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First Recipient of Cheshire Schneider Scholarship Announced

Here’s a reprint of a post from Campbell Law School – LINK.

Nelson to receive Cheshire Schneider Advocacy Scholarship

RALEIGH, N.C. – Incoming first-year student Terrie Nelson has been selected to receive the Cheshire Schneider Advocacy Scholarship from Campbell Law School. The award is one of three highly prestigious, full-tuition awards.

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In keeping with Campbell Law’s mission to educate and develop vigorous advocates for championing and defending individual liberties and justice for all, Campbell Law annually offers the Cheshire Schneider Advocacy Scholarship to one incoming law student who has achieved demonstrable success in advocacy programs such as debate or mock trial during high school and/or college experiences. Initially established as the Excellence in Advocacy Scholarship, the award was re-named in honor of prominent Raleigh attorneys Joseph Cheshire, V and Alan Schneider of Cheshire Parker Schneider & Bryan in December 2014 following an anonymous $100,000 gift to the law school in their honor.

“I fully recognize that not everyone has the privilege to attend law school, but everyone should have the opportunity to be fairly and fervently represented in our court system,” said Nelson. “I am honored to receive the Cheshire Schneider Advocacy Scholarship and to have been selected to attend one of the most prestigious law schools in the state, and with the opportunity that has been afforded to me, it is my aim to become a skilled advocate so that I may better serve others.”

A native of Hampton, Virginia, Nelson holds undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington (UNCW). As an undergraduate student she received the Rachel Freeman Service Leadership Award and the Senior Medallion Award. During her graduate studies Nelson served terms as president and vice president of the UNCW Conflict Management & Resolution Graduate Student Association, and as treasurer of the UNCW Graduate Student Association. Nelson has worked as a victim witness legal assistant in the New Hanover and Pender County district attorney’s office, and has volunteered in the community at Pender County Christian Services and with Pender County Teen Court.

An internal search committee comprised of advocacy experience from within the Campbell Law community interviewed an impressive slate of finalists and ultimately selected Nelson for the award. Campbell Law Assistant Professor of Law and Director of Advocacy Dan Tilly steered the committee alongside namesakes Cheshire and Schneider.

“It would be difficult to find a better person to receive the first Cheshire Schneider Advocacy Scholarship,” said Cheshire. “Terri’s entire life has been one of hard work and personal accomplishment while using advocacy and personal dedication to positively affect other people’s lives. She embodies what this scholarship is supposed to nurture and I could not be happier that she will be its first recipient.”

ABOUT CAMPBELL LAW:
Since its founding in 1976, Campbell Law School has developed lawyers who possess moral conviction, social compassion and professional competence, and who view the law as a calling to serve others. The school has been recognized by the American Bar Association (ABA) as having the nation’s top Professionalism Program and by the American Academy of Trial Lawyers for having the nation’s best Trial Advocacy Program. Campbell Law boasts more than 3,650 alumni, including more than 2,500 who reside and work in North Carolina. In September 2009, Campbell Law relocated to a state-of-the-art building in downtown Raleigh. For more

 

The Stakeholders Chief Justice Martin Left Out

In a Letter to the Editor in today’s Raleigh News & Observer, Joe Cheshire and I note a glaring omission from North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin’s recent State of the Judiciary address to the North Carolina General Assembly. “There comes a time when leadership demands subordinating political considerations to do what’s right.” Read more here.

 

FBI Director Acknowledges Racial Bias of Law Enforcement

James Comey, the Director of the FBI, spoke on the issue of biases of law enforcement (and all Americans) at Georgetown University recently.  His comments are refreshingly candid.  He began by explaining that law enforcement has a legacy of racism.  For example, the nickname “paddy wagon” comes from law enforcement’s bias against Irish immigrants “as drunks, ruffians, and criminals.”  Although “[t]he Irish had tough times,” he continued, “[their experience] little compares to the experience on our soil of black Americans.”

Comey then noted that “[m]uch research points to the widespread existence of unconscious bias.”  He then quoted the Broadway hit, Avenue Q:

Look around an you will find,
No one’s really color blind.
Maybe it’s a fact
We all should face
Everyone makes judgments
Based on race.

