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Archive for June, 2011

Texting while Driving in North Carolina

Monday, June 27th, 2011

When Americans get into their car for their commute to work, to drop the kids off for school, or for any other reason, they are likely to either talk on their cell phone or use text messaging. Just this morning when our summer intern drove the 55 miles from Sunset Beach, NC (Brunswick County) to Wilmington, NC (New Hanover County) on Highway 17 passing through Ocean Isle and Bolivia, he told me he counted twenty-two people who were texting on their cell phone.

Texting while driving is quite dangerous for three reasons: 1) You are taking your eyes of the road; 2) You are taking your hands off the wheel; and 3) You are taking your mind off what you’re doing.  A study released by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that truck drivers who were texting were 23 times more at risk of a crash or a near crash event than drivers who were not distracted.  Additionally, the study found that texting took a driver’s focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which is enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.

Studies like these have caused state legislatures across the country to pass legislation banning text messaging while driving. In June 2009, the North Carolina Governor signed new legislation, § 20-137.4A, which banned text messaging by all drivers who operate a vehicle on a public street, highway, or public vehicular area.  This bill makes it unlawful to read email, text message, use your camera, or look up information on the internet.  However, the law has a number of exceptions where it does not apply: 1) If you are parked, 2) If you are a law enforcement officer, a member of a fire department, or the operator of a public or private ambulance; 3) If you are using a factory-installed or aftermarket GPS or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; and 4) If you are using a voice operated technology.

Since December 1, 2009, a violation of this law shall be an infraction and shall be punishable by a fine of $100 plus court fees.  The violation will not add points to your driving record and an insurance surcharge will not be assessed.  Additionally, failure to comply with the provisions shall not constitute negligence per se or contributory negligence per se by the operator in any action for the recovery of damages arising out of the operation of a vehicle.

The new law is quite difficult to enforce.  WWAY News Channel 3 reported that Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said, “You assume that someone’s texting, when in fact they could just be dialing a phone number, which technically is legal.”  In the first six months of the new law only 300 tickets had been given to drivers in North Carolina.  In New Hanover County only 12 had been issued.  The Wilmington Police Chief believes the law is “dumb” and said, “we ought to ban the use of cell phones – period.”

If you have been issued a citation because you were texting while driving, or have been charged with any other traffic violation or crime in Southeastern North Carolina, in Wilmington, NC, New Hanover County, or the surrounding areas including Bolivia, NC, Brunswick County, Burgaw, NC, or Pender County, you should contact a lawyer or attorney at Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a consultation.

The process to fill the judicial vacancy left by the tragic loss of The Honorable John Joseph Carroll, III

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Last month on May 25, 2011, Judge John Joseph Carroll, III passed away shortly after learning he had pancreatic cancer at only 50 years of age. His death was unexpected to almost everyone, and he is dearly and sorely missed by those of us left behind.  Judge Carroll was extremely well respected and there was a huge turnout at the services to honor his life. He was a man who honored God, his family, and his country.  “He was happiest when he was serving others,” said the Rev. Jeff Nichols. “The attendance is a tribute to the respect this community had for this great man.” His beloved wife, Charlene, said:  “He was a great, great family man . . . . His hobby and his sport was just hanging out with the children.”

On June 6, 2011, Jenna F. Butler, President of the 5th Judicial District Bar sent out a Notice of Special Meeting to Select Nominees for District Court Vacancy to the members of the 5th Judicial District Bar which is comprised of New Hanover County (County Seat Wilmington NC) and Pender County (County Seat Burgaw NC). The Notice read: Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §7A-142 and Article XI of the Bylaws of the Fifth Judicial District Bar, notice hereby is given that a SPECIAL MEETING OF THE FIFTH JUDICIAL DISTRICT BAR will be held on WEDNESDAY, JUNE 22, 2011 at 5:30 p.m. in Courtroom 403 of the New Hanover County Courthouse for the sole purpose of selecting nominees to submit to the Governor to fill the District Court Vacancy occasioned by the unfortunate loss of The Honorable John J. Carroll, III. The notice also contained the following note: We regret the expediency of this notice and meeting so soon after Judge Carroll’s passing. This was not our preferred timeframe and no disrespect is intended. By statute, our membership must submit its nominations within thirty (30) days of the date of the vacancy or the Governor may fill the vacancy without our input. Thank you for your understanding.

