Tag Archives: criminal defense

What Constitutes “Expert Testimony” in a Criminal Trial?

Some crimes, ranging from violent crimes to white-collar crimes, involve complex circumstances. Whether those circumstances includes convoluted financial transactions or voluminous documents, the State or the defense may wish to assist the jury in wading through this information through an expert testimony.

Expert Testimony in NC Criminal Trials | Raleigh Defense Atty Brinkley

Expert testimony can be a useful tool in criminal trials, whereas the defense calls on an expert in some field to clarify facts or further define the defense to the jury. Nonetheless, if using expert testimony, you need a highly experienced defense attorney who can achieve the most benefit from the expert. Depending on the unique circumstances of the case, Raleigh NC criminal defense attorney Dewey Brinkley may consider using expert testimony. To speak to attorney Brinkley about the circumstances of your case, call our Raleigh law firm today at (919) 832-0307.

Expert Testimony in North Carolina Criminal Trials

North Carolina law (Chapter 8C, Article 7) describes many of the legal rules and other aspects of using expert testimony in criminal trials. Although substantial controversy existed in North Carolina courts regarding the use of expert testimony, the nominal North Carolina Supreme Court case Howerton v. Arai Helmet, Ltd put much of this controversy to rest.

Essentially, this controversy refers to when an expert testimony is admissible in the court proceedings. The Howerton case rejected the U.S. Supreme Court’s gatekeeping test and reiterated its previous three-part test, which includes:

  1. Is the expert’s proffered method of proof sufficiently reliable as an area for expert testimony?
  2. Is the witness testifying at trial qualified as an expert in that area of
  3. Is the expert’s testimony relevant?

If these three aspects apply to the expert testimony, then the testimony may be admitted to the case.

Testimony By Experts

The prosecution and the defense cannot handpick an individual off the street and claim “expert testimony.” Instead, expert testimony is only admissible in court “if scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue.” Furthermore, the witness must be qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, who can testify in the form of an opinion.

Lastly, the following conditions must apply to the expert testimony:

  1. The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data.
  2. The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods.
  3. The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Expert Testimony on Character or a Trait of Character

When it comes to the character of the accused, and whether the accused’s character or trait of character may shed light on his/her role in the crime (or lack of a role in the crime), expert testimony is not admissible. Although there are several reasons for this, the main reason is that circumstantial evidence of character is not a suitable piece of evidence in a criminal trial.

Contact the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley in Raleigh NC

Especially in cases where the defendant is facing severe punishments, expert testimony can be a very important tool to help clarify and further explain some highly technical details. At the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley, we’ll only call for expert testimony when it is legally admissible and when the case can benefit from it. At the same time, we boast years of experience challenging the state’s expert testimony, and how that testimony relates to the alleged offenses.

If you’ve been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony in North Carolina, make sure to call the leading Raleigh criminal defense attorney. For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney Dewey Brinkley, call our Raleigh law firm today at (919) 832-0307.

Does My Child Have to Disclose a Juvenile Arrest When Applying for a Job?

When your son or daughter was arrested as a juvenile, it’s understandable to feel a bit worried for their future. This is especially true when it comes to job aspects or other applications that require a criminal background check. After an arrest and conviction, whether for a misdemeanor or a felony as a juvenile, it’s important to understand some of the challenges and barriers that your child may face when looking for a job.

Juvenile Arrest Records in Raleigh NC | Juvenile Defense Attorney

As the leading juvenile criminal defense lawyer in Raleigh, NC, attorney Dewey P. Brinkley boasts years of experience representing juveniles. As a diligent and knowledgeable defense attorney, we can provide a rigorous defense following an arrest; after a conviction, however, we can help with criminal record expungements as well. For a free, no-obligation consultation with our Raleigh law firm, call us today at (919) 832-0307.

Does My Child Have to Disclose a Juvenile Arrest?

In North Carolina, the juvenile code typically limits access to juvenile records by public and state entities, and there is little opportunity for future employers or colleges to access these records. Under certain circumstances, however, others may be able to access your child’s juvenile records.

Furthermore, the disposition of a juvenile case (in legalese, “disposition” essentially refers to the court’s decision of a case) is known as an adjudication, and not a
conviction. As such, if the job application asks whether the applicant was convicted of a crime, you are telling the truth by saying “No.”

