Criminal Law

Criminal Law

North Carolina has more than 400 criminal laws. The laws cover everything from a minor traffic violation to assault, drug possession and trafficking to murder. If you or your teenager is charged under one of the criminal statutes immediately contact an experienced criminal attorney to represent you or your child’s rights in the legal proceedings that will follow.

North Carolina is one of three states that automatically prosecutes anyone over 16 charged with a crime as an adult. Many North Carolinian parents are surprised to discover their teenager can be charged as an adult. Often the teenager does not appreciate the gravity of the charges they are facing as a consequence of their actions.

While the practice of charging teenagers as adults in criminal matters is controversial it is currently the law in North Carolina and until it is changed you have to be prepared to deal with this law if your teenager is arrested.

Criminal charges, even misdemeanors can result in jail time, and you or your teenager’s conviction will become a public record. You do not want to negotiate through the criminal law system without legal counsel. An experienced criminal attorney will be able to guide you through the process and make sure you get the best possible outcome in your specific situation.

Criminal Cases in General

Criminal cases are heard in District and Superior Courts. The felonies which often involve prison sentences of one year or more are usually heard in Superior Court while the misdemeanor cases which typically carry the possibility of a fine or shorter jail time are heard in District Court.

District Courts also conduct preliminary hearings to determine if there is sufficient evidence to send a felony case to the grand jury for indictment to stand trial in Superior Court.

In Wake County all misdemeanor and lower level and less serious felony criminal cases originate and many are resolved by a bench trial or plea in District Court. There are no jury trials or right to discovery in most of these cases. Having no right of discovery means you do not have the right to see what exactly the prosecution has as evidence that you did commit a crime. The exceptions are low level felony and DWI charges where discovery is typically provided. You are entitled to a right of appeal de novo for all District Court cases which means if you want a jury trial you have the right to appeal to the Superior Court and your case starts all over again with a clean slate. Your Superior Court case will be heard by a twelve person jury without any prejudice resulting from a District Court conviction.

For those felony cases sent to the grand jury for indictment to the Superior Court, once the case is in the Superior Court the defendant will have the constitutional right to see all evidence the prosecutor has in your case.

Probation Violations

Felony Probation Violations are heard in Superior Court. Any violation of your probation can land you in jail. Contact an attorney to ensure your rights are protected if it is alleged that you have violated any of the terms of your probation. Misdemeanor probation violations are heard at the Public Safety Center in Wake County District Court. Typically, Defendants use the publicly appointed attorney of the day but you can hire your own counsel.

Domestic Violence Cases

All non-felony domestic violence charges, usually assault on a female or communicating threats or simple assault if a woman is charged with assaulting a man, are heard in the special domestic violence courtroom in District Court. These are serious charges especially if you are involved in a contested divorce or child custody battle. Do not go into these cases without contacting an experienced attorney as the disposition of these charges can affect the outcome of family law litigation.

A DWI is not a minor traffic violation. DWI convictions carry serious consequences in North Carolina

North Carolina has some of the toughest DWI laws in the country. If you are charged with DWI you need to take your charge seriously and immediately contact an experienced lawyer who regularly litigates these cases.

North Carolina has an implied consent law, which means that anyone who drives a vehicle on a highway in North Carolina has given an implied consent to a chemical analysis of his or her breath if suspected of driving while impaired. If you refuse the test your driver’s license is suspended for at least one year. You may, however, ask to speak to your attorney before taking the test, you have the right to select a witness to observe the test, and you may have your own test administered after you are released.

Expunction of a Prior Conviction from Your Record

Want to permanently clean up your record? In North Carolina an individual has the right to have one expunction of a dismissed charge during his/her lifetime so long as they are not a convicted felon or have previously received an expunction. If you were under the age of 18 when the offense was committed, you may be able to expunge a misdemeanor conviction. Consult an attorney today to see if you are eligible. Currently, there are no laws in effect in North Carolina that allow convicted felons to expunge their criminal records.