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about Criminal Defense in North Carolina and South Carolina

 

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Business of Marijuana

There was an article in the Charlotte Observer today about the legalization of marijuana. According to the article, the business of selling marijuana has turned into a corporate business, with successful trade show circuits, internet marketing, coupon incentives and health centers opening in states where marijuana has been legalized for medicinal purposes.

As a former Deputy District Attorney from California and now a criminal defense attorney practicing in the Charlotte area, I have seen thousands of cases in the criminal system involving marijuana. California is one of fourteen states that legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. North Carolina has not.

While the intent of this law is to help those in pain, it creates more of a bottleneck in the court system. I saw criminal defense attorneys coming to court with highly questionable 'prescriptions' from 'health centers' in the local area. I saw many defendants charged with possession of marijuana arrive at court, unrepresented by a criminal attorney, with a certificate from a 'medical professional' who told them that this piece of paper allowed them to smoke marijuana. The District Attorney's Office had a policy that required medical documentation from a licensed medical professional before these cases were dismissed. I saw many individuals receive incorrect legal advice from people in the community trying to make a business out of marijuana. It raises the question whether the legalization of marijuana creates unintended abuse.

If you are charged with any drug offense in Mecklenburg or the greater Charlotte area, always seek legal advice from a criminal defense attorney.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Burglary, Theft, Assault and Battery- The Week in the News

  1. A man was arrested in Maryland for burglary when he was found dangling from the air conditioning ducts in a convenience store. According to the Associated Press, the man said he was playing hide and seek on the store's roof with some friends when he decided to hide in the ventilation system. Taking hide and seek extremely seriously, he removed the building's ventilation cover, crawled through the duct system and set off the fire extinguisher causing powder to be sprayed throughout the store. I wrote an earlier post on a person's constitutional right to remain silent and not speaking to police officers after arrest. He needs to watch the video, 10 Rules for Dealing with the Police, recommended in the post.  
  2. Alcohol and beer is in the news again- A Columbia distributor left 1700 cases of expired Michelob Ultra and Budweiser beer at a landfill. According the the article, solid waste employees were caught on video allegedly hauling off 50 cases of the beer. Although it is not clear yet if the two employees will be prosecuted for theft, one has already quit and the other faces disciplinary action. I assume the landfill management company doesn't feel that one man's trash is another man's treasure. 
  3. A restaurant on wheels is being forced to stay stationary for awhile. The restaurant, called The Lunch Box, is actually a shipping container placed on the back of a flat bed truck. The truck drops the container at certain locations for a few hours to sell gourmet sandwiches and salads. Laws for food vendors in Charlotte currently do not allow for shipping containers to serve as a restaurant. Here is the link to the broadcast from WCNC
  4. While Mecklenburg County struggles to keep their library system afloat, George Washington owes a New York library money. According to the New York Daily News, the President that could not tell a lie checked out "The Law of Nations" and "Common Debates" over two centuries ago. According to ledgers found in the New York Society Library, Washington checked out the two books on October 5, 1789 and pledged to return them by November 2, 1789. They have never been returned. Who knew the lack of accountability of elected officials started with the first president? 
  5. A Rock Hill man faces charges of assault and battery. According to the Charlotte Observer, Tony Smith was relaxing at the Executive Inn in Rock Hill when he decided to take his snake for an evening stroll; "I felt like taking my snake for a walk. I put my snake around my neck and as I was passing, I must have startled him and apparently he don't like snakes and called the law on me." The alleged victim, Jeffrey Culp, told police the snake hit him on the side of the mouth. Mr. Culp has no visible injuries. Although this case is getting national attention, click here for the WCNC report, snake and all. 

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    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    DWI At the Workplace- The Carlsberg Beer Dilemma

    Do you think your job has perks? If you work in retail, you get a discount. If you work in a restaurant, you don't have to worry about where your next meal comes from. An airline employee gets to fly for pennies. If you work for Carlsberg Beer in Denmark, you get to throw back a few in the factory.

    Carlsberg workers and their union are fighting back against the company's decision to limit workers to three pint size plastic cups of beer during lunch. According to the Wall Street Journal article, an employee was quoted as saying "We need to keep our beer. I need a beer when I take a cigarette break." Employees are firm that people are not drunk while working on the factory line- "There is sometimes some whistling and singing, but that is not connected to the drinking."

    A Carlsberg forklift operator believes it doesn't affect job performance:
    "If you drink three beers at lunch, that will affect your job performance. It is better to space out your beers, one for each of the three breaks."
    Drink Responsibly- Don't Drink and Drive. Work Responsibly- Don't Drink on the Beer Line. By the way, Carlsberg's 600 beer trucks are equipped with ignition interlock devices to detect the drivers alcohol concentration. If the device detects excessive alcohol, the truck won't start.

