Distracted Driving And The Law—What You Should Know In Raleigh

While drunk driving gets a lot of attention, intoxicated persons are not the only dangerous drivers on the road.

Distracted Driving And The Law—What You Should Know In RaleighDistracted driving—especially texting while driving—causes a fair number of accidents by itself. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that nearly 3,500 people in the US were killed in 2015 by distracted drivers, and 391,000 are injured in the same way every year.

Teenage drivers are the largest group of offenders, but every day over 660,000 people in the US are doing something else while they’re driving in broad daylight:

·         Talking on their cell phone

·         Texting/emailing using their cell phone

·         Eating/drinking

·         Adjusting the stereo or another entertainment system

·         Other tasks that take attention away from driving

North Carolina’s “It Can Wait” campaign, as well as tougher new laws, aren’t having the positive effect officials hoped it would. That means a lot of people are still driving around and not paying enough attention to the road and other vehicles. If this is you, there are a few things you need to know.

Driving Distractions Cause Accidents

Anything that distracts your full attention from the road can cause a driver to be distracted enough to cause a crash. Texting is particularly dangerous not only because of the distraction factor but also by the cognitive actions involved—typing, reading, sending. (This is also called “inattentional blindness.”)  All drivers are prohibited from texting in North Carolina.

AT&T has an online driving simulator that demonstrates how dangerous texting and driving can be.

While we know there are times where you “really need to take this call,” play it safe and pull over to the side of the road to do so if you can.

The Police Can Pull You Over For Texting

If your vehicle is in motion and you are caught texting behind the wheel, you can be pulled over and ticketed, with a $100 fine. This is true even if you’ve committed no other traffic violation (such as speeding or running a red light.) It’s not illegal to read or send texts or emails if your vehicle is stopped or parked (such as at a red light or in a parking lot while waiting for someone.)

“Novice Drivers,” those who are under 18, are prohibited from all cell phone use while driving, not just texting.

School bus drivers are also prohibited from using a cell phone while driving. This includes handheld and hands-free phone use.

GPS devices are currently allowed, however, they are also a distraction and can also cause an accident, as does using a cell phone’s GPS app.

What’s Next?

Although there is a movement to stop all cell phone while driving in North Carolina, not just texting, it hasn’t happened yet. Deaths in North Carolina have been attributed to distracted driving, but there really isn’t anything beyond the texting ban, yet.

Earlier this year, the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program launched “One Call Could Wreck It All,” an initiative to remind drivers to stop driving distracted. AT&T launched “It Can Wait” in 2013, and continues to promote safe driving, along with encouraging drivers everywhere to take their pledge and not drive distracted.

Let Dewey P. Brinkley Help

If you’ve been in an accident caused by distracted driving, contact our office at 919-832-0307 for a free consultation today. Mr. Brinkley is a Board Certified Specialist and an experienced defense lawyer who will represent you in court and ensure you have a fair trial with the strongest possible defense. He has extensive trial experience as a prosecutor in Wake County, North Carolina, and will work closely with you to build your case for trial. Don’t wait–call today.

Five Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer can be one of the most nerve-wracking things you’ll ever experience, especially if it’s for something you weren’t expecting. Ask these 5 questions before you hire a lawyer.

Five Questions To Ask Before You Hire A Lawyer

You may have a lot of questions, and that’s OK. (Skip generic, personal questions, like “where did you go to law school?”) Write them all down and take them with you for your first visit. You’ll want to find a lawyer who knows how to handle your particular case successfully, and interviewing them is a first step to easing your mind about your legal issue.

Many lawyers offer free consultations like we do. A lawyer will ask you about your case, but you should be asking your own questions, too. Here are five basic questions to ask a lawyer before you hire one.

1.    What experience do you have in handling legal matters like mine? Is my case in the focus of your main practice area?

While general legal practitioners do still exist, finding a specialist who is an expert in your particular legal matter is a better idea. If you need a lawyer for a traffic violation, you wouldn’t want to find someone who is better skilled at divorce law. Consider it this way: would you go to your family doctor for brain surgery? Of course not—you’d want to find a skilled brain surgeon who knew exactly what he or she was doing. It’s the same as asking your favorite personal injury lawyer to handle a criminal case, especially if it’s one where you could face jail time.

2.    How will you charge me for your services? This is a detailed question that you definitely need to ask. Don’t just ask, “how much is this going to cost me?” It’s not that simple.

Lawyers have different fee arrangements depending on the type of cases they handle. Personal injury and some other types of lawyers frequently use something called a “contingency fee” arrangement, where their fees are a percentage of any financial settlement you might receive (like one from a car accident.) But some charge either a flat fee or by the hour. You won’t know until you ask.

