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Collins Law Firm :: Blog

Think Twice Before Using a Fake ID

September 20th, 2016

fake-idYou may want to think twice before using a fake ID in New Hanover or Pender County from now on.  Starting October 1, you will face more penalties in court if you are caught using a fake ID.

District Attorney Ben David announced some changes to the underage drinking deferred prosecution program dealing with fake ID’s to try to make things a little bit more serious.  Today, the program includes a requirement where defendants have to go to New Hanover Regional Medical Center on a Friday night to be exposed to some of the trauma resulting from drinking and driving. They also are required to spend a couple of hours in DWI treatment court for educational purposes. In addition to these requirements, those who are charged with a fake ID offense after October 1st will have their license taken by the court for 60 days.

These changes are not only put in place to do things such as combat identity theft, but also to save lives.  Statistics show that other states that also enforce these types of programs have seen a 7% reduction in fatal accidents. When put into perspective, that is equal to saving one young person’s life per week.

Some people under the age of 21 pay nearly $200 to order a fake ID online and are giving away crucial information to their identity such as their social security and license number. Not only do these things put them at risk for identity theft themselves, but it is very dangerous. These ID’s have become extremely difficult to spot in the recent years, but bars, restaurants, grocery stores, etc. are starting to crack down and become better at detecting fake ID’s.

We encourage all high school and college students in New Hanover, Pender, Brunswick, and surrounding counties to be safe and never purchase or use a fake ID. However, should you find yourself in trouble and need to hire a lawyer or know of someone who does, Collins Law Firm can help. Give us a call at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

 

By Kimberlin Murray, Legal Assistant

 

Back to School – School Bus Safety

August 30th, 2016

School_Bus_Stop_Law_400This week, many North Carolina children said goodbye to their summer break and began the 2016-2017 school year.  For many students, this involves riding a school bus to and from school. There are thousands of school buses traveling North Carolina highways daily, which means that it is incredibly important for drivers to pay attention to the road and avoid distractions in order to keep everyone safe.

It is extremely important for drivers to be cautious, aware, and patient on the road, especially around crosswalks, schools, and buses at this time of the year.

Drivers are required by law to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers, but it is also important for parents to inform their children 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.

Everyone must stop if it is a:

  • Two-lane road (with or without turning lane)
  • Four-lane road with no separation
  • Center turn lane with less than 4 lanes

Only drivers following the school bus need to stop when there is a:

  • Center turn lane with at least four other lanes
  • Four lane road or more with a median or some sort of physical boundary

According 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:

  • $500 penalty and five-point penalty to your driver’s license if you pass a stopped school bus
  • Minimum fine of $1,000 and a Class I felony if you pass a stopped school bus and strike someone
  • Fine of $2,500 and a Class H felony if someone is killed

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. Please give us a call at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Kimberlin Murray, Legal Assitant at Collins Law Firm

Distracted Driving

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!

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

Buckle Down & Buckle Up

May 24th, 2016

Battleship_and_flag_on_river-webMemorial Day is right around the corner, and for those of us near the coast, this means considerably higher traffic along our thoroughfares as vacationers flock to the beach for the holiday weekend. Ranking as one of the top ten most visited states for domestic travel, NC commonly experiences increased roadway congestion. What this weekend should also remind us of, however, is the extreme importance of automobile safety as our loved ones submit themselves to the mercy of their fellow drivers among our state’s highways. This sentiment is echoed by Governor Pat McCrory, who has officially declared May Seat Belt Safety Awareness Month. At 42% percent, almost half of passenger vehicle fatalities last year can be attributed to drivers or passengers not wearing seat belts.

To this end, the Governor’s Highways Safety Program features the continuance of the State’s “Click it or Ticket” campaign intended to increase seat belt usage by raising awareness of NC’s strict seat belt policies: charging up to $179 in fines per ticket and even up to $263 per passengers 15 and under not wearing their seat belt. The initiative also features the increased likelihood of police checkpoints on the roads intended to make sure drivers are buckling up.

On the other hand, for drivers leaving the coastal area, here are a few helpful pieces of traffic information courtesy of the North Carolina Department of Transportation to expedite your commute:

  • N.C. 42 will have a signed detour, road closure and bridge replacement east and west of Ahoskie Creek in Hertford County.
  • N.C. 94 will have a road closure and bridge construction on Elementary School Road at U.S. 64 in Tyrrell County.
  • U.S. 158 will have two-lane two-way traffic on the Pasquotank River Bridge in Pasquotank County.
  • I-85 will have lane closures in both the northbound and southbound lanes traffic between the Virginia line and the town of Henderson. The pattern affects traffic in Vance and Granville counties.
  • U.S. 23/74 will have a bridge replacement in Jackson County.
  • N.C. 294 will have portable traffic signals in Cherokee County.

As always, remember to start your commute early in the day to avoid peak traffic hours, obey the posted speed limits, never drive when feeling tired or drowsy, and needless to say, buckle up!

Have a great Holiday weekend, and stay out of trouble; but if you do find yourself in need of representation or know someone else who does, be sure to give us a call at Collins Law Firm (910) 793-9000.