His talk then turned to the specific affect of  such “unconscious bias” on law enforcement officers, saying, “something happens to people in law enforcement.  [They] develop different flavors of cynicism . . . , lazy mental shortcuts.  For example, [they come to believe that] criminal suspects routinely lie . . . , and the people [they] charge are overwhelmingly guilty.  That makes it easy for folks in law enforcement to assume that everybody is lying and that no suspect . . . could be innocent.  Easy, but wrong.”

As for race, he recognized that the same type of cynicism develops in police officers who “work in environments where a hugely disproportionate percentage of street crime is committed by young men of color. . . .  After years of police work, officers often can’t help but be influenced[by unconscious bias.]”

He then explicitly acknowledged the developed racial bias of officers working in urban areas, saying, “A mental shortcut becomes almost irresistible . . . . The two young black men on one side of the street look like so many others the officer has locked up.  Two young white men on the other side of the street–even in the same clothes–do not.  The officer does not make the same association about the two white guys . . . , [a]nd that drives different behavior.”

After acknowledging what we’ve all known, he moves on to discuss how he sees law enforcement moving forward despite these “latent biases.”  He says that law enforcement “must . . . [try to know] what it feels like to be a law-abiding young black man walking on the street and encountering law enforcement. . . .  We must resist the lazy shortcuts of cynicism [i.e. the assumption that he is a liar and criminal] and approach him with respect and decency.”  This is obvious, but instructive.  “We must work . . . to really see each other.  Perhaps the reason we struggle as a nation is because we’ve come to see only what we represent, at face value, instead of who we are.  We[, law enforcement,] simply must see the people we serve,” he says.

He concluded,

We have spent the 150 years since Lincoln [ ] making great progress, but along the way treating a whole lot of people of color poorly.  And law enforcement was often part of that poor treatment.  That’s our inheritance as law enforcement and its not all in the distant past.  [Law enforcement] . . . must confront the biases that are inescapable parts of the human condition.  We must speak the truth about our shortcomings as law enforcement, and fight to be better.

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FBI Director Comey’s speech was refreshing in its honesty.  Recognition is the first step toward reaching a solution.  And for too long, racial bias has been an off limits topic.  The statistics show that black men are discriminated against by the criminal justice system.  Now the top official at the FBI, our nation’s premier investigative agency, has recognized that the racial bias of police officers has been one of the causes of this discrimination.

We certainly have a long way to go.  But this is an important first step.

 

 

 

Joe Cheshire Named Top Lawyer in NC by SuperLawyers.com for Second Year in a Row

Joe Cheshire was named the top lawyer in North Carolina by SuperLawyers.com for the second year in a row.

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Super Lawyers is a ranking service that uses a multiphase selection process, which includes peer nominations and evaluations, as well as independent research, to select outstanding lawyers throughout the state.  Only five percent of all practicing attorneys are selected for inclusion in Super Laywers.  To read more about the SuperLawyer.com selection process, please click here.

 

Innocent Until Proven Guilty?

In America, “innocent until proven guilty” is a hallmark of our justice system. However, criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh and elsewhere throughout the state know that the “presumption of innocence” is not always how it plays out. When people are accused of committing a crime, or even investigated in connection with a crime, their character and reputation often hang in the balance, especially when the crime carries highly negative connotations, such as rape, sexual assault, or child abuse.

Rumors and false assumptions can cause permanent damage in their personal lives and professional careers. A quick Google search can bring up connections to criminal investigations that could be misleading, especially if the accused was later cleared of wrongdoing, and continue to haunt that person’s future. A simple accusation or investigation can cause lifelong grief for the accused and acquitted.

While everyone charged with a serious crime is entitled to a jury of one’s peers, juries are made up of humans, who can easily make mistakes. So can witnesses, lawyers, law enforcement officers, and judges. Our justice system is not perfect, and one mistake can ruin a person’s life. The news is filled with stories of people being released from prison after serving lengthy sentences for crimes they did not commit. But even if they’re later exonerated, the damage has been done. There is no way to undo years spent in prison or erase the association of your face with guilt for the crime.

