An animal (cat) looking up at its owner.

Animal Cruelty Is Now a Federal Felony

What animal lovers everywhere have always deemed as horrific is now being held accountable. The recent passage of the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act unanimously in the House and the Senate has been signed by President Trump, making acts of animal cruelty a federal felony. Though historically looked at as property, animals are now gaining more protections. 

The bill, co-sponsored by Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), received total bipartisan support.  “The torture of innocent animals is abhorrent and should be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” said Buchanan. “This is a milestone for pet owners and animal lovers across the country. For the first time, a national law has been passed by Congress to protect animals from cruelty and abuse.” Deutch concurred, expressing that the bill was simply “commonsense, bipartisan legislation” intended to demonstrate greater compassion towards animals. 

The Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, ceremoniously signed the bill. Pelosi shared her elation of signing it on Twitter. “Today, I was honored to sign @RepTedDeutch’s #PACTAct to make animal cruelty a federal offense. Our furry friends, Milo and Prudence were on hand to help me enroll this bipartisan legislation that will now go to the President’s desk!”

New Bill Shows Expansion of Animal Protection

In 1999 the Supreme Court overturned a decision to allow the posting of animal crushing videos, as it felt that such a ban would impinge on our right to free speech. Then, in 2010 a law made it illegal to post or share videos of animal crushing online. Animal crushing videos were usually composed of women in sharp high heels or stilettos, crushing and killing small animals. The new bill builds on the 2010 law, making it not only illegal to share these videos but to also engage in the abusive behaviors underlying them. 

The bill, known as the PACT Act, says that the crushing of animals would be considered a federal felony. The legislation recognizes the “crushing” of animals as the purposeful crushing burning, suffocation, impalement, drowning, or bodily injury to them.  

GOP Sen. Pat Toomey also communicated his excitement after Congress unanimously passed the bill. “Passing this legislation is a major victory in the effort to stop animal cruelty and make our communities safer,” he said. “Evidence shows that deranged individuals who harm animals often move on to committing acts of violence against people. It is appropriate that the federal government have strong animal cruelty laws and penalties.”

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina with Animal Cruelty Charges

When someone is found guilty of a crime, it can permanently impact the rest of his or her life. With so much at stake, it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC we know how serious even an accusation can be and will work our hardest to ensure that your rights are protected. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

One of many drones flying over a field.

Drones Used in Commission of Crimes Also Used to Solve Them

Even though they have only been widely available to the general public for about five years, drones have already undoubtedly made a mark on society. Drones, unmanned, remotely-flow aerial vehicles, have been registered about 1.5 million times in the U.S., accounting for both commercial and recreational uses. This doesn’t even include those that have been homemade and remain unregistered. 

Drones Harnessed for ‘Evil’

Unfortunately, as with many other fascinating inventions, drones are often used to commit criminal acts. This is because they are only vaguely regulated by the states and may not be intercepted by law enforcement, despite what they are being used for, as federal law currently restricts it. In 2015, U.S. Border Control in California caught a drone trying to smuggle 28 pounds of heroin across the border. 

The good news is that drones can often provide a lot of forensic information when captured. (Drone forensics, the specialty of looking at drones to gauge criminal evidence and crimes, has started to grow.) The bad news is that drones can be quite difficult for law enforcement to get their hands on. In fact, no matter the qualifications of the drone forensics specialists, some drones, when homemade, are unable to be identified. 

Drones Harnessed for ‘Good’

Although worrisome, drones are not only used to commit criminal acts; they are often leveraged by law enforcement in order to warn the public and to catch suspected criminals. Cheaper than helicopters, and sometimes equipped with thermal imaging and/or loudspeakers, drones can be used for everything from locating a dangerous wild animal to announcing to neighborhood children to go inside immediately when a suspect is on the loose in their community. 

More and more drones are now used at accident and crime scenes in order to capture and preserve important evidence such as measurements and pictures. This evidence can then later be applied in civil or criminal court. The reason for this usage has to do with the ability of drones to make it much quicker to blocked off roads or areas and their less obstructed aerial views. 

Hancock Law Firm Helps Those Who Have Been Accused of a Crime in North Carolina

If you or a loved one has been accused of a criminal act in North Carolina, it should be taken very seriously. The impact of a criminal conviction can continue to impact you for the rest of your life. That’s why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney. It is important to ensure that you have someone with your best interest at heart to help you. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the significance of such a situation and will fight to have your charge reduced or even eliminated. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

A lonely boy dealing with child neglect.

Can Noticeable Neglect Lead to Criminal Charges?

