Common Criminal Defense Questions
Being charged with a crime can be overwhelming, and many people inadvertently make mistakes that harm their case because they don’t know what to do in this situation.
At Frasier & Griffin, PLLC, in Durham and Raleigh, we protect the rights of people in North Carolina who are charged with state or federal crimes. Clients count on our experience, knowledge and resources. We offer a free consultation, so contact us today and get started on your defense.
What should I do if I have been charged with a crime?
If the police arrest you, it is important to act calmly and rationally, despite the fact that you may feel anything but calm. You do not want to confront the officer or any other law enforcement personnel you have contact with.
One of the most important things you can do if you are arrested and charged with a crime is to exercise your right to remain silent. Do not try to talk yourself out of the situation or share information with anyone else.
You can – and should – also request a lawyer right away. Do not answer questions until you have spoken to a lawyer. This ensures that you do not give out information to the police that could harm your case. Take your lawyer’s advice seriously at all times and follow their instructions.
Can a police officer search my vehicle or home without my permission?
It depends on the situation. In general, the police must have a warrant to search your home or car. If you give them consent to search, then they would not require a warrant. There is also the plain view exception, which allows police to legally search an area if there is evidence of a crime in plain view. They cannot come into your house illegally, however, and seize evidence and arrest you for it.
Police may also search a vehicle without needing a warrant if there is probable cause to believe that there is another crime in progress in addition to the traffic violation that prompted the traffic stop.
If law enforcement searches your home or car illegally and collects any evidence, an attorney will challenge that evidence and seek a reduction or a dismissal of the charges.
What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?
A misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, even though both have penalties that may include incarceration and fines. In North Carolina, a misdemeanor offense may include crimes such as a first-time DWI with no injuries, petty theft, trespassing, low-level drug crimes, disorderly conduct, restraining order violations and simple assault. Felonies are very serious crimes and include murder, sexual assault, robbery and burglary, arson, kidnapping and high-level drug offenses.
Typically, in the most serious cases, a misdemeanor will have a jail sentence of up to one year. A felony, however, can come with a prison sentence of over a year and up to life. In addition, the death penalty is legal in North Carolina. Although it is rarely used, in some cases it may be a possibility.
Another difference between misdemeanors and felonies is that you may lose more rights after a felony conviction, including the right to own firearms. Felons also lose their right to vote but can have that restored in many cases.
When may a crime be charged as a federal offense in North Carolina?
A federal offense can result from any crime that takes place on federal government property in North Carolina. It also includes mail and wire fraud as well as other crimes that cross state lines. Some commonly filed federal charges are:
- Drug trafficking
- Tax evasion
- Money laundering
- Fraud, including health care fraud
- Bank robbery
- Violent crimes such as first- and second-degree murder
The penalties for federal crimes are very harsh and often have mandatory minimum sentences that can greatly increase the time a person spends in prison if they are convicted. If you are charged with a federal crime, you need to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.