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    A Week In Review

    1. Under the campaign called Operation Slow Down/No Need 2 Speed campaign, state law enforcement cited 15,789 motorists for vehicle code violations from March 29 to April 4. A total of 61,766 traffic and criminal citations were issued. You can read the Charlotte Observer article for a complete breakdown of the citations. Court costs in Mecklenburg County are $130. This does not include the additional fine associated with the violation. Assuming only half of those people cited for only vehicle code violations, not any of the other offenses, pled guilty, the state would receive $1,026,285 in revenue from court fines for a one week period.

    2.  The Time Warner Arena is only 5 years old, but the roof that was supposed to last 15 years is leaking and going to cost $500,000 in labor to fix. According to WCNC, even though the roof is still under warranty, the cost of labor is not covered so taxpayers are forced to pay the money from an arena repair fund. If the repair fund runs out, there is always Operation Slow Down revenue to help pitch in.

    3. According to Associated Press, a person was detained at the California Mexico border after he attempted to cross the border with several lawnmowers in the back of his pick up truck. The lawnmowers were filled with 53 pounds of grass, but not the type of grass from cutting your lawn. The unnamed individual has been booked into a San Diego jail under drug trafficking charges.

    4. A Massachusetts man was sentenced to two days in jail for a DWI. However, he will be returning to court shortly after his release after two days to face a new DWI charge. According to the article, he allegedly arrive at the jail intoxicated and let police officers know that he drove himself to the jail.  He was subsequently booked for a second DUI charge.

    5. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens did announce his retirement this week. I wrote about this impending announcement last week. Let the political showdown begin on CSPAN.

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    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Do I Need An Attorney for a Domestic Violence Case?

    A criminal defense lawyer handles many cases that involve acts of violence. From a misdemeanor simple affray violation to a very serious assault with great bodily injury charge or even attempted murder charge. Crimes are designated domestic violence when they take place within a family setting or between people who have a romantic relationship. If you are accused of domestic violence, your case will take a different path than most cases.

    Your case will take a different path because the law distinguishes between violence between two parties and violence that occurs between a family member or a person you are having a relationship with. NCGS 50-B1 specifically defines relationships that are considered domestic. Common domestic violence charges in North Carolina are assault on a female, assault by strangulation, stalking, communicating threats, interfering with emergency communication, and even vandalism and assault on a child under 12.

    As a former District Attorney from California, I know how serious these cases are taken. Our office had an entire unit, Family Protection, designated to handle these cases. A good friend of mine is assigned to the unit and her office is in the police department so she can work hand in hand with the police through the entire investigation and criminal case.

    Even if you are accused of a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Mecklenburg County, not even a felony, you are going to get assigned a special courtroom, assigned a district attorney that spends more time focusing and preparing your case than a general assault case, a victim advocate that is available to provide counseling to an alleged victim in the case and a judge that is working with a much smaller docket than most. Basically, your case is put under a microscope. If you are found guilty of an offense that was designated as a domestic violence case, you can be sentenced to jail, ordered to attend a batterers treatment program called NOVA in Mecklenburg County, court fines and possibly a court order that can prevent you from going to your residence or having any contact with witnesses in the case. This stay away order can even include an order preventing contact with your children.

    I often get phone calls asking me "I'm being accused of assault on a female. My girlfriend and I got into a fight and next thing I know I am being arrested for domestic violence. Do I need to hire an attorney? Any time you are facing a criminal charge, you need to speak to an attorney. If you are accused of domestic violence, you need to speak to an attorney. The laws have become so severe and the consequences so high, you need to have your interests protected. We no longer live in a society where the alleged victim decides to "press charges." The police will arrest you and the State can charge you for these offenses regardless of what the other person wants. These are highly emotional cases; so emotional that in Mecklenburg County the Domestic Violence courtrooms have men and women sit on separate sides of the room. You need to have a criminal attorney protecting your interests.

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    Tuesday, April 6, 2010

    Supreme Court Justice Stevens To Retire?

    The Charlotte Observer published an article over the weekend about Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Many expect the Justice who is turning 90 to announce his retirement shortly. Justice Stevens has widely been known for his liberal viewpoints including his opinion that the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment. He recently wrote the majority opinion in Arizona v. Gant, an opinion that restricted police officers ability to search a persons car. This case affects the every day practice of a criminal defense lawyer. However, many opinions he authored or joined arguably supported a more conservative viewpoint, such as his opinion that burning the American flag is not protected speech under the First Amendment.

    Supreme Court Justices rarely give interviews, speak to the press, or comment about cases beyond what is written in their opinions. President's Obama's State of the Union address was a rare moment where President Obama and Justice Alito publicly disagreed about a legal issue. I was given a wonderful opportunity while in law school to take a comparative constitutional law class taught by Justice Antonin Scalia. Agree or disagree with his views or opinions, everyone was impressed by the coherent nature and delivery of his legal arguments. All lawyers strive to make sound legal and factual arguments- the more difficult your case is, the more difficult it is to persuade a jury or a judge to make the decision favorable to your client. That, however, is what separates many attorneys from others. You must know the law and you must know the audience you are speaking to. You must know your case, your client and your ultimate goal.

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    Thursday, April 1, 2010

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