broken car window

Types of Auto Theft in North Carolina

Unfortunately, the theft of motor vehicles in North Carolina is not uncommon. It’s important to understand that there are different types of theft as well as other crimes that may apply when an individual uses, damages, or misappropriates an auto vehicle. 

North Carolina varies from some other states in that it does not have a specific motor vehicle theft law. These auto theft crimes are prosecuted under North Carolina’s crime of larceny, or theft. When a person takes another’s motor vehicle with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of it or when someone receives or possesses a stolen car, this is considered to be the crime of larceny. 

When someone steals a part or piece of a vehicle that is valued at $1,000 or more, this is considered to be the crime of larceny of a motor vehicle part. This value includes not only the part itself but the cost of labor to have it reinstalled or reattached to the vehicle. Larceny of a motor vehicle part is a Class I felony.

Additional Car-Related Offenses

Aside from motor vehicle theft, North Carolina recognizes and punishes other car-related offenses. 

Carjacking

Carjacking is when someone takes a car by force or threat of force. While North Carolina does not have a specific carjacking statute, it treats such offenses under the crime of robbery.

Joyriding

Joyriding occurs when someone takes another’s vehicle without their permission but also does not intend to permanently deprive the owner of their vehicle. In other words, they don’t have permission to borrow it, but they didn’t intend on keeping it. Joyriding is classified as an unauthorized use of a motor-propelled conveyance and is a Class 1 misdemeanor offense.

Keeping a Rental Car

It can be a criminal offense to maintain possession of a rental car after the time period agreed upon has expired. Again, while there is no specific law for this in North Carolina, the state will often charge this as larceny or joyriding. 

Legal Defenses to Auto Theft

While there are a variety of legal defenses to auto theft, here are some of the most common:

Consent

One defense to auto theft is consent. The individual accused may have had permission or believe that they have permission from the owner of the vehicle to use it. When this is the case, the individual is not guilty of larceny. Generally, when an individual raises this defense it’s because they had permission on one or more previous occasions and believed that it would be reasonable for that consent to continue. 

Mistake of Fact

Another defense is mistake of fact. This occurs when someone uses or borrows a stolen vehicle but is unaware that it was stolen. This individual cannot be found guilty of larceny of a motor vehicle. 

Permanent Deprivation

In order to commit larceny of a motor vehicle, the individual in question must intend to permanently deprive the owner of the vehicle of its use or possession. However, this individual may still be guilty of joyriding. 

Consequences

Motor vehicle theft can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the facts and circumstances of each case. If someone is convicted of larceny, they may face jail or prison, probation, fines, and/or more. 

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

If you or a loved one has been charged with auto theft or a related crime, it’s imperative that you contact a North Carolina criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. You may have a legal defense. 

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

cop cars at the scene of violent crime

Childhood Trauma May Serve as Mitigating Factor Concerning Violent Crimes

While all crimes are to be taken very seriously, violent crimes are considered much more serious than other “victimless” crimes, such as traffic offenses. As a result, those who are convicted of a violent crime often face lengthy jail sentences and hefty fines – not to mention a criminal record, which often impacts everything from where you can live to where you can work. This is why providing a defense against these accusations can be a good idea. Even if convicted, certain statements to the court may help to lessen the severity of your sentence. These are known as mitigating factors. 

One method that may prove very helpful is to ask the court for leniency through the presentation of childhood trauma, as there is a psychology often associated with violent crimes. 

The Origins of Much Violent Crime

Violent crimes usually don’t happen in a vacuum. Many people adopt violent behaviors in order to protect themselves from harm or simply put, to survive. When resources are scarce most people will go into survival mode. Individuals who have suffered childhood trauma or who have, themselves, been the victim of violent crime are likelier to commit violent offenses later on. 

Violent behaviors are often an effect of a subconscious need to protect oneself. Therefore, one of the better solutions for these individuals to heal and move beyond their issues is to seek counseling and probation – not incarceration. Community support can also make a big difference. 

Consider Your Background and Childhood

If you have been charged with a violent crime, it may prove extremely helpful to take a look at your background, including your childhood, to determine if there are factors that may help to mitigate the charges against you. This is not to say that you are denying responsibility, but that the punishment should take these factors into consideration. You may wish to request rehabilitation rather than incarceration. This is where an experienced attorney can prove very helpful. He or she can learn about your background and help to determine factors that may help your case. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Help Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with a Violent 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!

