Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “If I have an outstanding warrant, what should I do?”
What started as an ordinary traffic stop turned into a felony charge for one North Carolina man. Keith Sellars was driving home from dinner when he was pulled over by a cop for running a red light. While the cop was running Sellars’s license and conducting a background check, it became evident that there was a warrant out for Sellars’s arrest, according to the New York Times.
Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can I be arrested without evidence against me?”
When most people think about their last interaction with a police officer it almost always involves a traffic stop. A person was speeding or not wearing a seat belt or ran a red light or was talking on a cellphone and a cop does what cops do and pulls the person over. This traffic stop can serve as a window to other, potentially more serious things. For instance, the cop could use the traffic infraction as an excuse to investigate other, potentially unrelated, crimes. In some especially tragic instances, the traffic stop can prove deadly, with officers engaging in violence.
Charlotte DWI Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “Can I represent myself on a traffic ticket?”
It’s something that’s become increasingly common in recent years, signs warning that drivers are under remote surveillance and can be fined for a variety of bad behaviors, including speeding or running red lights. If and when such a fine occurs, most people open their mail and send in a check, quickly dispensing with the issue and avoiding needless hassle. Thankfully, one law professor in Maryland decided to take a different approach and fought his traffic violation. His story, published on Quartz, is an interesting one and raises some serious concerns about the legal validity of the traffic camera system that so many jurisdictions have so warmly embraced.
Charlotte DWI and Criminal Defense Attorney J. Bradley Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Can the police search my car without a warrant?”
At around 2:00 p.m. on the afternoon of February 21, Natali Castellanos-Tyler, a 30-year-old married mother of two small children, was driving home from a birthday party in her 2002 Ford Explorer. Castellanos-Tyler’s three-year-old daughter, Elisa, was riding in a back passenger seat.
Charlotte DWI and Criminal Defense Attorney J. Bradley Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “What am I obligated to do if I’ve been pulled for Drinking and Driving?”
The United States Supreme Court is comprised of nine judges whose legal educations began at either Harvard or Yale. With the exception of Ruth Bader Ginsburg—who transferred to Columbia University School of Law—all nine obtained their law degrees from Harvard or Yale.
The (alleged) hoity-toity backgrounds of the justices—underscored in a January 22, 2015 Washington Post piece—came into laser focus in oral arguments in Rodriguez v. United States, according to Bloomberg News.
The issue in Rodriguez was whether police can use a dog to sniff for drugs around a vehicle during a routine traffic stop. Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, who observed the arguments, suggested the “browbeating… conservatives” and “assist[ing]… liberals” on the court, through their questioning of lawyers for Rodriguez and the United States, revealed their ideological divides.
Those divides—and who the justices are—both Bloomberg and the Post suggested, are important issues that sometimes define and nearly always, at least, inform their decisions.
With respect to traffic stops, at least a few of the justices—unlike many high-profile political leaders who use professional drivers and have not driven a car in decades—actually have experience with roadway traffic. In 2011, Justice Antonin Scalia was cited after rear-ending a vehicle on George Washington Memorial Parkway. Justice Stephen Breyer was hit by a car while biking in 1993, proving he has at least had contact with an automobile.
J. Bradley Smith of Arnold & Smith, PLLC answers the question “Can I represent myself on a traffic ticket?”
A 38-year-old Gaston County woman has been charged with reckless driving after a school bus crash that injured 23 middle school students, despite the fact that a North Carolina State Trooper said the crash was not caused by “something she was doing.”
The driver—Annette Phillips—was charged Thursday after the school bus she was driving flipped on its side on a curvy stretch of Chapel Grove Road in rural southwestern Gaston County. Phillips was transporting students home from Southwest Middle School in Gastonia. According to WCCB, Phillips own son was riding on the bus at the time of the accident.
Trooper John Burgin told WBTV that an overhead storage compartment door fell open, causing a distraction and blocking Phillips’ line of site. When Phillips tried to clear her line of site, she ran the bus off the right side of the road, then overcorrected to the left, tipping the bus on its side.
