We handle criminal matters of all levels, from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies. For every client, we employ a results-oriented approach based on the facts and circumstance of the individual case.
Criminal Defense Law
Chris handles a wide variety of misdemeanor charges for his clients. The most common misdemeanor cases that Chris handles are possession of marijuana, larceny, and assault because these cases are the most frequently charged.
The typical possession of marijuana case begins when the defendant commits a minor traffic violation. This traffic violation allows the officer to stop the defendant’s vehicle to issue a citation. When the officer approaches the vehicle, he or she often smells an odor of marijuana, which when combined with additional factors, gives the officer probable cause to search the vehicle. Frequently, the defendant also consents to a search and admits to the officer that marijuana is in the vehicle. Defenses in marijuana cases arise most often when challenging reasonable suspicion to stop, probable cause to search, and difficulty proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant actually possessed the marijuana. The latter defense often arises when multiple people are in the vehicle, and no one accepts responsibility for the marijuana that the officer found. Many defendants in drug possession cases qualify for deferrals that involve taking drug education classes and that result in the dismissal of the charges.
Larceny cases most frequently occur when clients attempt to take property from stores. In these cases, the State generally needs more than the charging officer to prove the case because this officer did not actually witness the incident. As a result, larceny cases are often dismissed because the witness, who usually is the loss prevention officer of the store, does not come to court. If the witness does show up in court, Chris often secures a deferral for his client that involves doing community service to earn a dismissal.
Like larceny cases, assault cases often require a witness other than the charging officer if the State is going to have a chance of proving the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. The witness typically is the alleged victim of the assault, but often, law enforcement charges both parties involved in the altercation. Assault cases that do not involve a domestic relationship often result in a dismissal because the witness does not appear in court or because the witness does not wish to prosecute the case.
While possession of marijuana, larceny, and assault are three of the most common misdemeanor cases that Chris handles, he also handles a range of other charges. These charges include possession of controlled substances, possession of paraphernalia, underage consumption of alcohol, possession of an open container of alcohol, public consumption of alcohol, intoxicated and disruptive behavior, injury to real property, injury to personal property, simple affray, assault on a female, assault by pointing a gun, assault on an unborn child, sexual battery, communicating threats, stalking, cyber stalking, shoplifting, concealment of goods, possession of stolen property, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and other offenses.
Few incidents can have a more profound effect on a person’s life than a felony conviction. Convicted felons often struggle to obtain the same educational and employment opportunities as those individuals without a record. Furthermore, convicted felons often lose important legal rights such as the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, the right to possess a firearm, and the right to obtain certain licenses. When one of his clients is charged with a felony, Chris works diligently to avoid a felony conviction.
Most felony cases begin in Courtroom 301 of the Wake County Justice Center, which is District Court. Chris can resolve felony cases in District Court when he convinces the District Attorney’s Office to dismiss the case, when he obtains an offer for a deferral or a conditional discharge, when he secures a reduction to a misdemeanor, and when he pleads to a low-level felony. Depending on the client’s record, the charge, the nature of the defense, and the surrounding circumstances, Chris most often will resolve felony cases in District Court either by misdemeanor plea or by conditional discharge. When the State reduces a felony charge to a misdemeanor, the Defendant typically ends up on supervised probation, and in some circumstances, the Defendant may serve a short jail sentence. A conditional discharge involves the Defendant pleading guilty to a felony and completing a significant amount of community service during a one-year period of supervised probation. If the Defendant complies with the terms of the conditional discharge, the Court will dismiss the case, at which point it may be possible to file a Petition for Expunction to erase any record that the Defendant was even charged. While Chris and his clients always take felony cases very seriously, Chris often can resolve the case in a way that will not have a lasting effect on his clients lives. Felony cases often move quicker than misdemeanor cases, so if you are charged with a felony, please contact Chris as soon as possible to set up a free initial consultation.
Chris frequently represents clients in domestic violence cases. These cases often involve both a pending criminal charge and a civil Petition for a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO).
Criminal domestic violence cases take place in Courtroom 303 of the Wake County Justice Center. The District Attorney’s Office schedules cases in this courtroom if there is a certain relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim. A variety of relationships qualify as domestic including those relationships between spouses, family members, people who live together, and people who are in dating relationships.