According to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-3000, a juvenile’s record (which contains all documents or information referring to arrests, complaints, referrals, juvenile petitions, and orders) is generally confidential. There are some exceptions to this confidentiality, including:

  • Probation officers and prosecutors may share information with other law enforcement individuals
  • Court counselors and prosecutors may access your child’s record
  • The child’s school principal can access the child’s record (the principal must be notified if the child was adjudicated for an act that would be a felony)
  • Specific agencies can access the child’s record, such as agencies investigating child abuse or neglect
  • The child’s attorney, his/her parents, and the child him/herself can access the records
  • The juvenile record can be disclosed under court order

Expunging or Sealing a Juvenile Court Record

Even if the juvenile record is confidential in North Carolina, it still exists. This can bring some anxiety for both the child and his/her parents. Fortunately, North Carolina law understands that juveniles sometimes make mistakes.

When “removing” these records from the child’s file, there are two options: sealing and expungement. In terms of sealing, it is the juvenile court judge who has the authority to seal records at the time of the court proceedings.

For maximum confidentiality, the child can have his/her records expunged after turning 18. An expunged record functions as if it doesn’t exist, and the child is never required to disclose information about the expunged juvenile record (except in very specific, rare circumstances).

To expunge your child’s record, he/she he may file a petition for expungement in the court of his or her adjudication.

There are some exceptions to expungement, however. If the child was arrested for  Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felonies, and the child was charged as an adult, then he/she may be unable to expunge those records.

Call the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley

If your child was arrested for a crime and adjudicated in juvenile court, then he/she may be able to expunge his/her juvenile records at the appropriate time. At the time of arrest, however, you can always benefit by having an experienced and competent juvenile defense attorney. At the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley in Raleigh, NC, we’ve successfully defended numerous juveniles for a wide variety of alleged offenses, and we can also help with your record expungement as well.

For a free, no-obligation consultation with attorney Brinkley, call our Raleigh law firm today at (919) 832-0307.

Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave

“Oh What A Tangled Web We Weave.” Sir Walter Scott was not referring to NC case law when he penned that famous line, but he certainly could have been on the issue of motor vehicle stops based on weaving. Impaired drivers typically have a hard time driving in a straight line.  North Carolina’s appellate decisions about what constitutes “weaving” to support a motor vehicle stop are, quite frankly, a mess. Not much more can be said.  Inconsistent comes to mind. Even schizophrenic. How is the motoring public supposed to know what should and should not be tolerated as normal driving behavior when our courts can’t define what weaving is?

Our Court of Appeals has said in the past that weaving alone was not enough for law enforcement to stop a motor vehicle, absent a plus factor such as driving late at night, or being near bars or restaurants that serve alcohol, or driving noticeably slower than the speed limit. But then the Court did a poor job of defining what it meant by weaving. Did it mean within the lane, or within the lane and touching the divider and fog lines, or weaving outside the lines? How is one completed weaving movement defined? Is the touching of the center line and the driver’s subsequent correction back to the middle of the lane one weave or two weaves? In some decisions, the Court completely forgot to even consider the “plus” factors even though they were staring them in the face.

Three times “swerving” to the fog line at 4 PM in the afternoon was not enough for a good stop in State v. Fields.  Continuous weaving within the lane, not touching the fog line or the center line, after 11 PM was enough to stop in State v. Otto, according to the NC Supremes, who reversed the Court of Appeals. Weaving within the lane, and subsequently having the passenger side tires going over the lane divider and into the right lane after 10 PM smack dab in the middle of the bar scene in downtown Raleigh was not enough in Derbyshire. Going over the lane divider lines on a major highway for seconds at the time was not enough for the Court of Appeals in Kochuk, who characterized this as “normal driving behavior,” but the Supremes reversed. Weaving like a “bouncing ball,” even though it was within the lane of travel, was enough to stop in State v. Fields.

What? Do the Court of Appeals and the N.C. Supreme Court just not like each other? Can we please have some consistency here?

Not that we criminal defense practitioners mind inconsistencies. In fact, conflicting decisions from our appellate courts always give us a fighting chance to win. If there is an opportunity to cut off a motor vehicle stop at its inception, we know that this is often our best chance to prevail.

Everyone knows that the exercise of driving is just “controlled weaving.” We are not robots in a vacuum. The conditions of our roads, our vehicles, and the weather play a part in driving behavior. A two lane country road is usually narrower than an interstate. Going left of center in a 35 mph zone in town is different than straddling the white dotted line for a couple of seconds on a desolate I-40.

As we usher in 2016, there should be no shortage of driving while impaired cases that reach our appellate courts where the initial stop was based on weaving. It will be interesting to see if the Courts abandon their “plus” analysis, as they did in Otto, or whether they adopt a new approach to analyzing reasonable suspicion. Maybe they will finally come up with a unified definition of what kind of weaving it takes to support a motor vehicle stop.