Man sitting guilty in front of attorney

What Are the Differences Between Robbery and Burglary in NC?

You may have heard people talk about the crimes of robbery and burglary as if they are the same thing. However, it’s important to note that they are not. The penalties for both of these crimes depend upon the specific facts of each case and upon the criminal history of the defendant(s). Punishments could range from probation to lengthy prison sentences. So what are the differences between robbery and burglary in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, robbery is the theft of something from another person through the threat of violence. The penalties for this crime vary greatly depending upon whether or not the defendant used a weapon and whether the alleged victim suffered any injuries. Since the sentence for this crime can so greatly vary, some people prefer to accept a plea bargain for larceny instead of risking a serious penalty should they proceed to trial. 

Burglary, on the other hand, is when someone enters a home, business, or other building with the intent to commit a felony. For instance, even walking through a door that is open into a garage that is open can be considered to be a burglary if it can be proven that the defendant intended to commit a felony when passing through the building. It doesn’t require that your intention was carried out or that crime was completed. Sentences for burglary also vary greatly depending on various factors such as the type of building that was entered, whether it was entered at night, and whether it was occupied at the time. Another lesser offense that you may be able to have your charges reduced to is breaking and entering. 

While most people think of burglaries that occur in homes and businesses, burglaries can, in fact, occur in a multitude of other places, such as:

  •  Factories 
  • Churches or places of worship
  • Barns
  • Garages
  • Condominiums
  • Apartments
  • Public buildings
  • Schools
  • Ships
  • Warehouses
  • Railroad cars
  • Horse stables
  • Houseboats
  • Outbuildings

It is important to note that places that are used only for recreational purposes are not considered structures. This may include things such as:

  • Motorhomes
  • Tents
  • Tent trailers
  • House trailers
  • Telephone booths

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

It can be incredibly scary to be arrested, and even more frightening to learn that you are going to be prosecuted under the criminal justice system. Not only the outcome of the case, but the experience itself can have a major impact on your life. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Drug Crimes

What to Know About North Carolina’s First Step Act

Drug issues are running rampant in today’s current landscape. But people would not be able to obtain drugs without the existence of drug trafficking. Drug trafficking includes either the transport or sale of controlled substances to others. Drug trafficking is a more serious offense than drug possession since it impacts many more lives. Therefore, the penalties associated with it are much more serious as well. 

While North Carolina usually requires its judges to comply with mandatory sentencing rules for drug trafficking, there is a new law that may change that depending upon the circumstances. The newly enacted First Step Act allows for a judge to depart from the rules in some cases. So, when exactly does the First Step Act apply? Here’s what to know.

The Circumstances of the Case

The circumstances of each case impact whether the First Step Act can apply to a drug trafficking case. The first requirement for the First Step Act to apply is that the accused must accept responsibility for his or her actions. Additionally, he or she must not have used a dangerous weapon or another type of violence when carrying out the alleged drug trafficking. 

The Criminal History of the Alleged Trafficker

The next thing taken into consideration is the criminal history of the alleged trafficker. The individual who is charged cannot have any previous felony convictions – otherwise, the First Step Act cannot apply. While this includes prior drug charges, it also includes any other felonies. If there is any evidence that the accused was previously involved in either using violence to commit a crime or engaging in the manufacture, transport, delivery, or sale of a controlled substance, the First Step Act cannot apply. 

The Amount of the Controlled Substances

The next factor in determining whether the First Step Act can apply is the amount of the controlled substances involved. The amount of the controlled substance in the accused’s possession must fall within the lowest category for trafficking that type of substance. 

If the court finds that the First Step Act can apply, the individual who is accused may be able to receive limits on their sentence should they be convicted.

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

It can be incredibly scary to be arrested, and even more frightening to learn that you are going to be prosecuted under the criminal justice system. Not only the outcome of the case, but the experience itself can have a major impact on your life. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Officer arresting someone

If You’re Arrested Refrain from these 4 Things

When you have been arrested, you may not know what to do. It can be a very frightening time. But before you take the proper steps for what to do next, keep in mind the things that you should not do. If you are arrested, refrain from doing the following four things. 