In Courtroom 303, Chris frequently handles domestic cases involving charges such as simple assault, assault on a female, assault inflicting serious injury, child abuse, injury to personal property, injury to real property, cyberstalking, communicating threats, and violation of a DVPO. These incidents rarely occur in the presence of the charging law enforcement officer, and as a result, the alleged victim or another witness generally must appear in court if the State is going to have a chance of proving the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the District Attorneys office frequently has no option but to dismiss the case when the witness or the alleged victim does not appear in court to testify.
When the State is in a position to attempt to prove the case, they still will often offer a domestic violence deferral. This deferral typically involves an admission of guilt, and it requires that the defendant complete an educational program related to domestic violence. The programs vary in cost, duration, and topic depending on the circumstances, but include classes focused on abuser treatment, substance abuse treatment, anger management, and parent. If the Defendant successfully completes the program and does not receive any additional charges during the one-year deferral period, the State will dismiss the case. While Chris handles almost exclusively traffic and criminal cases for his clients, he does also handle civil protective order cases on a regular basis. These cases take place in Courtroom 5A of the Wake County Court House, not the Wake County Justice Center. Protective order is the legal term for what most people commonly refer to as a restraining order. Chris represents both the Plaintiffs seeking protective orders and the Defendants seeking to avoid being the subject of a protective order. Even though Chris represents both Plaintiffs and Defendants, he more regularly represents Defendants because they usually are also his clients in a related criminal case.
Chris frequently handles probation violation cases. When a judge suspends a sentence so that the defendant does not have to serve the jail or prison time, the judge places the defendant on probation. This suspended sentence and period of probation allow the defendant to avoid an active sentence. There are two types of probation in North Carolina: unsupervised and supervised. Probation violations rarely ever occur in cases where the defendant is on unsupervised probation. In contrast, probation violations occur frequently when the defendant is placed on supervised probation. Supervised probation involves the defendant having a probation officer, being subject to warrantless searches and drug tests, having restrictions on his or her travel, paying supervision fees, and not possessing a firearm, among other limitations on the defendant’s liberty.
Probation violations arise for a variety of reasons, some of which are more serious than others. Minor and technical violations include failing drug tests, missing visits with your probation officer, and failing to pay court costs, fines, and fees. While we do need to take these violations seriously, Chris often resolves these issues without the Defendant suffering significant consequences. The two most serious probation violations are new criminal charges and absconding. Absconding means that the defendant has left the jurisdiction without permission or that the defendant has not made himself or herself available for supervision. These violations can result in the revocation of the defendant’s probation and the activation of the suspended sentence. Although we should take all probation violations seriously, Chris takes special care with violations involving new criminal charges and absconding.
In North Carolina, the term expunction means the process of destroying the records for a criminal offense.
While our statutes use the word expunction, many people are familiar with the term expungement. Both terms describe the act of the court ordering the destruction of all the official records associated with a criminal case. Attorneys, judges, and clerks often use the terms expunction and expungement interchangeably.
On December 1, 2017, the North Carolina General Assembly expanded the scope of expunctions in our state. Previously, under most statutes, a person only could obtain the benefit of one expunction in his or her life. The recent changes, however, allow for unlimited expunctions of dismissed cases and cases where a judge or jury found the defendant not guilty. Since many people with criminal history have a mix of convictions and dismissals, Chris can utilize the expanded statute to dramatically reduce the number of criminal cases that appear on a background check. Erasing dismissed cases is especially important because many employers and educational institutions do not understand the significant distinction between a dismissal and a conviction.
The North Carolina General Assembly also recently changed the waiting period to expunge non-violent misdemeanor and felony convictions. Now, if certain additional conditions are met, Chris can expunge non-violent misdemeanor convictions five years after the conviction date. For non-violent felonies, the waiting period is ten years. When combining these statutes with the provisions covering dismissed and not guilty cases, Chris can erase the records for numerous cases at once and put his clients in a much better position when applying for employment and educational opportunities.
Overall, the expunction statutes in North Carolina are complicated and numerous, so retaining an experienced attorney to navigate the statutory cross-references is important. Cleaning up one’s criminal history can make all the difference when filling out applications for work or school. Please contact Chris today to set up a free consultation where he will review your criminal history and propose a plan of action for cleaning up your record.