If your lawyer charges an hourly rate, you’ll also want to ask how often you’ll receive a bill, how they charge for parts of an hour, and if you’ll be charged for calling or emailing a paralegal or other member of their staff for updates about your case.

You should also ask if you’ll be charged a deposit for them to take your case.

3.    Who will be my primary point of contact? Will you be handling my case, or will it be assigned to another lawyer or a paralegal?

This is important because you need to know who you’ll be talking to and who to ask for if you call. Paralegals and other support staff often take care of “back-office” work in law firms and handle phone calls so that the lawyer is freed up for court appearances and other legal tasks.

a.    What’s the best way to communicate with you? Find out if they’d prefer calls, emails or even text messages for questions and short updates.

4.    Do you have references?

Just like a job interview, references can be important. But because of privacy laws, a lawyer can’t just give you names and numbers of previous clients. He or she can, however, pass your contact information to a former client who may (or may not) contact you to discuss how their particular case was handled.

5.    Do you have a written representation agreement that I can read before I sign?

Asking for this agreement will allow you to read carefully what happens when you hire this lawyer. You’ll know what to expect, and there shouldn’t be any “surprises.” If you do have any additional questions before you hire him or her, you should have an opportunity to ask them.

Additional questions are available at the North Carolina State Bar’s website. Don’t be embarrassed to ask—most lawyers welcome the opportunity to help, and will be happy to answer them for you.

Most of us don’t hire a lawyer very often, so we don’t know if we’re doing it right or not until we have a problem along the way. Asking questions and understanding the process of your particular legal matter is important to ensure that you’re working with your lawyer for a positive outcome.

Free Consultation

We’re happy to answer all of your questions about your case, whether it’s a traffic violation or offenses, drug charges, financial crimes or one of our other case specialties. Call us today at 919-832-0307 for a free initial consultation.

Dewey P. Brinkley is a former assistant district attorney in Wake County and has successfully defended thousands of clients in the Raleigh/Wake County area. Mr. Brinkley will discuss your DWI case with you and design your defense so you are properly represented.

Received a Criminal Summons in Wake County: Here’s What to Do

You’ve had heated words with someone. Maybe you said something you shouldn’t have said. Maybe it was said to a romantic partner or estranged spouse. Maybe it was a coworker—or your teenager.

Something turns up missing at work, at someone’s home, or even in your church. You may be the “prime suspect.” You’ve done nothing wrong, but another person firmly believes that you are the guilty party, even without proof or evidence.

Received a Criminal Summons in Wake County: Here's What to DoJust because you haven’t been arrested doesn’t mean you’ve escaped a criminal charge.

If someone believes they have probable cause to file charges for a presumed wrongdoing, you can still find yourself on the wrong side of the law. If this happens, you’ve been criminally charged, and you need to pay attention.

A criminal summons is not much different than if you were taken to jail in a police car. Take this one seriously, because you can still end up in jail. Just like being arrested at the scene of a crime, you’ll need a criminal defense attorney to defend yourself.

How Could This Happen?

In North Carolina, if the police don’t have enough evidence or probable cause to make an arrest, a private citizen can initiate criminal charges against you by discussing the situation with a magistrate. The individual only has to provide sufficient information and probable cause to file charges. This option is not limited to law enforcement officers, so anyone really can do it, and file nearly any kind of minor criminal charges. While this is useful for things like domestic abuse threats, it may be enough to tell the magistrate that “s/he takes medication and talks to plants” to file charges.  If the magistrate has enough believable evidence, you’ll be issued a criminal summons.

What Did You Say?

Particularly serious is the charge of “communicating threats,” where you can actually find yourself in more trouble than you would if you actually do assault someone. We don’t suggest hitting anyone, of course, but “communicating threats” is a very real charge and more serious than actual assault. Should someone take your comments seriously and file what’s called “citizen-initiated charges,” you’ll be served with a criminal summons with a court date. It’s one of the most common privately filed charges, where the individual can talk to a magistrate, and offer reasons for probable cause. The state doesn’t even need to have proof, just the opposing party’s word that you “communicated a threat.”

Magistrates will not issue citizen-initiated felony charges, only misdemeanors. But even if you’re not guilty, you should not ignore a criminal summons for a misdemeanor. It is, and can become, a big problem if you ignore it.

