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.
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.
Most divorcing parents want to separate from each other without sacrificing their individual relationships with their children. Child custody attorneys often work with parents to create a custody schedule that keeps the children happy, safe and well-adjusted, while accommodating each parent’s schedule as much as possible. Sometimes this means weekends and holidays for one parent, and weekdays for the other, and sometimes this can mean monthly or weekly swaps. But when one parent needs to relocate for a new job, a new relationship or other reasons, a new custody agreement will be needed to keep the moving parent in his or her children’s lives.
There are not a lot of easy ways to negotiate relocation when determining custody and usually, the parents will have to reach a compromise on their own, in addition to the court’s rulings. The court system can take several months to finalize a solution, so it is important to act fast when you know that you or your ex-partner will be moving. The goal is to have a new custody agreement in place by the time of the move so that the kids are not too disrupted and the moving parent does not have to travel back and forth constantly to attend court hearings.
Moving out of state may be in violation of a current custody order and any negative consequences need to be addressed immediately. You do not want the courts thinking that you are trying to evade North Carolina’s jurisdiction by moving, and custody will need to be established in the Raleigh courts to accommodate both parties.
Ramirez-Barker v. Barker
In Ramirez-Barker v. Barker, a 1992 case involving the out-of-state move of one parent, the North Carolina courts outlined the criteria to be used when considering custody agreements for relocating parents. These criteria will be used to evaluate how a new agreement should be set up for the benefit of the children:
- Advantages of relocation, in terms of the move’s capacity to improve the lives of the children
- Motives of the custodial parent for moving:
- Will the custodial parent comply with visitation orders after he or she moves away from North Carolina and is no longer in the state’s jurisdiction?
- Integrity of the noncustodial parent in resisting relocation:
- Will the parents be able to set up an amicable, realistic visitation schedule to foster relationships with both custodial and noncustodial parents and children?
One parent cannot stop the other from moving, but certain safeguards can be in place to give ample warning when one ex is considering a move, child custody attorneys in Raleigh say. When your existing custody agreement is set up, you can ask for certain provisions that will require either party to give advance notice of a move (either 30 or 60 days). Additionally, any changes to a custodial schedule during relocation must be agreed upon by both parties and must be in compliance with court laws.
At Cheshire, Parker, Schneider, and Bryan, our Raleigh lawyers represent parents who want to maintain an amiable custody schedule while keeping their relationship with the children intact. To discuss your case, and any possible relocations, contact us today.
Divorce is rarely an easy process and it is made even more complicated when young children are involved. No one wants to choose how to split their time with their children, but when a marriage breaks down, sometimes this is necessary to keep both parents involved in their children’s lives. Alimony, child support and custody arrangements need to be discussed and settled between each parent, and often the easiest and most efficient way to handle this is to work with child support attorneys to ensure that the agreements are legal and binding on both parties.
In many cases, there are litigation-free options that avoid long, expensive legal battles and messy, emotional courtroom scenes, which is beneficial for both parents and children. Mediation and negotiation meetings often work well when both parents are willing to collaborate and set aside their differences in the interest of their children. In these situations, an attorney can help you set up binding agreements for custody and alimony payments.
If mediation is not an option, an attorney can guide you through the litigation process and help you avoid nasty fights and costly fees and expenses. It is necessary for both parents to be involved in creating fair child support agreements, whether you are the primary custodian or not. A support attorney can help ensure that you are in compliance with North Carolina’s requirements.
Options for Arrangements
North Carolina offers two general choices for formal custody agreements—custodial agreements and consent orders. A custodial agreement is a contract between both parties, but these contracts are not binding in court and cannot be enforced by police or legal entities. If one party chooses to file a custody lawsuit, this contract can be dismissed or ignored altogether by a state judge.
In contrast, a consent order is a court-ordered agreement that cannot be changed without petitioning a judge to review any significant changes in circumstance or living arrangements. Anyone who violates a consent order for custody or child support can be found in contempt of court.
When you begin planning for child support agreements, you and your lawyer can sit down and discuss the circumstances of your divorce, as well as any arrangements you have in mind for your children. You should have an ideal schedule that takes into account both parties’ work schedules, your children’s extracurricular activities and educational needs and holidays, family vacations and travel.
Both options available to divorcing couples can be handled efficiently by a child support lawyer, but it is up to you to determine which one will be best for you, your ex-spouse and your children. At North Carolina law firm Cheshire, Parker, Schneider and Bryan, we represent clients who are going through divorce and who need to determine how best to allocate alimony and child support payments. To discuss your case and begin working on a suitable plan that fits both your needs and state requirements, contact our office today.
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.
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).
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!
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.
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.
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!
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:
- The offender must be addicted to a chemical substance.
- The offender must volunteer to participate in the rehabilitation program.
- The offender must be eligible for community service or intermediate penalties as an alternative to prison.
- The crime must not have been classified as violent, or the defendant as violent, a repeat offender, or a drug dealer.
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.
Raleigh DWI Lawyer Collin Cook Identified as One of the Top DWI Attorneys in North Carolina by the National Advocacy for DUI Defense (NAFDD)
Raleigh DWI lawyer Collin Cook recently became a member of the National Advocacy for DUI Defense (NAFDD), LLC, an organization that awards the nation’s best private Driving Under the Influence (DUI) attorneys.
