Man arrested for a general intent crime

General vs. Specific Intent Crimes in NC

Sometimes things happen that you didn’t mean to have happened. This sometimes even includes the outcome of criminal actions. While some people want to commit a crime, others want to commit a crime for the purpose of having something happen. This is the difference between general intent and specific intent respectively. 

Regardless of your full intentions, a crime is still a crime no matter what. However, it’s still important to decipher whether the crime that you committed was done with general or specific intent, as it can greatly impact the outcome of a criminal case

General Intent

When someone commits a general intent crime it means that they committed the crime for the sake of committing the crime. In other words, the person who committed the crime was not doing it in order to achieve a specific outcome. 

Intent relates to the state of the mind of the accused while he or she was committing the crime. General intent only requires that someone had the intent to break the law or that he or she committed a crime even without knowing it was illegal. 

A good example of a general intent crime is battery, which is “the intentional and harmful physical contact of another person.” This means that if someone intends to commit battery, which in itself is the crime without any other intent. Battery does not require that the individual intended to harm the victim; simply that he or she meant to commit battery. 

Specific Intent

Unlike general intent, crimes that require specific intent are those that are committed with a specific purpose in mind. Not only does the individual mean to commit a crime, but also he or she intended for that crime to create a certain outcome. For example, with battery, someone who throws a book at someone else is guilty of general intent battery. Alternatively, someone who throws a book at someone else with the intent to cut him or her would be considered guilty of a specific intent crime. To prove specific intent crimes the prosecution must be able to prove the motive with which the defendant acted. This can often be quite challenging since we can’t be in anyone else’s head.

Some specific intent crimes include:

  • Theft
  • Larceny
  • Forgery
  • Embezzlement
  • Child Molestation
  • “Inchoate” offenses or crimes (e.g. conspiracy, attempt, and solicitation) 
  • Murder

Most crimes consist of two parts: the act of the crime itself: the “actus reus,” and the motive or mental element of the crime: the “mens rea.” Specific intent crimes are those in which there is demonstrable mens rea. 

For specific intent crimes, such as murder, the outcome of the entire case will rest on your mens rea – even if the actus reus has been proven. If you can prove that you unintentionally committed a crime and did so without any specific intent, it’s possible that a jury could find you not guilty. However, this will require solid evidence to prove. 

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

A criminal conviction 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!

Someone on their laptop, using social media.

Criminal Acts that are Committed on Social Media

Social media has become somewhat of a normal, daily activity. It has helped to shape our lives in many ways, connecting us to our jobs, our families, and our friends across the world. Through social media, we can meet others who share our favorite hobbies and interests and stay up-to-date on current events. Social media has even helped law enforcement to get the word out in emergent situations, such as shelter-in-place warnings and Amber Alerts. 

Law enforcement now often utilizes social media to discover incriminating evidence against criminal suspects and can help to locate them through things such as “check-ins,” for which an individual lists where they are located. This is because each and every day millions of people the world over share some of the most private information about their lives.

When we think of crimes that can be seen online we often think about homicides and high-speed chases. However, the majority of crimes that can be found online include stalking, bullying, threatening, and harassing other people. People may also sign into an account that isn’t theirs and/or impersonate others. Crimes committed online are just as illegal as those committed offline. 

Think Before You Post

Because so many crimes are committed on social media every day, it’s extremely important that each of us stops and considers the risk of anything we are about to post. 

Posting too much information about yourself, your family, or your current location can serve as a means for others to commit criminal acts against you. By sharing things like where your children go to school, the name of your employer, and when you’re taking your family trip to Florida, you may just be giving others the necessary information to stalk you or rob your home. 

It’s really important that you also understand that sometimes people use social media to conduct criminal activity. Individuals, who use social media to conduct criminal business arrangements, are still guilty – whether or not the business itself was conducted online. In fact, using social media only makes it easier for law enforcement to make a case against you, as you are leaving behind a trail of evidence.  

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

A criminal conviction 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!

Woman holding her cell phone, cyberstalking

What Exactly is a Cyberstalking Charge in North Carolina?

There’s no doubt that our society has been forever changed by technology. From buying groceries and clothes, to paying bills and doing your banking, just about anything and everything that needs to be done can be executed online. But while the ever-changing technological landscape has done a lot of good, one other thing can also be done using the internet: stalking. 

Stalking someone using technology is referred to as “cyberstalking.” Technology that may be used to cyberstalk another person includes:

  • Smartphones/other mobile devices
  • GPS devices 
  • Phone calls
  • Social media messages
  • Emails
  • Hacking into a victim’s online account(s)

Stalking is done in order to threaten, harass, or humiliate another person in order to control or intimidate them. When someone cyberstalks another person, they often use persistent and strategic types of online abuse. Cyberstalkers don’t always have to be individuals whom you know; sometimes they can be casual acquaintances or even complete strangers. Often cyberstalkers include former significant others.