Defend Yourself (With A Criminal Defense Attorney)

Just like being arrested, you have the right to your own defense. Even if the charges are baseless and unproven, you can still find yourself going to jail as a result. Misdemeanors are “small potatoes” in court, but a conviction can cause you additional problems later, like denials for employment, housing, and other important things. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you defend yourself in court, handle your case and possibly have the charges dismissed. Don’t try to defend yourself, on your own, because you could find yourself with additional charges—or going to jail.

Do Not Miss Your Court Date!

Even if someone has filed frivolous charges with malicious intent, you must not miss the court date. If you do, you’ll be “called and failed,” and the judge will issue a warrant for your arrest. Once arrested, you’ll have to post bond to get out, you’ll still have a court date, and you’ll still need an attorney to defend you. There are few legitimate excuses for missing a court date, so just don’t.

You Have The Right To Legal Counsel—Use It

Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Wake County, and a former Wake County prosecutor. Contact our Raleigh law office today at (919) 832-0307 for a free consultation. He will discuss your case with you and will aggressively fight to help you clear your name.

Arrested Of A DUI Following A Fatal Crash

Impaired driving, and especially drunk driving, is a serious problem in North Carolina. Most people don’t set out with the intent to get a DUI, or have a car crash. But every day, it happens. In some cases, there may be a fatality involved. If you were driving under the influence in North Carolina, you’ll probably be arrested and charged with a felony. At this point, you’ll need a criminal defense attorney with DUI experience.

What is a DUI?

Driving Under Impairment in North Carolina means that at the time of the accident, you had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, (or .04% if you were driving a commercial vehicle) you have any detectable amount of a Schedule 1 controlled substance in your body, or you are “appreciably [visibly] impaired” by alcohol and/or drugs.

North Carolina has five different levels for DUI, with Level V being the lowest, and Level I being the highest.

Felony Death By Vehicle

Arrested of a DUI Following a Fatal Crash

Unintentionally causing the death of another person while driving in violation of North Carolina’s DUI laws is called “felony death by vehicle.” (A “misdemeanor death by vehicle” means that someone dies as a result of a non-DUI violation, such as speeding or reckless driving.)  As a Class D felony, a conviction means 38 to 160 months in prison, fines that are set by the judge, and an immediate revocation of your driver’s license for at least one year. “Aggravated Felony Death By Vehicle” indicates that an individual had another DWI within the 7 years prior to the current DUI. A conviction could mean as much as 64 to 160 months in prison.

Because someone was killed, the charge becomes a Level 1 or Level 2 DUI, and minimum jail sentences cannot be suspended by a judge. Level 2 carries a minimum 7-day jail term, maximum one year, and is punishable by a $2,000 fine. Level 1 carries minimum 30-day jail term and a minimum fine of $4,000. If convicted, you must complete a substance abuse assessment, and comply with the recommended treatment plan offered in order to restore your license and driving privileges.

Repeat offenses and convictions may result in permanent revocation of your license and driving privileges.

What Happens Next?

After the arrest and charge, your license will be revoked for a mandatory 30-day period. If there are no previous convictions, you can show insurance coverage and you complete the substance abuse assessment, your attorney may request limited driving privileges after 10 days. You’ll have to attend a court hearing with your attorney.

If you are convicted of Felony Death By Vehicle, your license will be revoked for a minimum of one year, and you may face jail time. You will be placed on probation after your release from prison, and have a number of legal requirements to follow (i.e., alcohol abuse treatment, defensive driving) at the discretion of the judge.

DUI Is Double-Faceted

You will actually have two cases to deal with: the DUI criminal case and the suspension of your license, which is handled by the North Carolina DMV. An experienced DUI attorney can help you with both the criminal case and the restoration of your driver’s license. Your attorney will examine all the factors in your case, ensure that the arrest was correctly handled and all the facts are properly investigated. He or she will go to court with you to fight for you and make sure your rights are respected.

Take No Chances With Felony DUI

Felony Death By Vehicle is a very serious charge, and every case is different. Contact the top DUI/DWI attorney in North Carolina today at 919-832-0307 for a free initial consultation. Dewey P. Brinkley is a former assistant district attorney in Wake County, and has successfully defended thousands of DWI clients in the Raleigh/Wake County area. Mr. Brinkley will discuss your DWI case with you and design your defense so you are properly represented.

Is DWI Expungement Possible In North Carolina?

After you’ve been stopped and arrested for DWI, you may be wondering what’s next, and if you’ll be stuck with a DWI forever. If you’ve been convicted, the answer is a flat-out  “no.” If you were simply arrested and charged, but were acquitted or not convicted (i.e., charges dropped), expungement is possible, if you have patience.

