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Own a Pet – Be Considerate

Friday, March 27th, 2020

During these trying times, while everyone has been strongly suggested to stay home when they can, the only thing to do to get out of the house may be to take your pets on a walk.  However, with more pets out and about, it is still important to abide by the laws with respect to having your pet on a leash, or some type of restraint when it is not on your property. 

Section 5-9 of the New Hanover County Ordinance states:

a. It shall be unlawful for any owner of a dog, cat, or ferret to allow it to run at large off the premises of its owner.

b. Upon an animal services officer’s observation of a dog, cat, or ferret running at large, or off the premises of its owner and not under the restraint of a competent person, the officer, may, at his discretion, impound the dog, cat, or ferret or return it to its owner.

c. Upon an animal services officer’s receipt of a complaint that a dog, cat, or ferret is running at large or is off the premises of its owner and not under the restraint of a competent person, the officer shall investigate the complaint; and upon finding that there is probable cause that a violation has occurred, the officer may issue a citation or a warning or take any other action contained in this chapter or any state law as the circumstances may require.

d. Any owner cited for a violation of this chapter may discharge the citation upon payment of the current fee schedule adopted by the board county commissioners. If the dog, cat, or ferret is impounded, the owner may redeem the dog, cat, or ferret under the provisions of section 5-17, provided the owner is in compliance with all other applicable provisions of this chapter. If the owner is charged under a warrant, summons, or bill of indictment and convicted, the provisions of section 5-23 shall apply.

A violation would constitute a class 3 misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500.00.

There are strict leash laws for the beaches here in Wilmington, as well – in the Town of Wrightsville Beach, pets must always be on a leash from October 1 through March 31.  From April 1 through September 30, no pets are allowed on the Wrightsville Beach Strand at all.  It is also required that you clean up after your pet, and have the means to do so at all times.  Similarly, in Carolina Beach, dogs have to be on a leash from April 1 to September 30.  The rest of the year (October 1st-March 31st) dogs are allowed off leash, but they must remain under voice command and the owner must be within a reasonable distance.  At North Topsail Beach, dogs must be on a leash from May 15 through September 30.  From October 1 to May 14, dogs are not required to be on a leash, but must be under voice command of a responsible person. 

While we are all on edge and awaiting news about COVID-19 day by day, please take some time to take your pet on a walk to enjoy some fresh air, but also please be responsible, abide by the laws, and respect your neighbors. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

NC Courts and Driver License Offices – Change in Accessibility

Thursday, March 26th, 2020

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency, and accordingly, Cheri Beasley, Chief Justice, declared on March 13, 2020, pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-39(b)(2), that due to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, catastrophic conditions exist in all counties of this state in order to limit the risk of further spread of COVID-19.  Therefore, all superior court and district court proceedings, with only very few exceptions, were ordered to be calendared or re-calendared for at least 30 days from the issuance of this order. 

Not just the accessibility of the courts is limited in this trying time, but driver license offices as well—the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) closed about 60 offices effective March 18, 2020, which did not have large enough space to allow for NCDMV to obey by the social distancing guidelines by the Center of Disease Control (CDC).  And, the offices that provide in-person services, only allow customers who have scheduled an appointment.  However, should you seek a service which requires a road test, for example if you want to obtain a Teen Driver Level 2 or limited provisional license, then you are currently unable to schedule an appointment with NCDMV, because road tests are suspended, except for commercial driver license and medical reevaluation. 

Should you need to schedule an appointment with NCDMV you can do so by calling 919-715-7000, but be prepared for lengthy hold times.  For some locations, appointments can be scheduled online. 

By Jana H. Collins

Be Responsible – Plan Ahead

Tuesday, March 24th, 2020

When the time in one’s life comes and there is a need for assistance with a living will, estate planning, guardianship, or a health care power of attorney, contacting an attorney with experience can help make this overwhelming and uncomfortable time a little easier. 

