Katy Strait Chavez, Attorney-at-Law

Criminal Law Attorney

I handle criminal charges in Wake County, NC.  

The most common question I am asked is :What will my punishment be?  People are often frustrated, but the answer is:  It depends.  It depends mostly on a clients prior convictions. The prior history is, in fact, more important than the nature of the crime, if the crime is a misdemeanor.  Of course it depends also on the crime charged.  With those two pieces of information one can determine the sentencing level, which says the range that a judge can sentence to.  As an example, a person with five or more criminal conviction (a "Level III") found guilty of a misdemeanor such as assault will probably be sent to jail, possibly for four months. However a person with a clean record ("Level I"), should not be sent to jail at all, and will probably just receive a fine.  A person with a clean record should not be sent to jail for most misdemeanors under the recommended guidelines.  Only class A1 misdemeanors, such as Stalking, Assault on a female or a child or with a deadly weapon, or violation of a protective order, should result in jail time for a person with a prior clean record.  On the other hand, even the "smallest" charge can result in jail time for a person with a long record. 

Assault on a Female
mestic Violence cases follow strict rules, and the prosecutor does not have much discretion to dismiss these types of charges EVEN THOUGH the victim might want the charges dropped.  The reason for this is because many women will decide that they don't want to press charges even though they are in an unhealthy relationship.  However many times the State will offer a deferral program which will give the Defendant an opportunity to earn a dismissal of the charges, usually by attending anger management classes, or alcohol treatment, or family counseling.  These types of programs can be a win-win solution for everyone.  The family improves its dynamic, and the charges get dismissed.  However an important caveat is that this is *not* a recommended option if you are not a US Citizen because charges are treated differently by Immigration than by the courts.

Simple Assault or Communicating a Threat
These types of charges generally are an indication of some kind of problem between the parties.  As a result Wake County gives the parties an opportunity to work out their issues in Mediation.  In Mediation volunteer counselors help parties discover the issues they have, and work together toward a solution.  For example, maybe parties will agree to limits being placed on contact,. or to enroll in classes, or to counseling.  The solutions possible are only limited by the imagination of the parties.  If a successful Mediation contract is created, than the formal charges can be dismissed.

These types of charges are generally treated with some leeway the first time, and then each subsequent offense is punished more harshly.  The first offense can be dismissed after doing community service through the First Offender's program.  Otherwise, a fine is usually sufficient.  But a second offense will probably warrant probation, and after that one can expect to be sent to jail.  But we can also fight the charge and ask that the state produce witnesses to prove its case.

Drug Charges
There is a special program for Defendants charged with drug possession for the first time.  In general one can earn dismissal of the charge by completing classes and community service.  The amount of time needed in each depends on the type of drug charged. Possession of cocaine or heroin in any amount is a felony in North Carolina, and requires a substantial commitment to complete the program.  Possession of paraphernalia or marijuana are only misdemeanors.  As with larcenies, the punishment increases dramatically with each subsequent offense.  Also there may be possible defenses to drug charges depending on the State's ability to prove control and possession, or that the search or stop was permissible.

Resisting or Delaying an Officer
This is a charge that can result when somebody tries to run away from the police, or give a false name, or argues with an officer, or otherwise makes an investigation difficult.  It is possible to receive this charge even if the Defendant was not committing any other crime.  To be clear- it is a crime to run from the police, even if you were not doing anything wrong.  It is important to understand that you can be charged any time you do not cooperate with a police officer.  The only exceptions are that you can refuse to answer question (but you cannot lie) if you are being detained by the officer, and you do not have to allow the officer to search your person or property if he does not have a warrant.

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