Hire a Lawyer

Many people believe that hiring a lawyer is a sign of guilt, and that innocent people have no need for legal representation simply because they are innocent. But if you have been charged with a crime, even a crime you did not commit, you need someone who knows the system, knows your rights, and knows the law to help you get through this difficult time.

Criminal investigators want to get at the truth, but they are used to dealing with criminals who lie to keep themselves out of trouble. Because of this, investigators and interrogators often ask confusing or leading questions and use tactics designed to obtain a confession. If you are innocent, you may not realize that the answers you provide in an investigation can hurt you, and you may wind up inadvertently accepting guilt for a crime you had nothing to do with. In order to protect yourself and prepare your best defense, you need the help of an experienced attorney.

At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, and Bryan, our federal criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh want to help you take full advantage of your right to the presumption of innocence. To discuss your case, contact our firm today for more information and consultation.

 

Drug Crimes

We’ve all heard about “street” drug crimes — selling illegal drugs on street corners, passing off more dangerous, enhanced drugs as regular-variety narcotics, etc. — but an increasing number of people are getting caught with prescription drugs and charged with serious crimes as a result. Often, these people are not involved in the day-to-day trafficking of “street” drugs, but are caught in addictions or drug-sharing schemes and have not made the connection between their prescription drug actions and criminal offenses.  For those individuals, the charges can be a complete shock.

Sharing Prescription Drugs

With the rising costs of healthcare and all it takes to visit the doctor and obtain a prescription, it is understandable that leftover prescription pills may be repurposed — shared with a friend or relative or used to treat another ailment. Many see no difference between that and providing an aspirin to a co-worker with a headache; however, Percocet and Vicodin are stronger than aspirin and can only be used with a valid prescription. And if you accept money for your extra amount of prescription drugs, you can rack up more criminal charges, drug crime lawyers in Raleigh say.

Prescription Drug Addictions

In other cases, instead of sharing their prescription drugs, people will become addicted to them. When someone in serious pain is prescribed pain pills, it can be hard to stop taking them. The absence of pain can feel like a miracle, especially if you have been in constant pain before. And when you keep taking pain medication, you often lose the ability to make good judgment calls. Sometimes, you may not even realize that you are addicted to the medication, and you may go to extreme lengths to get more when your prescription runs out. Stealing or writing false prescriptions can signal a serious addiction that needs to be treated, and it can land you in a lot of trouble with the law.

Drug Crimes in Raleigh

In North Carolina, the criminal justice system often works only to punish people for their crimes, not to provide rehabilitation or counseling for those addicted to drugs, including prescription medications. In prescription drug cases, the defendants often have no prior criminal record and have no idea how they ended up being charged with criminal acts. These defendants want to get help, get clean, and keep their criminal records clean. They have no desire to continue to sell or abuse drugs, but they may be hindered professionally and personally with a criminal drug charge on their permanent records.

At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, and Bryan, our drug crimes lawyers defend people charged with or under investigation for abusing, selling, or sharing prescription drugs. To get started on your defense and rehabilitation, contact one of our attorneys today.

 

ABA Advocates for Federal Sentencing Reform

In November, the American Bar Association (ABA) published, A Report on Behalf of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section Task Force on the Reform of Federal Sentencing for Economic Crimes. The report outlines suggested changes to the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which govern sentence recommendations in Federal criminal cases.  The ABA’s report highlights that these guidelines should be updated, not only for drug crimes, but also for financial or economic criminal activity.

The Current Loss-Driven Model

The existing model for sentencing people and company’s convicted of economic crimes is driven primarily by the “loss” factor–that is, how much money was lost as a result of a person or company’s criminal activity. Using the current model, the loss factor sets the baseline for sentencing. Once the baseline is established, a judge can add other criteria, such as the number of victims and the methods in which the criminal activity was carried out, to increase the recommended sentence.  However, the amount of loss remains the most important factor in determining a recommended sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

The higher the dollar amount, the longer the recommended prison sentence. Federal criminal defense attorneys in Raleigh often see the recommended sentence under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines spiral out of control when loss is the determining factor. In their reform report, the ABA highlights the importance of evaluating the entirety of the case when determining how to sentence and suggests concrete changes to the Guidelines for economic crime sentencing.

