Category Archives: Criminal Law

Click It or Ticket

Thanksgiving “Click It or Ticket” Campaign Kicks Off

NC law enforcement stepping up enforcement of seat belt laws through December 1st

The NC Governor’s Highway Safety Program began its Thanksgiving “Click It or Ticket” campaign to catch motorists that fail to buckle up over the holiday. Radio and print announcements sponsored by the NC Department of Click It or TicketTransportation have been published to communicate the emphasis. The announcements warns motorist not to be a turkey and states that a ticket for violation of the seatbelt law can cost you $161.00.

This is the twentieth year for the program which celebrated its anniversary in May of this year. According to a representative of the program, the use of a seat belt during a crash “reduces the chances of suffering critical injuries or death by 50 percent.”

For the record, the $161 publicized in the ads, which includes a fine of $25.50 and costs of $135.50, applies to the driver and any front seat passenger. The fine for passengers riding in the rear of a vehicle is $10 for a total cost of $145.50. The infraction does not result in any assessment of driver’s license points or insurance surcharge. Under most circumstances all passengers are required to wear seatbelts, though the failure of rear seat passengers to do so does not justify a stop of the vehicle by law enforcement officers.

If you have received a traffic ticket, contact Ivie Law Firm to discuss your options.

Abusing 911 Emergency Call Systems

The 411 on Abusing 911

Increased penalties for abusing 911 Emergency System intended to deter a problem of undetermined significance

Recent events in North Carolina serve as a reminder of the importance of a functioning 911 system. Unfortunately, a house burned down last month during an outage of the emergency call system in Moore County.

A desire to keep such systems working properly and efficiently may have motivated the state legislators to increase the penalties for those found guilty of abusing 911 emergency call systems. On December 1, 2013 violation of the statute that Abusing 911 Ivie Law Firmprohibits accessing 911 for a purpose other than emergency communication will be bumped from a Class 3 to a Class 1 misdemeanor. Violators have to knowingly access the 911 system and know that the access is not for an emergency.

Accordingly, a North Carolina man who dialed 911 in Hanover County earlier this year to report his drug dealer for failing to deliver the drugs he purchased might not be in violation of this particular statute. He apparently thought he was reporting a crime that warranted assistance or, at the very least, the attention of the police. He may have been correct, but for the wrong reasons.

The change in the law is more likely intended to address the behavior allegedly exhibited by a 52 year old Summerfield woman who was arrested this week for making 41 calls to 911 between April and September 1st.  That pales in comparison to a Gastonia woman who was accused earlier this year of abusing 911 by calling more than 360 times in a three month period.

In the past, 911 systems received misdials from those trying to reach 411 and directory assistance. Now that almost everyone has immediate access to the web the need for such assistance has decreased significantly.

In North Carolina there are at least two area codes that can create a misdial: the 910 area in the southeastern North Carolina, including the cities of Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Laurinburg, Lumberton and Wilmington and the 919 area in the Triangle and adjoining counties. However, with the advent of cell phones and contact lists many cannot remember the last time they had to dial a number.

With technological advancements one might assume that accidental dialing of 911 would have decreased, but it still presents a significant problem. If a caller realizes a misdial to 911 has been made and hangs up, personnel may still have to follow up on the call to ascertain whether there is a real emergency. Accordingly, citizens are advised by agencies not to hang up when they realize they have unintentionally dialed 911 so that additional resources are not expended.

The severity of intentional abuse (or unintentional for that matter) is not readily ascertained from statistics that are maintained by agencies. What can be discerned is the significant number of calls that are handled by such systems. The call centers in Wake County, for example, received 52,747 calls to 911 in May of this year, the most recent month for which statistics have been published as of this date (see published statistics HERE).

The primary evidence that people are abusing 911 is anecdotal and reported by dispatchers who find it frustrating when the system is used for inappropriate reasons including prank calls. Whether a call is a prank may not be readily evident at the time of the call. At least some prank calls are diversionary in nature, intended to direct attention to some nonexistent emergency and away from the location where a crime is being committed. Other inappropriate calls are made by people who are paranoid or mentally-ill and actually believe an emergency exists when there is none.

