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School Bus Safety – Operation Stop Arm

Monday, October 15th, 2018

In an attempt to ensure school bus safety, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is taking proactive steps by launching their annual week-long statewide Operation Stop Arm beginning today, October 15, 2018.   State Troopers will be aggressively enforcing stop arm violations and other traffic violations in and around school zones statewide through the end of school Friday, October 19, 2012.

Colonel Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol said:  “Every child should be afforded a safe means of travel as they attend their respective educational institution”, and that “While this operation is scheduled to conclude on Friday, our efforts will continue throughout the school year.”

As a reminder, we have listed what you are and are not allowed to do with respect to a stopped school bus:

  • Two-lane road – Everyone must stop
  • Four-lane road with no separation – Everyone must stop
  • Four-lane or more with a median or some physical barrier – Only traffic following the bus must stop
  • Center turn lane with less than four lanes – Everyone must stop
  • Center turn lane with at least four other lanes – Only traffic following the bus must stop

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shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.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

  • Minimum fine of $500 and a Class 1 misdemeanor if you pass a stopped school bus
  • Minimum fine of $1,250 and a Class I felony if you pass a stopped school bus and strike someone
  • Minimum fine of $2,500 and a Class H felony if someone is killed

While drivers are required by law to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers, it is also very important for parents to talk to their children and instruct them 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.

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.  We have handled thousands of traffic tickets for our clients, and we offer free phone consultations for most traffic or criminal matters. Please call us for a confidential consultation at: 910-793-9000.

By Jana Collins, Office Manager

Hurricane Florence Recovery:  I-40 reopens from Raleigh to Wilmington

Friday, September 28th, 2018

For over 10 days after Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, NC, Interstate I-40 was closed in sections from Wilmington to Raleigh.  Now, as of September 25, 2018, people can drive the entire length of interstates 95 and 40 through North Carolina.

News outlets reported that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said floodwaters receded over this past weekend faster than expected, allowing N.C. Department of Transportation crews to inspect and open both highways by Tuesday morning. The opening of I-40 through Duplin and Pender counties restored the main route in and out of Wilmington to I-95.  Wilmington was completely landlocked for several days because of floodwaters due to Hurricane Florence.

On September 15, 2018, I-95 was closed in parts of NC, and travel up and down the East Coast was disrupted. At one time, the recommended detour was to drive completely around North and South Carolina, through Knoxville, TN and Atlanta, GA.

As the Lumber River and Cape Fear River receded after the storm, I-95 dried out on Sunday, and NCDOT engineers inspected it to see if it was safe to use. DOT personnel found one area that needed repairs which were promptly completed.

Other roads that reopened Monday are the U.S. 70 Bypass at Kinston and U.S. 74 between I-95 near Lumberton and Wilmington.

Governor Cooper urged people to obey road closure signs and not to drive around barriers into flood waters. He said that as of September 24, the death toll from the storm had risen to 35 in North Carolina, and that some of those deaths had resulted from people driving into floodwaters.

In the Outer Banks, N.C. 12 on Ocracoke Island is closed.  It could take until the end of October to have repairs to erosion of the dune and damage to the pavement that make the road impassable repaired.  Until repairs are completed, the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke is closed.

Recovery efforts continue.  The New Hanover County Courthouse re-opened on Monday, September 24th.  However the Brunswick County Courthouse and the Pender County Courthouse remain closed indefinitely.

Pender County estimated that about 25 percent of the county flooded, closing major highways and submerging many homes.  Due to flooding, the county remained landlocked for over a week and many residents were forced into emergency evacuations.  Last week water spilled over into the road and washed out parts of U.S. 421, washing out the entire highway across all four lanes.  The emergency manager for Pender County said it could take months to re-open that route back into Wilmington.

Be safe as our community recovers from this historic storm.  If you or someone you know are in need of legal services in the Wilmington area, call Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By David B. Collins, Jr.

Memorial Day Weekend – Click it or Ticket

Friday, May 25th, 2018

Pursuant to North Carolina General Statute § 20-135.2A, all passengers in a vehicle are required to be properly restrained and violations are punishable by fines of currently up to $179.

