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Collins Law Firm :: Blog

A Gift from New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office

March 8th, 2022

Last weekend, New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office gifted a brand-new bicycle to a 9-year-old girl. Officers first met this brave young girl when she was the victim of a hostage situation.  She was taken from her home at knifepoint in Wilmington.  The Emergency Response Team was able to negotiate with the suspect and rescue the child.  Then, only a few months later, the sheriff’s office responded to another call at her address, but this time, the family’s shed was broken into. Among the items stolen was the young girl’s bicycle.

About 10 members of the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office donated to buy her a new bike which they were able to give to her over the weekend. They described her as very brave and so strong.  Further, they commented that, as parents, they were honored to be able to help, and admitted that it was heartbreaking to know that her bike was stolen.  Especially knowing that she had been through so much already, they hope that this young girl will remember this one good thing for the rest of her life.

Since “good news” stories rarely make headlines, we wanted to take a moment to highlight this story.

By Michelle McDonald, Paralegal

Need Legal Advice?

March 4th, 2022

The North Carolina Bar Association and Foundation are partnering for their annual event, the 4All Statewide Service Day, held today, Friday, March 4, 2022, from 11:00 AM until 7:00 PM.  Attorney volunteers will take calls and provide free legal information at 910-218-2040. 

If you missed the event, Collins Law Firm offers free consultations for serious personal injury matters, which are handled on a contingency basis.  That means we only charge a fee if we recover money for you.  Also, we offer free telephone consultations for most traffic matters and less serious criminal charges. 

You can reach us by calling 910-793-9000.

By Michelle K. McDonald, Paralegal

Fatal Crash Factors: Speeding and DWI

February 8th, 2022

WECT reported on February 3, 2022, that they requested and reviewed recent traffic data from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (DOT) due to a “dramatic increase” of traffic-related fatalities in our area. New Hanover County’s District Attorney (DA) Ben David even referenced 35 fatalities that occurred on New Hanover County’s roads alone.  WECT interpreted the DOT data as the highest rise in fatal crashes ever recorded with traffic death numbers in 2021.

State Highway Patrol data show troopers responded to fewer DWI-related crashes in 2021, but speed continues to be a problem.

Wilmington Police Department (WPD) reflected a 48 percent decrease in speeding tickets issued in 2021 than in 2020.  WPD admitted there have been staff shortages since the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic, and each of the law enforcement agencies have struggled with filling their many vacancies.  However, WPD swore in eleven officers on January 28, 2022.

With respect to being short staffed, DA Ben David said, “They’re doing more with less than any time I’ve been a prosecutor.  One of my real hopes for 2022 is that we really ramp up enforcement, particularly with two things that kill people on the roads: speed and DWI enforcement.” In conclusion, we should expect to see more blue lights in 2022 according to WECT who reported that there will be an increase in enforcement with an emphasis on Speeding and DWI, which are key factors for fatal crashes.

By Michelle K. McDonald, Paralegal

North Carolina Expunction Law Revision

February 2nd, 2022

Although many provisions of the Second Chance Act went into effect in 2020—a new law intended to give one in four North Carolinians who have a criminal record a chance at a clean slate—hit a key milestone in December 2021.

Beginning on December 1, 2021, charges for which one was found not guilty or which were dismissed, will be expunged by operation of law pursuant to N.C.G.S.§15A-146 (a4):

(a4) Dismissal, Not Guilty, or Not Responsible on or After December 1, 2021. – If any person is charged with a crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony, or is charged with an infraction, the charges in the case are expunged by operation of law if all of the following apply:

(1) All charges in the case are disposed on or after December 1, 2021.

(2) All charges in the case are dismissed without leave, dismissed by the court, or result in a finding of not guilty or not responsible.

Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, no case with a felony charge that was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement will be expunged pursuant to this subsection.

These automatic expunctions do not apply to dismissal which are the result of a deferred prosecution, or which were dismissed pursuant to a plea of guilty to another charge.

Before this new law went into effect, the fact that one was charged with a crime remained on ones records and would show on criminal background checks despite a dismissal or a finding of not guilty, unless the charges were expunged after one petitioned the court for an expunction of record.  For charges which were dismissed or acquitted prior to December 1, 2021, one still needs to petition the court for an expunction.

Should you have a criminal record and would like to have your record expunged, please contact Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation to determine your eligibility.

By Michelle K. McDonald, Paralegal

Booze It & Lose It Campaign – 2021 Holiday Season

December 20th, 2021

As of December 13, 2021, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol started their Booze It & Lose It campaign, and that will run through January 2, 2022.

Mark Ezzell, the director of the N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program (NCGHSP), says, “If you’re out celebrating this holiday season, make sure you have a sober ride home. If you drive under the influence, you have a lot to lose. Not only could you kill yourself or someone else, but you could face thousands of dollars in court costs and fines, jail time, or a revoked license.”

The “Booze It & Lose It” campaign is one of the largest that is operated by the NCGHSP – in 2020, officers wrote over 1,700 tickets for driving while intoxicated (DWI).

According to the State Highway Patrol, 326 people have died in North Carolina accidents so far in 2021, all due to impaired driving.

According to the NCGHSP, here are some tips to remember for road safety over the holidays (and year round):

•    Never drive impaired and always find a safe ride home;

•    Buckle your seatbelt when riding in any seat in the vehicle; and

•    Follow the speed limit.

However, if you are charged with any type of 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 about what we can do to help you.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Being a Pedestrian in Wilmington Traffic

October 22nd, 2021

As the fall season starts this year and Halloween comes closer, there are more pedestrians as well as more drivers on our roads.

There have been multiple hit-and-run accidents this year in our area, including the tragic death of 25-year-old Ammad Brown, who was hit and killed by a vehicle last month in Carolina Beach.

The Wilmington Police Department (WPD), as well as other local authorities, urges pedestrians to be extra cautious and mindful of the laws, especially considering that traffic has the right of way if a pedestrian is crossing the street mid-block.

Authorities say that following these pedestrian safety tips could save lives:

  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  • When possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk.
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Look for cars in all directions, including those turning right or left.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.
  • Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.

Another extremely common cause of car accidents is distracted driving. Distracted driving includes texting, eating, or simply not paying attention to their surroundings while operating a motor vehicle.  It only takes a moment of distraction for a possibly life-changing accident to occur.  Take a second to think before texting while driving, or being distracted in another way – it could be what it takes to save a life! However, eliminating distractions while driving is only half the battle when considering being a safe driver – you have to also be aware of other driver’s movements and anticipate possible traffic violations, such as an unsafe lane change, or failure to stop for a stop sign or red light. 

If you or a loved one is seriously injured in an accident, as a result of someone else’s fault or negligence, we can help you get maximum compensation (money damages) for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages.

If you are charged with any type of 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 about what we can do to help you.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

High School Sports and “Click It or Ticket”

October 21st, 2021

As the 2021 fall season for our high school athletes comes to an end, many teams made it to the playoffs and will hit the road to face opponents further away. 

While our area football and soccer teams still have two more weeks to compete locally before we will know for sure which of the teams will advance, the volleyball teams have already completed their regular season, and Mideastern Conference Tournament.  Congratulations to the Ashley High School Screaming Eagles for claiming the Mideastern Conference Tournament title!

All of the volleyball teams of the four public New Hanover County high schools (Ashley, Hoggard, Laney, and New Hanover) advanced and will be playing in the first round of playoffs this coming Saturday, October 23, 2021. 

This gives reason to remind our athletes, their parents, administrators, and other fans to be safe on the roads.

Based on data shown by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the use of seatbelts has improved over the past 30 years.  While in the 1980s only about 10% of American wore a seatbelt, 90.7% of American did in 2019.   Despite the improved used of seatbelts, nearly half (47%) of the 36,096 people who were fatally injured in serious motor vehicle accidents in 2019 did not wear a seat belt.  

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) has partnered up with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) for their “Click It or Ticket” initiative, in order to promote highway safety awareness to reduce the number of traffic crashes and fatalities in the state of North Carolina.

It is the law in North Carolina to fasten your seatbelt regardless of where you sit in the vehicle. 

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-135.2A seatbelt use is mandatory:  

(a) Except as otherwise provided in G.S. 20-137.1, each occupant of a motor vehicle manufactured with seat belts shall have a seatbelt properly fastened about his or her body at all times when the vehicle is in forward motion on a street or highway in this State.

Schools are encouraged to promote the use of seatbelts at their sports events by Public Service Announcements, such as:

“#1: The Governor’s Highway Safety Program wants you to buckle up before heading home from the game tonight. Every seat, every time. This message is brought to you by GHSP’s Click It or Ticket program and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

#2: Don’t forget to buckle up before heading home from the game tonight. Every seat, every time. This message is brought to you by GHSP’s Click It or Ticket program and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

#3: Before heading home tonight, make sure every person in every seat is buckled North Carolina High School Athletic Association.”

Schools are also asked to promote the online Seat Belt Pledge to their student body, teachers, parents, fans, or anyone within their school and local community. 

Let’s buckle up and enjoy the games!

By Jana H. Collins

Mask Mandate for New Hanover County

August 20th, 2021

Effective today, August 20, 2021, at 5:00 p.m., New Hanover County Health and Human Service Board voted unanimously to mandate face coverings in all indoor public places in the County.

This follows news over the past few weeks of record-breaking COVID cases and hospitalizations across the United States, including all of North Carolina. According to the New York Times, on July 1, 2021, the average number of new cases of COVID was approximately 298 per day. By August 13, 2021, the number had jumped to a whopping 5,205 new cases per day!

Hospitals are getting up to maximum capacity with COVID patients, and medical professionals are urging everyone that can get the vaccine, to please do so.

In addition, beginning Thursday, August 19, 2021, New Hanover County Public Health vaccine clinics started offering third doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to individuals that are immunocompromised.

Please stay healthy, wash your hands, and mask up! 😊

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal


July 13th, 2021
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In December 2017, the options for expunctions (or expungements) and the process for removing convictions from people’s records have been drastically improved by Senate Bill 445.  More changes are coming soon. On June 25, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 562, a.k.a. The Second Chance Act, which will loosen previous requirements, allowing even more individuals with criminal histories to have a chance at clearing their records. While some changes become effective December 1, 2020, the most sweeping changes – the automatic expunction of dismissals or acquittals by operation of law – will not become effective until December 1, 2021.  Below are a few examples of the modifications to the laws regarding expunction that will apply to offenses committed by individuals of at least 18 / eighteen years of age:

In addition to misdemeanors and felonies, infractions will be eligible for expunction as long as the person was acquitted of the charges – i.e., they were dismissed or a finding of not guilty or not responsible was entered.  It will also no longer be required that the person had not previously been convicted of a felony to pursue an expunction for a dismissed or not guilty charge.

Felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions for which the person was acquitted, i.e., that were dismissed or for which a finding of not guilty or not responsible was entered on or after December 1, 2021, will be automatically expunged by operation of law, and will not require a petition.

Also, pursuant to The Second Chance Act, a person may file a petition for expunction of more than just one nonviolent misdemeanor convictions, but in that case will have to wait seven years rather than only five years in order to do so.

The professionals at Collins Law Firm have 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, or if you have a friend in such a situation, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility.

By David B. Collins, Jr.

Further Easing of COVID Restrictions

March 25th, 2021

With the recent data for COVID, which includes a continuous decrease in the number of positive tests as well as a constant rate of vaccine distribution, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced this week in the new Executive Order 204 that there will be further easement of COVID restrictions, effective tomorrow, March 26, 2021.

Changes that will be effective tomorrow, 3-26-2021, include the following:

  1. The 11:00 p.m. curfew for alcohol sales and consumption at bars and restaurants will be lifted;
  2. Museums, aquariums, retail businesses, salons and other personal care shops will be able to have capacity at up to 100% indoors and outdoors, as long as they have the required safety protocols in place;
  3. Restaurants, breweries, amusement parks, gyms, pools, and other recreation establishments will be able to have capacity of up to 75% indoors and up to 100% outdoors; and
  4. Bars, movie theaters, conference centers, sports arenas, and other venues for live performances can have capacity of up to 50% indoors and outdoors and are subject to masks and 6-feet social distancing.

The mask mandate and social distancing protocols will continue to stay in place across the State.

With respect to students attending in-person classes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently changed its guidelines, stating that students can safely sit three feet apart instead of six feet. Masks and frequent handwashing are still required.

Locally, as of April 12, 2021, New Hanover County students in grades 6-12 will have the option to either attend in-person classes 5 days per week, or they can choose to stay fully virtual.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal