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Category Archives: Underage Drinking & Driving

DUI V. DWI is there a difference in NC?

Many people believe that there is a distinct difference between being charged with a DUI or being charged with a DWI. Truth be told, there is not much of a difference between these two offenses besides the acronym used to describe them. A DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. Which can be used to designate if the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. A DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. Both acronyms are used to describe the criminal offense that driving above the legal BAC limit.

In some states where DWI and DUI are classified as different offenses a DUI is the lesser of the two. As it designates a lower level of impairment than a DWI. All states have some form of a Zero Tolerance law for drivers under the legal drinking age. This means that drivers under 21 cannot have any level of BAC, since it is also illegal for a person under 21 to possess or use alcohol.

In North Carolina the Safe Roads Act of 1983 changed the previous drug and alcohol related driving offenses, and put everything under the category of a DWI. North Carolina uses BAC to establish sobriety level upon a suspected alcohol and driving offense. For those over the legal drinking age of 21 and having no prior DWI offenses the legal BAC limit is 0.08%. For commercial drivers and those who have prior alcohol related offenses the BAC limit is reduced to 0.04%. For drivers under the legal drinking age the BAC limit is 0.00%.

A DWI arrest is both administrative and criminal in nature, so there are two separate cases and two sets of penalties you face. The Civil Penalty will depend on the outcome of the criminal case. It pays to have a seasoned DWI lawyer on your side to guide you through the complex process. GreenWilson Attorneys at Law are skilled in DWI and all traffic related offenses. Please contact our office today for more information or to schedule a meeting regarding your personal circumstances.

AT GREENEWILSON, OUR CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEYS ARE DEDICATED TO THE PROTECTION OF OUR CLIENTS’ CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS AND RESPECT FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL CIRCUMSTANCES.

We’re here to guide you through the complicated, frightening, and often frustrating process known as the criminal justice system. We provide criminal law services at all levels in eastern North Carolina, including misdemeanor and felony trial defense, and post-conviction appellate work in both state and federal court.

To learn how North Carolina law may apply to your unique circumstances or to schedule a consultation, please contact GreeneWilson Attorneys at Law by calling (252) 634-9400 or visiting www.greenewilson.com.

 

 

(Sources: duivsdwi.org , DMV.org, the law.com)

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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.)

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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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