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shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.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

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





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

Distracted Driving

Monday, 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!

Saturday, 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

Justice for our furry friends!

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

Justice for AnimalsThe FBI is now more serious than ever about animal cruelty and the consequences associated against these crimes. As of January 1st of this year, the FBI will now collect data on animal cruelty crime through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Animal cruelty will be classified as a Class A felony, treated as crimes such as homicide, arson, and assault. There will be four categories in which animal abuse crimes can be filed: simple or gross neglect, intentional abuse and torture, organized abuse (i.e., dog fighting), and animal sexual abuse.

Animal cruelty is defined as: “Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly taking an action that mistreats or kills any animal without just cause, such as torturing, tormenting, mutilation, maiming, poisoning, or abandonment.” We are grateful, of course that since the FBI will now track these crimes, animals will in a sense be served some justice here, but it is also interesting to consider is the correlation between crimes against animals and crimes against people, pointed out by animal rights activist Mary Lou Randour.

Just at the beginning of this month it was reported that an NC farm worker was convicted of kicking chickens and stomping them to death. We are hopeful that tracking and heavily prosecuting these crimes will cause a major decline in crimes against animals nationwide.

Data collected in 2016 will be available for public review in 2017.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Medical Marijuana Making Federal Progress

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Marijuana Blog Image 2The medical marijuana movement – a new provision! As found in Congress’ new 1,603-page spending plan, federal agents are now banned from policing medical marijuana users and raiding dispensaries in any state where medical marijuana is legal. Though the media has been hesitant to broadcast this news, you can be assured that this will change the way America sees and treats medical marijuana – and ultimately signals a big shift in drug policy. After two decades of tension and controversy between Washington and the states regarding medical marijuana, the passage of this bill marks a victory for so many. The origin of the movement towards federal legalization of medical marijuana can be linked to the many organizations advocating for federally legalized marijuana such as the Americans for Safe Access, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and the Marijuana Policy Project. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) however is not so thrilled, still arguing that marijuana is in the category of most dangerous narcotics, with no exception to medical use.  The legalization of medical marijuana began in the 1990’s and now 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized it.

2016 is predicted to be an interesting and transformational year regarding marijuana laws, especially with the November presidential election approaching. Candidate Bernie Sanders advocates to end federal marijuana prohibition, while Hillary Clinton wants to “loosen restrictions” on marijuana, and Rand Paul says that regulations should be left up to states.

As we know, marijuana for both medical and recreational use remains illegal in the state of North Carolina. If you or someone you know has received a marijuana (pot) or paraphernalia charge, give us a call at 910-793-9000 to schedule a consultation with experienced Attorney David Collins.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

New NC Laws in effect

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016

new-lawsHappy 2016! As of January 1, 2016, 23 new laws will take effect in North Carolina – five of which could impact your daily life, and here they are:

Change in gas tax. As of January 1, you will now save one cent off of every gallon of gas, a total of 35 cents in taxes. However, in exchange for the tax break here, some DMV services have increased, such as registration and license renewal. North Carolina’s goal with this is to generate revenue for the NCDOT with respect to road construction and maintenance.

District Attorneys (DA’s) to carry concealed weapon. DA’s in North Carolina are now permitted to carry a concealed weapon in the courtroom with appropriate permits.

Unemployment requirements on the rise – start job seeking! For those applying and those who are currently on unemployment, you are now required to prove you have contacted five businesses per week, whereas before it was just two.

Abortion awareness and alternatives. Prior to January 1 in North Carolina, doctors have always had to hand out information regarding alternatives to abortions to their patients 24 hours before executing the procedure. Now doctors are required to give out this information 72 hours in advance, and abortion clinic inspection reports have to be posted on the web. The goal here to give women more time to consider their options and final decision.

Protect your child’s identity! With identity theft on the rise, North Carolina now offers a Protected Consumer security freeze option for children under the age of 16. Parents can have this plan put place in to prevent anyone from taking their child’s name.

