bowls, just to name a few.   The fact that the possession of drug paraphernalia is unlawful is not surprising.  However, the possible punishment for the possession of drug paraphernalia is surprising and may lead to unfair and nonsensical results in some cases.

Let’s start with the basics.  Any individual who is convicted of the possession of drug paraphernalia shall be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, which means that a conviction for this offense may result in a possible maximum jail sentence of 120 days.  This sentence may not seem that unfair for an individual who is also charged with a felony drug offense or a misdemeanor drug offense which is also a class 1 misdemeanor.  However, the unfairness becomes apparent for an individual who is charged with a class 3 misdemeanor along with the offense of possession of drug paraphernalia.  An individual charged with a class 3 misdemeanor faces a possible maximum sentence of only 20 days, and one example of a class 3 misdemeanor drug offense is the possession of up to one-half  ounce of marijuana.  In many instances, individuals who are charged with a class 3 possession of marijuana are also carrying or storing that marijuana in a plastic bag or that individual is also in possession of rolling papers or cigar papers to smoke the marijuana which is currently in their possession.

In that scenario, individuals who are charged with both the class 3 misdemeanor possession of marijuana and class 1 misdemeanor of paraphernalia (plastic bags, cigar papers, or rolling papers) actually face more time for possessing paraphernalia than for actually possessing drugs.   Let me repeat that.  A defendant can receive a possible maximum sentence of 120 days for a plastic bag that was being used to carry or store the marijuana, but that same defendant only faces a sentence of 20 days for the marijuana that was being stored in that same bag.  If the legislature has already determined that an individual who possesses one-half ounce of marijuana or less should be exposed to no more than 20 days in jail (a class 3 misdemeanor), then does it really make sense in that scenario that the punishment for possessing the accompanying paraphernalia charge should exceed the possible punishment for the drug possession offense? After all, possessing plastic bags, rolling papers, and cigar papers alone doesn’t constitute a violation of our criminal laws.  The possession of these items only becomes unlawful once drugs are involved.

Therefore, I would propose the following modification.  In those instances, where the drug possession offense only constitutes a class 3 misdemeanor, the possession of drug paraphernalia would likewise only be punishable as no greater than a class 3 misdemeanor offense.  However, the law would remain unchanged where the drug possession offense results in a conviction of either a class 1 misdemeanor or felony.  In those instances, the possible maximum punishment for possession of drug paraphernalia would still remain as a class 1 misdemeanor.

The possession of drug paraphernalia is a serious misdemeanor offense with serious penalties and consequences.  If you are charged in North Carolina with the possession of drug paraphernalia or any other felony or misdemeanor drug offenses, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer in North Carolina who is able to assist you.  Please call me today for a free consultation in my office, which is located in downtown Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

****UPDATE – On December 1, 2014, the North Carolina legislature changed the law to distinguish between marijuana paraphernalia and paraphernalia for all other drugs.  Now, under N.C.G.S. 90-113.22A, the charge of marijuana drug paraphernalia is punishable as a class 3 misdemeanor.