police at a scene

Can You Be Convicted of Murder Without the Intent to Kill?

When someone accidentally crashes their car into the vehicle in front of them, they can still be held responsible – even though it was unintentional. But what about a felony? Can someone be held responsible for a felony that they didn’t mean to commit? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

The Felony Murder Rule

When someone commits a dangerous felony and accidentally kills someone else in the commission of the crime, he or she can still be charged with first-degree murder. This is known as felony murder. If someone is an accomplice to a dangerous felony that results in an unintentional killing, he or she can also be charged with murder. 

For instance, imagine someone brings a gun to rob a bank and confronts the bank teller with the weapon. The bank teller is terrified and suffers a heart attack and dies as a result. The individual with the gun and the getaway driver can both be charged with first-degree murder under the felony murder rule. 

Felonies

Under North Carolina’s felony murder rule, someone can be found guilty of first-degree murder if a homicide is committed during the commission or the attempted commission of any of the following felonies:

  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Rape or a felony sex offense;
  • Arson;
  • Any felony committed or attempted with the use of a deadly weapon.

Possession of a Deadly Weapon

As for the last bullet, the defendant isn’t required to know ahead of time that he or she will use a deadly weapon. Likewise, any accomplices to the crime don’t have to know that the other possessed a deadly weapon. It doesn’t matter whether co-conspirators are aware that the other defendant had a gun so long as the gun was used in the commission or attempted commission of a felony that he or she did know about and take part in, in some manner. 

Additionally, it is irrelevant whether or not the deadly weapon was even used to commit the primary felony – just that it was in the defendant’s possession. 

Whereas first-degree murder ordinarily requires proof of intent, this is not required under the felony murder rule. Rather, the defendant must have had intent to commit the initial felony. 

And finally, it doesn’t matter at what part of the attempt or commission of a crime someone is killed. It only matters that they were killed during the uninterrupted chain of events. For instance, if the bank robber jumps into a getaway car and while speeding away crashes into another car, which causes it to hit a pedestrian, the robber and driver could be charged with first-degree murder under the felony murder rule. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Felony Murder

A charge under the felony murder rule 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!

beer cans

What to Know About Fake IDs and Underage Drinking in North Carolina

The law is clear surrounding the purchase of alcohol and those who fail to adhere to it will be punished. This is the job of Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) agents. They are responsible for investigating, citing, and at times arresting individuals who commit criminal offenses concerning the sale of alcohol and other offenses related to public health and safety. This includes the sale of alcohol to minors (those under the legal age for consumption of alcoholic beverages). Oftentimes ALE agents will partner with local law enforcement officers. 

Criminal Citations Fake IDs, Underage Drinking and Sales

ALE agents may also investigate potential fake IDs. When a fake ID is suspected, ALE agents or police officers may investigate. Unfortunately, fake IDs are common among high school and college students, who purchase them online or are given them by a friend. When a fake ID is confirmed, the individual who tried to use it will receive a criminal citation for possession of the fake ID, possession of alcohol while underage, or furnishing alcohol to minors.

A Qualified North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Those who receive such a citation may feel overwhelmed and not know what to do. That’s where a knowledgeable and qualified North Carolina criminal defense attorney can make a difference. The right lawyer will help to negotiate with the District Attorney on your case and try to have the citation dismissed and expunged from public records. 

It’s important to understand that even if a case is dismissed it will still appear on background checks resulting in questions surrounding your record when you go to do something such as apply for a job. However, once it’s expunged it will be erased. Once a citation is dismissed, a lawyer can work on having it expunged from your criminal record.

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. 

Fake IDs and underage drinking is a reality for many students, but such a mistake should not have to impact your future. 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 and your future. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Posted in DWI
drinking and driving

3 Tips to Avoid Driving While Intoxicated

Drunk driving is one of the biggest errors in judgment that someone can make. While people generally never plan to drive while under the influence of alcohol, poor planning often results in a false belief that the person will be able to get themselves home after drinking. Many people in this situation fail to consider that there are a lot of other ways that they can get home safely without getting behind the wheel of a car. For many people who drive drunk, the choice to do so would never be made when they were sober. 

