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New Expunction Laws on the Horizon – Second Chance Act

Monday, June 15th, 2020

In December of 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process had been drastically improved by Senate Bill 445, and now we are looking at even more changes to become effective December 1, 2020 lifting previous requirements, and allowing for a second chance in even more scenarios.  Below are a few examples of the revisions to the expunctions laws applicable to offenses committed by persons age 18 or older:

  1. In addition to felonies and misdemeanors, infractions will be eligible for expunction from a person’s official records as long as the charges were dismissed or for which a finding of not guilty was entered.  Also, it will no longer be required that the person had not previously been convicted of a felony.
  2. Dismissals or findings of not guilty of felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions on or after December 1, 2021, will be expunged by operation of law, not requiring a petition.
  3. More than one conviction of non-violent misdemeanors can be expunged after a seven-year waiting period.

The team at Collins Law Firm has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility.

PS.: On June 25, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 562.

By Jana H. Collins

100 Deadliest Days of Summer

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), beginning around the first week of June, the 100 deadliest days of summer has begun. This period of 100 days, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, got this nickname due to the high number of crash fatalities involving teen drivers, compared to the rest of the year. Now that restrictions are being slowly lifted across the State, it is especially important to understand road safety. Distracted driving, speeding, drinking and driving, and reckless driving are all contributors to serious accidents, and they are all preventable. A careless mistake such as distracted driving is all it takes to cause an automobile accident, and in the blink of an eye, the lives of those involved could be changed forever. 

Everybody could potentially become a personal injury victim, but the risk to sustain serious injuries is especially high for children and elder people.

Some accidents unfortunately even result in fatalities causing unimaginable heartbreak to those left behind. 

Sadly, tragic results of automobile accidents cannot be undone.  However, monetary compensation can help to recover damages.  Treatments for personal injuries resulting from an automobile accident can become very expense, and there may be lasting effects. Because of this, in North Carolina, as in most states, drivers of automobiles are required to have liability insurance, providing protection against claims resulting from injuries and damage to people and/or property. 

Even if the driver of the vehicle who caused an accident resulting in injuries had no insurance, you still may be able to recover under your own policy as long as you have uninsured coverage. The laws and regulations related to insurance are complex and if you are injured in an accident involving an automobile or tractor trailer, you should contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney immediately.

We at Collins Law Firm regularly represent victims of car wrecks and help maximize monetary recoveries for our clients. If you or someone you know and care about has been injured in a car wreck, or if you have lost a loved one in an automobile accident, please call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a free consultation.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

“Phase 2.5” – Reopening of North Carolina

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has announced a “Phase 2.5” of reopening our State set to be effective this Friday, June 12, 2020. This phase could increase restaurants’ maximum seating capacity, and open up bars and gyms with maximum capacity restrictions. This also means that some small business owners will be able to return back to work after all this time of uncertainty.

During these unprecedented times, the unemployment rate in the United States has risen to 13.3% as of the end of May – up from 3.6% in January 2020. As millions of Americans are without employment, they are scrambling to find work to make ends meet and pay their bills.

For those with a criminal record, finding a job can be difficult, and even more so during the times of a pandemic and our economic recovery. It is more important now than ever to have a clean background when searching for employment. Even if you were charged, and the charge was dismissed, the fact that you were charged will remain on your record unless you have it expunged.

An expunction, or expungement, is a legal action in which the petitioner or plaintiff seeks that the court destroys or seals prior criminal convictions from Federal or State official records. Until December 1, 2017, an individual could pursue an Expunction only once in their lifetime in the state of North Carolina. However, with the ratification of Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process has been drastically improved effective December 1, 2017. Unless an individual has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges that individual can get expunged off their record as long as they meet the eligibility criteria.

The sooner you get the process started, the sooner your record will be clear, and the sooner you can apply for jobs with confidence. Your record will look more appealing to potential employers, and you will feel better knowing that your record is clear.

David Collins has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Teen Level 2 – Road Test Requirement May Be Waived Effective July 1, 2020

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, House Bill 1189 which was introduced on May 26, 2020, passed the 3rd Reading in the North Carolina House of Representatives.  It received 107 Ayes and only 13 Noes.  If approved by the Senate, the bill would receive the signature of Governor Roy Cooper, and then go into effect at the beginning on July 1, 2020.

Level 2 Teen Drivers would still have to provide proof of financial responsibility or proof of insurance by providing a Form DL123 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), but “the Division of Motor Vehicles shall waive the requirement that an applicant pass a road test in order to obtain a limited provisional license if the applicant meets all other requirements for the limited provisional license.”

Once the NCDOT resumes regularly scheduled road tests again, or 180 days from the effective date of this bill, whichever comes first, the road test waiver will end.

By Jana H. Collins

Memorial Day 2020

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

As Memorial Day approaches in the Wilmington, NC area, the usual excitement and preparation for a holiday weekend has been replaced by uncertainty and frustration.

Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo announced on Friday morning that there will be several changes effective at 5:00 p.m. on May 22, for the phase 2 of reopening our economy. One change is the maximum capacity for hotels and motels was raised from 25% to 50%. Some restaurants and salons will be allowed to reopen with restrictions and limited capacity, but bars and breweries are still not allowed to reopen with this Phase 2.

In addition, Wrightsville Beach has lifted all short-term rental restrictions, beaches will be open to all activities, and more parking will be available at certain access points. On-street parking will remain closed to the public.

At Topsail Beach, there has also been restrictions lifted to allow activities and recreation on the beach, and some parking will be available. However, beachgoers are required to comply with regulations that are still in place, restricting groups of more than 10 people, and to maintain a minimum of six feet distance between you and other visitors.

In Carolina Beach specifically, Mayor LeAnn Pierce has amended the State of Emergency Declaration, allowing certain restaurants with private, off-road parking lots to use up to 25% of their parking lot to accommodate outdoor dining.

Other beaches, such as Kure, Ocean Isle, Holden, and Surf City, may also have their own specific guidelines, so make sure to research the restrictions before visiting one of our beautiful beaches over this Memorial Day Weekend.

We hope it will not become necessary, but if you or your loved one find yourself in need of an attorney for a serious personal injury, or you get into trouble with a criminal matter, or receive a traffic ticket, please give our office a call for a confidential consultation. We also handle wills and estates with our of counsel attorney, Mitch Baker.  

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Plan Ahead – Be Prepared – Have a Will

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

In general, but especially in times of a pandemic as we are currently experiencing, it is important to plan ahead and get prepared.

For the scenario that you become unable to make health care decisions on your own, you can appoint an agent in a healthcare power of attorney. That agent would then make decision for you as outlined in the healthcare power of attorney. 

If you become disabled beyond a reasonable expectation of recovery and are unable to communicate your own choices, you can give instructions for the future to withhold or withdraw life-prolonging measures by signing a living will. 

Both forms of advance directives can be amended or revoked at any time.

You should also think about how you want your property or estate to be disposed.   In situations in which the deceased did not dispose of their property or estate by a valid will, such property and estate will be disposed pursuant to the intestate succession laws. Which state’s intestacy laws apply is determined by the deceased’s domicile at the time of their passing and by the type of property that belongs to the estate. North Carolina intestate succession laws are laid out in Chapter 29 of the North Carolina General Statutes.

If you create a will, often referred to as “last will and testament,” you can make a legal declaration of your wishes regarding the disposal of your property or estate after your death.  In North Carolina, wills are governed by Chapter 31 of the General Statues.

While you have a choice whether to have a will or not, the legal benefits of having a will are significant.  Therefore, it is important that you are well informed of the intestate succession laws applicable to your estate, and, if these laws do not reflect your wishes regarding the disposal of your property or estate upon your death, you should create their own will.

If you or a loved one needs help with a living will, a healthcare power of attorney, will, or estate in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington, NC, in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000.  As members of our community, we believe that our neighbors deserve quality representation when it comes time to create or update wills, or advance directives.  And, as practitioners of the law, we are obligated by law, tradition, and ethics, to provide you with honest advice and guidance while protecting your confidential information.

By Jana H. Collins

COVID-19 Economic Crisis & Job Market Aftermath – Expunge Your Record

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were more than 20.5 million jobs lost in April of 2020 in the United States, according to the Labor Department. The unemployment rate in the United States fell from approximately 3.5% in February of this year, to a whopping 14.7% by the end of April. The New York Times reports that 78.3% of Americans who lost their jobs in April of 2020 categorized their job loss as a temporary layoff, and 11% said their job loss was permanent.

Times like these, where unemployment and uncertainty are high, individuals with a criminal record can have a difficult time finding new employment. Even old charges, if they were not expunged, will still show up on a background check. It is more important now than ever to have a clean record when looking for a new job. The sooner you pursue an expunction of your record, the sooner you can have a clean record. Not only will your clean record be more pleasing to potential employers, but you will have a weight lifted off your shoulders for having your charges expunged.

Expungement is a legal action in which the petitioner or plaintiff seeks that the court destroys or seals prior criminal convictions from Federal or State official records. Until December 1, 2017, an individual could pursue an Expunction only once in their lifetime in the state of North Carolina. However, with the ratification of Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process has been drastically improved effective December 1, 2017. Unless an individual has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges that individual can get expunged off their record as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. Without an expungement, criminal charges remain on one’s record even when there is no conviction.

David Collins has been handling scores of expunctions for over two decades in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Pandemic, Unemployment, and Expunctions

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2020

As the unemployment rate in the United States continues to climb – at 4.4% as of the end of March 2020 – individuals across the country have been stranded without jobs or money to pay their bills.  For the Americans that were already living paycheck to paycheck, this COVID-19 pandemic has caused extreme stress, confusion, and panic when it comes to figuring out how they will pay their next bill. 

For some individuals with a criminal record, the search for a new job can be difficult.  Past criminal charges, even old charges, can haunt you when it comes to major life decisions and changes.  It is more important now than it ever has been, to have a clean record when searching for new employment.  The sooner you get an expunction started, the sooner your record will be more appealing to prospective employers.