Unfortunately, without more concrete evidence of abuse, the amended law is an answer to a problem of undetermined significance. Lawmakers hope that the increased penalties will act as a deterrent but have no idea how many people need to alter their conduct or, of those, are capable of doing so.

If you have need of legal representation in a criminal matter contact the Ivie Law Firm by phone, email or the Contact Form on this website.

Underage Alcohol

Underage Drinking among College Students

While some consider alcohol use among college students to be a rite of passage, local universities have implemented efforts to make underage students think twice before imbibing.

Summer has passed for local college students who are starting classes, and there is evidence that at least a few students are hitting the books hard. Just two days into the fall semester the UNC Library tweeted with an attitude of amazement that students there had already borrowed close to 3,000 books. Even so, UNC and other local universities are not so naïve to assume that studying is the only thing on students’ minds.

UNC and NC State University both have implemented a policy that requires freshmen to complete an online exam that addresses the dangers of alcohol. UNC has had the requirement in place for the past 2 years. The online program, called AlcoholEDU for College, claims to significantly reduce the frequency of past 30-day alcohol use as well as the frequency of binge drinking (defined as 5 or more drinks for men and 4 or more for women within a 2-hour period) and the past 30-day alcohol-related problems such as drunk driving and sexual assault.

This year, UNC has raised the stakes. Students who fail to complete the online course and take the exam will be prevented from registering for spring courses until they do.

These initiatives are consistent with the changing attitudes towards underage drinking. Whereas in the past society may have deemed alcohol to be a rite of passage for college students, they now are under increased scrutiny. Police are far more likely to arrest students or issue citations for underage purchase, possession and consumption of alcohol.

Ivie Law Firm can help you deal with the consequences of underage alcohol offenses. Call, email or use the Contact Form on this website for additional information.

Employees and Drugs

Law amended to increase the penalty for employees who illegally use or divert drugs and other controlled substances

Under an amendment that goes into effect later this year, employees who illegally handle drugs within their control are targeted for increased criminal penalties.

It remains unlawful for anyone who is an employee and is authorized to possess controlled substances, or has access to these drugs by virtueDrugs of his or her employment, to embezzle or fraudulently or knowingly and willfully misapply or divert to personal use or other unauthorized or illegal use or to take, make away with or secrete, with intent to embezzle or fraudulently or knowingly and willfully misapply or divert to personal use or other unauthorized or illegal use any controlled substance which shall have come into the employee’s possession or care. That’s legal speak for it’s illegal for an employee to misuse the drugs to which he or she has access as a result of employment.

A new amendment, however, requires that anyone who is found in violation of this particular law after December 1, 2013 to be punished as a Class G felon. In other words, there is little discretion regarding what the consequences will be for an employee who violates the law, and the violation is increased from a Class I to a Class G felony.

What motivated the legislature to focus on employees in this manner is uncertain. The amendment as originally introduced in the legislature would have increased the penalty for a range of controlled substance and drug violations, including the maintenance of a building or vehicle for the purpose of using, keeping or selling drugs, obtaining controlled substances through legal prescriptions gained by willful misrepresentation, and failing to keep appropriate records. While we might understand the hesitation to increase penalties for administrative errors, the first two examples appear just as culpable as rogue employees. In the end, however, only employees incurred the ire of the legislatures under the new amendment to existing law.

If you are facing criminal charges, the Ivie Law Firm can be your advocate before the court and defend your legal rights. Call, email or us the Contact Form for additional information.

Utilities Crime

Reconnecting Utilities Soon a Criminal Offense

Amended law soon makes it a crime for reconnecting or turning back on certain utilities that have been lawfully disconnected.

After December 1, 2013 it will be a crime in North Carolina to reconnect or turn back on certain utilities that have been disconnected or turned off by a provider. The law requires the utility to have been turned off lawfully – meaning the provider has acted in accordance with the law and its contract with the consumer in disconnecting the service. Further, the new crime is limited to certain utilities, including water, gas and electricity. We are left to ponder why cable companies apparently do not possess the clout to push through such protections, since anecdotal evidence suggests that far more people steal cable than current.

Under the new law, the act of reconnecting or turning back on your electricity, gas or water can result in a class 1 misdemeanor conviction. A second or subsequent violation is a class H felony.

In addition to the new crime, the amendments also increase the amount these utilities can automatically recover in a civil action for damages from $500 to $5,000, In other words, if the utility company can show that your actions cost them in any way, like the expense of having to re-disconnect the service, it is entitled to a judgment against you in the amount of $5,000 even if the actual costs are much less in a civil action.

The new law also makes it a similar crime to bypass any load management device that has been installed by an electric utility to alleviate problems associated with peak demand periods. Since such devices are installed with the consumer’s permission, it is not a crime to circumvent the device if the consumer has requested the device be removed and the utility company has failed to do so within 2 working days.

Obviously, these new restrictions and penalties do not apply to properly licensed contractors who act in the course of their occupations.

If you are facing a criminal charge, you can count on Ivie Law Firm to be your advocate and defend your legal rights. Call, email or use the Contact Form for additional information.

School Bus Tickets More Costly

Harsher Penalties Related to Passing School Buses

Fines and Revocation of License for Passing a Stopped School Bus

Partly in response to the death of an 11 year old boy who was killed last December when he was struck by a car while crossing the street to board a school bus, the state legislature has imposed new and harsher penalties for drivers who are convicted of passing a stopped school bus. The bill was signed into law by the governor on July 13th and goes into effect on December 1, 2013.

Hasani W. Wesley, after whom the new legislation was named, was a sixth grader at East Forsyth Middle School when he was struck and killed last year. According to the Winston Salem Journal, at least two other students have been killed by drivers in violation of North Carolina stop-arm lawns this year.

Under the new law, entitled the Hasani N. Wesley Students’ School Bus Safety Act, the minimum fine for illegally passing a school bus increases to $500. A second offense within a period of three years will result in one’s license being revoked for one year in addition to the fine. A third offense will result in a permanent revocation of one’s license. The violation is not eligible to receive a prayer for judgment under any circumstances.

When the violation results in the striking of someone, the offense is a class I felony, the fine increases to $1,250 and your license will be revoked for a period of two years. If the striking of a person results in death, the offense is a class H felony, the fine increases to $2,500 and your license will be revoked for a period of three years.

Regardless of the infraction, Ivie Law Firm will explain the consequences of your traffic ticket and work to diminish them. Call, email or use the Contact Form on this website for further information.

Your Legal Right to Expunction Can be Waived

You can surrender the right to expunge your criminal record, even for a dismissal.

Make sure you protect your legal right to an expunction.

Suppose you find yourself charged with a criminal offense that was committed in the context of a domestic relationship. As a result, your case is assigned to the domestic violence court. If this is your first offense, your attorney may be able to negotiate a deferred prosecution such that the district attorney agrees to dismiss the charge after you jump through a few hoops. This may be counseling, anger management classes, community service, or an abuser program.

That may sound pretty good.

But wait! Not so fast.

In cases involving domestic violence, some district attorneys, including Wake County, have drafted the standard plea agreement such that you agree to waive your right to have the dismissed charge expunged from your criminal record. If you initial and sign the standard form as it is written, the charge cannot be expunged and will remain on your criminal record – even though you jump through all the hoops and even though under state stature you would have had a right to an expunction of the dismissed charge.

As a result, anyone will be able to check your criminal record and determine that you once were charged with assault – or worse. Many who have reason to check such records, including employers, schools or licensing boards, are not reassured by the knowledge that the charge was dismissed. In fact, they may assume, and in many cases they would be correct, that except for some arrangement with the district attorney you would have been convicted of the charged offense.

Before you agree to waive your right to have a dismissed charge for assault or a more serious offense expunged from your record, you should contact an attorney. The Ivie Law Firm has been able to strike that portion of the plea agreement and preserve the right to have the dismissed charge expunged.

If you have a dismissed charge on your record, whether involving domestic violence or not, the Ivie Law Firm may be able to have it expunged. Call or use the Contact Form to see if you qualify.