Luckily, there are things that can be done while sober to help avoid making a potentially life-altering and dangerous decision. Here are 3 tips to avoid driving while intoxicated.

1. Stay over someone else’s place. 

Rather than worry about how you are going to get home after drinking, you can plan on not having to go home at all. Whether you make plans to stay at the house where you were drinking, go home with someone else who has not been drinking, or stay at a hotel within walking distance of the bar, you won’t have to even think twice about driving. 

2. Give a friend your keys.

If you don’t know how much you plan on drinking but are concerned that it could be too much to drive, it’s always good to get the opinion of someone whom you trust. You can give your keys to a friend, party host, or bartender, so that when you decide it’s time to go home, they can decide whether you need an alternate way of getting there safely. 

3. Have a designated driver

Lastly, one of the most common options for avoiding getting behind the wheel while drunk is to have a designated driver. A designated driver is someone whom you will agree upon ahead of time, who will not be drinking, and can therefore be responsible for driving you home safely. This could be someone who can’t drink for medical reasons or who doesn’t care to drink – or this could simply be someone different in your group each time, who takes turns not drinking each time you go out. 

You should always plan ahead whenever alcohol may be involved. However, if you fail to do so and have made the unfortunate decision to drive while intoxicated and are now charged with a DUI, it’s important that you seek a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who can help. 

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. 

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

Posted in DWI
man taking bribe money under the table

What Is the Difference Between Extortion and Bribery in NC?

You may be under the impression that bribery and extortion are the same things, but they are not. While many people use these terms interchangeably and they are both considered to be “white-collar” crimes often involving money, the elements of each are different. 

Extortion

Extortion is a crime that involves demanding payment or compensation of another kind in exchange for either doing something or abstaining from doing something. Under North Carolina law:

Any person who threatens or communicates a threat or threatens another with the intent to wrongfully obtain something of value or an advantage, immunity, or acquittal, has performed extortion. Wrongful intent is viewed in relation to acquiring the property and not the threat itself. Threats are inherently wrong in nature. 

In other words, extortion occurs when someone communicates a threat or directly threatens someone else with the wrongful intent to acquire one of the following:

  • Something of value
  • The settlement of a fine or a debt
  • Immunity
  • Any other type of advantage

Extortion is a Class F felony, which can carry 10 to 41 months in prison. Prior convictions play a role as to the exact amount of time someone will be sentenced to. It’s important to note that blackmail, while commonly combined with extortion, is not the same charge. North Carolina treats blackmail as a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

Examples of extortion include:

  • Someone threatens to do harm to an auto dealership unless the owner of the dealership agrees to waive the extra fees on a car.
  • A defendant threatens to publish private, embarrassing information about a judge unless he or she drops the charges. 
  • Someone threatens to share nude photos of someone else unless they pay a certain amount of money.

Although celebrities and individuals in power are often the targets of extortion plots, anyone can attempt to extort anyone else – regardless of who they are – so long as the elements of the crime are met. 

Bribery

Bribery is different from extortion in that it usually involves government officials or employees. It too involves the exchange of money or something else of value (e.g. favorable treatment). However, bribery can also involve corporate entities or private citizens. Bribery tends to have no paper trail, which requires a lot of work from the prosecutor to prove that it even occurred, to begin with. It’s important to note that it’s not only government officials or employees who can be bribed. Government officials or employees can be the ones committing bribery. Whether or not the bribe was accepted is irrelevant to the commission of the crime itself. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Extortion of Bribery

A conviction for extortion or bribery 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!

fingerprint analysis

Reports Question Accuracy of Fingerprint Analysis

For more than 100 years it has been accepted that finding someone’s fingerprints at the scene of a crime means that they were in fact there. However, according to new research, this may or may not be the case. Per the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), fingerprint analysis may not be as reliable as it has long been held to be. 

