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Back to School – School Bus Safety

Tuesday, 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shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.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

Buckle Down & Buckle Up

Tuesday, 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

Monday, 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

Put down that mobile phone!

Monday, February 15th, 2016

no_cell_phoneAccording N.C.G.S. § 20-137.4., it is unlawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle while using his or her mobile telephone to text or email, with just a few exceptions as follows: if the driver is parked or stopped, if the means of communication are required for law enforcement to fulfill their duty/duties, for the use of factory-installed or GPS systems, or with the use of voice technology. Everyone knows that texting while driving is illegal, much thanks to the many preventative texting while driving campaigns have launched nationally such as “It Can Wait, “ and the “Safe Texting Campaign.” But what about all of the other distractions  that put drivers at risk, like taking selfies, Instagramming, and Facebook? Although just as distracting and fatal, these types of behaviors are rarely reprimanded by law enforcement officers because there are no clear cut statutes that define these violations.

Realistically, as long as humans operate vehicles, there will be distractions, and especially as technology advances. Virginia is currently making an effort to crack down on the use of mobile phones while driving.  Last week a legislative panel in VA approved a bill that bans drivers from “manually selecting multiple icons or enter multiple letters or text in [a handheld personal communications device].” The ban also eliminates entry of icons be used as “means of communicating with another person,” and finally to “read any information displayed on the device.”

Regulating mobile phone use by drivers, although, is really a tough job for legislatures. Think about it, every time a new law is presented, by the time it becomes effective software developers have a new program or app that is more popular anyway, often making the old law meaningless. Consider the Virginia plan above, for instance. Where’s the rule on taking selfies while driving?

14 states have outlawed the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle all together, leaving a lot of gray area for the 36 other about what you can do with your phone while driving.  An interesting idea maybe North Carolina should consider – what about expanding the Careless and Reckless statute to include making any and all distracting behavior citable?

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Holiday Flotilla & NC Boating While Impaired

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

BWIThe Wrightsville Beach 32nd annual North Carolina Holiday Flotilla is upon us! Many Wilmingtonians look forward to this water-based event every Thanksgiving weekend, as family and friends come together to eat, drink, and celebrate the holiday together. Whether you have a boat entered in the contest or will be watching from land, it may be beneficial for you to be up-to-date on North Carolina’s laws against Boating While Impaired, commonly referred to as “BUI” or “BWI”.

G.S. 75A-10(b1) forbids the operation of any vessel while on NC waters under the following circumstances: (1) while under the influence of an impairing substance; or (2) after having consumed sufficient alcohol that the person has, at any relevant time after the boating, an alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more. Additionally, G.S. 75A-10(b) bars a person from “manipulat[ing] any water skis, surfboard, nonmotorized vessel, or similar device on the waters of this State while under the influence of an impairing substance.” One charged in violation of either of these two statutes is subject to being convicted of a Class 2 misdemeanor.

There are many similarities between the laws and consequences associated with DWIs and BWIs. One major difference, however, is that a BWI is not an implied consent offense – meaning, that while operating a vessel/surfboard/waterskii, you are not required by law to consent to a breathalyzer test as you are when suspected of drinking and driving. So what happens if your boat is pulled over and you are asked by an official to “blow” into the breathalyzer? In NC, this situation is more an analysis of the Fourth Amendment (prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures), rather than a statutory regulation. If one consents to a breathalyzer, obviously the need for a warrant is void. But keep in mind, refusing a breathalyzer may carry a double-edged sword in the likely event that upon refusal, the official becomes more suspicious and aggravated and thus proceeds to obtain a warrant. As decided by State v. Fletcher (2010), if an official suspects that one’s blood alcohol content may decrease while trying to obtain a search warrant, he or she is permitted to conduct a blood alcohol concentration test.
If convicted of a BWI, the consequences aren’t favorable. This charge isn’t one that you can simply pay off like a traffic ticket, but rather, a misdemeanor that will remain on the record for the rest of your life. Recreational boaters are subject to have their boater license suspended and face insurance increases, for both the boat and all automobiles on the policy.

It is best to treat operating a boat just as you would a vehicle – don’t drink and drive! Nonetheless, if you or someone you know is caught in a situation such as this or similar, call us today to schedule a consultation to speak with our knowledgeable and experienced attorney (910) 793-9000.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Now or Never – DWI Expunction

Friday, September 25th, 2015

NO EraserAs a prelude to this text, please keep in mind that we are referencing DWIs currently eligible for expunction (i.e., those convicted of a DWI that were released from supervision 15 or more years ago) under N.C.G.S. § 15A-145.5.

The window of opportunity for having your DWI conviction expunged is closing fast! Under S.L. 2015-150, DWIs will no longer be eligible for expunction in North Carolina as of December 1, 2015. Whether you plan to file a new petition or you have a petition pending, as of December 1st there will be no questions as to whether your request for DWI expungement will be granted or denied.

Interestingly enough, it will be exactly 3 years on December 1, 2015 since North Carolina passed a law permitting the expungement of DWIs, under N.C.G.S. § 15A-145.5—certainly not much time to have your DWI expunged!

We’ve mentioned in previous posts the severity of DWI consequences in North Carolina. If you or someone you know was released from DWI supervision 15 or more years ago, please call us at 910-793-9000 to discuss your expungement eligibility. Here at Collins Law Firm, time is of the essence! Call us today to schedule a consultation.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

2015 Labor Day Weekend

Friday, September 4th, 2015

Labor DayIt’s finally here, a three-day weekend! Although for most of us Labor Day weekend marks unofficial end to summer, it’s also a great time to catch up with family and friends at the beach and spend some quality family time before it starts to cool off.
If and as you travel, keep in mind that this is one of the most traffic heavy weekends all year. Officials say about 1 million Tar Heel state residents are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, 86% of those will be driving—but here we have good news! According to AAA Carolinas, the average gas price in North Carolina is now $2.22 per gallon. This time last year it was over a dollar more.

Although traveling this year will be more economical than last, the laws and consequences associated with the dreadful DUI/DWI have gotten nothing but worse. So, whether you’re traveling locally to relax at the beach or headed out of town, remember to drink responsibly and don’t drive!

Law enforcement officials said they are going to keep a close eye on you this Labor Day weekend to make sure everyone has a safe and fun holiday. NC State Highway Patrol said they have teamed up with the NC Wildlife Commission to crack down on impaired driving this weekend.

Their “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign which was kicked off on Thursday September 3rd and conclude at midnight on Monday, September 7th. Highway Patrol also launched their ‘Booze it & Lose It’ campaign on August 21. Sgt. Pope with the Highway Patrol said they have arrested 41 people for driving impaired in New Hanover and Brunswick counties throughout the last week and they plan to over-staff law enforcement this weekend.

North Carolina is well-known nationwide for having some of the most severe DUI/DWI consequences in the country.

Here at Collins Law Firm we wish you all a safe and fun Labor Day Weekend.

If you or someone you know is in need of representation for a traffic or DWI/DUI offense, please give Attorney David Collins a call. With over 20 years of experience, we are able to help you in most matters! Call us at 910-793-9000.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Landlord/Tenant – Avoid Conflict

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Tenant-LandlordFor many, renting is preferred over owning a home; one has minimal responsibilities in maintaining the property, the renter avoids property tax and home-owners insurance, and has flexibility in commitment to the property. While renting is mostly hassle-free, conflict can arise between the tenant and the landlord. These situations can cause a great deal of stress for both parties. In order to avoid or properly manage these conflict situations, it is essential to know your rights as both a renter and landlord.
North Carolina Law states:
A landlord must:
• Make any repairs needed to keep your home in safe condition
• Keep the plumbing, heating, sanitary and electrical equipment in proper working order
• Provide smoke alarm(s) and Carbon Monoxide detectors in accordance with legal standards
• If the landlord provides certain appliances, like a stove or a refrigerator, he or she must fix them if
they break
• Keep the stairs, sidewalks and areas that are used by everyone in the building in safe condition
• Obey local housing codes. Many towns and counties have passed laws that describe what a fit and safe place should have, such as window screens, hot and cold water, door locks and more. These laws are called the “Housing Code.” To find out if your town or county has a Housing Code and what the Code says, call your town hall or county inspections office
• Inform you if he or she sells the property
• Tell you in writing of any complaints about the way you are treating the property
A tenant must:
• Pay your rent on time as described in your lease
• Keep the property as clean and safe as possible. Get rid of garbage in a clean and safe way. Keep the plumbing (sinks, toilet, bathtub) clean to prevent damage
• Not damage your place or let anyone visiting you damage your place. Remember: If your guest damages your place, you may be responsible. Your landlord may not have to fix damages caused by you or your guest. Your landlord may bill you for the repairs
• Give your landlord notice if you decide to move out at the end of your lease. If you have a written lease, usually the amount of notice required is stated in the lease. If not, North Carolina law states that proper notice is:
– 2 days if you pay rent every week
– 7 days if you pay rent every month
– 1 month if the lease is year-to-year
– 30 days if you own a mobile home and rent the lot
Notice does not have to be in writing, but it is always better to write the landlord a dated letter, include the date you plan to move, and keep a copy of the letter for your records.
Remember: A tenant can be evicted for the following reasons:
• Non-payment of rent- The landlord must demand the rent and wait 10 days before filing a complaint against you at the courthouse. To “demand” the rent, the landlord must either ask you for the rent or write you a letter about the rent and explain that you will be evicted unless you pay it.
• Lease termination- If you stay after the rental period ends, either because the written lease ended or your landlord told you to move out, and the landlord does not continue to accept your rent, the court may evict you for “holding over.” This notice does not have to be in writing. If the landlord can prove that the lease has been terminated, you can be evicted.
• Breach of the lease- Your landlord may try to prove that you broke (“breached”) the lease by causing damage, disturbing the neighbors or other actions. The landlord must prove the case with evidence. You will have a chance to present witnesses and evidence to show that the landlord’s claims are false or are not in violation of the lease agreement. The landlord does not have to give you notice before starting the eviction process, so long as the landlord is claiming that you breached the lease. However, the landlord must have a certain clause in the lease that allows him or her to evict you before your lease ends. It is called a forfeiture clause.
If you feel as if your rights as a landlord or tenant have been violated, or if you have legal concerns about any area of law in which we practice, contact us at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential legal consultation.