Sentencing Criteria

Rather than consider only loss (and the crime of conviction) to determine the baseline sentencing range, the ABA suggests consideration of three criteria: loss, culpability and victim impact. Each characteristic is broken down into levels ranging from minor to serious crimes.

Using this three-part framework, the ABA’s recommendation offers judges additional important criteria (culpability and victim impact) to consider in determining the baseline sentence. For example, under the new model, the baseline recommended sentence for a minor (or low culpability) participant in an economic crime causing a high dollar amount of loss, say more than $10 million, would be similar to a high culpability participant in an offense causing $1,000,000 in loss (all else equal).

Additionally, the ABA’s recommendation would put additional weight on the varying levels of victim impact that are not taken into consideration when viewing the dollar amount of the victim’s loss alone.  Such considerations include the bankrupting of an individual by causing a loss that might not severely impact a company (which would result in an increased recommended sentence), as well as the extent to which the victim  may have contributed to the offense in some manner (which would decrease the recommended sentence).

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The ABA’s recommendations have not been adopted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, and the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines are merely suggestions that judges have to consider but do not have to follow.  However, it is important for Raleigh Federal criminal defense attorneys to be aware of the ABA’s suggestions so they can consider incorporating them into their presentations to the court when appropriate.

At North Carolina law firm Cheshire, Parker, Schneider & Bryan, we represent anyone who has been charged with economic crimes. For a free evaluation of your case, contact one of our Raleigh federal criminal defense attorneys today!

 

DUI Traffic Stops: Know Your Rights Under the Law

In North Carolina, police officers use a combination of chemical and physical tests to determine whether a driver is impaired due to alcohol or drug use. Although these tests may seem like basic requests, such as counting backwards from 10, putting your finger on your nose and walking in a straight line, or foolproof, like a Breathalyzer that analyzes blood alcohol content, they could be detrimental to defending a driver after an arrest.

A traffic stop for drunk driving can be intimidating, especially if you are alone, have had a drink or two, or are in an unfamiliar area. But before you panic, it is important to remember that you have rights that you can exercise during the stop and after to ensure you are given a fair chance to defend yourself.

Before the Arrest

DUI/DWI traffic stops typically occur when an officer sees erratic driving, such as lane-switching, swerving, drastic speed changes or otherwise inconsistent behavior. After an officer pulls you over, he or she will often ask you to perform a series of sobriety tests to determine how impaired your vision, concentration, and motor skills are—or if they are even impaired at all. They may also ask you to provide a breath sample to determine how much alcohol is in your system.

When you are first pulled over, if you have not yet been arrested, you have options available to you during your traffic stop. In North Carolina, you are allowed to refuse to submit to any sobriety testing, including a Breathalyzer. You may be arrested for refusing and may lose your license for a year, but in some cases, having no hard evidence of an elevated blood alcohol content can work in your favor. Without evidence, the police have a harder time proving you were drunk at the time of your arrest when your case goes to court.

After an Arrest

If your traffic stop ends with the officer arresting and charging you with a DWI, there is no need to panic. The onus is on the officer to prove whether you were drunk at the time and if there is no evidence or shaky evidence to support this claim, it may be more difficult to prove the charges. Even if you did provide a breath sample that showed you at the legal limit of 0.08 or higher, you can still defend against a DWI charge.

Call an Attorney

A drunk driving charge can be devastating for a driver and could lead to serious consequences, including fines, jail time and license suspension. If you have been arrested on DWI/DUI charges, contact a DWI/DUI lawyer in Raleigh today. At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider and Bryan, we offer legal counsel and representation to any clients who want to fight their DWI charges. Call our law office to discuss your case today.