Stalking in North Carolina

Under North Carolina state law, stalking occurs when an individual willfully harasses another person on more than two occasions without legal reason, and either: 

  • Causes that individual to fear for themselves, a family member, or another person to whom they are close; or
  • Causes that individual extreme fear of bodily injury, death, or persistent and recurrent harassment.

The law does not require that the victim believes the stalker’s threats, or that a “reasonable person” would believe them.

North Carolina General Statute 14-196.3 states that is “illegal to electronically communicate language threatening to damage property or injure another person, or the person’s relative or dependent, with the intent of abusing, harassing, embarrassing, or extorting money or things of value.”

In North Carolina, cyberstalking is a Class 2 misdemeanor. If you are convicted of cyberstalking you may face 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. However, the length of jail time depends upon your prior record:

 

  • No prior conviction: 1-30 days imprisonment;
  • 1-4 prior convictions: 1-45 days imprisonment; and
  • 5 or more prior convictions: 1-60 days imprisonment.

 

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

A cyberstalking conviction 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!

Zoom video conference with attorney.

Could Zoom Be the Future of Jury Trials?

Without a vaccine and no clear end in sight, unfortunately, coronavirus seems here to stay for a while. While many industries have adapted to our new normal, many courts have remained closed. It begs the question as to the future of jury trials as we know them. How can you uphold a defendant’s right to a speedy trial? How can members of the jury sit together? Well, for some courts it seems that the answer is Zoom.

Zoom, a video-conferencing software that became extremely popular during quarantine, was recently used by the state of Texas. However, the case was civil – not criminal – and the verdict won’t be binding. It remains to be seen how Zoom could come into play with criminal trials. 

While it sounds good in theory, using Zoom to conduct a jury trial could end up violating defendants’ constitutional rights, such as the right to confront witnesses. How could this be done on Zoom? Would it be considered the same as if it was conducted in-person?

Zoom Just Isn’t the Same

Many would argue that it is not the same. Since a major factor in criminal trials and verdicts has to do with the credibility of witnesses, it may be more difficult to assess credibility if you are unable to be with that individual in person. Things such as body language and facial expressions are much harder to decipher through a screen. Not to mention that judges often set higher bail for defendants whose hearings are conducted through closed-circuit TV.

Other issues associated with videoconferencing for criminal jury trials include:

  • Non-digitizable physical evidence

Sometimes jurors need to be able to touch and hold evidence and look at it up close with their own eyes.

  • Difficulty with effective assistance of counsel

Defendants have a right to be represented by a competent attorney. Unfortunately, when attorneys cannot be in the same room as their clients, this makes it tough. 

  • Difficulty with Impartiality of Jurors

When a jury is selected, the court will take a variety of precautions to be sure that jurors are not swayed by external factors. For example, in a courtroom jurors remain under a microscope, with phone use and multi-tasking prohibited.  Without eyes on them, jurors are able to look at the news or the Internet, which could influence their decision. 

  • Technical problems

No matter how advanced technology becomes, it’s never perfect. Sometimes we experience technical issues. There is no guarantee that the audio or video won’t cut out at certain critical parts of the trial. 

It’s clear that although convenient, there are many constitutional issues that present with relying upon Zoom or another video-conferencing system. For this reason, it seems unlikely that courts will decide to adopt and conduct video-trials. 

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

A criminal conviction can have a severe and long-lasting impact on your life. From finding a place to live to securing a job position, it can prove difficult with such a conviction on your record. It can also impact your ability to get to and from work and make money. That is why it is in your best interest to consult with a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 

A qualified criminal defense attorney has experience with fighting these types of charges and can help you to navigate the criminal justice system. 

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. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Teenager being arrested at a crime scene.

Could My Child Be Charged as an Adult in NC?

As a parent, you do your very best to make sure that your children stay safe, healthy, and out of trouble. You try to instill the best values within them and guide them on the right path to success. But sometimes, your kids make mistakes anyway.

Hearing that your child has been arrested can be a nightmare, but finding out that it’s for a felony or serious crime can be heartbreaking. Children who commit crimes generally go through the North Carolina juvenile justice system. Unfortunately, that’s not always what happens. 

So What’s the Difference?

The North Carolina juvenile court system uses things such as education, supervision, and community service in an effort to prevent the child from reoffending. This is very different from the state’s adult justice system in that it typically punishes offenders as a means to prevent repeat offenses. 

When Can a Minor be Charged as an Adult?