Troopers say the bus was traveling anywhere from 30 to 40 miles per hour before the crash. The posted speed limit in the area is 45 miles-per-hour, but the stretch of Chapel Grove Road where the crash occurred bends sharply over a creek and up a steep hill. Warning signs advise drivers not to exceed 25 miles-per-hour around the curves, but troopers conceded those warnings are only suggestions.
Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “I was found not guilty of a charge, but my record still shows the charge.”
North Carolina State Highway Patrol officers have charged a woman after her car ended up in a ditch in Onslow County earlier this week. In that case, 23-year-old Brittany Veitch was charged with reckless and careless driving after her vehicle slid off the road and wound up in a creek.
Law enforcement officials say that the woman was arguing with a passenger before the accident happened. As a result of distraction, Veitch then drifted out of her lane and eventually ended up in the ditch. At the time of the accident, Veitch was transporting her 9-month-old son. Thankfully, reports indicate the boy was safely strapped in his car seat and was unharmed as a result of the accident.
Some people might be surprised that charges were filed despite the relatively minor consequences of the accident. The reality is that in North Carolina the law allows police officers the latitude to bring charges against those drivers who were distracted, careless or reckless while operating their vehicle. The law exists to punish those whose inattention could lead to possibly devastating injuries to themselves or others.
Beyond obvious examples of distracted driving like texting or talking on the phone, the reality is that even heated arguments with passengers can create the kind of danger that leads to accidents. As this case illustrates, doing anything that pulls your attention away from the road can be enough to lead to a momentary mistake. Eating, fiddling with the radio, yelling at kids in the back seat or looking for directions, are all low-tech examples of distracting activities that can not only cause harm but also serve as the basis for a motor vehicle offense.
Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “Can the police search my car without a warrant?”
Adolescence can be a tough time for parents and children alike. Arguments, defiance and a lack of communication are common hallmarks of that period. While some minor rebellion is typical, stealing a car and then crashing into a school bus is not. However, that’s exactly what a young girl from Charlotte did and she is now facing possible criminal charges after engaging in her joy ride.
According to a spokesman with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, the incident began on a weeknight late last month in west Charlotte. Authorities say that a 12-year-old living near Mathis Drive and Parkway Avenue told her mother that she wanted to drive her car. Understandably, the mother told the girl no, believing the matter had been resolved.
However, a short time later she realized that her daughter had gone missing and looked out the window to see that her car was gone too. A short time later a neighbor watched as the girl collided with a school bus, hit a second vehicle and then fled the scene. Police eventually tracked down the girl’s silver car to a nearby parking lot.
Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “Should I talk to the police?”
Good news for those living in Sylva, North Carolina came early this week when it was announced that residents no longer need to fear discriminatory practices used by the local sheriff’s office. According to a recent statement from the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, the county will implement changes in the way the department conducts vehicle checkpoints.
The changes come a year after the ACLU launched an investigation into the actions of the department following complaints that the supposed seat belt checkpoints were actually being used to target Latinos. The ACLU said that they received information that at one checkpoint alone, 15 undocumented immigrants were detained and ultimately taken into custody. Thankfully charges against 10 of those arrested were eventually dropped.
According to the civil rights organization, there were complaints by many that the traffic checkpoints were being used as an excuse to check the immigration status of drivers. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office routinely conducted these checkpoints with the assistance of officers in the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office. The sheriff’s office initially denied the accusations, saying that they existed only to check for seat belt usage. The ACLU pointed out that federal immigration authorities are not needed to conduct a simple seat belt check.
Additionally, the ACLU noted that courts have been clear that there are only limited valid justifications for conducting a traffic checkpoint. For one thing, checkpoints have been found to be illegal when they are conducted for the purpose of general crime control. This is because such a broad purpose violates the Fourth Amendment’s requirement that a police officer must have a specific suspicion of wrongdoing before stopping a vehicle.