Insufficient Data

According to a 2017 report released by the AAAS, it is true that our fingers have distinct patterns, which can be used to identify people. However, also according to the report, there is insufficient data to determine just how unique our fingerprints are among the world’s entire population. Therefore the weight given to fingerprint analysis may be overemphasized. 

The AAAS is not the only organization to come to this conclusion. Other reports, such as those conducted by the National Research Council and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, have found similar results.

Just How Much Can We Rely Upon Fingerprint Analysis?

While fingerprint analysis has been widely accepted as very reliable, there are criminal cases in which these findings may have led to false arrests and convictions. There are a variety of factors that could affect the outcome of the examiner’s analysis. For example, simply knowing that the fingerprint analysis is part of a test could impact the examiner’s findings. Unfortunately, automated systems also have their own set of limitations, making them no more reliable at this point. 

Because of these findings and a number of findings just like them, it’s reasonable that if the prosecution’s case rests largely on fingerprint analysis, that it may be part of one’s criminal defense strategy to challenge the reliability of that analysis. As we continue to move forward, additional measures must be put in place to make fingerprint analysis more reliable – or else it risks losing its credibility altogether. 

Contact Our Carteret County Criminal Defense Attorney

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 criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. He or she may be able to challenge the reliability of fingerprint analysis involved, which if largely relied upon may diminish the prosecution’s case for proving to a judge or jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

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!

criminal defense

Can You Claim Insanity as a Defense to a Criminal Conviction?

When someone has been accused of committing a crime, we often think of a defense as evidence that the person could not have or did not commit it. However, sometimes a defense to a criminal conviction is not that the defendant didn’t commit the act, but rather that he or she cannot be held morally to blame due to a mental disease or defect that he or she was suffering at the time. This is known as the insanity defense. 

The insanity defense exists in order to ensure that our legal system remains fair for all people and does what it was intended to do. This affirmative defense is not commonly used, as it requires a higher level of proof. Additionally, someone can be found to be medically insane and still not be found legally insane. They are not the same thing.

Not the Same as Innocence

It’s important to differentiate not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect (the insanity defense) from innocent. Finding someone not guilty does not mean that they are being found innocent. If someone is found not guilty by insanity, they don’t get to go home. Rather, they will be committed to a mental health facility where they will remain for the same period of time as they would have had they been imprisoned. They must be able to prove that they no longer suffer from such a mental disease or defect and therefore are no longer a danger to society in order to be released. 

So How Does the Court Determine Insanity?

While this may sound black and white, it’s not quite so simple. In order to determine whether or not a defendant was insane at the time of a criminal act, the state of North Carolina follows what is known as the M’Naghten Rule. The rule, which was named for the case in which the defense originated, has two parts that must be considered in determining the defendant’s state at the time of the crime:

  1. Whether the accused had knowledge of the act that he or she was committing; and
  2. Whether the accused knew that his or her actions were wrong. 

In other words, the defendant must be able to prove by a preponderance of the evidence (that it is more likely than not), that he or she suffered from a mental disease or defect at the time that the crime was committed. (The prosecution must meet a stricter standard of proof: beyond a reasonable doubt.) 

Contact Our Carteret County Criminal Defense Attorney Today

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!

man breaking and entering a home

Breaking and Entering in NC: When Is It a Felony?

The crime of “breaking and entering” is as it sounds: going into someone else’s property (forcibly) without first receiving permission from those who reside there or own the property. But depending upon the type of property and the intent of the crime that was committed, you can be charged with either a misdemeanor or a felony

When is Breaking and Entering a Misdemeanor

Under North Carolina law, breaking and entering in North Carolina is a misdemeanor when someone wrongfully enters into a building without proper consent. But what is considered a building? 