1. Talk About the Case

Whenever something upsetting occurs, we often want to speak with someone else who can help to calm us down or provide support. Unfortunately, when you have been arrested it is never a good idea to speak with anyone else about your case other than your attorney. This includes family, friends, inmates (if you are incarcerated), or even the police. Even if someone seems trustworthy, it’s not worth the risk. In addition, to forgo speaking to someone about your case, you should also avoid putting anything at all in writing. This includes social media. Anything that you put onto the Internet (or in writing at all) can always come back and be used against you. 

2. Avoid Calling an Attorney

We get it; when you have made bail or are facing potential fines and shelling out large sums of money, the last thing you probably feel like doing is paying for an attorney. However, hiring an attorney is one of the best chances you have for having to shell out less money in the future. A qualified criminal defense attorney is an investment. He or she can help to explain to you how to best proceed with your specific case and can better ensure that you don’t do anything else that could make your case worse.

3. Do Anything Else Illegal

Although it may seem like a no-brainer, it’s extremely important that you refrain from doing anything at all that could land you in additional trouble with the law. Put simply, if you have been arrested, it’s imperative that you lead a very “quiet” life until your trial date. 

4. Be Less than Honest with Your Attorney

Sure, it may feel like you only want to share things that will paint you in a positive light, but it won’t actually help you in the end. In order for a criminal defense attorney to provide you with the best chance of having your charges reduced or even dropped, you must be completely honest with them. Your attorney is there to help you; not to judge you. If you fail to be upfront about the details of your case, it could make things worse for you if they come out later on. 

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

It can be incredibly scary to be arrested, and even more frightening to learn that you are going to be prosecuted under the criminal justice system. Not only the outcome of the case, but the experience itself can have a major impact on your life. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Police lights

When Can the Cops Lie to You?

We expect our police officers to do the right thing. That’s why we expect that they must always be honest when you ask them a question. However, this isn’t always the case. While there are times when a police officer is obligated to answer your question honestly, there are also many different situations in which they are legally allowed to lie to you directly or by omission. Police officers can even lie about being a cop when they are investigating a potential criminal act. To put it simply, there are many different topics on which they are legally permitted to give you misleading information.

What Are Your Legal Rights?

First thing’s first: it’s imperative that you know your rights. A police officer must always inform you of your rights before conducting a custodial interview or interrogation. These rights, also referred to as your “Miranda rights”, include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. This is important to understand because it means that if a police officer interrogates you while you are in custody without first advising you of these rights, anything that you say during this conversation may be suppressed in a court of law – even an admission. 

What Do Cops Commonly Lie About?

But although police officers are required to tell you about your legal rights, they don’t have to be honest when telling you about the evidence in your case. Rather, a police officer can legally lie to you regarding the type or amount of evidence that he or she has on you. In other words, he can tell you that they have the gun that was used in an alleged homicide – even if they have no idea where it is. This is done for the purpose of pressuring you into making a confession. 

Unfortunately, sometimes people even confess to things that they didn’t do because the pressure is so great. Therefore, before you respond to any questions asked of you, it’s in your best interest to request an attorney. Just be sure to state that you want an attorney rather than that you think you should have one. If you state the latter, you haven’t officially invoked your right to an attorney, and what you say after that can still be used against you. 

Police also commonly lie about witnesses. They may say that they have witnesses and/or video surveillance of the incident even when they have absolutely nothing of the sort. Again, this is a tactic they use in order to try to evoke a confession from you. 

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Accused of a Crime

It can be incredibly scary to be accused of a crime, and even more frightening to learn that you are going to be prosecuted under the criminal justice system. Not only the outcome of the case, but the experience itself can have a major impact on your life. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

police car stopping car

Can You Film Your Interaction with Police in NC?

As police misconduct has come to the forefront of mainstream news, more and more people are aware of instances of violence toward civilians. This is in large part due to cell phone videos, which have been used as evidence in several police encounters. But while these videos have proven beneficial to many people, the question of their legality remains: can you legally record law enforcement with your cell phone during an interaction? Here’s what to know about your rights in North Carolina.  

