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Collins Law Firm :: Blog

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

Spring Forward 2021

March 12th, 2021

It’s that time of year again, folks! Time to push those clocks forward one hour this Sunday, March 14, so we will “lose” an hour of sleep this weekend. The first day of Spring, which is also known as the Vernal Equinox, is Saturday, March 20, 2021.

As we continue to remember and look back on the past year of the pandemic – from quarantining, social distancing, losing loved ones, and lives being turned upside down in every possible way – we can also appreciate the little things that make us smile, including a few days of warmer weather and sunshine.

The increasing number of North Carolinians receiving the COVID vaccine has also seemed to put a glimmer of hope into our hearts that we might – one day soon – be able to gather in a group with friends to enjoy the summer weather.

As the weather continues to warm up and COVID restrictions are becoming slightly more lenient, there is a higher possibility of finding yourself in need of an attorney, because you received a traffic ticket, or face even more serious charges such as driving while impaired (DWI / DUI), underage drinking, possession of drugs and/or drug paraphernalia, possession of open container, etc.  There is also an increased risk of getting injured while traveling by car, or while boating. 

Should you find yourself in need of an attorney for a serious personal injury or wrongful death matter, or should you need representation for a criminal charge, or a traffic ticket, please give our office a call for a confidential consultation.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Second Chance Act, Part II – North Carolina

March 4th, 2021

In Part I, we discussed the Second Chance Act, and how it will affect charges that are dismissed without leave, dismissed by the court, acquitted, found not guilty, or not responsible on or after December 1, 2021. This blog, Part II, will discuss some of the other changes to expungement laws in North Carolina.

According to N.C.G.S.§ 15A-146(a4), an automatic expunction will not be required by law for a case with a felony charge that was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement – individuals in this scenario must petition for an expunction, as it was the case under the previous statute.

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 15A-145.5 (c), the petition for expunction shall not be filed earlier than one of the following:

 (1) For expunction of one nonviolent misdemeanor, five years after the date of the conviction or when any active sentence, period of probation, or post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later.

(2) For expunction of more than one nonviolent misdemeanor, seven years after the date of the person’s last conviction, other than a traffic offense not listed in the petition for expunction, or seven years after any active sentence, period of probation, or post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later.

(3) For expunction of one nonviolent felony, 10 years after the date of the conviction or 10 years after any active sentence, period of probation, or post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later.

If an individual has been previously granted an expunction for a nonviolent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor, then they are not eligible for an expunction under the new law.

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 15A-145.5 (a), the term “nonviolent misdemeanor” or “nonviolent felony” means any misdemeanor or felony except the following:

(1) A Class A through G felony or a Class A1 misdemeanor.

(2) An offense that includes assault as an essential element of the offense.

(3) An offense requiring registration pursuant to Article 27A of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes, whether or not the person is currently required to register.

(4) Any of the following sex-related or stalking offenses: G.S. 14-27.25(b), 14-27.30(b), 14-190.7, 14-190.8, 14-190.9, 14-202, 14-208.11A, 14-208.18, 14-277.3, 14-277.3A, 14-321.1.

(5) Any felony offense in Chapter 90 of the General Statutes where the offense involves methamphetamines, heroin, or possession with intent to sell or deliver or sell and deliver


(6) An offense under G.S. 14-12.12(b), 14-12.13, or 14-12.14, or any offense for which punishment was determined pursuant to G.S. 14-3(c).

(7) An offense under G.S. 14-401.16.

(7a) An offense under G.S. 14-54(a), 14-54(a1), or 14-56.

(8) Any felony offense in which a commercial motor vehicle was used in the commission of the offense.

(8a) An offense involving impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a).

(9) Any offense that is an attempt to commit an offense described in subdivisions (1) through (8a) of this subsection.

If you or a loved one has a criminal record in New Hanover (including Wilmington, Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, and Wrightsville Beach), Pender (including Hampstead and Burgaw), or Brunswick County (including Bolivia, Ocean Isle Beach, Sunset Beach, Shallotte, Leland, and Southport), and are interested in having your record expunged, please give us a call for a confidential consultation. Mr. Collins has been successfully handling expunctions for over 20 years.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Relaxing Restrictions

February 24th, 2021

Since January of this year, the number of hospitalizations due to COVID-19, as well as the number of positive tests have decreased significantly. Additionally, at least 1.2 million North Carolinians have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Today, February 24, 2021, Governor Roy Cooper announced that a few COVID-19 restrictions will be eased, this week. A new executive order is set to go into effect this Friday, February 26, 2021 at 5:00 p.m., and last until March 26, 2021.

The following changes will be put into effect this Friday:

  • Bars may reopen for indoor seating with a 30% capacity or 250 people, whichever is less;
  • The statewide curfew from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. will expire;
  • Social gathering limits will be for 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors;
  • Businesses that were operating at 30% capacity will now have a 250-person maximum;
  • Alcohol can be sold at bars and restaurants until 11:00 p.m.;
  • More spectators will be allowed at high school, college, and professional sports events – the number allowed will depend on venue size;
  • Indoor arenas with a 5,000-person capacity will be able to open with 15% capacity, so long as all safety protocols are followed; and
  • Workers, athletes, entertainers, and staff do not count toward the above capacity limits.