A building is any home or even an uninhabited home, a property under construction, or a structure designed to house activity or property. While it is “only” a misdemeanor, breaking and entering in North Carolina is the most serious level of a misdemeanor under state law: a Class 1 misdemeanor. 

A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by a court-ordered fine and up to 120 days in jail. 

When is Breaking and Entering a Felony?

So if wrongfully entering a building without proper consent is a misdemeanor, when is breaking and entering a felony?

Breaking and entering can be charged as a felony in North Carolina when someone enters a building without proper consent and intends to commit a felony once he or she is inside. For instance, if someone breaks and enters a building with the intent to injure the occupant, they could be charged with a felony. However, it must be able to be proven in court that the defendant’s intent was to (in this case) injure the individual inside. 

This can be difficult, as we don’t always know what’s in someone else’s mind. That’s why it’s important to point out that the defendant’s intent doesn’t need to be proven for someone to be found guilty of felonious breaking and entering. Rather, the defendant’s intent can be inferred through his or her actions. If the judge or jury can make such an inference, that is good enough. 

Felony breaking and entering in North Carolina is considered a Class H felony and is punishable by a court-ordered fine and up to 25 months in prison. 

Other Serious Breaking and Entering Offenses

Place of Worship

If a person is found guilty of breaking and entering into a place of worship, such as a church, synagogue, mosque, chapel, temple, meetinghouse, or other building regularly used for religious worship, he or she can be charged with felony (Class H) breaking and entering as well. 

Motor Vehicle

If a person is found guilty of breaking and entering into a motor vehicle with the intent to commit larceny or another felony, he or she can be charged with a Class I felony, punishable by up to one year in jail if convicted. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Breaking and Entering

A criminal conviction of breaking and entering 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 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 imprisoned

What Is False Imprisonment in North Carolina?

While you may think of “imprisoning” someone as locking them in a room, your actions need not be so extreme for you to be guilty of a crime. In North Carolina, the common law crime of false imprisonment is the unlawful restraint of another person. 

In order to be convicted of false imprisonment, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt. In other words, if there is any reasonable possibility that you may not have committed the crime, the jury or judge must acquit you of the charges. 

Elements of False Imprisonment in North Carolina

False imprisonment occurs when an individual:

  1. Intentionally or unlawfully
  2. Restrains or detains
  3. Another person
  4. Without that person’s consent.

Consequences for False Imprisonment

As a stand-alone crime, false imprisonment is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor and therefore follows the state guidelines for misdemeanor sentencing. However, false imprisonment is often charged along with the crime of kidnapping, which could raise the class to something more serious.

How Does False Imprisonment Often Occur?

When you get into an argument with a friend or significant other, you may block the doorway in an attempt to get them to stay and finish the conversation. However, this is a common manner in which false imprisonment is seen. Often false imprisonment occurs in relation to domestic disputes in which someone prevents their partner from leaving by physically blocking their exit or by threatening them in some manner if they try to leave.

Exceptions to False Imprisonment

While the aforementioned elements equate to false imprisonment, there are certain exceptions in which these actions are excused.

Law Enforcement

It is not false imprisonment when a police officer has probable cause to arrest and charge someone with a crime but later finds that the individual was not guilty or the charges against him or her were dismissed. 

When a police officer is guilty of misconduct, prosecutorial misconduct, or judicial misconduct that leads to wrongful imprisonment it’s generally considered a civil matter that must be resolved with a lawsuit. 

Shopkeepers Privilege

Sometimes a shopkeeper (merchant) has the legal right to detain someone whom he or she suspects has shoplifted something from the store. However, this detention must be done in a manner and length of time that is reasonable. This can be done while waiting for the police to come and deal with the situation. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with False Imprisonment

A conviction for false imprisonment can have a relatively significant impact on you. 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!

woman receiving violent threat

Communicating Violent Threats is a Crime in North Carolina

Free speech is one thing that differentiates the United States from many other countries. Under the Bill of Rights, you are protected permitted and protected to speak your mind. However, not all speech is protected under the First Amendment. There are, in fact, certain types of speech that are illegal. 

One type of speech that is not protected is violent threats. Communicating violent threats is actually a class 1 misdemeanor in the state of North Carolina and comes with its own set of penalties. In fact, in North Carolina, class 1 misdemeanors can result in a fine and up to 120 days in jail. 

Requirements for a Charge of Communicating Threats

There are three requirements that must be present in order for someone to be charged with communicating a threat. These include the following:

  1. The individual must threaten to physically injure someone;
  2. The individual must communicate this threat to the victim; and
  3. The individual who is being threatened must reasonably believe that the threat will be executed. 

Increasing the Penalties

While you may believe that anything that you say online stays there, it can actually greatly impact you offline as well. Additionally, if you threaten someone outside of the state online, it can actually be considered a federal crime and can greatly increase the penalties you will face. 

Another situation that can greatly increase the penalties that you face is if you communicate threats while there is a protective order in place. Making threats when there is a protective order in place firstly violates the protective order. This act alone is considered a Class A1 misdemeanor and can result in up to 150 days in prison. If you are also charged with communicating threats, you can be charged with a Class H felony, which can result in up to 25 months in prison. 

Another charge that can increase your penalties is when your communicated threats are considered domestic violence. This can occur when you and the victim share a personal relationship. 

Dealing with the Consequences

No matter how you frame it, it is never acceptable to threaten anyone. Whereas you didn’t intend to carry out a threat, you can still be charged with communicating the threat nonetheless and must deal with the consequences. 

While you can’t take back what has already been said, you can work with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney to minimize the outcome. 

Attorney Joel Hancock of Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Communicating a Threat

A conviction for communicating a threat can have a relatively significant impact on you. 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!

texting while driving

Reasonable Suspicion for Texting While Driving in North Carolina

While we live very fast-paced lives, often multi-tasking, certain things are illegal to do at the same time. One such thing is texting while driving. When you are operating a motor vehicle, you may not also be on your phone. But how does an officer have reasonable suspicion, known as probable cause, to stop a vehicle in North Carolina? After all, it can be very difficult to prove that you were texting at the time that you were stopped by law enforcement.

So why is texting while driving illegal? When you take a look at the statistics it’s easy to understand. Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents in the United States. 

A Serious Issue

In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2013 until 2018 there were about 23,000 accidents that resulted in a fatality due to distracted driving. For this reason, North Carolina is one of 48 states that have passed laws making texting while driving and distracted driving illegal. 

While it’s hard to say exactly how many accidents occur as a result of texting, it is likely significantly unreported or underreported. This is because those who engage in it understand that it is against the law. Younger, less experienced drivers perpetrate a good amount of these accidents. 

Unfortunately, it is not a lack of understanding that causes drivers to engage in illegal behaviors. Rather it is a lack of regard for the law. 

Sufficient Probable Cause

Although it may prove difficult for a police officer to physically see you in the act of texting, he or she may be able to develop sufficient probable cause to stop you or reasonable suspicion to suspect criminal activity based upon how you are driving. 

Under North Carolina law, not only is it illegal to text while driving, but it is also illegal to read texts or emails or to type multiple letters, responding to texts, emails, social media posts, or the like. 

Consequences of Texting and Driving

While texting while driving is generally considered an infraction, it can still result in court costs and a fine of $100 if you are convicted. However, if you are found to be texting while driving a school bus, you will be charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor offense, which could lead to jail time depending upon your prior record. While you will not receive points for texting and driving, the act of even getting into an accident can negatively impact your vehicle insurance rates. 

It’s important to remember that to be pulled over – for any crime – law enforcement must have reasonable suspicion. If you have been charged with texting and driving after being issued another traffic ticket or motor violation, it’s important to examine the facts of the case. 

Attorney Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Texting and Driving

A conviction for texting and driving can have a relatively significant impact on you. 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!