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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.

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.

Raleigh Drug Charges: What It Means For Your Future

It was just a little bit. Not enough to really notice. But the police did. Now you’ve got some drug charges.

Now what?

drug charges can effect your future

From applying for a job or college, renting an apartment or a house, one drug charge can stop you from doing all these things most people do every day.

Marijuana Misdemeanor

North Carolina has not legalized marijuana, and still considers it a crime.

A “small amount,” less than a half-ounce, is called “simple possession of marijuana.” A Class 3 misdemeanor, you’ll pay a $200 fine, but probably not have jail time for your first offense. Higher amounts, up to 1.5 ounces, are a Class 1 misdemeanor, with up to 45 days in jail (or probation, if your attorney successfully argues for it.) If you have more than 1.5 ounces, up to 10 pounds, it’s a felony with jail time up to 12 months.

Schedule I and II Drug Charges

Controlled substances like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and others carry felony charges, harsher penalties and higher jail sentences. Any amount in your possession will result in an automatic arrest with fines and jail terms. Drug trafficking and “maintaining a dwelling” (any facility used for warehousing and distribution) are also felonies with jail time.

Employment

If you are asked by a prospective employer, either in person, or on a job application, if you’ve ever been arrested, of course, you must say “yes” (unless you’ve had a legal expunction.) Background checks are cheap and easy to get, so most employers get them when you apply. Arrests and convictions show up immediately.

If you’re not asked in the application, you may be asked in an interview. Obviously, you must answer “yes,” or they will find out during the background check. Once they discover you’ve been arrested for drugs, they may decide not to continue talking to you, and you’ll have a harder time finding a job.

Employers want to hire people they can trust. Drug charges can severely limit your choice of vocations, even for a misdemeanor. Law enforcement, nursing, working with children (such as daycare or teaching) and any job requiring a CDL will not accept a candidate with a past history of drug arrests. You may also be turned down for active duty military service or the National Guard.

Mortgages and other loans

In many cases, drug charges cause immediate denial of credit for many kinds of loans. Lenders want to know that the loan will be repaid on time. As a convicted criminal, you will be considered a “high risk.” Mortgages, student loans, car loans, credit cards, and other types of lending will be unavailable  (or only at a very high rate of interest.)

Housing

Many landlords run credit and criminal background checks to potential tenants. Again, background checks are cheap and easy to get, so it wouldn’t take long for a landlord to discover your arrest. Most are looking for stable individuals who will pay rent on time and keep the property in reasonably good condition. Drug charges in your past will make any landlord anxious about renting to you, as well as your activities and ability to pay rent in a timely fashion.

Education

Are you considering going to college?

While you may be able to get financial aid, you will be severely limited. Your financial aid may be suspended if your drug conviction happened while you were receiving aid. You’ll be asked to fill out a worksheet to determine your continued eligibility. You may re-apply after completing a drug treatment program.

Drug trafficking and “maintaining a dwelling” can disqualify you completely from student financial aid.

If you’re also applying to law or medical school, you must also disclose the arrest on your admissions  application. Drug charges may result in denial of your application.

Child Custody

If you’re involved in a difficult child custody battle with an ex, drug charges may cause a judge to reconsider your custody rights, even if an arrest did not lead to a conviction. Your drug arrest can be used as another reason to deny your parental rights, and possibly keep you from seeing your children. You may also be prohibited from adopting children.

Asset Forfeiture

Once you are convicted, you can lose your home, your car, as well as cash. North Carolina requires a conviction for criminal asset forfeiture. The state requires proceeds from criminal asset forfeiture to fund the public school systems.

Even A Misdemeanor Can Have Long-Term Consequences

Drug charges have the potential to cause problems for the rest of your life, whether they’re major or minor. Even though a misdemeanor is a “small thing” in the courts, it’s a very large red flag to anyone who is considering you for employment, as a tenant, or any number of other positions.

First-Time Charge Expunction

North Carolina allows some first-time offenders convicted of simple possession of marijuana to complete drug education training and/or community service to have their drug charge dismissed. Called a “conditional discharge,” you will be required to comply with a number of conditions.

Your attorney can later request an expunction after successful completion. A minor drug charge can be wiped from your record, won’t appear in a background check, and you can legally answer “no” when asked about criminal charges. You can only do this once, and subsequent charges and arrests may lead to jail time.

Dewey P. Brinkley Will Defend You Against Drug Charges

A criminal defense attorney experienced in drug cases can defend you in court and protect your assets. Contact our Raleigh law office today at (919) 832-0307 for a free consultation. Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County prosecutor who will make sure your rights are rights are respected and you receive a fair trial under the law.

Raleigh Defense Attorney Talks Drug Detox Programs as Part of an NC Sentence (Video)

This is Part 30 of our weekly North Carolina Criminal Defense video blog: “Drug Detox Programs as Part of an NC Sentence

Transcript:

Drug treatment court is a great program that we have here in Wake County. Basically, it involves the offender being on supervised probation, but it involves weekly meetings and counseling sessions. Part of the process is that if there are positive urine screens for drugs, that offender can spend the weekend in jail. They have their own sanctions. It’s a great program here in Wake County if you’re on probation.

Raleigh Defense Attorney – Benefits of a Wake County Native for Your Case (Video)

This is Part 29 of our weekly North Carolina Criminal Defense video blog: “Benefits of a Wake County Native for Your Case

Transcript:

I grew up in Wake County and went to Wake County Public Schools. My parents are from this area. I basically grew up here, went to school here, spent most of my adult life here, and I live here. I love this community. I’ve lived my entire life here and this is where I’ve decided to practice law exclusively here in Wake County.

Underage with Marijuana Charge – What Happens Now?

Marijuana is still illegal in North Carolina. If you’re caught with even a small amount, you’ll be arrested and charged. If a juvenile has been charged with underage marijuana possession, the rules are a little different. Find out what happens when you’re underage with a marijuana charge below.

getting a marijuana charge

How Much Marijuana?

A lot will depend on the amount of marijuana the juvenile was arrested with. Was it enough for “recreational use,” or is there enough to constitute distribution? Is the minor using it with friends, arrested with others who were using it, or carrying an amount that may indicate distribution?

North Carolina considers a “small amount” to be a half-ounce or less, and calls it “simple possession of marijuana.” No jail time is involved for a first offense, and it is a misdemeanor, but there is a $200 fine. If you’re in possession of more than that, up to 1.5 ounces, it is still a misdemeanor, but carries  a $1,000 fine and up to 45 days in jail. If someone is caught with more than 1.5 ounces, up to 10 pounds, they‘ll be charged with a felony, given a $1,000 fine and spend as much as 8 months in jail.

A juvenile caught selling or trafficking marijuana will face harsher penalties and much higher fines.

The Juvenile Court System

North Carolina considers a “juvenile” as someone under the age of 16. They are usually relegated to the juvenile justice system for minor crimes, such as shoplifting, vandalism, underage drinking, and other criminal mischief. If a minor is charged with a more serious or violent crimes, they will likely be tried in the adult criminal court system.

While adults and juveniles are subject to the same laws, the court system treats them differently. North Carolina’s juvenile justice system is focused on punishment as well as rehabilitation before adulthood. Whether this is your child’s first (and hopefully only) brush with the law, or is considered “troubled,” we will make sure he or she is treated fairly and that the juvenile’s rights are respected.

The “delinquent” juvenile is one who has committed a crime, including traffic citations. The “undisciplined” juvenile is one who frequently misses school, runs away from home, has been caught in places they shouldn’t be (i.e., bars), and is not within the discipline of parents, custodians or guardians.

The Court Process For A Marijuana Charge

Unlike adult court, there isn’t a jury trial. The judge makes all the decisions in juvenile criminal cases.

Juvenile court judges have a broader selection of choices for younger offenders. Since the preferred outcome is rehabilitation, rather than incarceration, the judge can order the offender to attend drug counseling with his or her parents. Other options include:

·         Probation—similar to adult probation, the juvenile can be ordered to return to school, get a job (if he or she is old enough), perform community service, enroll in drug and/or family counseling, or a number of other conditions. Probation typically lasts six months or longer, and there may be a probation officer involved, but not always.

·         Diversion—another form of probation, with many of the same rules, but the juvenile does not have to go before the court. If he or she successfully completes diversion, the charges are in essence, dismissed. This option reserved for first-time offenders and is not available everywhere.

·         Detention—this is where the juvenile is incarcerated in “juvenile hall” or another type of confinement, and used for repeat offenders. Confinement may include placement with a foster family, juvenile home or a juvenile detention facility. Drug possession as the result of another crime is also a factor in a detention ruling. Depending on the seriousness of the charges, he or she may be required to stay until the 21st birthday, significantly impacting college admissions.

Many juvenile offenses can be expunged after a certain period, usually after probation, diversion or detention is completed. Until then, random drug testing, searches without warrants, electronic monitoring, and other restrictions may be placed on the individual for the duration.

One Mistake Can Last Forever

Underage marijuana charges can tarnish a teenager’s chances at college admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and military enlistment. It can limit the types of vocations they can pursue later, and show up on background checks for jobs, apartments and loans. Fortunately, first-time offenses can be expunged, or removed. An experienced juvenile criminal defense lawyer can help you through the process and explain the options.

Juvenile Criminal Defense in Raleigh

Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you and your child through the court process, defend your child against drug charges and work for a more reasonable sentence. Call the law offices of Dewey Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your child’s case at (919) 832-0307.