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

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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New Tax Bill Just Erased Your Alimony Deduction

President Trump recently signed the giant tax overhaul that includes a provision scraping a 75-year-old tax deduction for alimony payments.

Alimony payments, typically defined in the terms of a divorce settlement, are the payments someone gives to an ex-spouse who earns less money. Statistics vary, but The IRS says that approximately 600,000 Americans claimed an alimony deduction on their 2015 tax returns, the most recent year for which data is available.

Under the prior law, ex-spouses paying alimony were able to deduct the expense from their federal income taxes. Ex-spouses receiving alimony payments were able to claim the money as taxable income. The recipient of alimony had to include any payments of alimony as income on their tax return, which subjected them to income tax on each dollar received.

That all changes soon. Although the recent repeal of the provision won’t impact couples already legally divorced or separated (not even those finalizing the process in 2018), but it will impact those ending their marriages in 2019.

In any divorce commenced after December 31, 2018, the spouse paying alimony can no longer deduct it and the spouse receiving the money no longer has to pay taxes on it. Divorce lawyers say the current setup tends to preserve more money overall to allocate between spouses, which helps them afford living separately.

Some experts worry the change will make negotiations tougher and lead to less spousal support as cash goes to taxes instead. Congressional tax writers say it’s only fair to married couples.

Why the Change?

The tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee calls the alimony deduction a “divorce subsidy.” Last month, the committee noted, “A divorced couple can often achieve a better tax result for payments between them than a married couple can.”

The panel also argued that alimony should be treated like child support, which isn’t tax-deductible for the payer or taxable for the recipient.

David George, a CPA/PFS in California, offered this opinion: “I believe the reason for the change was as a money-raising effort, since usually the payer who gets the deduction currently is in a higher tax bracket than the recipient.”

The non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation estimates repealing the deduction will add $6.9 billion in new tax revenue over 10 years. That’s equal to less than half a percent of the $1.5 trillion tax cut plan.

Why the Worry?

If alimony is no longer deductible, the ability of an ex-spouse to pay may be limited due to other fixed expenses, such as child support payments and education expenses for children. New York attorney Malcolm S. Taub foresees future alimony recipients losing 10 to 15 percent of what they’d get under the current law. He says lawmakers are “taking money from people who’ve undergone the trauma of divorce, and they’re taking money from people at one of the worst times of their life.”

Most of us understand that divorce creates a trauma—not only for couple involved, but, most notably, for their children. Two separate families cannot live as cheaply as one. With this new tax structure, it will be difficult for divorcing couples to instantaneously make lifestyle adjustments which coincide with the necessary reduction of income to each spouse.

What About the Money?

New Jersey lawyer Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich says scrapping the alimony deduction “changes the economics of many divorces.”

As an example, let’s say high-earning Spouse A agrees to make alimony payments of $100,000 annually for 10 years to Spouse B. Spouse A might save $40,000 a year through the deduction, while Spouse B, who is in a lower tax bracket, could owe $15,000 on the $100,000.

Without the alimony deduction and tax benefit, maintenance payments to the lower-earning spouse will be smaller, says Marzano-Lesnivich. The higher-earning spouse may now be less willing to agree to lump-sum settlements because there’s no longer a discount for the tax deduction.

Divorce matters are complicated, especially in regard to financial concerns. Alimony is a matter to be resolved by an experienced and skilled divorce attorney, which is why GreeneWilson strives to offer you comprehensive legal counsel, care, and representation. Our team will ensure you and your rights are protected following the tax implications of this bill and your divorce.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, call (252) 634-9400 or visit www.greenewilson.com.

(Sources: PBS News Hour; Forbes Magazine; Associated Press; CBS News; Financial Advisor Magazine; Fox Business; and U.S. News & World Report.)

 

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