Expectations of Privacy

Under North Carolina state law, you are permitted to film anything in a public space in which there is no expectation of privacy. In other words, you can film anywhere in public in which people don’t expect to be free from others seeing them. This means that you have the legal right to film in parks, municipal buildings, sidewalks, commercial or retail properties, etc. However, while places like restrooms and changing rooms are public, there is an expectation of privacy since people may be in the process of undressing. 

North Carolina’s One-Party Consent Law

Although North Carolina does have wiretapping and eavesdropping laws that make it illegal to record someone else without them knowing under certain situations, the recording of police interactions does not fall under one of these such instances. In fact, when it comes to recording someone or something with audio, North Carolina follows a “one-party consent” law. This means that you must either be one of the parties interacting with the police or you must have the consent of another person interacting with the police. You are prohibited from secretly recording an interaction that you are not a part of. 

Put simply, if you are stopped by a police officer and you record your interaction, this is legal – whether or not the cop has knowledge of it. It is then your right to also share this recording. However, if a police officer is stopping another person, you must make it obvious that you are recording the interaction, or you must ask the other individual if you may record it. 

First Amendment Right

It’s key that you understand that it is your first amendment right to record your interaction with the police or another person’s interaction (with their consent).In fact, the First Circuit Court of Appeals found that the act of recording police interactions in public spaces is protected under the First Amendment. Should a police officer try to take your phone, this violates your Fourth Amendment right to be free from unlawful searches and seizures. 

Protecting Your Rights While Recording

In order to follow the law, if you are recording a police encounter you should:

  • Request the officer’s name and/or badge number;
  • Refrain from interfering with the investigation or interaction;
  • Move back or step back when told to do so;
  • Remain polite, calm, and respectful throughout;
  • Do not physically resist an officer;

Always keep in mind that you do not have to stop recording. If a police officer wishes to take or search your phone, it requires that they present a warrant. 

Although police officers risk their lives to serve and protect the public each and every day, violence and misconduct do still occur at times – and is never okay. 

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it should be taken very seriously, as a conviction can have long-term effects on your life. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Child sitting on bench alone

NC Raises Minimum Age of Child Prosecution to 8 Years of Age

In North Carolina, the minimum age for prosecuting a child for a crime has been increased from six years to eight years of age. This means that 8-year-olds can now face charges in juvenile court that would be equal to felonies in adult court. Yet, the law still requires that children be 10 years or older before they can face charges that would equate to low-level felonies or misdemeanors within the adult criminal court system. 

Prior to this change in age, North Carolina had the lowest age minimum for prosecution of any state. It’s important to note that there are still twenty-nine states that have no minimum age set for prosecuting kids, while thirteen others have a minimum age of 10, 11, or 12. North Carolina’s new age increase is in line with Arizona, Nevada, and Washington. This small age increase will likely help as many as 1,000 children to avoid prosecution. 

A Polarizing Issue

There are varying opinions in general as to whether or not children should even be prosecuted at all. Those against the prosecution of children argue that kids lack the ability to comprehend the consequences of their own actions – if they are even of an age where they have the ability yet to even know right from wrong. Furthermore, they have no understanding of the justice system and most likely are unable to assist in their own defense. 

They also believe that in many cases in which a child was prosecuted, it should have never gone forward from the beginning. In fact, there have been kids who were arrested for picking flowers and others for breaking windows. 

And while many child advocates are happy with the new change in the law, some believe that the age should continue to be pushed to an older minimum age since younger children are not old enough to understand the full repercussions of their actions on others. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Whose Child Has Been Charged with a Crime

It can be incredibly scary to learn that your child has acted in a manner considered to be criminal, and even more frightening to learn that he or she is going to be prosecuted under the criminal justice system. Not only the outcome of the case, but the experience itself can have a major impact on a child. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you and your child to fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Man being put in handcuffs

A Lawyer Can Help Defend You Against Child Abuse Allegations in NC

Any allegations of child abuse should be taken extremely seriously. If you have been suspected of child abuse it can impact your life – whether or not you are charged, let alone convicted. This is because allegations of child abuse can negatively interfere with your ability to gain custody of your child in a divorce case, can ruin your reputation and that of your business, and can be exceedingly stressful, affecting your well-being. 

