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Teens in Trouble Will Get a Break in 2019

North Carolina is no longer the only state in the U.S. to automatically prosecute juveniles, ages 16 and 17, as adults. Last June, the General Assembly ended a century-long practice of prosecuting teens as adults by enacting the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (JJRA) as part of the state budget. The bill raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18—most 16 and 17-year-olds will be prosecuted in juvenile court beginning December 1, 2019.

The “Raise the Age” bill will allow a 16- or 17-year-old who commits certain crimes to be tried as a juvenile—not as an adult. Once in effect, all offenses committed by teens of these ages will originate in juvenile court. However, for Class A-G felonies committed by 16 and 17-year-olds, transfer to superior court will be mandatory with either a notice of an indictment or a finding of probable cause by the court. By requiring all juvenile offenses begin in juvenile court, the new legislation gives prosecutors some discretion to retain mandatory transfer cases in juvenile court by reducing the charges based upon further investigation or discovery that occurs prior to the filing of an indictment or a probable cause hearing.

The ACLU praised the bipartisan vote behind what it called a commonsense measure. “North Carolina’s century-old policy of sending 16- and 17-year-olds to adult jails and branding them with lifelong criminal records has been a blight on our state and done nothing to make our communities safer,” commented ACLU lawyer Susanna Birdsong. “It’s long past time for young offenders in North Carolina to have the same opportunities as those in the rest of the country to turn their lives around through the juvenile justice system.”

Improving Lives and Budgets

The JJRA requires North Carolina to make upfront investments. It’s more expensive to move young people through the juvenile criminal justice than the adult system, and the state is now building a $13.2 million Youth Development Center in Rockingham County to account for the expected influx of 16- and 17-year-olds.

But in the end, the law is expected to have significant economic benefits. Jordan Wilkie with The Institute for Southern Studies writes that it will bring an estimated 12% reduction in recidivism for teens sent to the juvenile rather than adult system—that will mean lower long-term costs for law enforcement, courts, incarceration, and victim services.

Salvaging a Future

If you’re not even old enough to vote or buy a drink, should you be forced to deal with adult consequences for a stupid mistake? A prison sentence at such a young age can lead to psychological issues and actually increase the risk of recidivism. Teens face extreme dangers when locked up with adults—they are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted than those in juvenile facilities and they are 36 times more likely to commit suicide. Rates of physical assault are also higher for juveniles held with adults.

Plus, the teenager now has a conviction that will haunt him or her for a lifetime—a conviction that can result in a loss of job opportunities and bank loans. As long as the teen’s charges are for a non-violent offense, he or she can now stay in the juvenile system and focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment.

Let’s face it: Young people make mistakes; from experimenting with drugs to deciding to drive after having a drink. North Carolina will now be able to avoid such negative outcomes through this change in the way courts approach juvenile offenses.

GreeneWilson understands that children are not in a position to effectively articulate their needs, face an intimidating juvenile justice system, or create strategic solutions to their problems—legal or otherwise. Let us help you navigate the sometimes-confusing juvenile legal process. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.

(Sources: UNC School of Government; The News & Observer; The Charlotte Observer; The Institute for Southern Studies; North Carolina Department of Public Safety; and Purdue University.)

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Why You Need an Attorney for Any Drug Offense

A recent report, States with the Biggest Drug Problems in 2017, published in The News & Observer revealed that North Carolina was number 20 on its list. The study compared 15 metrics from arrest and overdose rates to opioid prescriptions and meth lab incidents per capita in all 50 states. Of the more than 40,000 inmates in our state’s prisons, most are there because of drug possession. If you’re arrested for a drug crime in our state you may be charged under a number of statutes, including misdemeanor drug laws, felony drug laws, and felony drug trafficking laws.

If you’ve been charged with any type of drug offense—even simple possession—hiring an experienced lawyer to help defend your charge is extremely important. A conviction for a drug offense on a criminal record has widespread consequences to your future.

Misdemeanor Drug Laws in NC

If you or someone you know has been charged with drug possession, take it seriously. While many consider this a “minor crime,” it can have major consequences, including jail time, lengthy probationary periods, drug screens, fines, administrative costs, and more. State laws are increasingly providing for tough prosecution on drug possession and other drug related offenses and the criminal penalties can, at times, be quite harsh.

North Carolina’s misdemeanor drug laws include, but are not limited to:

Misdemeanor Possession of Drug Paraphernalia: It’s illegal for someone to use, or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia for a variety of purposes, including to conceal an illegal controlled substance other than marijuana. It’s usually classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Possession of Other Drugs: Drugs include codeine, opium, and other types of narcotics and their salts. Possession of these types of substances may fall under a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana: If the amount of marijuana is more than 0.5 and up to 1.5 ounces, punishment may fall under a Class 1 misdemeanor. If you’re found with less than 0.5 ounces, you face a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Facing the Consequences

The punishment served for misdemeanors in our state will vary based on any prior convictions and into which class the misdemeanor falls. Classes of offenses range from A1 to 3, and prior convictions levels range from I (no prior convictions), II (one to four prior convictions), and III (five or more prior convictions). Consequences for drug use, possession, and distribution in North Carolina can range from fines and no jail time to felony charges and an extensive period of time in prison.

Different types of drugs are categorized into different schedules. The higher the probability of abuse associated with a drug and its level of acceptance for medical use will determine into which schedule it fits.

Each of the misdemeanor classifications will vary based on your intent to distribute, how much of the drug you have in your possession, and in what capacity the drug is found. Each situation is unique and is best explained by an experienced attorney.

First Steps to Take

Hire an Attorney

Whether you are simply under investigation or have been charged, a criminal lawyer with experience in defending drug charges can be of great assistance when navigating your way through the system. He or she will know what tactics have worked in the past for clients charged with similar offenses.

Speak Only to Your Attorney

While you must provide certain information the police so they can identify you—name, date of birth, and address—you are under no obligation to provide answers to any other questions. The police have just one goal when questioning you: To obtain information that will assist them in their investigation, especially a confession. False confessions are one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.

Your relationship with your attorney is privileged, meaning nothing you say to your lawyer can be repeated to anyone else, including the police or the courts, unless that privilege is waived by you. This privilege can be waived if you bring anyone else into the conversation. For example, if you bring a friend into a meeting with your lawyer, the police and the prosecution can ask that friend what was said in the meeting. Needless to say, if you say anything to anyone other than your criminal lawyer, that person may also be called as a witness against you in your case.

What to Tell the Police

The best answer to a question by the police during interrogation is “I would like a lawyer, please.” The worst answer to a question is a lie. If you say, for example, “I don’t know anything about it,” or, “I am not involved,” and that’s not true, that statement can be used as evidence of a new offence of providing false evidence.

No matter the charge, everyone deserves fair legal representation. Our attorneys will take the time to explain the legal process and make sure you get the treatment and outcome you deserve.

Members of the experienced team at GreeneWilson can explain your possible outcomes, investigate your offense, and help you avoid the negative consequences you may face. For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.

(Sources: The News & Observer; Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and North Carolina Controlled Substances Act.)

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No (Ex)cuses: Getting the Child Support You Deserve

Raising a child is hard work. It’s even harder when you’re divorced, working 40+ hours a week, and struggling to make ends meet. But wait, don’t you receive child support from your ex? You should, but your ex has decided to ignore making payments.

If you find yourself in a constant fight to collect child support ordered by the court, you’re one of millions. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2013 that approximately 26% of child support payments are never made and 28% are only partially paid.

So, what now? If your ex is failing to make payments, you have a few options in North Carolina.

Option #1

Child Support Enforcement (CSE), a national program established by Congress in 1975, ensures that both parents are responsible for the support of their children to the best of their ability. The program, now known in our state as Child Support Services (CSS), provides services to the custodians of minor children, no matter the income level.

When a court order has already been established, CSS can manage the collection and distribution of all ordered child support payments. To enforce court orders, CSS agents can initiate legal action against the non-custodial parent (NCP), withhold support payments from the NCP’s wages, and intercept the NCP’s tax refunds.

Other actions used by CSS include:

  • Monthly billing to NCPs not under income withholding;
  • Filing court action against NCPs who have not paid support as ordered;
  • Credit bureau reporting of all child support obligations handled by CSS;
  • Interception of state and federal tax refunds; or
  • Liens on real or personal property the NCP owns.

If you aren’t receiving child support payments as ordered by a Craven County court, call the county’s CSS office at (252) 514-4807. You can also apply online to begin your child support enforcement case and receive a caseworker. But, please be aware that unless you qualify for a fee waiver, a $25 annual fee must be collected to use the program.

Option #2

Choosing CSS to handle the issue might work for many, but you should keep in mind that CSS is a government agency. It, like similar agencies found at every level of government, is often overwhelmed with cases and strapped for time. CSS could take weeks or months to help you get results, but what if you can’t wait that long?

Here’s where consulting with an experienced attorney should be considered. An attorney will focus solely on your case and will fight on your behalf in court. He or she can help you execute several options to recover child support payments, including:

Filing a motion for judgment: This motion asks the court to enter a judgment against the non-paying parent for the total amount of child support owed. Once you’ve obtained a judgment, this opens several different methods for collection.

Requesting a wage garnishment order: This court order will instruct the non-paying parent’s employer to deduct a specified amount from every paycheck they earn and send that money to you, either directly or through CSS.

Requesting a writ of execution: This order allows local law enforcement to seize the non-paying parent’s assets, sell them, and then transfer money raised from the sale to you as payment against the balance of the child support you’re owed.

Filing a motion for contempt: This motion will ask the court to find the non-paying parent violated a court order and is in contempt of court, which can lead to jail time for the offending parent. The threat of imprisonment may persuade the other parent to take their obligation seriously and pay what they owe.

Attempting to collect payments from a spouse can be a hassle even with a court order in place. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who knows the ins and outs of the court system on your side?

For more information on spousal support or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.

(Sources: North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services; U.S. Census Bureau; Divorce Magazine; Money Crashers; and The Spruce.)

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