Collins Law Firm • Over 65 Years Experience Combined
Anyone can be charged with a crime. Just because you are charged does not mean you are guilty. In fact, it is a fundamental principle in the United States that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. If you are charged with a crime, you should exercise your right to remain silent (which you always have—even before you are read your Miranda rights) and immediately obtain counsel.
Criminal charges, in addition to a sentence imposed by the court, can result in criminal records which can affect a person for their entire life. Therefore, it is very important that people who are charged take the matter seriously and take appropriate steps to avoid or mitigate the negative consequences of criminal charges. In some cases, it is possible to have criminal records expunged, which means the records are removed from the public records and destroyed by a process called expungement or expunction.
Even relatively minor charges like traffic tickets can affect one’s driving privileges, employment, and can cause expensive insurance premium increases. Many times these consequences can be avoided, and sometimes without the necessity of our clients appearing in court. North Carolina is one of the few states that has a disposition known as a Prayer for Judgment Continued or PJC. However, a PJC is not always the best result for all traffic matters. One should always consult an attorney experienced in traffic law if you receive a traffic citation.
Collins Law Firm represents people charged with a wide range of traffic matters from simple speeding tickets to serious felony charges. In many cases we are able to avoid the necessity of our clients appearing in court and we help eliminate or mitigate the negative consequences of citations or charges.
As with all criminal charges, convictions for traffic violations have a cumulative effect and multiple convictions can have serious adverse consequences. When we represent people charged with traffic violations, we will analyze the defendants record and attempt to get the best possible result available. In many cases we have been able to have charges dismissed all together. When that is not possible, we are prepared to go to trial or negotiate plea arrangements which will result in the least negative impact on our client.
Also, in many instances where people have represented themselves and the result was that they lost their license or their insurance premiums increased dramatically, by way of a Motion for Appropriate Relief, we have been able to go back and vacate the prior judgment and help our clients have their suspended licenses reinstated.
For most traffic matters, Collins Law Firm offers a free initial telephone consultation or we usually have appointments available immediately if you would like to come to our office to meet with a member of our staff.
If a defendant is convicted of a crime, the judge may impose a suspended sentence and place the defendant on probation. Probation can be either supervised or unsupervised. Under supervised probation, a defendant will be required to periodically meet with a probation officer. Other requirements are usually imposed as well such as community service, payment of fines and restitution, submit to drug screens, violate no laws, as well as a wide variety of additional requirements. If a defendant violates the terms of probation, they may be required to appear before a judge who may impose the previously suspended active sentence and require the defendant be incarcerated for the previously determined time period. Defendants who are being brought before the court on a probation violation are entitled to have an attorney represent them. Often, an attorney may be able to negotiate with the probation officer, and present information or evidence to the court to help effectuate the defendant's wishes.
Felonies and Misdemeanors
In North Carolina, as in most states, crimes are divided into two categories—misdemeanors and felonies. More serious crimes are categorized as felonies and less serious crimes are categorized as misdemeanors. On October 1, 1994, North Carolina implemented the structured sentencing laws. This legislation set up specific guidelines within which judges must sentence defendants. The sentences are determined pursuant to a grid which takes into account the defendant's prior record level and the classification of the crime. There are two different grids—one for misdemeanors and one for felonies.
In North Carolina, misdemeanors are divided into one of four classes ranging from the least serious Class 3 to the most serious, Class A-1. Class 3 misdemeanors carry a maximum active sentence of twenty days and Class A-1 misdemeanors carry a maximum active sentence of 150 days of incarceration. For misdemeanors, the defendant's prior record level is divided into three categories which are: level 1, no prior convictions; level 2, one to four prior convictions and; level 3, five or more prior convictions.
The sentencing grid for felonies is more extensive. Felonies are categorized in classes ranging from Class I, which is the least serious, carrying a maximum punishment of 15 months in prison, and the most serious crimes are classified as Class A which carries a maximum sentence of death or life without parole. The prior record level for felonies will range from a record level 1 which is for a defendant with 0 points to at the most serious prior record level which is Level 6, which is the level for defendants with 19 or more "points." The points for determining the record level under felony sentencing is determined by a set of rules where prior convictions for misdemeanors carry one point each and felony convictions carry two points for the least serious felonies and up to ten points for the most serious felonies.