North Carolina Highway Patrol, Colonel Bill Grey said:  “Wearing your seat belt is the single most effective action to protect yourself in a crash.”

Over 400 people died last year in North Carolina alone as a result of not wearing their seat belt.

In an effort to reduce that number, the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program along with state and local law enforcement will be ticketing offenders.   This year’s 25th annual Memorial Day Click It or Ticket campaign began on Monday, May 21, and will last through Sunday, June 3, 2018.

Therefore, if you hit the road along with almost 1.1 million North Carolinians this weekend, make sure you travel safely and buckle up.

Should you or someone you know still end up with a seat belt ticket or any other kind of traffic citation in New Hanover, Brunswick, or Pender County, then Collins Law Firm can help.  Please call us at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

Enjoy your Holiday weekend!

By Jana H. Collins

Attorney represents woman for free after seeing her story on WECT

Sunday, December 3rd, 2017

An 81-year-old woman ticketed for passing an idling line of cars in order to access her own driveway got a break in court, after an attorney saw her story on WECT and offered to represent her for free.

In September, we ran a story about problems residents in the Green Meadows Neighborhood were having when cars cued up outside their homes for carpool drop off and pick-up at nearby Noble Middle School.

They complained the line of cars backed up for blocks and blocks outside of the school parking lot, sometimes limiting access in and out of their driveways for 30 minutes or more twice a day.

Their frustration escalated when resident Joann McKendrick received a $238 ticket in September for driving around a line of cars blocking access to her house.

Attorney David Collins saw the story about her ticket, and offered to represent McKendrick in court at no charge. Collins thought there were several legal defenses in her case and hoped he could get her ticket reduced if not dismissed entirely.

McKendrick happily accepted his offer when we put Collins in touch with her. She had been charged with operating a motor vehicle on the wrong side of the roadway, and her case went to court earlier this month.

“The prosecutor was not willing to completely dismiss it, but we were able to get it reduced to a non-moving violation with no points, and Ms. McKendrick did not have to appear in court,” Collins explained of the outcome of the case.

Wilmington Police had initially beefed up their patrolling in the neighborhood at the request of residents upset about the traffic tie-ups.

But Collins says Wilmington Police told him the vast majority of the subsequent tickets were given to people who lived in the neighborhood, not drivers waiting to drop off or pick up their kids from Noble Middle School.

“After patrolling for a few weeks, the complaints stopped, so [police] discontinued patrolling for these type of violations,” Collins said of how the situation was explained to him.

He says he was also told the school board and city planning officials were looking into potentially expanding the street to include a waiting area for cars so they would not block the flow of traffic.

By: Ann McAdams, Investigative Reporter

Potential Civil Liability for Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Owned by MGM Resorts

Wednesday, October 11th, 2017

Sunday, October 1, 2017, Stephen Paddock carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.  We extend our deepest sympathies to the victims and their families of this unbelievable tragedy.

The shooter had been in his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip days before he carried out the shooting.  Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino is owned by MGM Resorts.  Paddock had stockpiled an arsenal of weapons in his suite on the 32nd floor.  Just before the shooting, Paddock broke two windows and fired hundreds of rounds into the crowd of 22,000 attending the Route 91 Harvest Festival, which was being held across the street at Las Vegas Village.  Las Vegas Village is also owned by MGM Resorts.  The concert promoter was Live Nation.

Mandalay Bay and Live Nation may be liable for civil damages to the victims and families for the lack of warning signs and security deficits.  News reports continue to reveal more details about what failures in security procedures occurred.

Deanna Ting, hospitality editor at the travel-industry intelligence company Skift reportedly said:  “What happened on Sunday is sort of a larger wake-up call for the industry to take a step back and ask themselves: ‘What about my city? What am I doing to make sure that … my guests are safe and secure?'”.   The killer, Stephen Paddock, had stockpiled weapons in his hotel room for three days before firing from the windows of his suite on the 32nd floor into the crowd of 22,000 people across the street, killing 58 people and wounding almost 500 others.