NAFDD identifies the top criminal defense attorneys in each state based upon their experience, reputation, and achievements, among other factors. Those who are selected spend a significant portion of their practice representing individuals accused of DUI offenses (sometimes called DWI, DWII, OUI, OVI, OWI or OUII).
DWI law is a highly specialized field. Effective Raleigh DWI lawyers navigate through many complex legal issues, including the lawfulness of stops, detentions, and arrests; the reliability of field sobriety tests; the accuracy of breath and blood testing methods, including retrograde extrapolations; and driver license ramifications and administrative hearings. The attorneys selected by NAFDD have distinguished themselves by demonstrating particularized knowledge, skill, experience, and expertise in each of these areas, among others.
NAFDD’s selection criteria are driven by a number of considerations. To meet minimum eligibility requirements, an attorney (1) must be licensed and in good standing with his or her state bar organization, (2) must be in private practice, (3) has to have practiced DWI law for at least seven years, and (4) must devote a significant portion of his or her practice to DWI defense. Additional factors include:
- Total length of time the attorney has been practicing criminal law
- Number of DWI clients the attorney has represented
- Jury trial experience
- Bench trial experience
- DWI case results
- Formal DWI training
- DWI publications
- DWI presentations
- Available peer reviews
- Available client reviews
- DWI-related achievements and/or awards
- History of ethical disciplinary actions
For more information about the National Advocacy for DUI Defense (NAFDD) and specific selection criteria for top DUI attorneys, visit www.nafdd.org.
The National Advocacy for DUI Defense understands that there is no easy way to separate an accomplished Raleigh DWI lawyer from the less experienced. By recognizing the best DWI lawyers in each state and across the nation, NAFDD validates professional excellence in the legal community. Its statewide selections serve as a valuable resource for clients looking for experienced and competent Raleigh DWI lawyers.
The question is, are we prepared to [reform] to live up to who we say we are as a nation? . . .
It’s the morally right thing to do, and ultimately it saves us money in the long run.
Eric Holder, the outgoing United States Attorney General, recently gave an interview to members of The Marshall Project, an organization devoted to journalism about the failures of the American justice system. Holder highlighted successes, failures, and hopes for the future.
His comments on mass incarceration are illuminating.
We have 5 percent of the world’s population, [and] 25 percent of the people in incarceration. That’s not something that we can sustain. One third of the budget at the Justice Department now goes to the Bureau of Prisons, and if you look out to 2020, it goes up to 40, 45 percent or so. Which squeezes out the other things we want to do with regard to other areas of crime that we want to focus on, other initiatives that we want to support.
And then if you look at the impact that mass incarceration has . . . , it leads to broken families, it leads to social dysfunction, it tends to breed more crime. So – look, I’m a prosecutor first and foremost, and as a judge I put people in jail for extended periods of time when that was appropriate. Smart on Crime says if you commit violent crimes you should go to jail, and go to jail for extended periods of time. For people who are engaged in non-violent crimes – any crimes, for that matter – we are looking for sentences that are proportionate to the conduct that you engaged in.
Holder is optimistic that a version of the Smarter Sentencing Act will become law in the next Congress. That law proposes a number of changes to the federal criminal justice system, including, among other things:
- expanding the applicability of a “Safety Valve” provision (18 U.S.C. § 3553(f)), which overrides the mandatory minimum sentence in drug offenses for a small subset of defendants (low-level, first offenders in non-violent offense who cooperated with law enforcement);
- reducing the sentences of prisoners sentenced for crack-cocaine offenses before August 2010 to align with current (less harsh) sentences for such offenses;
- reducing mandatory minimums for certain drug offenses;
- directing U.S. Sentencing Commission to formulate lower recommended sentences so that the federal prison population will not exceed capacity;
- adding mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenses of aggravated sexual abuse and increasing penalties for certain domestic violence offenses; and
- adding mandatory minimum sentences for terrorism offenses.
According to Holder, “If this is done correctly you not only save money, you keep the American people safe by cutting down on the recidivism rate.”
Holder then commented on the death penalty, saying that
I disagree . . . that we have never put to death an innocent person. It’s one of the reasons why I personally am opposed to the death penalty. We have the greatest judicial system in the world, but at the end of the day it’s made up of men and women making decisions, tough decisions. Men and women who are dedicated, but dedicated men and women can make mistakes. And I find it hard to believe that in our history that has not happened.
I think at some point, we will find a person who was put to death and who should not have been, who was not guilty of a crime.
These comments are enlightening, as Holder is not only the top federal prosecutor in the United States, but he was also a line-prosecutor and a judge. He has prosecuted people and companies, and has likely sentenced thousands of people to hundreds of thousands of years in prison in total. He then oversaw the entire United States justice system. And from that perch, he apparently gained a broad perspective of the ills of our system and a strong desire to reform it.
As is true throughout the nation, Raleigh federal criminal defense attorneys should be aware of Holder’s policy positions, as they may be useful in negotiating current cases to achieve results that are in line with where our system is (hopefully) headed. With the top federal prosecutor lamenting long sentences for non-violent crimes, as well as the corresponding financial burden such sentences place on our country, Raleigh drug crime lawyers and Raleigh white collar defense lawyers should seek to weave these arguments into their discussions with prosecutors and presentations to judges.
It is also refreshing to hear a career prosecutor and judge being realistic about the death penalty and the likelihood that our system has erred in its use. This recognition–that our government has killed innocent citizens–is the first step toward the abolition of the death penalty, since one government-sponsored killing of an innocent citizen should be enough to dispense with the punishment altogether.