 

Is Your Professional License Being Threatened? Know Your Rights and Protect Yourself

You have to have a license to perform many tasks in today’s world—drive a car, practice medicine, law, and other specialties, repair electronics and appliances, install heating and air conditioning and perform certain types of contract work. These are only a few of the professions that require workers to undergo extended training and education, and obtain (and maintain) professional licenses to certify they possess the knowledge and skill to perform their jobs. In these professions, maintaining a license is critical to success and continued income, and professional license defense attorneys in Raleigh know how devastating it can be to have that license threatened by sanctions or complaints.

North Carolina has several requirements and standards for professionals who hold licenses in the state, and many regulatory boards oversee these areas of practice. If a professional fails to meet the standards set forth by the state or the professional licensing board, the outcome could be disastrous for his or her livelihood, family and clients, as was the case with a local contractor recently.

Area Contractor’s License Suspended

Last month, a state board suspended a contractor’s license after a carbon monoxide leak killed three hotel guests in Boone, NC. The contractor had converted the hotel’s pool heater from propane to natural gas, a move that violates the pool manufacturer’s warnings. The heating system leaked carbon monoxide into one of the hotel rooms almost a month after the repair job and poisoned a young family. Based on this incident, the State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors suspended the contractor’s license.

What to Do

A publicized complaint about your work can threaten your income and your continued business success, and a license suspension can put an end to your career. Therefore, it is important for licensed professionals to protect themselves from the very start. Take immediate action once a complaint has been filed with your license board or agency to help minimize the damage and defend your name.

Once a complaint has been filed, you will need to make a response, usually in writing. A qualified professional license defense attorney can help you prepare your response and review the regulations and your response before it is submitted to the board. Following the response,. The board will often then conduct a probable cause review to determine whether and how to proceed with your case, and you may need to attend informal interviews and a formal disciplinary proceeding. Throughout this process, you can work with your attorney to mount your defense and appeal the board’s decision if it is not in your favor.

Contact Us

At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider and Bryan, our team of lawyers represent attorneys, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, dentists, contractors, teachers, and other licensed professionals in Raleigh and throughout North Carolina that have received complaints from a licensing board or agency or have had their licenses revoked or suspended. For more information about how best to protect your license and your livelihood, call our office today!

 

Drug Treatment Courts

In North Carolina, drug treatment courts often seek alternative penalties and detention methods to both rehabilitate and punish criminal offenders who have been caught using, selling or holding illegal drugs or paraphernalia. In many cases, especially those involving a first-time offender or a minor defendant, rehabilitation is the best way to treat the addiction and offer the defendant a chance to make reparation for his or her crimes.

Isolation, counseling, and withdrawal programs are all effective ways to eliminate drug usage and addictions. Once the addiction is gone, the defendant has no need or motive to commit further drug crimes. For a first-time offender, the rehabilitation programs and the chance to move forward and serve time without the weight of a serious criminal record, could be the chance he or she needs to make a fresh start.

Drug treatment courts offer a variety of rehabilitation options, including twelve-step drug treatment programs, vocational and life skills rehabilitation classes, G.E.D programs and parenting and anger management courses (if needed). The court program lasts from one to two years, and typically requires the participants to appear in court at least twice a month.

If a judge feels that a defendant in the drug treatment program is not fulfilling the terms of his or her acceptance into the program, a change may be ordered. This change could be a new method of treatment, additional classes or counseling, drug testing, jail time or even removal from the program. Those who are working within drug treatment programs in North Carolina must continue to uphold their end of the agreement throughout the program’s duration.

Requirements for Drug Treatment Courts

Although these drug courts and the treatment choices within their systems may seem attractive to accused offenders hoping to avoid heavy fines or extended jail time, drug crime attorneys note that certain criteria must be met before the drug court is a viable option.

An offender whose case is eligible for drug treatment court must meet the below criteria, according to state laws:

Additional requirements may be mandated from court to court, and the 23 counties that offer drug treatment courts can set their own rules outside of the state’s requirements. Typically, defendants are evaluated on a case by case basis in which a judge considers all the circumstances surrounding the arrest or charges.

At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, and Bryan, our drug crime lawyers offer legal counsel and representation to people in the Raleigh area who have been charged with drug possession, use sales, or drug trafficking. To discuss your case and learn more about the options available to you in North Carolina’s drug treatment courts, contact one of our attorneys today.

 

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