The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, as well as other properties owned by MGM Resorts — including the Bellagio, Monte Carlo, and the MGM Grand — have increased security levels, according to a spokesperson from the company. The Wynn Resort in Las Vegas added new security measures after the shooting, scanning guests with metal detectors and putting bags through X-ray machines.

Damages which could be recovered by victims and families include damages for personal injuries and disabilities, medical expenses, wrongful death, and counseling for post-traumatic stress disorder.

If you or a loved one has suffered injuries due to any negligent act or omission of another, call Collins Law Firm for a free confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By David B. Collins, Jr.

 

Expungement in North Carolina – a second chance made easier

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

It happens so easily—one makes a bad choice, gets misunderstood, or falsely accused, and in the result faces criminal charges.  Regardless of the outcome in a criminal matter—even in case of a wrongful criminal charge—the fact that one was criminally charged will result in a criminal record.  Unless dealt with appropriately, a criminal record may create a virtuous circle and negatively affect one’s chances in the job market, in college applications, on the housing market, etc.  In an attempt to mitigate or avoid negative consequences of one’s criminal record, one should consult with an attorney about whether or not they are eligible for an expunction of their criminal record and if eligible, pursue the expunction.

An expunction, also called expungement, is a process ordered by the court in which one’s criminal record is “sealed”, or erased.

Thanks to Gov. Roy Cooper who ratified Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process will be improved drastically for about 2 million North Carolinians who currently have a criminal record effective December 1, 2017.  Here are the two expungements we mostly pursued in our office:

  1. Expungement of records when charges were dismissed pursuant to N.C.G.S. §15A-146

There will no longer be a limit on how many expunctions one can pursue—the only condition will be that one “had not previously been convicted of any felony under the laws of the United States, this State, or any other state”.

  1. Expunction of “nonviolent” misdemeanors and felonies pursuant to N.C.G.S. §15A-145.5

In order to qualify for an expunction under this section, one may not have “other misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than a traffic violation”.  While under the current law, one needs to wait 15 years after the date of the conviction or “when any active sentence, period of probation, and post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later” , under the new law that wait time will be reduced to just five years for misdemeanors and ten years for felonies.

If you or someone you know have a criminal record and consider pursuing an expungement in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick Counties, North Carolina, call Collins Law Firm at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins, Office Manager

 

 

 

 

Carolina Surf Condominiums Condemned

Friday, July 7th, 2017

On June 30, 2017, the Star News reported that the Carolina Surf condominium complex in Carolina Beach was condemned and an evacuation was ordered after an engineer found serious structural deficiencies in the building, which could cause its collapse.  This was according to a news release from Assistant Town Manager Ed Parvin.

The Star News wrote that Parvin said:  “Town staff and the homeowners association worked together to safely remove the occupants from the building and secure the area.” Fire Chief Alan Griffin said the fire department had been working with the evacuation.

“Most of the units in the building are rentals,” Parvin said. “Those renting units all worked with the rental agencies to be relocated to other units. The condos are a secondary home for the other occupants that spoke with the fire department. They were all able to return to their primary residence.”

The address of the building is 201 Carolina Beach Ave. S., and the Focus Matters Realty website indicates that the ocean front units sell for between $250,000 to $350,000.

The Star News wrote that “Parvin said the issue with the condos came to light several weeks ago after ‘significant corrosion’ was detected on steel exposed when contractors removed a portion of the stucco siding while replacing windows on the building, Parvin said.” Town staff requested an engineering evaluation, he said.

“The engineering report indicated that the steel framing of the oceanfront decks was severely corroded,” Said Parvin. “The decks were condemned and safety barriers were installed to prevent access to the areas below the decking.”

A later engineer’s report of other parts of the building presented to the homeowners association revealed the building was “in significant danger of collapsing,” he said.

Town staff members will be submitting instructions to the homeowners association to establish its responsibilities “moving forward in accordance with state and local codes.”

The Homeowners will likely incur substantial costs to repair or replace the building, and there may be legal avenues to recover the damages in such circumstances.  If you or someone you know may be in a situation such as this, please call Collins Law Firm for a free confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

Holiday Travel

Friday, 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

Friday, 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

Thursday, 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