To see a full list of the new laws that took effect on January 1, 2016, click here: http://archive.digtriad.com/assetpool/documents/151002063956_2015_Effective_Dates.pdf


By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Rocky’s Law

Thursday, October 8th, 2015

Neuhaus-Rockys-LawOrange County, NY Legislator Mike Anagnostakis (R-Montgomery, Newburgh) was elated when law he had proposed─Rocky’s Law─was voted unanimously and thereby approved by Orange County, NY Legislators. Pursuant to Rocky’s Law, Orange County Residents convicted of abusing animals are required to register within five days of being convicted or released from jail or prison. Failure to register may result in a fine of up to $2,000 and a year in jail. First time offenders will be prohibited from owning a companion animal for 15 years, and repeat offenders will be barred from owning a companion animal for the rest of their life.

Rocky’s Law was named after a 3-year old Staffordshire Terrier named Rocky who had to be euthanized after he sustained life-threatening injuries from being left in freezing temperatures for five weeks while his owner went on a vacation.

Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus signed Rocky’s Law on June 6, 2015 at the Warwick Valley Humane Society alongside a homeless American Staffordshire lady named Mindy who placed her paw print on the bill.

Legislator Mike Anagnostakis had proposed the law so that Rocky’s death “will not have been in vain. It will at least stop those who have committed the most heinous crimes from ever getting their hands on our loved ones again. What a tribute to Rocky it would be if this law becomes enacted across the U.S.”

Paws up, Orange County, NY Legislators!

By Jana H. Collins

Most Recent Execution by Capital Punishment

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

death-penaltyKelly Gissendaner was executed on Wednesday at 7pm, with respect to her sentence of the death penalty for engineering the murder of her husband in 1997, despite both her children and even Pope Carlo Francis’ wishes. After visiting the United States, the pope sincerely requested in writing that the state of Georgia not follow through with the execution of Ms. Gissendander as stated below:

“While not wishing to minimize the gravity of the crime for which Ms. Gissendander has been convicted, and while sympathizing with the victims, I nonetheless implore you, in consideration of the reasons that have been expressed to your board, to commute the sentence to one that would better express both justice and mercy,”

None of the last minute pleas were enough, and as a result, Ms. Gissendaner was the first person in 70 years to be executed by the death penalty in Georgia.

While talk is hot about the death penalty, some may be wondering, what is North Carolina’s history with the death penalty? And what are the laws associated with it?

The death penalty has been part of North Carolina Law since the state was a British colony, and at that time available as punishment for an array of crimes. Until the later part of the 20th century, the death penalty was permissible for crimes such as arson, burglary, rape, and murder. Since then, however, NC has limited the crimes eligible for capital punishment to cases only where another person is killed.

There has been a drop in the number of capital trials, death penalties, and executions in North Carolina in recent years. The last person to be executed on death row in North Carolina was Samuel Flippen, who was put to death on August 18, 2006 for the murder of his two-year-old stepdaughter.

As of March 30, 2012, according to the Division of Adult Correction, North Carolina held 157 inmates on death row. 153 of the 157 inmates on death row are men. Both the men and women are housed in Raleigh’s Central Prisons. All of these inmates have been on death row at least since the 1990s. North Carolina’s method of execution remains by lethal injection.

The laws regarding North Carolina’s death row policies and procedures are constantly changing, as this is an extremely controversial topic in government. In 2001, according to N.C.G.S. § 15A-2004, the General Assembly modified the statute to give prosecutors the option to decline seeking the death penalty. Those exempt from capital punishment are those who “suffer from a severe mental disorder or disability that significantly impaired his or her capacity to appreciate the nature, consequences, or wrongfulness of his or her conduct.” The minimum age for execution is 17.

Just this week, State Representative Jon Hardister (R) of Greensboro said he thinks the death penalty should be abolished because he doesn’t “trust the government to do it right.” He suggests that alternatively, NC should sentence to life in prison without parole. What are your thoughts on NC laws regarding capital punishment?

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant