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Collins Law Firm :: Blog

Halloween Weekend 2020

October 30th, 2020

As Halloween Weekend 2020 approaches, the Governor’s Highway Safety Program’s annual Booze It & Lose It Campaign is in full swing through early next week. The campaign partners with law enforcement across the State to not only enforce traffic laws by setting up sobriety checkpoints in all 100 counties, but to also raise awareness and educate the public on how dangerous it is to drive distracted or impaired.

Since October sets off the holiday season, it is considered one of the deadliest months of the year with respect to traffic accidents, according to the Highway Safety Program. As individuals head out to go to costume parties and trick or treating, there are higher chances for drunk driving and pedestrian accidents.

In addition, this weekend marks the end of Daylight Savings Time in North America, so we get an extra hour to party, eat candy, and watch Halloween movies, but do not forget to turn your clocks back an hour!

Also, as COVID restrictions continue to be enforced, some individuals may wonder how they can celebrate Halloween safely, and with minimal social contact with others who are not in their household. Some creative ideas could be to wear a Halloween face mask to pass out candy, or to make individual candy bags for trick or treaters to pick up on their own. Another idea could be to transform your front yard into a candy graveyard, leaving the candy around a path for kids to collect. There are also printable signs online that you can hang on your door to inform your neighbors that you are safely passing out candy this year.

We hope that everyone has a fun, but safe, Halloween weekend! However, if you find yourself in need of an attorney because you or someone you know has been hurt in an accident, or was charged with a traffic violation or crime in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick Counties, call Collins Law Firm at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation about how we can help you.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Easier Access to a Clean Record

October 6th, 2020

In December 2017, the availability of the expunction (or expungement) process for convictions had been drastically improved by Senate Bill 445.  Now we are looking at yet more changes. On June 25, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 562, a.k.a. The Second Chance Act, which will ease previous requirements, allowing even more individuals with a criminal history to have a chance at clearing their record. While some changes become effective December 1, 2020, the most sweeping changes – the automatic expunction of dismissals or acquittals by operation of law – will not become effective until December 1, 2021.  Below are a few examples of the modifications to the expunction laws that will apply to offenses committed by individuals of at least 18 years of age:

In addition to felonies and misdemeanors, infractions will be eligible for expunction as long as the charges were dismissed or for which a finding of not guilty or not responsible was entered.  Also, it will no longer be required that the person had not previously been convicted of a felony to pursue an expunction for a dismissed or not guilty charge.

Felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions that were dismissed or for which a finding of not guilty or not responsible was entered on or after December 1, 2021, will be automatically expunged by operation of law, not requiring a petition.

Also, pursuant to The Second Chance Act, a person may file a petition for expunction of more than just one nonviolent misdemeanor convictions, but in that case will have to wait seven years rather than only five years in order to do so.

The team at Collins Law Firm has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Phase 3 Reopening in North Carolina

October 2nd, 2020

North Carolina will enter Phase 3 of easing COVID-19 restrictions, and this new phase will be effective at 5:00 p.m. on Friday, October 2, 2020, lasting until at least October 23, 2020.

Under Executive Order 169, Governor Roy Cooper announced on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, that bars will be able to open for limited outdoor capacity only, and movie theatres, amusement parks, and outdoor venues will also be able to open with 30% capacity, or 100 people, whichever is less. If a bar does not have a visible stated outdoor occupancy, no more than seven guests are allowed for every 1,000 square feet of the outdoor area’s square footage. The statewide 11:00 p.m. alcohol curfew will remain in place until at least October 23, 2020.

All outdoor stadiums that can seat more than 10,000 people will only be allowed to open to 7% capacity. The limits on mass gatherings will remain at 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors.

Governor Cooper commented on the new phase of reopening, “I believe that North Carolina can do this safely. But so I am clear, every gathering carries the risk of spreading this disease. Being safe means being smart and making sure others around you are doing the same.”

State and public health officials will continue to keep an eye on COVID-19 trends over the next several weeks to discuss if any additional restrictions can be lifted when Executive Order 169 expires October 23, 2020. 

As reopening accelerates, more people will be going to events and drinking with friends at bars, and the chances of getting in serious trouble, or being in an accident with serious injuries will increase significantly. We hope it will not become necessary, but if you or a loved one find yourself in need of an attorney for a serious personal injury, or you get into trouble with a criminal matter, or receive a traffic ticket in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick County, please give our office a call for a confidential consultation. We also handle wills and estates with our of counsel attorney, Mitch Baker. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Personal Injury

August 28th, 2020

With the uncertainty surrounding us from the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, the burden of serious injuries from an accident are the last thing that anyone wants to experience. An accident can happen in a split second and can have life altering consequences, no matter who is at fault.

Personal injury law deals with individuals who have been injured, physically or otherwise, resulting from the negligence or wrongdoing or another person. Personal injury attorneys generally have more experience and are more knowledgeable handling cases within the area of law involving torts. A tort (a French word for wrong) is a civil wrong in which a duty (such as the duty of reasonable care) to another is breached, and that breach causes damages to a person. When someone breaches their duty of care, such as causing an accident in traffic, the plaintiff is entitled to compensation for any injuries sustained in the accident.

In order to get the maximum amount of recovery for plaintiffs, personal injury attorneys should prepare the case in the beginning as if it were going to trial. This will protect the case if a trial proves to be necessary, and it will show the insurance company and/or the defense counsel what would be proven at trial.

We at Collins Law Firm regularly represent victims of car wrecks and help maximize monetary or money damage recoveries for our clients, while also minimizing the stress and uncertainty that is involved with these types of cases. We hope it is not necessary, but if you or someone you know and care about has been injured in a car wreck, please call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a free consultation.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

When Traffic Signals Are Not Working Properly

August 5th, 2020

In the aftermath of Hurricane Isaias, many traffic signals were off due to the loss of power in many areas, and it appeared as if many drivers were unsure about what to do in this situation.  North Carolina General Statute §20-158 (b)(6) provides as follows:

“When a traffic signal is not illuminated due to a power outage or other malfunction, vehicles shall approach the intersection and proceed through the intersection as though such intersection is controlled by a stop sign on all approaches to the intersection. This subdivision shall not apply if the movement of traffic at the intersection is being directed by a law enforcement officer, another authorized person, or another type of traffic control device.”

If you approach a major intersection with multiple lanes of travel, then the vehicle that arrived first has the right of way.  When two vehicles arrive at the same time, then the vehicle to the right has the right of way and gets to proceed first.

Please make sure to be familiar with the laws governing the use of the roads in North Carolina in order to stay safe and avoid violations which could result in fines, driver license and insurance points. 

However, should you or someone you know receive a citation for a traffic violation in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington, NC, in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, contact Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins

NC State Highway Patrol’s Move Over Campaign

July 29th, 2020

Just recently, since June 6, 2020, six troopers have been sent to the hospital with a range of injuries due to separate collisions in which other motorists struck Highway Patrol vehicles. The failure to obey by the move over laws of our State contributed to five our of these six incidents. On Monday, July 27, 2020, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol launched their Move Over Campaign to gain compliance with the Move Over laws by motorists in an attempt to prevent future collisions.

Often, drivers appear to be unsure about what they are expected or required to do.  Therefore, please make sure to become familiar with these laws, and protect those who risk their lives to protect us:

Upon the approach of an emergency vehicle “giving warning signal by appropriate light and by audible bell, siren or exhaust whistle, audible under normal conditions from a distance not less than 1000 feet”, North Carolina General Statue (N.C.G.S.) §20-157(a) provides that “the driver of every other vehicle shall immediately drive the same to a position as near as possible and parallel to the right-hand edge or curb, clear of any intersection of streets or highways, and shall stop and remain in such position unless otherwise directed by a law enforcement or traffic officer until the law enforcement or fire department vehicle, or … shall have passed. Provided, however, this subsection shall not apply to vehicles traveling in the opposite direction of the vehicles herein enumerated when traveling on a four-lane limited access highway with a median divider dividing the highway for vehicles traveling in opposite directions, and provided further that the violation of this subsection shall be negligence per se. Violation of this subsection is a Class 2 misdemeanor.”

With respect to fire apparatuses, N.C.G.S. §20-157 provides in subsections (b), (c), and (d) that it is unlawful to follow too closely when it is traveling in response to a fire alarm, to park too close to where a fire apparatus has stopped to answer an alarm, or to drive a motor vehicle over or block a fire hose or any other equipment being used at a fire.

When an authorized emergency vehicle is parked or standing within 12 feet of a roadway and is giving a warning signal by appropriate light, N.C.G.S. $20-157(f) provides that:

  • Move the vehicle into a lane that is not the lane nearest the parked or standing authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle and continue traveling in that lane until safely clear of the authorized emergency vehicle. This paragraph applies only if the roadway has at least two lanes for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching vehicle and if the approaching vehicle may change lanes safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic.
  • Slow the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for traffic conditions, and operate the vehicle at a reduced speed and be prepared to stop until completely past the authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle. This paragraph applies only if the roadway has only one lane for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching vehicle or if the approaching vehicle may not change lanes safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic.

With the amendment of N.C.G.S. §20-157 effective December 1, 2019, the penalty for those who violate the State’s Move Over Law causing serious injury or death by violating this section have increased—a violation resulting in damage to property or injury to a law enforcement officer or emergency response person is now a Class 1 misdemeanor pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-157(h), which carries a maximum punishment of 120 days;  a violation resulting in serious injury or death to a law enforcement officer or emergency response person is now a Class I felony pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-157(i), which carries a maximum punishment of 24 months.

Be attentive and considerate and obey by the laws governing the use of our roadways in order to protect lives and save yourself the headache of facing charges, court costs, fines, and potential insurance increases. However, should you receive a traffic ticket in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick County, call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation. We are here to help!

By Jana H. Collins, Office Manager

New Expunction Laws on the Horizon – Second Chance Act

June 15th, 2020

In December of 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process had been drastically improved by Senate Bill 445, and now we are looking at even more changes to become effective December 1, 2020 lifting previous requirements, and allowing for a second chance in even more scenarios.  Below are a few examples of the revisions to the expunctions laws applicable to offenses committed by persons age 18 or older:

  1. In addition to felonies and misdemeanors, infractions will be eligible for expunction from a person’s official records as long as the charges were dismissed or for which a finding of not guilty was entered.  Also, it will no longer be required that the person had not previously been convicted of a felony.
  2. Dismissals or findings of not guilty of felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions on or after December 1, 2021, will be expunged by operation of law, not requiring a petition.
  3. More than one conviction of non-violent misdemeanors can be expunged after a seven-year waiting period.

The team at Collins Law Firm has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility.

PS.: On June 25, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 562.

By Jana H. Collins

100 Deadliest Days of Summer

June 11th, 2020

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), beginning around the first week of June, the 100 deadliest days of summer has begun. This period of 100 days, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, got this nickname due to the high number of crash fatalities involving teen drivers, compared to the rest of the year. Now that restrictions are being slowly lifted across the State, it is especially important to understand road safety. Distracted driving, speeding, drinking and driving, and reckless driving are all contributors to serious accidents, and they are all preventable. A careless mistake such as distracted driving is all it takes to cause an automobile accident, and in the blink of an eye, the lives of those involved could be changed forever. 

Everybody could potentially become a personal injury victim, but the risk to sustain serious injuries is especially high for children and elder people.

Some accidents unfortunately even result in fatalities causing unimaginable heartbreak to those left behind. 

Sadly, tragic results of automobile accidents cannot be undone.  However, monetary compensation can help to recover damages.  Treatments for personal injuries resulting from an automobile accident can become very expense, and there may be lasting effects. Because of this, in North Carolina, as in most states, drivers of automobiles are required to have liability insurance, providing protection against claims resulting from injuries and damage to people and/or property. 

Even if the driver of the vehicle who caused an accident resulting in injuries had no insurance, you still may be able to recover under your own policy as long as you have uninsured coverage. The laws and regulations related to insurance are complex and if you are injured in an accident involving an automobile or tractor trailer, you should contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney immediately.

We at Collins Law Firm regularly represent victims of car wrecks and help maximize monetary recoveries for our clients. If you or someone you know and care about has been injured in a car wreck, or if you have lost a loved one in an automobile accident, please call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a free consultation.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

“Phase 2.5” – Reopening of North Carolina

June 10th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has announced a “Phase 2.5” of reopening our State set to be effective this Friday, June 12, 2020. This phase could increase restaurants’ maximum seating capacity, and open up bars and gyms with maximum capacity restrictions. This also means that some small business owners will be able to return back to work after all this time of uncertainty.

During these unprecedented times, the unemployment rate in the United States has risen to 13.3% as of the end of May – up from 3.6% in January 2020. As millions of Americans are without employment, they are scrambling to find work to make ends meet and pay their bills.

For those with a criminal record, finding a job can be difficult, and even more so during the times of a pandemic and our economic recovery. It is more important now than ever to have a clean background when searching for employment. Even if you were charged, and the charge was dismissed, the fact that you were charged will remain on your record unless you have it expunged.

An expunction, or expungement, is a legal action in which the petitioner or plaintiff seeks that the court destroys or seals prior criminal convictions from Federal or State official records. Until December 1, 2017, an individual could pursue an Expunction only once in their lifetime in the state of North Carolina. However, with the ratification of Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process has been drastically improved effective December 1, 2017. Unless an individual has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges that individual can get expunged off their record as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

The sooner you get the process started, the sooner your record will be clear, and the sooner you can apply for jobs with confidence. Your record will look more appealing to potential employers, and you will feel better knowing that your record is clear.

David Collins has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Teen Level 2 – Road Test Requirement May Be Waived Effective July 1, 2020

June 4th, 2020

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, House Bill 1189 which was introduced on May 26, 2020, passed the 3rd Reading in the North Carolina House of Representatives.  It received 107 Ayes and only 13 Noes.  If approved by the Senate, the bill would receive the signature of Governor Roy Cooper, and then go into effect at the beginning on July 1, 2020.

Level 2 Teen Drivers would still have to provide proof of financial responsibility or proof of insurance by providing a Form DL123 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), but “the Division of Motor Vehicles shall waive the requirement that an applicant pass a road test in order to obtain a limited provisional license if the applicant meets all other requirements for the limited provisional license.”

Once the NCDOT resumes regularly scheduled road tests again, or 180 days from the effective date of this bill, whichever comes first, the road test waiver will end.

By Jana H. Collins