Within the structured sentencing guidelines, there is room for the judge to impose a wide variety of conditions and the range of punishment within the guidelines is for the judge to decide based upon many factors including specific aggravating or mitigating factors. If you have been charged with a crime—either a misdemeanor or a felony—you should immediately consult with an attorney and not discuss your matter with anyone except for your attorney until and if your attorney advises you otherwise. There are many things that can be done which will either help or hurt your particular case and your attorney can help you minimize the negative impact you will ultimately suffer as a result of a criminal charge.
Drug and alcohol offenses may have specific laws which address additional consequences you may suffer in addition to the conviction. In many cases, depending on the charge and your age, drug and alcohol offenses may affect your drivers license. Also, there are special provisions within the law which allow for conditional dismissal of drug and alcohol offenses for first time offenders. Regardless of the type of crime with which you are charged, you should immediately consult with an attorney before discussing the matter with anyone else.
In North Carolina, as in most states, drivers of automobiles are required to have liability insurance. If a person is injured by the driver of an automobile in North Carolina they may be entitled to compensation.
Even if the driver of the car who injured you had no insurance, you still may be able to recover under your own policy so long as you have uninsured coverage. In North Carolina, we are one of the few states which still applies the "contributory negligence" doctrine. Under this doctrine, if it is determined by a judge or jury that the plaintiff was even 1% at fault, they may be barred from recovering anything. The laws and regulations related to insurance are complex and if you are injured in an accident involving an automobile you should contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney immediately to assist you with your matter.
In North Carolina, as in most states, when a person is killed as an approximate result of a person or corporation’s negligence, or other misconduct, the personal representative of the decedent's estate can bring an action for compensation. North Carolina’s wrongful death statute is enumerated in N.C.G.S. section 28A-18. The damages which can be recovered include compensation for the pain and suffering of the decedent, expenses for medical care as a result of the injury, funeral expenses, and the net present value of the decedent to the persons entitled to recover for damages including but not limited to the net income of the decedent, services, protection, care and assistance of the decedent, in society, companionship, comfort, etc. Also, in certain cases, punitive damages can be recovered. For instance if a death is caused by malice or willful or wanton conduct on behalf of the defendant.
While it is difficult to imagine trying to place a dollar value on a person’s life, after an individual has been killed, the only remedy under the law is recovery of monetary damages. If a settlement cannot be reached, it is ultimately up to a jury to have the responsibility to place a dollar value on the decedent’s life.
There are specific procedural requirements which must be met before an action for a wrongful death can be brought. They can get complicated and anyone with a potential wrongful death claim should consult with an attorney immediately to discuss the potential of bringing an action.
The beneficiaries of a wrongful death action are the decedent’s survivors. Beneficiaries are determined by the intestate succession act. A decedent’s will is not controlled with respect to the proceedings of a wrongful death action.
In NC, as in most states, a person injured on the job is entitled to compensation under the North Carolina’s Workers' Compensation Act. However, many times the workers' eligibility can be questioned and the amount of compensation can be questioned. If a worker is injured on the job, they should immediately notify their employer and seek appropriate medical attention. With some exceptions, no recovery may be made unless written notice is given to the employer within 30 days of the occurrence of the accident or death
While in some cases it may not be necessary to retain the services of an attorney, because of the complexity of the laws and potential pitfalls, it is always a good idea to consult with an attorney practicing in the area of worker’s compensation.
Collins Law Firm has successfully represented businesses and individuals as both plaintiffs and defendants in civil law suits. If there is a claim against you or if you have a claim against someone else, Collins Law Firm can help you resolve your disputes. Fees and terms vary upon the circumstances of the litigation so contact us to schedule an appointment to discuss your particular situation.
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