In North Carolina children between the ages of six and 17 can be charged as a juvenile. While the state used to prosecute minors as young as 16 as adults (dependent upon the case), the 2017 “Raise the Age” law increased that age from 16 to 18. Therefore now all minors are prosecuted in juvenile court to start. However, there are three different ways in which they can still be prosecuted as an adult in North Carolina: 

  • Mandatory Waiver: The jurisdiction must be transferred to adult criminal court if the defendant is alleged to have committed a Class A felony (i.e. first-degree murder).
  • Discretionary Waiver: The jurisdiction may be transferred to adult criminal court considering the minor’s criminal record, specific facts of the case, and if the minor was at least 13 years old when the alleged felony offense was committed. 
  • Previous Transfer: Once a case is transferred to adult criminal court, all subsequent offenses must be tried there as well. 

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

Regardless of whether your child has been charged in juvenile or adult court, a qualified criminal defense attorney will often settle the case out-of-court in an effort to minimize the charges and/or the sentence. 

No matter which court you or your child is charged in, a conviction can have a severe and long-lasting impact on your life. From finding a place to live to securing a job position, it can prove very difficult with certain convictions on your record. 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. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Sign on county highway with stay-at-home order, that says "Stay Home, Stop the Spread"

What Happens if You Violate a NC State or County “Stay-at-Home” Order?

With the spreading of COVID-19, many states, including North Carolina, have issued various orders in an attempt to minimize the transmission of the virus. As of 5:00 on March 30, 2020, all individuals in the state of North Carolina became subject to Executive Order No. 121, also known as a “stay-at-home” order previously issued by Governor Roy Cooper. 

The Order tells individuals who are currently located in North Carolina that they must stay at home, whether their place of residence or current abode and should “only travel for Essential Activities,” including:

  • Activities pertaining to health and safety
  • Outdoor exercise
  • Shopping for necessary supplies (e.g. food)
  • Caring for others
  • Volunteering

If someone fails to abide by the Executive Order, they could be charged with a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Although this criminal charge generally results in a non-jail sentence (with usually just fines and/or probation), those who have a prior criminal history may face 60 days in jail. 

In addition to a state “stay-at-home” order, there can also be more restrictive orders of the same kind that are issued by local counties and governments. Those who violate local “stay-at-home” orders may also be found guilty of a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

Law enforcement can enforce these “stay-at-home” orders by issuing warnings, citations, or even arrests. Most individuals who violate a “stay-at-home” order will likely receive a warning. However, it is important to note that reasonable suspicion of criminal activity gives an officer the legal right to conduct an investigatory stop. In other words, if a police officer believes that an individual is violating a “stay-at-home” order, he or she may stop the individual to issue a warning during which time he or she could find evidence of a more severe crime. 

Joel Hancock at Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Arrested for Violating a “Stay-at-Home” Order

If you have been arrested or ticketed for allegedly violating a “stay-at-home” order, 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. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

Policeman with a K-9 unit dog preparing for a search.

What Is the ‘Exclusionary Rule?’

Can illegally obtained evidence be used against you at trial? The simple answer is “no.” When you are charged with a crime, all evidence presented at trial must have been obtained in a legal manner; any illegally obtained evidence may not be presented. This is called the “exclusionary rule.”

The exclusionary rule was established as a means to protect a defendant’s rights by deterring law enforcement from conducting any illegal searches and seizures of property. In order for the exclusionary rule to apply, your lawyer must demonstrate (provide proof) that the acquisition of the property in question was collected in violation of your constitutional rights. If the court denies the request to suppress evidence that has been illegally obtained, should you be convicted, you may file an appeal. 

Your Fourth Amendment Rights

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution serves to protect you from the unreasonable search and seizure of your personal property. In order for a search to be considered legal, law enforcement must have a warrant permitting them to do so. Evidence collected without first obtaining a warrant to search could be considered a violation of your rights under the constitution. 

The only way in which an officer can conduct a search (and seizure) legally without a warrant is if he or she has probable cause. Probable cause essentially means that there is reasonable evidence to believe that a crime has been or is currently being committed. For instance, if an officer pulls you over for speeding and sees drug paraphernalia in the backseat of your vehicle, and if they find drugs, it may be a legal search and therefore admissible evidence. However, law enforcement must have had an additional reason for believing that a crime had or is being committed; the act of pulling you over for speeding would not create probable cause of drug possession. There must be separate probable cause.

Exceptions to the Exclusionary Rule

It is very important to understand that dependent upon the circumstances of each case, there may have been an exception to the exclusionary rule. Such exceptions include the:

  • Good Faith Exception: If an officer conducted a search that was later found to be invalid it may be admissible.
  • Attenuation Doctrine: If the connection between the evidence and the unconstitutional way it was obtained was remote it may be admissible.
  • Independent Source Doctrine: If evidence was obtained unlawfully but later acquired through a legal search, it may be admissible.
  • Inevitable Discovery Doctrine: If illegally obtained evidence would have been lawfully obtained under different circumstances it may be admissible.

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

If you or a loved one has been charged with a crime, it can have a severe and long-lasting impact on your life. 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 your charge. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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!