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Archive for the ‘Criminal Defense’ Category

Driving While License Revoked in Wake County, NC

November 2nd, 2012 by admin

As a Raleigh criminal defense attorney, one of the most common charges I handle in Wake County, NC is Driving While License Revoked. These cases make up a significant part of the district court calendar every single day. Although some may be lead to believe that it is just a simple traffic charge, it is actually a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina and can carry up to 120 days in jail, depending on the defendant’s record level.

The most important question I ask my clients when they tell me they have been charged with Driving While License Revoked is:

What caused your license to be revoked in the first place?

It’s a simple question but I don’t always get a simple answer. Some clients have old traffic tickets that they may have forgotten about and missed court for. Some clients have been convicted of Driving While Impaired and were caught driving without a driving privilege or outside the normal hours or operation. Others have been convicted of moving violations during a period of time when their license was already suspended and is now suspended for at least a year.

If my client has old traffic tickets in Wake County or the surrounding areas I may be able to help them clean up their driving record and dispose of these old matters. Where a defendant has multiple tickets in “VL” status, an assistant district attorney may consider dismissing some of the charges in exchange for a plea to just one of the charges, saving a defendant from having to pay off multiple old tickets. If a defendant has a PJC available, and the plea is to a moving violation, I may be able to request for a judge to grant a PJC to avoid license points, insurance points, and a further suspension. Ultimately, a driving record with multiple outstanding tickets could be cleaned up in a way that would let the client get his or her license back.

Having a license in court for a charge of Driving While License Revoked could be very helpful to resolving a client’s case. Feel free to contact Traffic Attorney Matthew J. Goldenif you have been charged with Driving While License Revoked.

Pretrial Release Options in North Carolina

January 17th, 2012 by admin

There are several different options that judicial officials have at their disposal when setting a defendant’s pretrial release conditions. There are five basic conditions that a judge or magistrate may set, and I discuss them below. The NC statute that lists these conditions is 15A-534(a).

Release on written promise to appear
This option allows the defendant to simply be released from jail without paying any bond or money based on his promise to appear in court on his court date.

Release the defendant upon his execution of an unsecured appearance bond. An unsecured bond is one that is backed only by the integrity of the defendant. No assets or collateral is required to be posted on this type of bond.

Place the defendant in custody of a designated person or organization agreeing to supervise him Similar to a release on a written promise to appear, since no money is required to secure release. If this condition is imposed, the defendant may elect to execute a secured appearance bond instead.

Require the execution of a secured apperance bond A secured appearance bond is one that is backed by a cash deposit in the full amount of the bond, by a mortgage, or by at least one solvent surety.

House arrest with electronic monitoring. This condition requires the defendant to stay at his residence unless the court authorizes departure for employment, counseling, a course of study, or vocational training. The defendant will be required to wear a device which permits the supervising agency to electronically monitor compliance with the condition. A secured appearance bond will also be imposed.

Pretrial release on a written promise to appear, an unsecured appearance bond, or on a custody release are options often given for misdemeanor offenses in which the defendant does not pose as a flight risk. Several factors are evaluated, including the seriousness of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, the presence of other pending charges, length of residency, employment, and ties to the community, among other factors. The statute states that a judicial official must impose one of these 3 conditions unless he determines that such release will not reasonably assure the appearance of the defendant as required, will pose a danger of injury to any person, or is likely to result in the destruction of evidence, subornation of perjury, or intimidation of potential witnesses. If the judicial official finds one of these factors requires a secured bond or house arrest, he must list the reasons in writing for doing so.

Recent legislation that went into effect December 1st, 2011 affects defendants charged with driving while impaired who have had a prior conviction of driving while impaired within the last 7 years. The judicial official may order the defendant to abstain from alcohol consumption as verified by a continuous alcohol monitoring system for the period of pretrial release or until the condition is removed.

If you are charged with driving while impaired or another criminal offense and have questions about your case or about the pretrial release process, please contact Raleigh DWI attorney Matthew Golden today for a free consultation.

Changes to the 90-96 Drug Deferral Program

December 2nd, 2011 by admin

North Carolina gives certain first time drug offenders a second chance when it comes to having a conviction on their record.  G.S. 90-96 has allowed persons charges with drug possession charges that have not had prior controlled substance or drug paraphernalia charges to plead guilty and serve a probationary period without the court actually entering judgment. Rather, if the person successfully completes the probation, no conviction is ever entered on his/her record. The current statute is a little complicated because of two seemingly contradictory subsections. Subsection (a) limits the eligibility of defendants to those charged with simple marijuana possession, possession of drug paraphernalia, misdemeanor maintaining a dwelling for controlled substances and felony possession of cocaine of an amount less than 1 gram. If there is any evidence of distribution or sale the defendant is not eligible for 90-96 deferral. However, subsection (a)(1) allows a first time offender to be eligible for deferral at the court’s discretion for any amount of drug, as long as it is simple possession without intent of sale.

Jamie Markham over at UNCSOG’s Criminal Law Blog has pointed out in his recent article that the Justice Reinvestment Act S.L. 2011-192, which will take effect for persons entering a plea or found guilty on or after January 1st, 2012, changes 90-96 in three important ways. First, it excludes all defendants who have been convicted of any felony under state or federal law, rather than just excluding those defendants who had prior drug convictions. Second, it broadens eligibility for those defendants charges with any misdemeanor or felony simple possession crime under G.S. 90-95(a)(3), regardless of the schedule or amount. So the new 90-96 statute will remove the language found in 90-96(a) that limits deferral to felony possession of cocaine charges of less than 1 gram and will mirror the language in subsection 90-96(a)(1), which allows deferral of any amount.

However, the most important change to the new 90-96 is the removal of the language the court may” use it for an eligible defendant under 90-96(a) and the addition of the language the court shall grant the deferral to an eligible defendant.  The “may” language of 90-96(a)(1) will still be there, so deferral will still be in the discretion of the judge under (a)(1). Once again, (a)(1) is broader in that it allows defendants with prior non-drug felony convictions to be eligible and it also limits the look back period for prior convictions to a maximum of 7 years, so convictions before that cannot be considered.

If you have been charged with a drug possession charge and think you might be eligible for a deferral under 90-96, please contact me for a free consultation. I will review your record to determine eligibility and discuss with you the consequences of entering a plea under this statute. Contact Raleigh criminal defense attorney Matthew Golden today.

Misdemeanor Sentencing in NC

October 31st, 2011 by admin

Misdemeanor Sentencing in NC

During a free consultation, I will always let my clients know what kind of punishment they are looking at for a conviction of a misdemeanor offense.  Misdemeanor offenses are classified into four separate classes, 1A (the most severe), 1, 2, and 3 (the least severe).  Most misdemeanor assaults and misdemeanor sexual offenses are in the 1A class.

Sentencing, which is conducted by the judge, can vary greatly depending on the prior record level of the defendant. There are three types of record levels, represented by the numerals I, II, and III. A record level of I means that the defendant has no prior convictions. A record level of II means that the defendant has between one and four prior convictions. A record level of III means the defendant has five or more prior convictions. For purposes of counting convictions, if an offender is convicted of more than one offense in single session of District Court, or in a single week of Superior Court or a court of another jurisdiction, only one of the convictions may be used to determine prior conviction level. So if Joe Smith is convicted of Simple Assault and Disorderly Conduct on the same court date in Wake County, only 1 prior conviction point can be used for the purpose of determining his prior record level.

Below is a chart that matches a defendant’s prior record level with the class of the current misdemeanor offense he is charged with to provide a range of punishment the judge will use during sentencing.  Please see N.C.G.S. §15A-1340.20 for the full statute on misdemeanor sentencing.

 

     OFFENSE CLASS     I – No Priors     II – One to Four Priors         III – 5+ Priors

A1

1-60 days

C/I/A

1-75 days

C/I/A

1-150 days

C/I/A

1

1-45 days

C

1-45 days

C/I/A

1-120 days

C/I/A

2

1-30 days

C

1-45 days

C/I

1-60 days

C/I/A

3

1-10 days

C

1-15 days

C/I

1-20 days

C/I/A

C- Community Punishment

I- Intermediate Punishment

A- Active Punishment

 

Any box that does not have an ‘A’ in it, such as ‘C’ or ‘C/I’, generally means that the judge will not order active jail time for that offense. So if Joe Smith had no prior convictions, and was charged with Disorderly Conduct, a Class 2 misdemeanor, he would generally not be looking at an active jail sentence, but rather, could be ordered to pay the fine only. The maximum fine that may be imposed is $200 for a Class 3 misdemeanor and $1,000 for a Class 2 misdemeanor. The amount of the fine for a Class 1 and Class 1A misdemeanor is in the discretion of the court.

Keep in mind that a judge may always order immediate active jail time for contempt of court.  Intermediate punishment places an offender on supervised probation and includes at least another condition, such as special probation, electronic house arrest, drug court, intensive supervision, or assignment to a residential program or day-reporting center. The facts behind every offense are different and can dramatically affect the range and type of punishment a person could be faced with. Contact Raleigh criminal defense attorney Matthew Golden today to discuss the specific facts of your case to get an idea of what you could be facing.