On Wednesday, June 22, 2011, lawyers and Judges from the 5th Judicial District Bar met Wednesday at the New Hanover Courthouse and voted for the top three candidates for the new district court judge, to be appointed by the Governor of North Carolina – Beverly Perdue. The Wilmington Star newspaper reported that from the list of candidates, the group of attorneys selected three.  The candidate with the most votes was attorney Robin Wicks Robinson who narrowly lost a judicial race in November 2010 and has twice previously been nominated for judicial vacancies.  The other two candidates selected were Nora Hargrove, an assistant public defender for the New Hanover County Public Defender’s Office, and Kent Harrell, a Burgaw attorney who’s practice includes family law, civil litigation and criminal defense.

John Edwards Indicted for Illegal Campaign Contributions

Friday, June 10th, 2011

It was reported that on June 3, 2011 former Presidential Candidate John Edwards was indicted on four counts of illegal campaign contributions and charges of conspiracy and false statements after federal prosecutors said he used more than $900,000 from his 2008 presidential campaign to cover up his affair with staffer Rielle Hunter and the birth of their daughter. Edwards was ordered to give up his passport.  So it is likely that as this case move forward, Edwards will either be at his home in Chapel Hill, NC or at his beach house in Figure Eight Island, NC, which is just north of Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover County.

The Wilmington Star News reported that Edwards pleaded not guilty to these charges. Edwards defense team says the money he received from his former campaign finance chairman were personal gifts, while the indictment said the payments were a scheme to protect Edwards’ White House ambitions. The indictment stated that, “A centerpiece of Edwards’ candidacy was his public image as a devoted family man.

John Edwards of Robbins, North Carolina came into the national spotlight in the 1980s and 1990s as a successful trial lawyer. He repeatedly won millions of dollars for his clients.  Later he and another attorney created their own firm. He was elected to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate in 1998, and ran for President in 2004 and 2008. During Edwards’ 2004 presidential run he came to Wrightsville Beach, NC to mingle with North Carolinians at the beach crowd.  His activities during his 2008 campaign for President are what are under scrutiny.

The National Enquirer, a tabloid newspaper, first reported the extramarital affair in 2007, but both Edwards and Hunter denied its truth. The mainstream media ignored the story because they said there was no evidence showing it was true.  In August of 2008, Edwards admitted to the affair, but denied he was the father of the child. It was not until January of 2010 that Edwards admitted he was the father.

The federal investigation took more than two years and searched every moment of Edwards political career to examine if he did anything improper. The focus of the investigation had been on the hundreds of thousands of dollars that two of Edwards’ supporters had provided him. This money went to keep Hunter and her baby in hiding in 2007 and 2008.

The legal case against Edwards will focus on whether the money that his two supporters spent to keep his mistress in hiding were campaign contributions that should have been reported publicly, or private gifts from friends. If convicted he faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.

Memorial Day Weekend

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Americans were not discouraged by high gas prices, which at $3.77 a gallon was one dollar a gallon higher compared to last year, and took to the road this past weekend in enormous numbers to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend.  According to a  AAA report 34.9 million travelers journeyed at least 50 miles from home, which was an increase of 100,000 travelers compared to the same weekend last year.  The report declared that 41 percent of the people traveling in the South Atlantic region went to a beach.

In North Carolina that meant that people came to our beautiful beaches up and down the coast.  North Carolinians spent the holiday weekend at the beaches in Pender County, New Hanover County, and Brunswick County.  The beaches in our area that saw a dramatic rise in population this past weekend was Surf City, Topsail Beach, Wrightsville Beach, Kure Beach, Carolina Beach, Holden Beach, Ocean Isle Beach, and Sunset Beach.

The increase in driving led to more dangerous conditions on the roads.  The roadways going to and from the beaches had many traffic jams because so many people descended on the beaches in our part of the state.  In addition to more cars clogging the roads, people were more likely to be drinking and driving.  The North Carolina Highway Patrol announced that at least nine motorists died during the Memorial Day Weekend.  Last year, eleven motorists died and 358 people were injured in car accidents.

The Star News (Major newspaper in Wilmington, NC) published before the holiday weekend that the Wilmington Police Department would host a multi-agency traffic checking station on Sunday afternoon and evenings.  Officers involved in the operation will target impaired driving as well as underage possession of alcohol, open containers of alcohol, or failure to use seatbelts.  It is highly recommended to find experienced attorneys or lawyers to help you if you were caught in one of these checkpoints.

If you were hurt in a car accident, or you were charged with any crime or issued a traffic citation during the Memorial Day Weekend in or around Wilmington, NC scheduled for court in New Hanover County, Brunswick County (Bolivia, NC), or Pender County (Burgaw, NC), you should contact a lawyer or attorney at Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a consultation.