By Clifford Howie, Legal Assistant

 

NC Good Samaritin Law

April 18th, 2016

Help-Bring-Good-Samaritan-Laws-to-Your-State-Partnership-for-Drug-Free-KidsThe Good Samaritan Law (now effective in 20 states) went into effect in North Carolina on April 9, 2013. The basis for the law is overdose prevention and survival – get help, CALL 911! Individuals who experience or witness an overdose can now seek help for the victim without being prosecuted for small amounts of drugs/drug paraphernalia, or alcohol for persons under 21 years old under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 18B-302.2 Medical treatment; limited immunity. Additionally, as of August 1, 2015, a person who seeks medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug overdose cannot be considered in violation of probation, condition of parole, or post-release. Likewise, the victim is protected. In order for the immunity to apply, however, the 911 caller must provide his or her name, and act in good faith when seeking assistance, and reasonably believe that he or she is the first person to call for help.

According to a recent statewide survey conducted by the North Carolina Human Resources Center, 88% of North Carolinians say they feel more comfortable calling 911 with this law in effect. With over 44.000 people dying each year in the United States due to drug overdose, one can only hope that this law will help save lives in North Carolina.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Dealing With An EEOC Complaint

April 1st, 2016

EEOCWhen one files a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) it then becomes the agency’s responsibility to determine whether or not there is reason to believe that discrimination took place. Both the Charging Party (complainant) and the Respondent (defendant) are given an opportunity to provide information and explain what happened. The EEOC requests that the Respondent submit a statement of position, or position statement, with supporting evidence to prove why they do not deserve to be charged. Here are the guidelines, as recommended by the EEOC, on how to create an effective position statement:

  • Focus on the facts, be clear and concise.
  • Address each alleged discriminatory act and your position regarding it and provide copies of documents supporting your position and/or version of the events.
  • Provide a description of the organization; include the organization’s legal name and address, the name, address, title, telephone number and email address of the person responsible for responding to the charge, the primary nature of the business, and the number of employees. A staffing or organizational chart is also useful in helping to focus the investigation.
  • Provide any applicable practices, policies or procedures applicable to the allegations in the charge.
  • Identify any individuals other than the Charging Party who have been similarly affected by these practices, policies or procedures; describe the circumstances in which the practices, policies, or procedures have been applied.
  • Explain why individuals who were in a similar situation to the Charging Party were not similarly affected.
  • Identify official(s) who made decisions or took action relating to the matter(s) raised in the charge.
  • Be specific about date(s), action(s) and location(s) applicable to this case.
  • Provide internal investigations of the alleged incidents or grievance hearing reports.
  • Inform EEOC if the matter has been resolved or can be resolved; if it can be resolved, please indicate your proposal for resolution.

Please be mindful of confidential information when preparing the statement, described below:

Respondent should segregate the following information into separate attachments and designate them as follows:

  • Sensitive medical information (except for the Charging Party’s medical information).
  • Social Security Numbers.
  • Confidential commercial or confidential financial information.
  • Trade secrets information.
  • Non-relevant personally identifiable information of witnesses, comparators or third parties, for example, social security numbers, dates of birth in non-age cases, home addresses, personal phone numbers, personal email addresses, etc.
  • Any reference to charges filed against the Respondent by other charging parties.

Supporting documentary evidence is also important. You may submit statements or affidavits from witnesses with direct knowledge of the alleged events and/or from the alleged harasser responding to the Charging Party’s allegations.

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Justice for our furry friends!

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

Put down that mobile phone!

February 15th, 2016

no_cell_phoneAccording N.C.G.S. § 20-137.4., it is unlawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle while using his or her mobile telephone to text or email, with just a few exceptions as follows: if the driver is parked or stopped, if the means of communication are required for law enforcement to fulfill their duty/duties, for the use of factory-installed or GPS systems, or with the use of voice technology. Everyone knows that texting while driving is illegal, much thanks to the many preventative texting while driving campaigns have launched nationally such as “It Can Wait, “ and the “Safe Texting Campaign.” But what about all of the other distractions  that put drivers at risk, like taking selfies, Instagramming, and Facebook? Although just as distracting and fatal, these types of behaviors are rarely reprimanded by law enforcement officers because there are no clear cut statutes that define these violations.

Realistically, as long as humans operate vehicles, there will be distractions, and especially as technology advances. Virginia is currently making an effort to crack down on the use of mobile phones while driving.  Last week a legislative panel in VA approved a bill that bans drivers from “manually selecting multiple icons or enter multiple letters or text in [a handheld personal communications device].” The ban also eliminates entry of icons be used as “means of communicating with another person,” and finally to “read any information displayed on the device.”

Regulating mobile phone use by drivers, although, is really a tough job for legislatures. Think about it, every time a new law is presented, by the time it becomes effective software developers have a new program or app that is more popular anyway, often making the old law meaningless. Consider the Virginia plan above, for instance. Where’s the rule on taking selfies while driving?

14 states have outlawed the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle all together, leaving a lot of gray area for the 36 other about what you can do with your phone while driving.  An interesting idea maybe North Carolina should consider – what about expanding the Careless and Reckless statute to include making any and all distracting behavior citable?

By Amber Younce, Legal Assistant

Medical Marijuana Making Federal Progress

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