A living will, or an advance directive for a natural death, is a collection of legal documents that outlines your preferences and certain decisions with respect to your future health care.  Please note that a living will does not have an effect on the property of a decedent. 

With estate planning, the money and other property a decedent had to their name when they passed is distributed to friends/family as desired by the decedent.  A will, or last will and testament, is a set of documents that was created while the decedent was alive, and determines where the decedent’s money and property will be distributed to after their death. 

A health care power of attorney is someone who is chosen by the individual who cannot make health care decisions on their own, and will assist with important decisions and health care management.

Guardianship for an individual is decided by the clerk of superior court when ones mental capacity does not allow for them to make that choice on their own, and is someone who will help an individual with their health care decisions and their health care management. 

If you or a loved one needs help with a living will, estate, guardianship, or a healthcare power of attorney 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 for a confidential consultation about what we can do for you.

By. Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Covid19 – Access Denied

Friday, March 20th, 2020

With the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, businesses around the globe are having to make decisions to close, whether it be temporarily or permanent.  Here in North Carolina, bars and restaurants are currently closed for dine-in, and are instead offering take out and/or delivery options.  These changes are set for at least March 31, possibly longer, depending on how the virus develops and continues to spread. 

As of today, because of COVID-19, the Wrightsville Beach Mayor and the Chief of Police have decided to close all of the public beach accesses.  Surf City has also made the announcement that they have closed their public beach accesses.   

Carolina Beach officials followed in the same fashion at a meeting this afternoon, and called a State of Emergency and decided to also close their public beach accesses.  These decisions have been made to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our area, especially now that there have been 3 positive test results from our area.  

Wrightsville Beach, Surf City, and Carolina Beach are all popular destinations for tourists and locals – other beaches in our area include Caswell Beach, Holden Beach, Kure Beach, Oak Island, Ocean Isle Beach, Surf City, Sunset Beach, and Topsail Island.  However, officials in North Carolina are strongly urging residents strongly suggest against non-essential travel at this time and many vacation rental agency discuss flexible cancellation and date moving requests due to Covid19.  And, North Carolina’s welcome centers have been closed until at least April 1, 2020.

In the midst of information about the spreading of the virus or new precautions, unfortunately, false claims are spread promising ways to prevent an infection or even kill the virus, like inhaling hot air from a hair dryer, or gargling with warm water and salt or vinegar.  Please always consider the source of information and check with a healthcare professional before turning to self-remedies.  

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

New Hanover County, North Carolina

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

New Hanover County was founded in 1729 and was named after the House of Hanover.  It has an estimated population of 228,657 as of 2019.  

New Hanover County is known for its history – two of the biggest historic attractions are the Fort Fisher State Historic Site and the USS North Carolina. The Fort Fisher Battlefield is located in Fort Fisher. At Fort Fisher, visitors have a chance to get up close and see where the Battle of Fort Fisher was held. Visitors can also go inside the USS North Carolina, which became one of the first ten fastest battleships to join the American Fleet in World War II.

In addition to the Fort Fisher Battlefield and the Battleship, there is historic Downtown Wilmington with its mile-long Riverwalk along the Cape Fear River. It was named “Best American Riverfront” by USA Today in 2014.  There are various local shops, and restaurants and bars, where you can watch the passersby while enjoying a nice meal or drink in this beautiful scenery. 

New Hanover County has a countless other attractions which make it a very popular location to visit in Southeastern North Carolina.  The most popular locations to visit are the beautiful beaches: Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, and Kure Beach.  Especially when the weather is nice, visitors as well as residents enjoy these beautiful beaches and beach towns, and take advantage of countless opportunities like boating, scuba diving, and surfing—Wrightsville Beach was named one of the “World’s 20 Best Surf Towns” by National Geographic Magazine.