Cop car with flashing lights

What to Know About Open Container Laws in North Carolina

Driving under the influence of alcohol has long been understood as illegal. But what many may not know is that in North Carolina it is also illegal for someone to transport an open container of any alcoholic beverage in the passenger area of the vehicle while the vehicle is parked or being driven on a public roadway. Under North Carolina law, an open container is one in which the seal is broken. The passenger area of a vehicle is any area in which someone sits and any area within the reach of a person who is seated in the vehicle. For example, the passenger area would not only include the front passenger seat, but also the glove compartment. 

This law also pertains to both drivers and passengers of the vehicle. It’s important to understand that there is no law against transporting an unopened (closed) container of alcohol. Put simply, you can’t bring your open bottle of wine home from your favorite BYOB restaurant, but you can bring home an unopened bottle of wine that you purchased from the liquor store. 

Any open containers must be kept in areas of the vehicle that are inaccessible, such as the trunk or a locked area. If the vehicle does not have a trunk, open containers are legally allowed to be transported in the area behind the back seats. 

It’s also important to understand the beverages to which this rule applies. Such alcohol beverages this rule pertains to include:

  • Fortified and unfortified wine;
  • Spirituous liquor (hard alcohols such as vodka and tequila);
  • Malt beverages; and
  • Mixed beverages.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Law?

It should be noted that there are, in fact, a couple of exceptions to North Carolina’s open container law. The exceptions include having alcohol:

  • In the living quarters of a motor home or house vehicle; or
  • In the passenger areas of taxis, limos, buses, and other vehicles-for-hire.

What Are the Consequences?

The penalties someone faces for an open container violation are dependent upon the specific facts of each case. Depending upon the circumstances, a violation could be considered a misdemeanor or an infraction. 

Infractions, which are non-criminal violations in which the offender cannot be arrested, occur when a driver or passenger is in possession of an open container (and the driver does not have alcohol in his or her system and is not consuming it). Infractions result in a maximum fine of $100 plus costs. 

An open container misdemeanor, on the other hand, is issued when a driver is consuming alcohol or has it in his or her system while also transporting an open container. Such an offense is considered a Class 3 misdemeanor, with a subsequent offense being considered Class 2. Those charged with Class 3 misdemeanors will face up to 20 days in jail, while those with a Class 2 misdemeanor may face up to 60 days. For many individuals with a Class 2 misdemeanor, they will receive a fine and probation if convicted. 

 If a driver is charged with a misdemeanor open container offense, they will also likely be subject to North Carolina’s implied consent laws and must submit to a breath or blood test. Those who refuse to take the test or who test with a BAC of .08% or higher will likely have their license revoked (6-month- and one-year-required revocation for second convictions and third or subsequent convictions respectively.)

Additionally, open container violations are considered to be moving violations in North Carolina and the state DMV will potentially assess points against the driver’s license. 

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!

criminal defense

How Do Parole and Probation Differ?

It is an extremely worrisome occurrence to be charged with a crime. While your first thought is likely how you can avoid a conviction, you may also be wondering what should happen if you are, in fact, found guilty. Punishments for the conviction of a crime include jail time, fines, and community service, as well as probation. However, people often confuse probation with parole. It’s important that you understand the major differences between the two.

Two Different Programs

Probation is a program that often acts as an alternative to going to jail when convicted of a crime. Parole on the other hand, while also a program, is for people who have been to prison but are released prior to the completion of their sentence. 

Both programs involve being supervised by officers. People in both programs must check in with their supervising officer on a regular ongoing basis as the program requires. Each program also requires that the participant follows specific rules. These may include staying away from any known felons, possessing firearms, holding a job, and/or staying off of drugs. Some participants may be regularly tested for drugs. 

Avoid New Legal Issues

While you should avoid getting involved with any new legal issues in general, it is especially important that you do so when you are on either probation or parole. In fact, if you get into any additional legal trouble, it could count as a violation of your program and you may end up with more serious consequences. For example, if you violate the rules of your parole by getting into other legal trouble, you could end up in jail to finish the remainder of your sentence. On the flip side, if you are able to make it through your program without violating the rules of your program, you will be released from the program in a timely manner.

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

There’s no doubt that being charged with and eventually prosecuted for a crime is very frightening. You may find yourself without any idea of where to turn and what to do. Not only the outcome of the case, but the experience itself can have a major negative impact on your life. No matter the criminal charges levied against you, a resulting conviction can forever change the trajectory of your life. For this reason, it’s in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who will fight to have your charges reduced or eliminated altogether. 

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!

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!

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!