Avoid Speaking About Your Child Abuse Case

If you have been accused of child abuse, you should never speak about it with anyone – not even child protective services – without speaking with your attorney. A knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina family law attorney can collect and review evidence, conduct a separate investigation, and help you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your children via a strong defense. 

Fighting Charges of Child Abuse

Unfortunately, sometimes contentious divorces involve false allegations  — especially when minor children are involved. Not everyone who is accused of child abuse has laid a hand on his or her child. 

A qualified family law attorney can help work towards achieving a pre-trial dismissal or reduction of your charges. In some cases, he or she can even help you to obtain a plea agreement that would reduce the potential consequences of a conviction for child abuse. 

What Happens if Your Case Goes to Trial?

Should your case go to trial, a qualified litigator will be important for helping you to prepare. Since the prosecution will likely bring in medical experts to prove that you were abusive, it’s important that you understand the nature of the injuries that you are being accused of and possibly present your own medical expert for your defense. 

By working with the right attorney, you will be able to focus on the important issues and combat even the most difficult cases. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

A criminal conviction in North Carolina can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. Child abuse is a very serious crime that should be taken very seriously. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Man arrested for trespassing

What to Know About Criminal Trespassing in North Carolina

There are few bigger purchases that you will make in life than your home. To own your own property can provide a sense of peace and comfort. But when illegal trespassing is involved, it can turn your safe haven into an uncomfortable place to be. 

North Carolina defines trespassing as intending to enter or stay on a piece of property without permission. It’s important to note that intent is a big part of the law.  That’s why if you’ve been accused of criminal trespassing in North Carolina, a qualified criminal defense attorney can help to prove that you had no intent to be on another’s property. This can be supported through evidence.

Under state law, there are two different types of trespassing, with two different definitions and two different sets of penalties. These types include first- and second-degree trespassing. 

Degrees of Criminal Trespassing in North Carolina

First-degree trespassing is defined as entering and/or staying on a property without permission. This property includes another’s secured or enclosed property that is clearly intended to keep people out (e.g. a fenced-in yard). 

Second-degree trespassing usually follows a first-degree offense. In other words, this type of trespassing is an elevated form of the first. For instance, this may include a situation in which someone goes breaks into a locked building that also displays a “No Trespassing” sign. The type of trespassing an incident is classified as depends upon the facts and circumstances of that specific case. 

 Criminal Trespassing Charges in North Carolina

When someone is charged with first-degree trespassing, it is generally considered a Class 2 misdemeanor, although there are certain aggravating factors that when present may increase the charge. For example, if someone trespasses on a public utility provider’s property with the intent to interrupt operations there. This could be increased to a Class H felony. Should an intruder trespass on the property again after previously being removed from it, the charge could become a Class I felony.

As for second-degree trespassing, it is generally considered a Class 3 misdemeanor. However, depending upon the factors of the case (similar to those with first-degree trespassing), these charges can vary.  

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

A criminal conviction in North Carolina can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Police lights

Levels of DWI in North Carolina

Driving is inherently dangerous, so driving while impaired (DWI) is even riskier – and illegal. In North Carolina, there are six different levels of misdemeanor convictions if you are found to be DWI: levels 1A, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. The first three levels (1A, 1, and 2) are the most serious, while the remaining three are less serious. The level that you are charged with is dependent upon the specific facts of your case. 