Usually, around this time of year, New Hanover County’s residents as well as visitors, would be preparing for the Azalea Festival, where thousands of people flock to celebrate by attending concerts, the Garden Party, art shows, and other exciting festivities.  However, for the first time in it’s 73-year history, the Azalea Festival has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Pender County, North Carolina

Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Pender County was established in 1875 and named after the Confederate Army General William D. Pender who was honored for fighting in many battles for this country. Pender County currently holds a population of 62,162 as of the 2018 U.S. census, and has grown approximately 15% since 1990, when the population was 34,000. This has made Pender County one of the fastest growing counties in North Carolina.  

Known best for its beautiful scenery, voluminous forest areas, and flat terrain with a land area of 869.80 square miles, Pender County is able to grow an assortment of different crops such as sweet potatoes, peanuts, grapes, soybeans, corn, tobacco, and blueberries which generates a major portion of the county’s economic base. Burgaw has their annual Blueberry Festival where more than 30,000 people have been estimated to attend each year for their one-day event, where locals and tourist enjoy family entertainment all day and experience their southern hospitality.  

In addition to the flat terrain in Pender County, there are two rivers that run through the county, the Cape Fear River and the Black River. Running along the Northeast of the Cape Fear River is the Holly Shelter Game Land, where you can hunt during September 8th through January 1st and hike through the off season. The Black River is unique due to it being one of only two rivers that are pollution free in North Carolina. Pender County is also home to Topsail Beach, which attracts visitors all year long because of its small town feel and the beautiful beach.     

Pender County has several major highways surrounding it such as I-40, U.S. 17, U.S. 421, and U.S. 117. These highways can help make an easier commute to surrounding cities such as Wilmington, Jacksonville, or Myrtle Beach.

With all the traveling and sightseeing, make sure you are following the rules of the road – always wear your seatbelt, drive at safe speeds, and never drive impaired.

However, if you or someone you know received a traffic ticket, or face a criminal charge in or around Burgaw, NC, in Pender County, in New Hanover or Brunswick Counties, then Attorney David Collins can help.  He has over 25 years of experience in the legal field, and has successfully handled scores of criminal and traffic cases.

Call us for a confidential consultation at (910) 793-9000.  Collins Law Firm is available 24/7 by appointment.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Cancellations and Closures due to COVID-19

Monday, March 16th, 2020

As of today, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 here in New Hanover County.  However, over the weekend, a person in Brunswick County received a positive diagnosis for the virus. 

In response to the pandemic, the Brunswick County Courthouse is closed until at least Friday, March 20, 2020.  The New Hanover and Pender County Courthouses are currently open, but not to the general public and with restrictions. 

On a national level, the PGA Golf Tour has been cancelled, and the National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS) are all suspending their seasons.  Even Disney Parks have all been closed to try to halt the spread of the virus.  With respect to events local to our area, the Azalea Festival has been cancelled, as well as the Southport Spring Festival.  The Cameron Art Museum will be closed from March 17 through March 30, 2020.  Grocery stores will have shorter hours, such as Publix closing at 8 p.m., and Walmart will now only be open from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., regardless of whether or not they are a 24-hour store. 

So far, K-12 schools across the State have cancelled classes until at least March 30, 2020.  However, there are options for children to pick up breakfast and lunch from different locations in their area.  All schools within the UNC School System have cancelled in-person classes by March 20, with online courses beginning March 23.

These cancellations and closures have been in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, which in turn will help keep our healthcare system from being overloaded, similar to what is currently happening in Italy. 

We urge everyone to continue to practice excellent hygiene, such as properly washing your hands often, practice social distancing, and stay home if you have symptoms, and check for updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  If you have the option, please consider to conduct business remotely if possible.  Also, if you intent to see your healthcare provider because you suspect you may have contracted the virus, please call then first so they can take precautions and prepare to see you. 

North Carolina residents who have questions and concerns about coronavirus may call the Coronavirus Line at 1-866-462-3821. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

COVID-19 in Southeastern North Carolina

Friday, March 13th, 2020

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the United States, we try to hope for the best and plan for the worst, as far as preparing for a potential outbreak here in our area.  Governor Roy Cooper declared a State of Emergency on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

As of today, there are no confirmed cases of the virus in New Hanover County, but there is one case confirmed in nearby Onslow County, at Camp Lejeune. 

The New Hanover County Courthouse released a statement today with respect to their actions against spreading the virus. 

As a precaution, the Azalea Festival has been cancelled, and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) has decided to cancel all high school sporting events starting midnight on Friday, March 13, until at least April 6, 2020. 

Officials say that practicing proper hygiene and handwashing techniques can help prevent spread of COVID-19, but also to get in the habit of practicing “social distancing,” which can best be described as keeping 6-10 feet away from others, not going to crowded events, avoiding shaking hands with people, and if you have any respiratory symptoms, use your best judgment to self-monitor your symptoms and contact your medical provider, and to decide whether you should stay home from work and other activities.

As we stay as prepared as possible, as well as wait to hear additional information on how our daily lives will be affected, we urge you all to continue to use caution when out in public, wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, and wipe down areas that are frequently touched by multiple people – phones, TV remotes, laptops, tablets, doorknobs, and light switches. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Brunswick County, North Carolina

Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Brunswick County is North Carolina’s southernmost county, with a 2010 census population count of 107,431 – ten years prior, the county only had 73,143 residents.   According to the United States Census, the estimated population in 2018 was approximately 136,744, making Brunswick County the 4th fastest growing county in the country!   

            Tourism is one of the biggest economy boosters in Brunswick County – Oak Island, Bald Head Island, Shallotte, and the beautiful beaches are areas of Brunswick County that attract people from all over the State.  The historic town of Southport has an old jail that has been renovated and turned into a museum, as well as a popular downtown area with waterfront seafood restaurants, shops, and breweries to explore.  Scenic areas around Brunswick County, as well as the location of EUE/Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, also helped attract the attention of movie producers to film scenes of movies such as “A Walk to Remember,” “Safe Haven,” “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and shows such as “Under the Dome” and “Sleepy Hollow.”

With tourism, especially in the summer months, crime can certainly follow.  From DWIs and drug charges, to traffic tickets, getting a citation should be the last thing on your mind when visiting a beautiful county like Brunswick, but it is possible.  We would like to please remind you to always follow the rules of the road – wear your seatbelt, drive at safe speeds, and never drive impaired. 

If you or a loved one seek legal representation in a personal injury claim (including automobile accidents, tractor trailer accidents, or wrongful death claims), then Collins Law Firm along with Attorney Mitch Baker can offer their 65+ years combined experience to effectively represent you. 

If you or someone you know receive a traffic ticket, or face a criminal charge in or around Wilmington NC in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, then Attorney David Collins can help.  He has over 25 years of experience in the legal field, and has successfully handled scores of criminal and traffic cases. 

Call us for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.  Collins Law Firm is available 24/7 by appointment. 

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

White-Collar Crime

Monday, February 24th, 2020

In 1939, the American Sociologist, Edwin Hardin Sutherland introduced the concept of white-collar crime, and defined it as “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation.”

While criminal prosecutions primarily take place on a state level, white- collar crimes are often prosecuted on the federal level, often because they are committed crossing state lines.

In the result of a white-collar crime, there is generally a financial gain at the expense of another, and there is no violence involved.

Some examples of white-collar crimes are: Fraud, identity theft, embezzlement, money laundering, employee theft, credit card theft, asset forfeiture, mail and wire fraud, and last but not least, extortion.

If charged with a white-collar crime one faces financial penalties, or even prison time, depending on the specific allegations. In many situations however, one’s professional license can be compromised in the result of a conviction or even just an investigation for an alleged white -collar crime.  Therefore, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as you become aware of an investigation or a charge pending against you.

If you are charged or investigated for an alleged white-collar crime 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 for a confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins