252-634-9400

News & Events

Follow our blog to stay up-to-date about current events and get tips about common legal situations!

Category Archives: Federal and State Criminal Law

Giving a Second Chance: New Rules for Clearing Criminal Records

A criminal record can cause significant problems in obtaining employment, loans, housing, owning a gun, and many other critical benefits afforded to the general public—not something most teenagers are thinking about before they commit a petty crime. Colleges and universities can reject your application based on court records. What’s worse, anyone with a phone or computer is able to access this information which can seriously affect personal relationships and social opportunities.

Thanks to NC Senate Bill 445 first-time, non-violent offenders are now able to reduce the wait time for criminal record expungement. In North Carolina, an expunction is the destruction of a criminal record by court order. This process restores the individual, in the view of the law, to the status he or she occupied before the criminal record existed. Most often, when someone is granted an expunction, he or she may truthfully and accurately deny or refuse to acknowledge the criminal incident ever occurred.

“Criminal justice shouldn’t end at incarceration. It should end at restoration,” Governor Roy Cooper said at the bill’s signing. “We want North Carolinians who have corrected their mistakes to go on to live purposeful, productive lives.”

Qualifications for Expunction

The chances to clear a record in our state is pretty rare, but criminal records eligible for expunction are generally limited to the following three categories:

  • A first-time, non-violent offense.
  • A first-time offense committed under age 18-22.
  • A charge that was dismissed or disposed “not guilty.”

The key factors to determine eligibility for expunction are:

  • What was the disposition of the offense (guilty, not guilty, dismissed, etc.)?
  • How old was the person at the time of the offense (under 18 or 22)?
  • How do you classify the offense (violent versus non-violent, controlled substance, etc.)?
  • Any previous or subsequent convictions that would disqualify this person?
  • Has the relevant waiting period been satisfied?

Senate Bill 445 made a few key changes to the expunction process and expunction eligibility. Two big differences now in effect: The wait periods for expunction of a non-violent misdemeanor and/or felony has been reduced from 15 years to 5 and 10 years, respectively. A person can now expunge multiple dismissed charges and charges disposed “not guilty.” As long as the person has not been convicted of a felony, they are eligible to expunge all such charges.

How the Process Works

A prospective petitioner or his or her attorney has to first determine the specific type of expunction desired since each type has a different form required. A petition for expunction must be filed in the county in which the charge or conviction for which the petitioner is seeking expunction occurred. Each county has particular petition procedures that can vary widely. The process can be confusing and complicated to those not familiar with the system.

To determine exactly how the petition should be filed, it’s best that one of our attorneys contact the appropriate deputy clerk of court. He or she will confirm what forms must be completed and what procedures must be followed to begin the process of expunging a record.

If an order for expunction is granted, the clerk of court erases the Automated Criminal Infractions System (ACIS) entry and then delivers a certified copy of the order to the NC Administrative Office of the Courts. Certified copies of the order are also delivered to the identified arresting agencies, the sheriff, the Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and the Department of Public Safety, which are then expected to delete the records from their respective databases. Our attorneys will follow-up with specific agencies to ensure the order has been enforced and the record truly expunged. The Department of Public Safety also forwards the expunction order to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Is the Record Really “Gone?”

When a criminal record is expunged, the record is erased from the records of the court as well as any other state agencies (including the arresting agency). The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) keeps a single file of all orders that is only accessible in very limited circumstances. Private companies that have contracted with AOC to purchase the information are also required to destroy any expunged records. Companies that don’t comply could be liable for damages.

Even with all these requirements in place, some records sold or transferred to other private companies so far down the line might never be destroyed. Unfortunately, there is a slight chance that an expunged record may appear on a background check at some point. If this happens, the petitioner can—lawfully—deny the charge or conviction ever occurred. In some cases, the issue can be negated simply by explaining the criminal record was expunged by order of the court.

These new provisions to North Carolina law allow an opportunity for individuals who paid their debts to society and have proven they can stay out of trouble with the law clear their criminal records and begin anew.

As the Governor remarked, “We don’t want young people to be held back for life because of one bad decision. We want them and their families to work with our juvenile justice system so we can get them on the right path.”

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: NC Second Chance Alliance; North Carolina Justice Center; North Carolina Office of the Governor; The News & Observer; Carolina Justice Policy Center; 2018 Summary of NC Expunctions; and Council for Children’s Rights.)

Read More

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.)

Read More

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.)

Read More
  • Latest News

  • Testimonials

    “They did what they said they would and I was very happy with the outcome of my case.” ~ Jimmy E. Jones

    Read More >

  • Contact Us

    • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.