Were You Charged Or Were You Convicted?

Is DWI Expungement Possible In North Carolina?North Carolina has some of the strictest DWI laws in the US. The process, called “expunction,” allows removal in some cases of a DWI. Much like the DWI laws, the criteria for expunction are also quite strict.

As of December 1, 2015, North Carolina no longer allows DWI convictions to be expunged. A DWI conviction stays on your record permanently.

If you were under 18 at the time of the DWI, you can request expunction if:

  • You were charged with a misdemeanor
  • You had no other incidents or convictions (other than minor traffic violations), and have been “on good behavior” (affidavit required), and not yet 21
  • You have no additional judgments or restitution orders against you
  • Two people not related to you can supply affidavits (“character witnesses”) that can truthfully attest that you have had no additional incidents and have “practiced good behavior”
  • You have no additional incidents or convictions that would show up in a background check of state and/or national databases

If you were over 21 at the time of the arrest, you can apply for expunction if:

  • The incident was more than 15 years ago
  • You were arrested and charged, but not convicted, or
  • You went through trial and found not guilty of DWI
  • You have no additional arrests and convictions

The courts will only expunge one incident for you in your lifetime. In rare cases, a DWI conviction can be sealed, and only available to court personnel. However, this isn’t the norm in North Carolina. Should you have another DWI, the first incident can be used in subsequent court proceedings. Only state judges have access to these records, to ensure that more than one isn’t granted.

A DWI Arrest Can Be Devastating

Even if you weren’t convicted, being accused and arrested for DWI can be embarrassing. You can lose your job, your driving privileges, custody of your children, have trouble finding a job and so much more. An expunction may allow you to remove a one-time DWI from your record.

Once the expunction is completed, it will not show up in background checks and other places. Landlords, employers and the general public will no longer be able to access your DWI record. You can also legally answer “no” when asked about a criminal background. In some cases, associated DNA evidence is also expunged.

Call For Your Free Consultation

You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the process and can help you clear your name.

Dewey P. Brinkley is a Board-Certified Specialist with the North Carolina State Bar and a former Wake County Assistant District Attorney. As a criminal defense attorney, he can work with you to make sure your application is complete and properly filed, and advise you on what comes next.

An expunction is a detailed and long-term process, but not impossible. If you’re interested in having a DWI arrest/charge expunged from your record, contact our office at 919-832-0307 for a free consultation today.

Can You Get Insured After A DWI In Raleigh, NC?

The aftermath of a DWI is devastating. Arrest. Court. Maybe even a conviction. You need time to sort through everything and put your life back together.

When everything’s all over, your license has been restored and you’re back driving again, there’s something else you’ll need before you get behind the wheel—car insurance. But can you get insured after a DWI?

Starting Over

Can You Get Insured After A DWI In Raleigh, NC?

Once your insurance company is informed of your DWI, your policy will either become much more expensive because of the higher risk, or it will be cancelled completely (usually in the form of non-renewal.)

In either case, you may have a difficult time getting insurance again. There are agencies who will issue a policy, but it could be drastically more expensive than before. There are some insurers that offer policies for people who have been arrested and/or convicted of a DWI.

If you have been able to acquire limited driving privileges, you’ll need to make sure you still have car insurance, or if you’ll need to find a new company.

How Long Will This Last?

North Carolina uses a point system, called the Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP). It’s used to calculate your insurance rates in the state. A DWI adds 12 points to your license at once, and your insurance can increase a whopping 400% after a conviction. (If you are a CDL holder and use it for your primary occupation, a DWI could cost you your livelihood.) Those points stay on your driving record for three years, and any additional infractions (tickets, accidents, etc.) will continue to add points and increase your insurance rates. Insurers only look at a driver’s previous three years to assess insurance rates.

Without any additional points, your rates should begin to decrease after three years.

Until Then

You may be stuck paying much higher insurance premiums due to the increased risk. Your liability limits are likely to be higher, too. Or you may decide to find another company that caters to DWI clients, and that might be less expensive. Once you have your license restored, you’ll need to prove to the state that you have auto insurance.

North Carolina requires anyone convicted of a DWI to complete an alcohol/ assessment, and may require an alcohol/drug treatment program during the license suspension.

Many North Carolina insurers will assume the increased risk of a DUI client, and offer policies with that risk. After the stark reality of a DWI, most people don’t repeat the behavior after completing the required processes, assessments and treatments.

Non-Owner’s Policy

One option is to consider is contacting a company that can offer you what’s called a “non-owner’s policy.” That is, you’re insured to drive, even though you don’t own a car However, there are limitations involved.

