What You Need to Know About Misdemeanor Drug Offenses - Part 3
Jan 4, 2018
Being charged with a misdemeanor drug offense can be a scary situation. This podcast episode is here to help.
North Carolina Attorney Bill Powers has been defending misdemeanor drug offenses for 25 years. In this episode, Attorney Powers answers the questions that matter to you when you when you've been charged with a drug offense.
This is before he's even been admitted into the university. In fact, one school has said that they will not forward your application onto the dean's office until this student, whatever student affairs, student council reviews it. I'm probably using the nomenclature wrong, but the point of the matter is, we used to worry as criminal practitioners about explaining a bad choice to a school due to a conviction or something.
Now, we very much have to front in or front load what we're doing and how we're going to address this issue and are we going to be proactive with the schools as kids are applying for them and attending them. First, there's college. Second are jobs. I don't want to disparage any particular type of job, but I have had cases where clients have called up and said, "I got something when I was 18. I was 19 and had a weed case. I just paid it off."
It's not really a ... they're not working for department defense type of deal. They want to be a manager at a restaurant or a clothing store, and the company says, "Sorry. You have a criminal conviction." I'm like, "Are you kidding me?" I was 18 years old. I was 16 years old. There are consequences now with work. It doesn't always have to be, you're driving a truck, or you got a school bus full of kids, or flying a 747. It could be working at just a normal company.
We're seeing much, much more of this. It's become exacerbated by the fact. You and I were joking earlier about this new thing called computers, but it's been exacerbated by the ubiquity of information in your hand as we sit here with our intelligent devices. There's more information available in the palm of my than there has been in the history of the entire world that I can access instantaneously. These records are public records.
It's very easy for employers to look and see what your involvement has been with the court system. I will tell you another thing. These kids, it drive me crazy, they don't realize this, social media. I've had murder cases before where involved substances alcohol, drugs, whatever, and they pulled the social media accounts. The things people are posting voluntarily about themselves partying, and smoking weed, and joking about what they're doing, popping bars and things like that to use some of terms.
It truly is the iceberg below the waterline. First of all, it's unseen. It's unknown in scope. It's unpredictable where it's going to particularly hit you, and while you may not think, "It's no big deal." It could have a Titanic effect on you, and I use that term intentionally, because it can sink your ship for a really ... life, very quickly and for a long time. You're not going to resurrect yourself in some instances. I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer here.
We in the hierarchy of cases, I have mentioned a simple little weed all the way up to a second degree murder type of case and the courts recognize that, but it is frustrating to me to see the 16, 18, 20 year old kid coming in here going, "It's no big deal. It's legal in California." I'm like, "Hold on, Sparky. It can be a big deal. Let's be careful about how we proceed."
Robert Ingalls: All right. Someone has picked up that charge and they're sitting in your office. What are we doing next?
Bill Powers: First thing I would say in response to that question is, you may not be sitting in my office. In the last few years with the availability of technology, and we really want to make it easy on clients to consult with us, to work with us is we do a lot of stuff by video by secure remote video conferencing which means you can do it on your iPhone. You can do it on Android. You can do it on computer. We can have multiple people, which is really great in drug offenses, especially more minor ones with kids where maybe mom and dad may be together, maybe they're not together.
Maybe dad lives in Washington state and mom lives in Virginia and you're in school in North Carolina. We can do multi party conversations seamlessly remotely on schedules that are easy for everyone. So, the first thing is, you may not be sitting in my office. You may be sitting in jail where I go come see you. The second thing we do is I start asking a lot of questions. Okay? I analyze things in a very linear methodology. I use an analogy of tweetsie railroad. If you're from North Carolina, you know what tweetsie railroad is, but you have an old-fashioned steam engine.
You have a coal car. You have a series of box cars and then you have a caboose or a passenger car as the case may be, and the first thing I analyze is the locomotive is, "What is powering the case?" What kind of case do we have? What am I looking at? Is it a misdemeanor? Is it a felony? Is it multiple misdemeanors or multiple jurisdictions? What's going on? What was the basis of the stop? What was the basis of the encounter with the police officer? What was the probable cause for the arrest?
Then, the coal car I analyze. You can't have a locomotive without something to fuel the locomotive. We're looking at what are the consequences of this offense long term to you? What are options? Then, we look at car, after car, after car, and then caboose is the end and release. I analyze on the front end why did you come to be charged with this offense? By the way, if you receive a citation or are arrested, you're charged. If you get a criminal summons you're still charged. It's a misdemeanor.
The second thing we look at is ... How is there a way or is there a way to avoid a conviction? I often times, I speak in metaphors and similes or whatever, but it's easier for me to explain things to people and I think they understand it more and frankly that's 90 percent of my job is explaining a sometimes complex and crazy legal system to normally sane logical people and make them understand that just because how it works in the real world doesn't mean that it works that way in court, and just because something is not necessarily fair in a big picture, we're dealing with court.