Certain restrictions will remain in place, such as the statewide mask mandate, and the 50% capacity limit for businesses and retailers including restaurants, breweries, wineries, retail stores, gyms, museums, aquariums, barbers and personal care venues, pools and outdoor areas of amusement parks.

This news comes as a small sigh of relief for some small businesses who struggled during the shutdown last year – many of which have not yet been able to recover.

With respect to the vaccine rollout, frontline medical workers, teachers, educators, childcare workers, and people over age 65 are currently eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Group 3, which includes other frontline essential workers, will be eligible to get their first dose as of March 10.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Contactless Road Test

February 22nd, 2021

After the passing of House Bill 158 on June 19, 2020, temporarily waiving the road test requirement for level two limited provisional licenses, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV) started to offer road tests to teen drivers again.

House Bill 158 did not address 16- or 17-year-olds seeking a full provisional license – Teen Driver Level 3.  In order to advance to Teen Driver Level 3, one needs to pass a road test.   

NCDMV now offers modified contactless road tests at limited locations by appointment for Level 2 drivers that have received a waiver and now need a road test to advance to Level 3, as well for other qualifying reasons such as: 

  • One previously failed a road test and was never retested prior to March 2020;
  • Governed by lawful and or legal presence status (not permanent residence);
  • Driving privileges were suspended when the previous credential expired;

The road tests developed by NCDMV are now contactless and are held in large parking lots.  This way, the license examiner does not need to sit in the car with the driver. However, only 14 out of 115 driver license offices are equipped to offer these contactless road tests. Also, while one can schedule appointments with the NCDMV online, this option does not currently exist for limited provisional licensees wanting to advance to Level 3.   Due to the limited space for contactless road tests, it may take weeks before one can get an appointment.  You may apply for an appointment by contacting NCDMV by phone at (919) 715-7000, or by email via DMVDS@ncdot.gov.  If you email NCDMV in order to apply for a contactless road test, please include your name, county of residence, driver license or permit number, phone number, and the reason qualifying you to take the contactless road test, i.e. level 2 driver wanting to advance, or previously failed road test, etc.

Please make sure to obey by the strict restrictions for your level of teen driving in order to be able to gain the on-the-road experience necessary to drive a vehicle with no supervision and minimal restrictions, and in order to avoid traffic tickets which may be costly.

However, if you find yourself in need of an attorney because were charged with a traffic violation or crime in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick Counties, call Collins Law Firm at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation about how we can help you.

By Jana H. Collins

Bad Winter Weather 2021

February 19th, 2021

Many states in the Midwest, Northeast, and other parts of North America are either under several inches of snow, or are anticipating the same in the near future. Below-normal temperatures, flooding, storms that seem to appear out of nowhere, and power outages have also swept across much of the United States within the past few weeks.

Locally, in Brunswick County, there was a deadly tornado that hit on Monday night, killing three people and injuring ten. According to WECT, it is ideal to have a tornado watch issued hours prior to a storm, in order to warn local citizens that a tornado may be likely in the current conditions. However, for this storm, there was only six minutes between the issuance of the severe thunderstorm warning and the tornado warning. The storm intensified too quickly for Brunswick County Emergency Services to send a timely warning. The Emergency Services Director at the Brunswick County Emergency Services, Edward Conrow, said that he heard the first crack of thunder, and only a few seconds later the tornado touched down. The National Weather Service says the tornado was designated as an EF-3 with estimated wind speeds of about 160 miles per hour (MPH).

The tornado touched down at 2 North Sunset Beach at 11:34 p.m. on Monday night, and dissipated about 22 miles away, at 10 SW Delco in Columbus County by 12:02 a.m. on Tuesday.  In addition to the loss of life the tornado caused, 60 homes were damaged, and over 35,000 people lost power.

There was a community-wide cleanup effort that started before the sun came up on Tuesday, including volunteers from the Red Cross and neighboring communities.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

The Second Chance Act, Part I – North Carolina

January 8th, 2021

The Second Chance Act was signed by Governor Cooper on June 25, 2020, with a unanimous passing at the General Assembly. This new bill, in an effort to expand opportunities and streamline services for expunctions (or expungements), will not only benefit individuals with criminal records, but also law enforcement and court personnel.

Charges that are dismissed without leave, dismissed by the court, acquitted, found not guilty, or not responsible on or after December 1, 2021, will be automatically expunged pursuant to the new North Carolina General Statute §15A-146(a4). Until that date, charges that fall under the same category will need to still be petitioned to be expunged, either by the individual or an attorney. In addition, there will be no disqualification based on prior convictions of felonies or misdemeanors. Under the previous law, individuals with prior felony convictions could not obtain an expunction of a dismissed charge. The new statute also involves no waiting period and no limit on the number of expungements an individual can pursue for dismissed charges.  A petition for expunction may be filed by the affected person or by the District Attorney.

According to the new statute, 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, and

(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.

If you or someone you know is interested in having their record expunged in New Hanover, Pender, or Brunswick County, please give our office a call for a confidential consultation. We also handle serious personal injury and wrongful death cases as well as wills and estates with our of counsel attorney, Mitch Baker.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal