Holiday Travel

December 23rd, 2016

colorado-holiday-travel-tips-1This holiday season AAA is expecting 103 million Americans to travel, which is nearly 1.5 million more people than last year. While many people choose to fly to their Christmas destinations, AAA is predicting that more people will be driving this year than previous years. It is very important that those driving, no matter the distance, are prepared for their travel. Make sure you’ve recently gotten an oil change, check your tires to make sure they have the right pressure, never let your gas tank get below ¼ of a tank while traveling, and secure all luggage in your car.

While traveling with a car load of family members, or even alone, traffic can make things very stressful. However, it is very important that you remember that patience is key in these situations to make sure everyone on the roads remains safe. If you need to be at your destination by a specific time, AAA suggests that you leave earlier than you normally would as you should expect delays during this holiday season.

Law enforcement will be on all North Carolina roads through the New Year enforcing their annual Booze It & Lose It campaign. The goal of this campaign is to keep the roads safe this holiday season and help save lives. It is very important that you do not get into a car after you have been drinking as it can have deadly consequences. Last December alone there were 431 fatalities due to car accidents involving a drunk driver. To try to avoid this, there will be an increased number of saturation patrols and checkpoints so that people know they will be stopped and charged if they are drinking and driving over the legal limit. There are several DWI Task Force teams funded by the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program and these officers are responsible for working nightly to catch impaired drivers. These Task Force teams are located in many different counties, including, Brunswick County, NEw Hanover County, Pender County.

Please be safe, smart, and avoid distractions this holiday season! However, if you happen to find yourself in trouble, whether it be a traffic ticket, car accident, or a criminal charge such as an alcohol related offense, please call Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

 

By Kimberlin Murray, Legal Assistant

Mandatory Water Restrictions

October 21st, 2016

waterdrop_003_2Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties are all experiencing mandatory water restrictions that were put into place on October 13th due to a pipe break in Riegelwood. The Lower Cape Fear Water and Sewer Authority’s pipe supplies water to utilities to all three of these counties. This pipe break is affecting areas such as Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, Leland, Wilmington, etc.

The break in the 48-inch pipe is nearly the size of a football and that break alone is causing 12.5 million gallons of raw water to spill through it daily.

One of the main reasons that Brunswick County has declared a state of emergency and is pleading with public water customers to reduce water usage is to be sure there is enough water for emergency needs such as firefighting efforts and hospital uses.

Here are a few tips on how to help conserve water:

  • Limit your shower time
  • Turn off water when not directly using while brushing teeth, washing hands, washing dishes, etc.
  • Only run dishwashers or washing machines when you have a completely full load
  • Limit the number of times you flush the toilet daily

The water flow from Kings Bluff Pump has been cut in half by the break, going from about 24 million gallons of water flow a day to nearly 12 million gallons of water a day. A temporary patch would be ideal in this situation, but they were not able to successfully patch it when attempting to on Wednesday morning.

Since the patch was unsuccessful, crews began constructing a temporary bypass on Thursday morning so that water would go around the break and allow it to keep flowing until the break itself is repaired. This project is expected to be completed sometime next week. The main delay in this repair is that the surrounding counties do not have parts that this break is requiring to fix, so they are waiting on parts to be flown in from other parts of the country.

Car washes have made attempts to save water by reducing their number of open hours each day and the city of Wilmington is holding back on street sweeping and power washing in some areas until the pipe is repaired. If you do see areas throughout the city using their irrigation systems still during this mandatory water restriction, it may be because their water comes from a pond.

Brunswick County Emergency Services are preparing for the worst and are there to help you if needed. They have 480,000 gallons of bottled water on hand, which is equivalent to four days worth of water for residents. Please be safe and make sure you follow all mandatory water restrictions in your area!

 

By Kimberlin S. Murray, Legal Assistant at Collins Law Firm

Hurricane Matthew

October 6th, 2016

max_web_trop_atl14_swath_1280x720North Carolina residents have been keeping a close eye on Hurricane Matthew this past week.  On Monday, Governor Pat McCrory issued a state of emergency for 66 North Carolina counties, including New Hanover County, Brunswick County, and Pender County.  This hurricane was supposed to directly hit the coast, but the latest forecast track shows that this powerful storm is expected to make a sharp turn to the east as it nears the North Carolina Coast. This sharp turn is caused by an upper level trough which will move towards the eastern United States and force the hurricane away from moving up the east coast. It will also likely weaken into a Category 1 hurricane by this point.

Evacuation orders remain in place because Hurricane Matthew is still expected to brush our coast and could still bring damaging winds and flooding. To ensure safety, The University of North Carolina Wilmington has even issued a mandatory campus evacuation for all students starting Thursday at 12 p.m.

Although things are looking better for North Carolina, areas such as Wilmington, Southport, and Oak Island may still encounter dangerous weather conditions, so it is best to continue to be over-prepared. Here are a handful of tips that the Red Cross suggests you do to be prepared for a hurricane:

  • Bring in anything that can be picked up by the wind (lawn furniture, bicycles, etc.)
  • Fill your car’s gas tank
  • Talk with your family and create an evacuation plan so that you are always prepared
  • Make sure you have at least a 3-day supply of water
  • Make sure you have flashlights, batteries, and a first aid kit
  • Drive only if necessary and avoid flooded roads

These dangerous weather conditions may cause more traffic accidents and traffic citations, so we encourage everyone to be safe and extra cautious on the roads this weekend.  However, if you or someone you know gets into an accident or receives a traffic ticket, please give us a call at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

 

By Kimberlin S. Murray, Legal Assistant at Collins LAw Firm

Think Twice Before Using a Fake ID

September 20th, 2016

fake-idYou may want to think twice before using a fake ID in New Hanover or Pender County from now on.  Starting October 1, you will face more penalties in court if you are caught using a fake ID.

District Attorney Ben David announced some changes to the underage drinking deferred prosecution program dealing with fake ID’s to try to make things a little bit more serious.  Today, the program includes a requirement where defendants have to go to New Hanover Regional Medical Center on a Friday night to be exposed to some of the trauma resulting from drinking and driving. They also are required to spend a couple of hours in DWI treatment court for educational purposes. In addition to these requirements, those who are charged with a fake ID offense after October 1st will have their license taken by the court for 60 days.

These changes are not only put in place to do things such as combat identity theft, but also to save lives.  Statistics show that other states that also enforce these types of programs have seen a 7% reduction in fatal accidents. When put into perspective, that is equal to saving one young person’s life per week.

Some people under the age of 21 pay nearly $200 to order a fake ID online and are giving away crucial information to their identity such as their social security and license number. Not only do these things put them at risk for identity theft themselves, but it is very dangerous. These ID’s have become extremely difficult to spot in the recent years, but bars, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. are starting to crack down and become better at detecting fake ID’s.

We encourage all high school and college students in New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, and surrounding counties to be safe and never purchase or use a fake ID. However, should you find yourself in trouble and need to hire a lawyer or know of someone who does, Collins Law Firm can help. Give us a call at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

 

By Kimberlin Murray, Legal Assistant

 

Back to School – School Bus Safety

August 30th, 2016

School_Bus_Stop_Law_400This week, many North Carolina children said goodbye to their summer break and began the 2016-2017 school year.  For many students, this involves riding a school bus to and from school. There are thousands of school buses traveling North Carolina highways daily, which means that it is incredibly important for drivers to pay attention to the road and avoid distractions in order to keep everyone safe.

It is extremely important for drivers to be cautious, aware, and patient on the road, especially around crosswalks, schools, and buses at this time of the year.

Drivers are required by law to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers, but it is also important for parents to inform their children to stop and look both ways when getting on or off of the school bus, just in case a driver does not stop for the stopped bus for any reason.

Everyone must stop if it is a:

  • Two-lane road (with or without turning lane)
  • Four-lane road with no separation
  • Center turn lane with less than 4 lanes

Only drivers following the school bus need to stop when there is a:

  • Center turn lane with at least four other lanes
  • Four lane road or more with a median or some sort of physical boundary

According to North Carolina State Law (N.C.G.S. 20-217), a driver must stop when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, the driver of any other vehicle that approaches the school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area shall bring that other vehicle to a full stop and shall remain stopped. The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.

Consequences for motorists who fail to comply with school bus safety rules:

  • $500 penalty and five-point penalty to your driver’s license if you pass a stopped school bus
  • Minimum fine of $1,000 and a Class I felony if you pass a stopped school bus and strike someone
  • Fine of $2,500 and a Class H felony if someone is killed

If you or somebody you know receives a citation for not complying with school bus safety rules or face any other kind of traffic or criminal charges in our area, Collins Law Firm can help. Please give us a call at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Kimberlin Murray, Legal Assitant at Collins Law Firm

Distracted Driving

August 22nd, 2016

distracted_driving2The National Center for Statistics and Analysis reports that approximately 1200 are injured and about 8 are killed every day in the U.S. in car accidents involving a driver who has been distracted.  Drivers can be distracted by activities such as texting; eating and drinking; talking to passengers; grooming; using in-vehicle technology; etc.

Texting however is considered especially distracting because it requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver.

In order to address distracted driving in our hometown, Wilmington Police Department initiated a campaign this week during which its Traffic Unit will closely monitor drivers who are preoccupied by using their phones, eating, or other activities.  Officers will stop distracted drivers to educate them on the dangers of distracted driving and they will take appropriate action depending on the circumstances.

We urge you to be a responsible driver and pay attention to the traffic when you operate a motor vehicle.

However, should you or somebody you know receive a citation for texting while driving or other distracted driving activities, Collins Law Firm can help you—call us at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

 

By Jana H. Collins, Legal Assistant

Stay Safe this July 4th Weekend!

July 2nd, 2016

fireworks_gifWith an expected crowd of 20,000 flocking to Wrightsville Beach and neighboring hot spot Masonboro Island this July 4th weekend, local law enforcement are going to be increasing their presence as well. This year will see the cooperation of multiple law enforcement agencies working to ensure the safety of beachgoers and boaters alike. The Wrightsville Beach Coast Guard Station at the island’s south end will be the site of an incident command center operated by a joint force of Wrightsville Beach police officers and deputies from the New Hanover County Sherriff’s office, tasked with covering both the Wrightsville beachfront and Masonboro Island. Along with keeping an eye out for underage drinking and disruptive behavior, officers will also be seeking to target illegal water taxi service, for which fines can range up to $10,000 for captains ferrying without certification.

The likelihood that an officer issues an alcohol related ticket rather than a warning is also to rise, as officers are being instructed to disperse more charges as opposed to the large number of warnings that characterized last year’s holiday weekend. However, despite the increased law enforcement presence, over several thousand boaters are still expected to fill Wrightsville Beach’s waterways this weekend.

So no matter what your plans are this holiday weekend, remember to be safe, and always use your best judgment when planning your holiday activities. However, should you find yourself in trouble or know of someone who does, Collins Law Firm can help. Give us a call at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Clifford E. Howie, Legal Assistant

Buckle Down & Buckle Up

May 24th, 2016

Battleship_and_flag_on_river-webMemorial Day is right around the corner, and for those of us near the coast, this means considerably higher traffic along our thoroughfares as vacationers flock to the beach for the holiday weekend. Ranking as one of the top ten most visited states for domestic travel, NC commonly experiences increased roadway congestion. What this weekend should also remind us of, however, is the extreme importance of automobile safety as our loved ones submit themselves to the mercy of their fellow drivers among our state’s highways. This sentiment is echoed by Governor Pat McCrory, who has officially declared May Seat Belt Safety Awareness Month. At 42% percent, almost half of passenger vehicle fatalities last year can be attributed to drivers or passengers not wearing seat belts.

To this end, the Governor’s Highways Safety Program features the continuance of the State’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign intended to increase seat belt usage by raising awareness of NC’s strict seat belt policies: charging up to $179 in fines per ticket and even up to $263 per passengers 15 and under not wearing their seat belt. The initiative also features the increased likelihood of police checkpoints on the roads intended to make sure drivers are buckling up.

On the other hand, for drivers leaving the coastal area, here are a few helpful pieces of traffic information courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Transportation to expedite your commute:

  • N.C. 42 will have a signed detour, road closure and bridge replacement east and west of Ahoskie Creek in Hertford County.
  • N.C. 94 will have a road closure and bridge construction on Elementary School Road at U.S. 64 in Tyrrell County.
  • U.S. 158 will have two-lane two-way traffic on the Pasquotank River Bridge in Pasquotank County.
  • I-85 will have lane closures in both the northbound and southbound lanes traffic between the Virginia line and the town of Henderson. The pattern affects traffic in Vance and Granville counties.
  • U.S. 23/74 will have a bridge replacement in Jackson County.
  • N.C. 294 will have portable traffic signals in Cherokee County.

As always, remember to start your commute early in the day to avoid peak traffic hours, obey the posted speed limits, never drive when feeling tired or drowsy, and needless to say, buckle up!

Have a great Holiday weekend, and stay out of trouble; but if you do find yourself in need of representation or know someone else who does, be sure to give us a call at Collins Law Firm (910) 793-9000.

By Clifford Howie, Legal Assistant

 

NC Good Samaritin Law

April 18th, 2016

Help-Bring-Good-Samaritan-Laws-to-Your-State-Partnership-for-Drug-Free-KidsThe Good Samaritan Law (now effective in 20 states) went into effect in North Carolina on April 9, 2013. The basis for the law is overdose prevention and survival – get help, CALL 911! Individuals who experience or witness an overdose can now seek help for the victim without being prosecuted for small amounts of drugs/drug paraphernalia, or alcohol for persons under 21 years old under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 18B-302.2 Medical treatment; limited immunity. Additionally, as of August 1, 2015, a person who seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose cannot be considered in violation of probation, condition of parole, or post-release. Likewise, the victim is protected. In order for the immunity to apply, however, the 911 caller must provide his or her name, and act in good faith when seeking assistance, and reasonably believe that he or she is the first person to call for help.

According to a recent statewide survey conducted by the North Carolina Human Resources Center, 88% of North Carolinians say they feel more comfortable calling 911 with this law in effect. With over 44.000 people dying each year in the United States due to drug overdose, one can only hope that this law will help save lives in North Carolina.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Dealing With An EEOC Complaint

April 1st, 2016

EEOCWhen one files a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) it then becomes the agency’s responsibility to determine whether or not there is reason to believe that discrimination took place. Both the Charging Party (complainant) and the Respondent (defendant) are given an opportunity to provide information and explain what happened. The EEOC requests that the Respondent submit a statement of position, or position statement, with supporting evidence to prove why they do not deserve to be charged. Here are the guidelines, as recommended by the EEOC, on how to create an effective position statement:

  • Focus on the facts, be clear and concise.
  • Address each alleged discriminatory act and your position regarding it and provide copies of documents supporting your position and/or version of the events.
  • Provide a description of the organization; include the organization’s legal name and address, the name, address, title, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for responding to the charge, the primary nature of the business, and the number of employees. A staffing or organizational chart is also useful in helping to focus the investigation.
  • Provide any applicable practices, policies or procedures applicable to the allegations in the charge.
  • Identify any individuals other than the Charging Party who have been similarly affected by these practices, policies or procedures; describe the circumstances in which the practices, policies, or procedures have been applied.
  • Explain why individuals who were in a similar situation to the Charging Party were not similarly affected.
  • Identify official(s) who made decisions or took action relating to the matter(s) raised in the charge.
  • Be specific about date(s), action(s) and location(s) applicable to this case.
  • Provide internal investigations of the alleged incidents or grievance hearing reports.
  • Inform EEOC if the matter has been resolved or can be resolved; if it can be resolved, please indicate your proposal for resolution.

Please be mindful of confidential information when preparing the statement, described below:

Respondent should segregate the following information into separate attachments and designate them as follows:

  • Sensitive medical information (except for the Charging Party’s medical information).
  • Social Security Numbers.
  • Confidential commercial or confidential financial information.
  • Trade secrets information.
  • Non-relevant personally identifiable information of witnesses, comparators or third parties, for example, social security numbers, dates of birth in non-age cases, home addresses, personal phone numbers, personal email addresses, etc.
  • Any reference to charges filed against the Respondent by other charging parties.

Supporting documentary evidence is also important. You may submit statements or affidavits from witnesses with direct knowledge of the alleged events and/or from the alleged harasser responding to the Charging Party’s allegations.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Wilmington NC Lawyer - Attorney David Collins - Licensed in North and South Carolina since 1993

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