Expungement is a legal action in which the petitioner or plaintiff seeks that the court destroys or seals prior criminal convictions from Federal or State official records. Until December 1, 2017, an individual could pursue an Expunction only once in their lifetime in the state of North Carolina. However, with the ratification of Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process has been drastically improved effective December 1, 2017. Unless an individual has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges that individual can get expunged off their record as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. Without an expungement, criminal charges remain on one’s record even when there is no conviction.

Mr. Collins has been handling scores of expunctions for over two decades in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Green Shoots for Easter

Thursday, April 9th, 2020

For a child, Easter can mean fancy attire, hunting for Easter eggs, and lots of candy.  The hunt to find the best egg with the biggest prize was something to wake up to excited about Easter Sunday.  Now, as an adult, we tend to appreciate holidays and their meanings a little more, and sometimes wonder why or how holidays are celebrated. 

Easter always occurs on the first Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon, according to The Old Farmer’s Almanac. The Paschal Full Moon is the first full Moon that occurs after the vernal equinox, which signifies the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere.  This date is to make sure that it is always after the Jewish holiday Passover because you cannot have his death and resurrection celebrations occur before his last supper which was on Passover. 

While the current pandemic has forced us to change or postpone any Easter plans with large gatherings of people, there is still good news out there.  The term “green shoots” describes any positive sign of economic recovery during a downturn.  Referencing the new growth and recovery of a plant, the term first gained popularity back in 1991 when Chancellor Norman Lamont used it to describe indications of economic recovery in the United Kingdom.  Almost 20 years later, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke used the term in a 2009 interview about the financial crisis. 

Although there are people all over the world who are suffering, whether it be from sickness, loss of their job, or the stress of everything going on around them, there are small signs of recovery happening around us.  For instance, two U.S. companies, BD and BioMedomics, have recently launched a rapid antibody test for COVID-19, which will be able to tell who was infected with the virus, and has since recovered.  An antibody test is great news because it will be able to help scientists develop a vaccine, and also help them figure out who has immunity for future infection of the virus, if at all.  Hopefully the tests will be ready for public use within a few months. 

Another “green shoot” example would be the expectation of pent-up demand to pump the economy back up after people have been isolating in their homes for so long.  There could be periods of overspending by individuals at restaurants and non-essential retailers who sell clothing, cosmetics, and home goods.  This is a good indication that our economy will be able to recover after a period of unease and difficulty. 

Stay safe and healthy, and have a Happy Easter!

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Expunction of Record

Monday, April 6th, 2020

Expungement is a legal action in which the petitioner or plaintiff seeks that the court seals or destroys prior criminal convictions from State or Federal official records. Until December 1, 2017, a person could pursue an Expunction only once in their lifetime in the state of North Carolina. However, with the ratification of Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process has been drastically improved effective December 1, 2017. Unless an individual has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges that individual can get expunged off their record as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. Without an expungement, criminal charges remain on one’s record even when there is no conviction.

At this time, expunctions are taking anywhere from about six months to one year.  However, the expected time frame for an expunction may be affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

When considering an expungement, you should be aware of the fact that criminal records collected by private entities, including but not limited to online news sites, may still show indications of the charges after they are expunged. The reason for that is that those private entities may collect records between the time the criminal charge is issued and the time it is expunged. Therefore, it is a good idea to proceed with an expungement as soon as possible to decrease the chance that private companies collect their information which they may keep forever.

Chapter 15A of the North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) provides for some private entities to remove expunged records from their data bases after an order of expunction is entered. N.C.G.S. §15A-150 states: A state agency [receiving notice of an expungement shall notify any private entity with which it has a licensing agreement for bulk extracts of data from [a state] agency criminal record database to delete the record in question. N.C.G.S. §15A-152 states that: A private entity that holds itself out as being in the business of compiling and disseminating criminal history record information for compensation shall destroy and shall not disseminate any information in the possession of the entity with respect to which the entity has received a notice to delete the record in question. It also provides for civil liability for failure to do so with a certain time period. N.C.G.S. §15A-153 provides that: Employers, educational institutions, State or Local Government Agencies, Officials, and Employees shall not, in any application, interview, or otherwise, require an applicant for employment or admission to disclose information concerning any arrest, criminal charge, or criminal conviction of the applicant that has been expunged and shall not knowingly and willingly inquire about any arrest, charge, or conviction that they know to have been expunged. An applicant need not, in answer to any question concerning any arrest or criminal charge that has not resulted in a conviction, include a reference to or information concerning arrests, charges, or convictions that have been expunged.

Also, even though expungement statutes prohibit prosecution for perjury for failing to acknowledge the charges which were expunged, it would be untrue to deny the fact that one was charged, even though the statutes apparently intend to allow for an individual to deny the fact that the arrest, charges, and other criminal proceedings occurred. Even with the protections of the statutes, there are many ways in which information about the expunged criminal matter can be discovered, and people should consider the individual circumstances and the exact wording of any questions in applications when deciding exactly how to respond.

Mr. Collins has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County.  If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility.  

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal