Common Questions and Helpful Answers About NC Criminal and DWI Charges
It is natural to have many questions and concerns when charged with a crime in North Carolina. These charges can have serious consequences and long-lasting effects on those charged with their families, so they need reliable answers quickly. Here, Todd Browning and Howard Long share their answers to many of these tough questions. Find out their thoughts on DWI, traffic charges, and many other crimes.
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Should I hire a private criminal defense lawyer or use a public defender?
If you are arrested for a crime, you have many difficult decisions to make, such as how to plead to the charges, what defenses you should raise, and whether to accept a plea agreement. You should not make these decisions without the advice of an attorney. Should you use a public defender or hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer?
Drawbacks of Using a Public Defender
If a defendant cannot afford to hire a criminal defense attorney, the court will appoint a public defender to represent him. The benefit of this is that the lawyer is free. Many are also hardworking, experienced attorneys. However, there are major disadvantages to using a public defender:
- High caseloads. Public defenders are assigned very high caseloads, which means that they would have less time and attention to devote to their clients’ cases.
- Overworked. Public defenders are overworked and often must handle too many cases at one time. As a result, they can make mistakes or be more likely to recommend a client accept a plea agreement to get the case resolved.
Advantages of Retaining Your Own Criminal Defense Attorney
There are many advantages to retaining a skilled criminal defense attorney. Here are a few of the benefits:
- Choice. You have the right to choose the right lawyer for your case when you hire one on your own. You do not have any choice if a public defender is appointed to represent you.
- Smaller caseload. A lawyer in private practice will have a much smaller caseload than a public defender. He will have more time to devote to building a strong defense strategy for you and will be more available when you need him.
- More resources. In addition to having more time to devote to your case, a private criminal defense attorney will also have staff working on your case.
- Better outcome. The likelihood that you will achieve the best possible outcome given your circumstances is greater if you hire your own attorney since he will often work harder to achieve this goal for you.
Our Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyers Are Ready To Protect Your Rights Today
Are you facing criminal charges in Charlotte? Contact our office to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and how we can fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.
Are the consequences of being issued a traffic ticket for speeding different than a charge of reckless driving?
Getting a traffic ticket for speeding is not at all like being charged with reckless driving in North Carolina. The penalties and long-term consequences are vastly different. Here are four important differences that you need to understand.
Difference #1: Infraction vs. Misdemeanor Offense
If you get a traffic ticket for speeding, the offense is a civil infraction that is punished by the payment of fines only. However, speeding can also be charged as reckless driving in certain situations, such as if you are driving 15 miles or more over the posted speed limit. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor crime, which is a much more serious offense than getting a traffic ticket.
Difference #2: Penalties Are Different
As noted above, the penalty for getting a traffic ticket is often a fine. The fines can range from $10 to $50 to up to $250 if you are caught speeding in a school or construction zone. The penalties for reckless driving are more severe and can include:
- Jail sentence of up to 60 days
- Fines not to exceed $1,000
- Possible driver’s license suspension of 30 to 60 days
Difference #3: Points on Driver’s License
More points will be assessed on your driver’s license if you are convicted of reckless driving than if you are ticketed for speeding. Four points would be added to your driver’s license for reckless driving, while two or three points could be added to it for speeding. Points on your driver’s license can affect your auto insurance costs and can result in your driver’s license being suspended if you accumulate too many points within a certain period of time.
Difference #4: Permanent Criminal Record
You will have a permanent criminal record if you are found guilty of reckless driving since it is a criminal offense. This is not true for a speeding ticket. Having a permanent criminal record can have long-term consequences on your ability to obtain employment, housing, security clearance, and more.
Need To Fight A Traffic Ticket In Charlotte? Talk To A Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today
While there are many differences between a speeding ticket and a reckless driving charge, there is one way that they are alike. With both, you need the assistance of an experienced traffic lawyer who can explain your options to you, raise your defenses, and help you achieve the best possible outcome given your situation. To learn how we can help you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation.
Can I receive a ticket if I violate the law on driving in a high occupancy vehicle lane?
You are only allowed to drive in a high-occupancy vehicle lane (HOV) in Charlotte if you have the required number of occupants in your vehicle. If you drive in an HOV lane when you are not permitted to do so, you could receive a traffic ticket with punishments that include a hefty fine and points on your driver’s license.
What Are the Rules on Using an HOV Lane?
High occupancy vehicle lanes are used to reduce the terrible traffic congestion on N 1-77 and other highways and roads in Mecklenburg county. They are designed to cut down on single-occupancy vehicles and encourage commuting. Some of the benefits of HOV lanes include:
- They are more cost-efficient.
- They allow vehicles with more than one occupant faster travel on congested highways.
- They cut down on ozone pollution.
Only certain vehicles are permitted to drive in HOV lanes, and not all of them must have passengers. These lanes are open to:
- Vehicles with passengers. Motor vehicles with two or more occupants can use an HOV lane.
- Motorcycles. For safety reasons, federal law requires that motorcycles be permitted to use HOV lanes.
- Emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles, such as ambulances, fire trucks, and law enforcement vehicles—that are responding to an emergency—are allowed to drive in HOV lanes.
- Public transportation vehicles. Even if only the driver is in a public transportation vehicle, he is permitted to drive in a high occupancy vehicle lane.
- Privately-owned buses. A privately-owned bus that can carry 15 or more occupants can use an HOV lane regardless of how many people are on the bus.
Use of an HOV lane is prohibited for these vehicles:
- Trucks having three or more axles
- Single occupant vehicles
- Vehicles using an HOV lane to pass
What Are the Penalties for Violating North Carolina’s HOV Law?
If you are pulled over in Charlotte for violating the law on who can use an HOV lane, you could receive a traffic citation. Your punishment can include a $100 fine and two points on your driving record.
You should not just pay the ticket without first considering your options since there are long-term consequences to traffic tickets. The points on your driving and insurance records can result in your auto insurance rates increasing for years after you pay the fine. In addition, your driver’s license could be suspended if you accumulate too many points on your driving record.
Need To Fight A Traffic Ticket In Charlotte? Talk To A Traffic Ticket Lawyer Today
Let our skilled traffic ticket lawyers identify your defenses and determine the best option for you so that you achieve the best possible outcome. We represent clients in Charlotte and throughout Mecklenburg county. To find out how we can help you, contact our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation.
Can my DWI be expunged in North Carolina?
If you are charged with even a first offense DWI in North Carolina, you face harsh penalties, such as a jail sentence, fines, and driver’s license suspension. You also face the long-term consequences of a permanent criminal record. Unfortunately, expungement of your DWI is only possible under limited circumstances in our state.
Does Your DWI Meet the Requirements for Expungement?
When an expungement is approved by a judge, the criminal record of the conviction is destroyed.
A new law passed in December 2017 makes it easier for some individuals to obtain an expungement of their criminal convictions for nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies.
The law reduced the waiting period for an expungement of a nonviolent misdemeanor from 15 to 5 years and a nonviolent felony from 15 to 10 years. It also eliminated the number of expungements a person would be entitled to when a criminal charge is dismissed or the person was found not guilty.
Unfortunately, DWI’s are excluded from the definition of nonviolent misdemeanors under this law and are ineligible to be expunged. You are only able to obtain an expungement of a DWI in very limited circumstances. This includes:
- Your DWI case was dismissed.
- You were found not guilty of DWI at a trial.
How to Get Your DWI Expunged If You Qualify
If your DWI was dismissed or you were found not guilty, your criminal case is not automatically expunged. You must file a petition in the county where your DWI case was being heard. You should retain an experienced DWI lawyer to file your petition to be certain that the proper procedures are followed and so that it is granted.
Because of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences you face if convicted of DWI in Charlotte, it is crucial to retain an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. He can help you mount a strong defense that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense that can be expunged—even if you are guilty. To learn how our dedicated legal team can help you, contact our office to schedule a free consultation today.
What is the penalty for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon?
Under North Carolina’s Felony Firearms Act, a felon is prohibited from possessing a firearm. If you violate this law, you could be charged with another felony crime that is punishable by a lengthy prison sentence.
What Is the Crime of Possession of a Firearm by a Felon?
The Felony Firearms Act makes it illegal for a person convicted of a felony to own, possess, or have in his custody, care, or control a firearm or any other weapon of mass death and destruction.
The Act spells out what is considered a firearm. It includes:
- Any weapon, including a starter gun, that can expel a projectile
- Firearm muffler or silencer
Antique firearms are not considered a firearm under the statute.
The law prohibits someone from possessing a firearm who has a felony conviction in North Carolina, another state, or under federal law. The prohibition is a lifetime ban. The only exception is if the felony conviction is for certain white-collar crimes, such as antitrust violations, unfair trade practices, or restraints of trade.
Construction and Actual Possession of a Firearm
A felon can be found in either constructive or actual possession of a firearm to be convicted of violating the Felony Firearms Act. A person would be in actual possession of a firearm if he has physical custody or possession of it.
Whether an individual is in construction possession of a firearm would depend on the facts surrounding his arrest. If he is aware of the firearm’s presence and has the ability to control its use or disposition, this may be sufficient to establish constructive possession of it. He is not required to have exclusive possession of the firearm.
What Are the Penalties for Possession of a Firearm as a Felon?
Possession of a firearm by a felon is a Class G felony. If convicted, it would be considered a second conviction under North Carolina’s sentencing guidelines because the underlying felony that resulted in the ban on possession of a firearm would be the first offense. You could be sentenced to 12 to 26 months in prison. Your punishment may be increased if you have other criminal convictions.
Can You Ever Have Your Right to Possess a Firearm Restored?
It may be possible to own a firearm again if your felony conviction is expunged. Under a new expungement law that went into effect in 2017, certain nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies may be expunged.
Charlotte Criminal Defense Attorneys With The Experience You Need
Have you been charged with possessing a firearm as a felon? Do you have questions about having a felony conviction expunged? Contact our Charlotte office to schedule a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys today to learn how we can help you.
Why shouldn’t I just pay my traffic ticket?
If you received a traffic ticket, especially one that is a waivable offense that will not require a court hearing if you pay the fine, you may be tempted just to pay it. However, pleading guilty without first considering fighting the ticket may not be in your best interests because of the harsh penalties and long-term consequences of traffic violations in North Carolina.
Reasons to NOT Just Pay a Traffic Ticket in Charlotte
Traffic tickets are serious offenses in our state and often require a court appearance to resolve. Here are some reasons why fighting your traffic ticket may be a better option than just accepting your punishment.
Permanent Criminal Record
Some traffic offenses, such as speeding, hit and run accidents, and reckless driving are misdemeanor offenses in North Carolina. If convicted, you could have a permanent criminal record that would make it harder to obtain a job, find housing, and more.
Driver’s License Points
If convicted of a traffic offense, you may have points added to your driving record. For example, reckless driving or following too closely can add 4 points to your record, and speeding in excess of 55 miles per hour can add 3 points to it. If you accumulate 12 or more points on your driver’s license, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can suspend your driver’s license for 60 days for a first suspension, six months for a second suspension, and 12 months for a third one.
In addition to having points added to your driver’s license, you will have insurance points added to your insurance record under the North Carolina Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) when you pay your ticket. This can dramatically increase your insurance cost. Here are examples of how this works:
- Speeding 10 miles or less over a speed limit of less than 55 mph and other moving violations: one insurance point and up to 30 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Speeding 10 miles or less over the speed limit of 55 mph or higher or following too closely: two insurance points and up to 45 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Reckless driving: Four insurance points and up to an 80 percent increase in insurance premiums.
- Hit and run accidents involving injury or death: 12 insurance points and up to 340 percent increase in insurance premiums.
Are you wondering whether it is better to pay your traffic ticket or fight it? Call our experienced Charlotte traffic ticket lawyers to schedule a free consultation to discuss your ticket and what option is best for your situation.
Can I appeal my DWI conviction?
If you have been arrested for DWI in Charlotte, your criminal case will initially be decided by a district court judge. You do not have a right to a jury trial. However, you have an automatic right to appeal to superior court if you are convicted of DWI.
How Long Do You Have to Appeal?
You have 10 days to file an appeal to superior court. If you fail to meet this deadline, your appeal would most likely be dismissed. In order to have the right to appeal, the following requirements must have been met:
- You must have plead not guilty to the DWI charges.
- You must not have entered into a plea agreement.
- Your case must have gone to trial in district court, and you must have been found guilty of DWI.
What Happens When You Appeal Your DWI Conviction to Superior Court?
If you file an appeal, your criminal case will start over in superior court. You are entitled to have your guilt decided in a jury trial, and you will be able to raise any defenses you have to your DWI arrest. Your conviction in district court should not be mentioned or used against in your new trial. However, if you are convicted of DWI in superior court, the judge could sentence you to a harsher punishment than in the district court proceeding.
Can You Appeal a Conviction for DWI in Superior Court?
It may be possible to appeal your conviction in superior court to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and then to our state’s Supreme Court. Your case would not be retried in these appeals. Instead, the appellate judges would decide if the Superior Court judges made an error of law.
Deciding on whether to file an appeal of your DWI conviction in Mecklenburg County is an important decision in your DWI case that can have long-term consequences on your life. Our experienced DWI lawyers can help you weigh the pros and cons of appealing and file your appeal if this is in your best interests. To learn how we have helped other clients facing DWI charges and how we can best assist you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your free consultation today.
How will insurance points affect my auto insurance rates?
In North Carolina, insurance points can dramatically affect the cost of your auto insurance. Even a simple ticket that only adds one insurance point to your record can result in a 30 percent increase in your insurance costs. Because of this, you should not just pay a citation fine without first obtaining the advice of an experienced traffic ticket attorney in Charlotte to determine if it is in your best interest to fight the ticket.
What Are Insurance Points?
There are two types of points that you can be assessed if you are found guilty of violating a traffic law: points on your driving record and insurance points. The North Carolina legislature created the Safe Driver Incentive Plan to encourage safe driving in our state. It rewards motorists who have a good driving record by allowing insurance companies to charge them less in insurance premiums. However, this law also allows insurance companies to charge significantly higher rates if a driver has insurance points due to traffic violations.
How Much Could Your Insurance Rates Increase Due to Insurance Points?
The North Carolina Department of Insurance sets the insurance points per accident and traffic citation and how much insurance rates can be increased when insurance points are assessed. An insurance company is allowed to consider how many points have interest over a three-year period when setting your premium cost. Here is how these points could affect this:
- One point. You can be assessed one point for moving violations that are not assessed higher points, for speeding 10 mph or less over the speed limit under 55 mph, or an accident causing personal injuries of $1,800 or less or property damage of $2,300 or less. Your insurance rates could increase as much as 30 percent.
- Two points. A citation for illegal passing, following too closely, accidents resulting in property damage between $2,300 and $3,850, and speeding 10 mph or less over the speed limit of 55 mph or higher are some of the violations that can result in two insurance points. This can cause your insurance rates to increase by 45 percent.
- Three points. Three points will be assessed if you cause a crash resulting in personal injuries of more than $1,800 or property damage totaling $3,850 or more. Insurance rates can go up by 60 percent.
- Four points. Reckless driving, a hit and run collision with only property damage, passing a stopped school bus, and speeding in excess of 75 mph where the posted speed limit is 70 mph or less can add four points to your insurance record. Your insurance company can increase your insurance premiums by 80 percent.
- Eight points. Aggressive driving and driving when your driver’s license is suspended or revoked can add eight insurance points to your record and increase your insurance costs by 195 percent.
- Ten points. Street racing and speeding to elude arrest are serious violations that can cause 10 points to be added to your record. Your insurance costs can also be increased by 260 percent.
- Twelve points. Manslaughter, negligent homicide, a hit and run accident resulting in bodily injury or death, and DUI are a few of the violations that can result in 12 points on your insurance record and a 340 percent increase in your insurance premiums.
If you or a loved one have been issued a traffic citation in Charlotte, take advantage of our offer of a free consultation to learn how we can help you to fight your traffic ticket and avoid the harsh consequences you face—including increased insurance costs. To schedule your appointment, call our office today.
What penalties could I face for driving too closely in North Carolina?
Getting a traffic ticket for driving too closely may not seem like too big of a deal. However, you could face long-term consequences as well be required to pay a fine and costs. Also, in some situations, tailgating can lead to more serious charges as well as a ticket citation.
What Is the Offense of Driving Too Closely?
North Carolina Code Section 20-152 makes it a traffic offense to follow other motor vehicles too closely. You could be ticketed for this offense if you do one of the following:
- You follow a vehicle more closely than is prudent and reasonable given the speed of other vehicles, traffic, and road conditions.
- When driving on a highway other than in a business or residential district, you follow another vehicle and do not allow enough space for an overtaking vehicle to enter and occupy the space in front of your auto without danger. However, this traffic rule does not prevent drivers from passing other vehicles.
What Are the Penalties for Tailgating?
You would be required to pay a $35 fine and costs if you plead guilty to or are convicted of driving too closely. In addition, you could face these long-term consequences:
- Two points on your driving record
- Increased auto insurance costs
- Driver’s license suspension if you have too many points on your driving record
Tailgating Can Result in More Serious Criminal Charges
In addition to being issued a ticket for driving too closely, you could also be charged with reckless driving or aggressive driving. Both are misdemeanor offenses that can result in a jail sentence, large fine, and a permanent criminal record.
If you injure or kill someone in a car accident because you are tailgating, you could be charged with a much more serious felony crime, such as:
- Felony assault
- Second-degree murder
Get the Legal Assistance You Need From an Experienced Charlotte Traffic Ticket Attorney
Tailgating is a waivable offense, which means that you can just plead guilty and pay the ticket. However, this may not be in your best long-term interests. Take advantage of our free consultation to learn about your options. Call our Charlotte office today to schedule a free consultation today.
What could happen to me if I am arrested for DWI with a minor child in my vehicle?
DWI is punished harshly in North Carolina and can have long-term consequences in your life. However, your sentence can be even more severe if you are arrested for DWI with a child present in your motor vehicle.
Enhanced Penalties You May Face for DWI With a Child Present in Your Vehicle
In 2011, “Laura’s Law” was signed into law. It was named after Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year-old teen killed in 2010 in an accident with a drunk driver who had been convicted of DWI three times in the past. Under this law, there are increased fines and penalties for subsequent DWI convictions and more severe penalties when a child is in the vehicle of a person arrested for driving while intoxicated.
Driving while intoxicated with a child present is considered a grossly aggravating factor that will automatically result in the second harshest level of punishment, which is a Level One punishment. Three types of passengers can result in these enhanced penalties:
- Child under 18 years old
- Individual with the mental capacity of a child under 18 years old
- Individual with a physical disability that would prevent him from leaving the vehicle at the time the driver was intoxicated
If convicted of DWI, a person can face these Level One punishments:
- A minimum jail sentence of 30 days up to a maximum of two years
- A fine of up to $4,000
- Driver’s license suspension of one year with no possibility of restricted driving privileges
What Should You Do If You Are Arrested for DWI With a Child Present?
If you have been charged with DWI and had a child under 18 years old present in your car, one of your first steps should be to retain an experienced DWI attorney in Charlotte immediately. A skilled lawyer can help you mount a strong defense—even if you are guilty—that can result in the charges being dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense with less severe penalties. To learn about our extensive experience in these cases and how we can assist you, call our Charlotte office to schedule your appointment today.