If you find yourself car-free after your DWI, and you aren’t buying one again for a while, a non-owner’s policy will allow you keep continuous insurance and drive occasionally (if you’re allowed to.)  This is important for future insurance rates as well. The key is whether or not you have “regular access to an automobile.” You’ll only be driving occasionally, not on a daily basis. After a DWI, this may be an option to consider.

We Can Help

Getting your life back together after a DWI in Raleigh isn’t easy. We’ve helped people like you in the Raleigh/Wake County area who have been through DWI. An aggressive DWI defense attorney can help you through the entire process, fight for you and help you get your life back. For a free consultation, contact our office at 919-832-0307 or use the contact form online.

Raleigh Defense Lawyer Answers – How to Choose a Great Attorney? (Video)

This is Part 34 of our weekly North Carolina Criminal Defense video blog: “How to Choose a Great Attorney?

Transcript:

I think the most important thing when you’re trying to decide who to hire as a criminal defense lawyer is their level of experience. How much experience do they have in the courtroom and how much experience do they have with the people in those courtrooms (the officers, the judges, the district attorney’s office)? There’s no substitute for experience in a criminal case.

I’ve tried over a 1,000 cases here in Wake County. I’ve worked as an assistant DA here in this county. And as a defense lawyer now for 11 years, I’ve been before the same judges, the same officers, deal with the same DAs on a day-to-day basis.

But it’s also listening to the client and trying to get to know the client as well as possible. Where that client is coming from. What their experience is. How they ended up in this situation. I think that’s one piece that I try to get to know my clients as much as I can.

I think the only thing else you can talk about is preparation. Do you have a lawyer who is going to spend the time preparing your case? I try to prepare my cases, meet with my clients, get to know those clients, know the law and the facts of the case, before we go to court. So that we can achieve the best outcome for that particular client.

Our offices are located right across the street from the Wake County Justice Center. We’re in close proximity to the courthouse, so I’m here most days working late, meeting with clients, and I’m very very convenient to the courthouse. I think the most important thing that you can do if you’re looking to hire a criminal lawyer is meet with that person and decide how comfortable you are with them. What we try to do at our firm is learn about our clients and spend the time and the preparation work knowing their case to try to achieve the best possible outcome for that particular client.

Raleigh Attorney Answers – How Can I Get My Suspended License Back? (Video)

This is Part 33 of our weekly North Carolina Criminal Defense video blog: “How Can I Get My Suspended License Back?

Transcript:

The first thing we try to do is look at your driving record and see if there’s any possible way that we can restore your driving privilege, get your license back. Is it because you failed to appear in court and missed a ticket? Is it just a matter of resolving that ticket? Are you revoked for some other reason? Was there a driving while impaired conviction, and you didn’t do your substance abuse treatment, or that form wasn’t sent into the DMV?

Driving while license revoked is one of the most prevalent crimes that we see in Wake County District Court. Lots of people do not know how they can get their privilege back. If they call me and they have their driving record, we can go through that and hopefully resolve the issue that’s causing that suspension.

How a Raleigh Drug Attorney Can Help Your Possession Case (Video)

This is Part 32 of our weekly North Carolina Criminal Defense video blog: “How a Raleigh Drug Attorney Can Help Your Possession Case

Transcript:

The big difference is between simply possessing a controlled substance and possessing it with the intent to sell it or deliver it, or were you actually caught selling it?

If it’s simply a possession crime, and you’re a user, and you haven’t been in trouble before, there are certain safeguards that are available to you in North Carolina that will allow you, if you’re successful, to potentially earn a dismissal and get the matter expunged from your record.

It’s different if you’re caught selling or possessing a substance with the intent to sell it. That’s when the stakes get much higher.

Raleigh Defense Lawyer – Prison Alternatives For NC Drug Cases (Video)

This is Part 31 of our weekly North Carolina Criminal Defense video blog: “Prison Alternatives For NC Drug Cases

Transcript:

Typically, if you’re charged with a drug crime, you’re not eligible for a conditional discharge or a felony diversion. You’re going to be tried on supervised probation before being sent to prison unless it’s a trafficking case. Trafficking is going to be based on weight. If you’ve got more than 10 pounds of marijuana, or four grams of heroin, or 28 grams or more of cocaine, those are all going to be trafficking level crimes. By statute, you do have to do prison time on those. The only exception to that is if you actually decide to become an informant, work with the police, or provide what we call substantial assistance, which can potentially have the court sentence you to probation rather than that mandatory active time.