Aggravating Factors

The first thing that a court will look at is whether there is at least one grossly aggravating factor. This could include any one of the following:

  1. Prior conviction for DWI within seven years of the date of the present DWI. 
  2. The driver was driving on a license that was revoked for another alcohol-related offense
  3. The driver charged caused a serious injury to another person at the time of the offense
  4. The defendant committed the DWI while one of the following individuals was in his vehicle:
    1. A child under the age of 18
    2. A person with the mental development of a child under the age of 18
    3. A person with a physical disability preventing them from exiting the vehicle without assistance

In determining the level of a DWI, the following holds true:

  • One grossly aggravating factor equates to a level 2.
  • Two factor is a level 1.
  • Three or more factors constitute the most serious level: 1A.
  • Without any grossly aggravating factors, the level is 3, 4, or 5. This is determined by balancing the aggravating factors against any mitigating factors.
    • If aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, the DWI is a level 3.
    • If the aggravating and mitigating factors counterbalance themselves, this is a level 4.
    • If the mitigating factors outweigh the aggravating factors, the DWI is a level 5.

Mitigating factors include:

  • Slight impairment of the defendant’s faculties resulting solely from alcohol, and an alcohol concentration that did not exceed 0.09.

 

  • Slight impairment of the defendant’s faculties, resulting solely from alcohol, with no chemical analysis having been available to the defendant.

 

  • Driving at the time of the offense was safe and lawful except for the impairment of the defendant’s faculties.

 

  • A safe driving record, with the defendant’s having no conviction for any motor vehicle offense for which at least four points are assigned or for which the person’s license is subject to revocation within five years of the date of the offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.

 

  • Impairment of the defendant’s faculties caused primarily by a lawfully prescribed drug for an existing medical condition, and the amount of the drug taken was within the prescribed dosage.

 

  • The defendant’s voluntary submission to a mental health facility for assessment after being charged with the impaired driving offense for which the defendant is being sentenced, and, if recommended by the facility, voluntary participation in the recommended treatment. (6a) Completion of a substance abuse assessment, compliance with its recommendations, and simultaneously maintaining 60 days of continuous abstinence from alcohol consumption, as proven by a continuous alcohol monitoring system. The continuous alcohol monitoring system shall be of a type approved by the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety.

 

  • Any other factor that mitigates the seriousness of the offense.

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a DWI

A conviction for DWI can have a significant impact on your life. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

prescription drugs

Defending Yourself Against Prescription Drug Fraud Charges in NC

Modern medicine has made such an impact on the way that we live our lives. It helps millions of people each day to feel better. Unfortunately, though, many people use medications for the wrong reasons and commit prescription fraud in an attempt to gain access to more pills. 

Common Drugs Obtained Through Prescription Fraud

Common drugs often obtained through prescription fraud include:

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Stimulants
  • Pain relievers

Opioids are a type of pain reliever that is highly addictive. In recent years opioid addiction has become an epidemic of massive proportions. Since those who take opiates eventually adjust to them, they require a higher and higher dosage to get the same effect. 

Common Types of Prescription Fraud

Prescription fraud is not only committed by patients, but by medical professionals as well. There are a number of ways in which someone can commit prescription fraud. Such ways include:

  • Forging a prescription
  • Calling in a prescription while pretending to be a doctor
  • Doctor shopping (visiting multiple doctors to obtain more prescriptions)
  • Filing a false report that claiming medication theft so that you can obtain more medication
  • Prescribing medication without any real reason
  • Purchasing, obtaining, and/or sharing prescription medication with others

Penalties for Prescription Fraud in North Carolina

When someone is found guilty of committing prescription fraud in Texas, they must face the consequences. If the drug is considered Scheduled I, prescription fraud can be charged as a Class I felony. As such you can face three to 12 months in prison. 

When the controlled substance involved is considered a Schedule II, III, or IV drug, you can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, though in rare situations can be charged as a Class I felony. If you are convicted, you can face the same between one and 120 days in jail. 

When the controlled substance involved is considered a Schedule V drug, you can be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you can face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.

When the controlled substance involved is considered a Schedule VI drug, it can be charged as a Class 3 misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you could face up to 30 days in jail and a $200 fine.

The Attorneys at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Crime

A criminal conviction in North Carolina can have a very long-lasting impact on your life. Not only can it affect your ability to obtain or keep certain jobs, but also it can have a permanent impact on your reputation. Additionally, the insanity defense in North Carolina can be quite complex. That’s why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you fight these charges and obtain the best possible outcome for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!