Being a parent is no easy feat; it comes with a lot of responsibilities. One of these responsibilities is to protect the physical health and welfare of our children. Not only does that include things such as ensuring that they have food and shelter, but also taking our children to the doctor for an annual exam. Noticeable neglect is taken very seriously because when left as is it can commonly lead to infections, loss of function, or even death. Even something like dental neglect can cause severe pain and result in a serious condition, such as periodontal disease. Any type of neglect will have a greater impact on children and their development, affecting everything from their ability to learn, to their communication, and even their nutrition. 

What Happens When Child Protective Services is Called for Noticeable Neglect?

Often times Child Protective Services (CPS) will receive a phone call because someone such as a teacher or neighbor notices that something is physically wrong with the child. It isn’t necessarily noticing signs of physical abuse, such as bruises, but may also be something as seemingly minute as dental neglect. Because child neglect can often result in visible injury, it can turn into a criminal manner. In fact, it is possible to both neglect and abuse a child via the same action or inaction. 

Neglect is the most common form of child mistreatment in the country. When CPS is called due to noticeable neglect in an area of a child’s healthcare or welfare, there will be a full investigation launched. Most of the injuries that are noticeable to social services are those of any physical harm that has been sustained. For example, if a parent is not providing their child with adequate nutrition, he or she may look extremely emaciated or starved. It is not the neglect itself that is noticed, but rather the physical consequences. 

The reasons as to why children do not receive proper care are not always so black and white. Often times this occurs due to hardships or tough situations, although poor parenting often contributes. These reasons include:

  • Inadequate finances
  • Parental Ignorance
  • Family isolation
  • Lack of understanding as to the importance of a type of care

However, regardless of the reason that a child does not receive proper care, the parent or guardian is still responsible for the physical injuries. 

Types of Abuse

While there are four different types of abuse (physical, emotional/psychological, medical, and educational) it is usually the physical abuse, which with most parents are charged. This is because visible physical injury or trauma is most easily identifiable.  

Criminal neglect leading to physical abuse is often identified through things such as the child’s appearance, bruises, broken bones, lacerations, or even behavior. 

Hancock Law Firm Helps Those in NC Who Have Been Charged with Criminal Neglect

If you are convicted of criminal neglect and resulting abuse it can have a profound impact on you and many different aspects of your life. That is why it is so important that you consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who will work hard to get your charges minimized or even dismissed. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the significance of such a charge and will fight for you. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Officer reading someone their Miranda rights.

What Are Your Miranda Rights?

Most of us who have seen either a legal TV show or movie and have heard the police make a statement such as “You have the right to remain silent” before arresting an individual. This is part of what is known as your Miranda rights or Miranda warning. Your Miranda warning warns the individual of his or her constitutional rights. Here is what you should know if you are ever stopped by the police.  

The Origin of Miranda Rights

Under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments of the United States Constitution, individuals have the right against self-incrimination and right to an attorney. Miranda rights, which are those rights originated from a case in 1966 (Miranda v. Arizona) in which the police went to an individual’s home (Miranda) as he was suspected of stealing money from a bank worker. He signed a statement of admission that he was guilty of both rape and kidnapping while voluntarily at the police station. But after he was tried and convicted for those crimes, he appealed the case and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually agreed to hear it. 

The Court’s decision was in favor of Miranda, finding that since he was in police custody at the time that he made his statements, he was never advised of his rights under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments. This case led to the adoption of rules by each state, with each state’s police must follow regarding warning individuals in police custody of their rights. 

Miranda rights include something like the following: You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you can not afford one, one will be provided to you.”

These Rights Are Supposed to Protect You

Should you be interrogated by the police without first being read your Miranda rights, any incriminating statements made will be inadmissible as evidence against you. 

After you have been read your Miranda rights, should you ask for an attorney and express that you do not want to talk, the police must immediately cease any questioning. However, if the police fail to give you a Miranda warning while in police custody and you provide an admission of guilt regarding where evidence can be located, both the admission and the evidence is inadmissible in court. However, those who are “Mirandized” but waive their rights and choose to continue speaking may have the statements that they make used against them in court. 

It is in your best interest to consult with a criminal defense attorney after you have been read your Miranda rights. The attorney can explain to you which questions you should and should not answer. 

Although Miranda warnings must only be read when you are being held in police custody, what often happens is that when police officers question individuals, those individuals do not feel free to leave because they feel intimidated by the authority of the police. 

However, it is important to remember that there is certain information that Miranda rights do not cover. If you are asked for your identification and insurance information during a traffic stop, you are obligated to provide it – you cannot invoke any right against doing so. 

Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Haven’t Been Read Their Miranda Rights

If you or a loved one has been questioned by the police while in police custody without first being read your Miranda rights, any incriminating statements that you make may not be used against you. By eliminating these statements, it can help to minimize or eliminate your charges. Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, can help! To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Man turning himself in for an outstanding warrant.

What to Know About Turning Yourself In for an Outstanding Warrant

Sometimes good people can make poor decisions. Maybe you have found yourself in such a situation and now there is a warrant out for your arrest. Now you are left with the decision of whether you should turn yourself in or wait until the police catch you. Though it is not uncommon to receive a bond and get out of custody while your attorney deals with the matter, this is not always the case. One of the most significant factors for whether you will, in fact, receive a bond is how long the warrant was outstanding. However, the court will also take into consideration whether or not you turned yourself in to take responsibility for your actions. 

Should you fail to turn yourself in and allow the police to catch you, there is a high probability that they will catch you when you are in the act of committing some other minor violation such as speeding. This would then put you in a situation in which you now have two different legal issues pending. 

Before Turning Yourself In for an Outstanding Warrant

Before you make any definitive moves, it is usually a good idea to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. You may also consider reaching out to a bail bondsman should you be given a bond at the time of your arrest. You need to accept that there is a possibility that you will not receive a bond in which case bond hearings occur in front of a judge after you have been arraigned. Sometimes it may take a few days for your attorney to be able to get you on the court’s docket. 

If you are residing in a state other than the one in which the warrant was issued, you may be in custody longer, as you will need to be transported back to the state of the warrant. This could take a bit of time, a few days to even weeks. 

U.S. military members should immediately contact the individual who is their command. This person can help during the process of turning yourself in. 

Another factor to take into consideration prior to turning yourself in is whether it is a holiday that occurs on a Friday or a Monday or if it is a weekend. If you decide to turn yourself in at one of these times and you do not receive a bond, you could find yourself in custody until the following weekday that the court is back open. 

Though we don’t want to have to face things we aren’t looking forward to, ignoring your outstanding warrant isn’t going to help resolve the problem; in fact, it may serve to make it more complicated. 

Hancock Law Firm Helps Those with Outstanding Warrants in North Carolina

If you believe that there is a warrant out for your arrest, you can confirm that belief by searching the outstanding warrants lists provided by each city. If you or a loved one is facing an outstanding warrant, you should be sure that you have someone with your best interest at heart to help you. At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we understand the significance of such a situation and will help you to move forward. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Hancock Law Firm discusses what you should know about cyberbullying laws in North Carolina.

What to Know About Cyberbullying in North Carolina

Unfortunately, bullying isn’t anything new. School children across the country experience various forms of bullying on a regular basis. But with the rapid advancement of technology, the same bullying that was once limited to the playground can now make its way beyond the locked doors of homes by way of electronic devices. 

What is Cyberbullying?

When an individual utilizes electronic devices such as a cell phone or computer to communicate threats or harassment, it is considered to be cyberbullying or cyberstalking. In North Carolina, cyberbullying is addressed under the school anti-bullying policy, but it is also addressed in criminal court when it has broken a law. 

Cyberbullying is any bullying that occurs through digital devices including tablets, cell phones, and computers. Cyberbullying can occur in many places, such as over:

  • Email
  • Text Messages
  • Instant Messages
  • Social Media

Someone may be charged with cyberbullying in North Carolina under the state’s stalking law if he or she engages in two or more acts against the same, targeted victim and the bully either knew or should have known that such actions would either:

  • Cause the victim to suffer substantial distress due to fear of continued harassment, bodily injury, or death, or
  • Put the victim in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family member or friend.

Stalking is a class A1 misdemeanor that may include fines and jail time depending upon the specific details of the case. 

North Carolina’s specific cyberbullying law makes it illegal to use a computer to engage in certain specific, prohibited behaviors such as posing as a minor with a fake user profile and communicating with or posting images or messages about a minor for the purpose of intimidation or torment of that minor of his or her parent.

Cyberbullying is a class 1 misdemeanor if the defendant was 18 or older at the time of the alleged crime, and a class 2 misdemeanor if he or she was younger than 18 at the time of the alleged crime.

Defenses to Criminal Cyberbullying Charges

Such as is the case with any crime; cyberbullying has several defenses that may apply. Such defenses include:

  • Free Speech
  • Reasonable Fear (whether or not the victim’s fear was in fact reasonable)

Contact Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Today to Discuss Your Case

If you or a loved one has been charged with cyberbullying in North Carolina, a conviction can leave you with long-lasting consequences. That is why it is so important to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina Criminal Defense attorney

At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we understand how a conviction of cyberbullying can negatively impact many aspects of your life and will fight to minimize the consequences and the impact of your charges. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!