By: Brittany Bryant, Legal Assistant at Collins Law Firm

Fourth of July Weekend 2015

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015

american-flag-and-fireworksIndependence Day originally started as a celebration for the United States liberation from Great Britain. Over the years, culture has shifted, and this has become a day when people of all ages flock towards the beaches for relaxation and time with family and friends. Popular hangout spots, such as Masonboro Island, Mason’s Inlet, and the North End at Carolina Beach, have drawn crowds to Wilmington. Due to an increase in safety concerns in the area during popular holidays, such as Memorial Day and July the fourth, law enforcement has increased patrols and monitoring of the waterways, beaches, and surrounding areas.
As of yesterday, emergency officials have already begun preparation for the upcoming weekend. Local news stations report that both the North Carolina Department of Highway Patrol and area law enforcement alike will have increased patrols in an effort to “keep everyone safe.” Wrightsville Beach Police Department reports the main issues they have seen in the past on this holiday are underage drinking and illegal water taxis. Wrightsville Beach Police will work closely with the United States Coast Guard in an effort address these concerns. Those caught without proper permits and or fail to meet other regulations could face hefty fines.
It is equally important to understand the long-term consequences of underage drinking. Consumption of alcohol has many negative health consequences, but if one is caught drinking and driving, and or drinking underage, the monetary fines and long term implications are severe. The State of North Carolina has a zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving; offenders could face fines up to $500, be sentenced to serve community service, attend DWI Treatment court, and complete two alcohol education courses. Ramifications of being charged with this crime include having to tell future employers of the charges, as well as universities to which you may be applying.
For those over the age of 21, consequences of drinking and driving are still cause of concern. A DWI charge can result in imprisonment for up to three years, fines up to ten thousand dollars, and license suspension. The process of obtaining your driver’s license after suspension due to DWI can prolong the emotional and financial effects of the charges; the defendants face the possibility of having an ignition interlock installed and face an increase in insurance premiums.
Attorney David Collins has over 20 years of experience in the legal field, focusing on criminal defense matters. Mr. Collins has helped many clients facing underage drinking, fake ID, DWI, drunk and disorderly, and possession of open container charges. If you or someone you know is facing criminal or traffic charges, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000.
By: Brittany Bryant, Legal Assistant

2015 Memorial Day Weekend

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

The aroma of hotdogs and hamburgers is soon going to fill the air! Memorial Day is upon us! Most know this holiday as one filled with family cookouts and time spent at the beach. Wilmington natives avoid traffic, as they know this city is a premier destination for those all over the state. For tourist’s driving to the local area, it is advised to leave home early in order to help avoid traffic that occurs on the highways. This year, the NCDOT is halting construction projects on major highways in an effort to help its citizens reach their holiday destinations safely and without strife. According to the NCDOT website, NCDOT will put on hold most construction projects along interstate, N.C. and U.S. routes from 4 p.m. on Friday, May 22, until 9 a.m. on Tuesday, May 26, with these exceptions:

  • U.S. 158 (Elizabeth Street) in Elizabeth City is reduced to one lane in each direction from Road Street to the Pasquotank River Bridge for resurfacing and construction of a new bridge;
  • U.S. 264 in Dare County will be reduced to one of two lanes controlled by temporary traffic signals in three locations for the replacement of three bridges. Lane closures are located between Stumpy Point and the Hyde County line;
  • Two bridges in Brunswick County on N.C. 211 over the Honey Island Swamp will have intermittent lane closures in order for crews to realign the roadway and replace both bridges and approaches;
  • Third Street in New Hanover County is closed for a bridge replacement with a signed detour;
  • I-85 southbound between the Virginia state line and the U.S. 1 interchange will have lane closures in place day and night as crews work to strengthen the shoulders and patch concrete; and
  • I-73 in Guilford County is reduced to two lanes in each direction between Wendover Avenue and I-85.

Today, the NCDOT launched its “Click It or Ticket” campaign. This campaign reminds drivers and passengers alike that everyone in the vehicle must properly wear their seat belts at all times. Not wearing a seat belt is unsafe and costly; court costs for this infraction are typically around $160.00.

With most activities that occur during the holiday, adults will be drinking alcoholic beverages. Please remember to have a designated driver if you plan on drinking. According to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving), every two minutes, a person is injured in a drunk driving accident.

If you will be in the waterway’s this weekend, remember to wear proper life jackets. In 2013, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 4,062 accidents, 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries, and approximately $39 million dollars of property damage as a result of recreational boating accidents. Where cause of death was known, 77% of fatal boating accident victims drowned. Of those drowning victims, 84% were not wearing a life jacket.

May is also Motorcycle Awareness Month. Be sure to share the road and check all areas surrounding your vehicle before changing lanes.

If you or someone you know have been hurt in a boating or motorcycle accident, or is seeking representation in a criminal or traffic matter, please call the professionals at Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By: Brittany Bryant, Legal Assistant