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NC defense lawyerWhile all criminal charges should be taken seriously, there are some types of offenses that are likely to result in severe penalties, including a long prison sentence, life in prison, or even the death penalty. Because violent crimes involve significant harm to an alleged victim and their loved ones, they are taken especially seriously by law enforcement. Murder and manslaughter can lead to particularly serious penalties, and those who have been accused of these crimes will want to understand the nature of the charges and their options for defense.

Murder and Manslaughter Charges Under North Carolina Law

An offense is generally considered to be murder if a person has wrongfully caused the death of someone else. The specific offense a person may be charged with will depend on the circumstances of the case. The laws in North Carolina define murder-related offenses as follows:

  • First-degree murder - A person may be charged with this crime if they allegedly killed someone in a manner that was deliberate, willful, and premeditated. This charge will also apply if a person allegedly committed murder through poisoning, starvation, imprisonment, or torture or if murder was committed alongside another violent crime or attempted violent crime, including sexual assault, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, or another felony involving the use of a deadly weapon. First-degree murder is a Class A felony, and the maximum sentence for this offense is the death penalty or life in prison without parole.
  • Second-degree murder - A person may be charged with this offense if they allegedly killed someone in a manner that was not deliberate or premeditated. If a case does not meet the standards for first-degree murder, a person may be charged with a Class B1 felony, which has a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole. If a person allegedly killed someone by committing an inherently dangerous act, or if they acted recklessly in a way that showed a disregard for human life, they may be charged with a Class B2 felony, which has a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison.
  • Voluntary manslaughter - This offense involves intentionally killing someone else due to circumstances that would cause emotional distress to a reasonable person. A person may be charged with this crime if they allegedly killed a person while they were in the “heat of passion.” This is a Class D felony with a maximum prison sentence of 17 years.
  • Involuntary manslaughter - This crime involves unintentionally killing someone else due to reckless or negligent conduct. A person may be charged with this offense if they accidentally killed someone while they allegedly were committing a non-violent crime or if they caused someone’s death while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This offense is a Class F felony, which carries a maximum sentence of four years and 11 months in prison.

Contact Our Smithfield Violent Crime Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with murder or a related offense, you will need to take the correct steps to mount an effective defense and determine how you can avoid being convicted. At Vasquez Law Firm, PLLC, we will help you determine the best defense strategy, and we will fight to protect your rights from the beginning to the end of your case. Contact our Johnston County criminal defense attorneys at 919-533-7000 to set up a free consultation today. Hablamos español.


NC defense lawyerNorth Carolina criminal law categorizes a variety of actions as assaults, some of which are misdemeanors and some of which are serious felony offenses. Any assault charge is something you should take seriously, but it can be difficult to understand exactly what is at stake on your own. With the help of an attorney, you can better understand the charges you are facing and defend against them.

Misdemeanor Assault Charges

The basic assault charge in North Carolina is known as “simple assault,” and it is charged as a Class 2 misdemeanor. You could face simple assault charges if you intentionally physically injure another person, if you attempt or threaten to do so, or if you are involved in an “affray,” which is a public physical altercation. A conviction for simple assault can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 30 days of jail time or community punishment for a first offense. An assault on a sports official, such as a referee or umpire, can be charged as a more serious Class 1 misdemeanor, with a sentence of up to 45 days and fines at the court’s discretion.

A variety of aggravating factors can increase an assault charge to a Class A1 misdemeanor, the most serious level of misdemeanor offense in North Carolina. You may face an aggravated assault charge if you have been accused of one of the following:


NC defense attorneyIf you are charged with driving while impaired (DWI) in North Carolina, it is reasonable to be concerned about the penalties you may face. Any DWI conviction can come with serious consequences, but because of the complexities of the state’s DWI sentencing laws, it can be very difficult to tell just how serious they may be. Learning about North Carolina’s different levels of DWI can help you approach your defense with more confidence.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors in North Carolina DWI Cases

North Carolina has five different levels of punishment for DWI offenders. To determine the appropriate level for the case at hand, the court will consider three different categories of factors:

  • Grossly aggravating factors are the most serious, and they include things like prior DWI convictions within seven years, driving with a revoked license due to impaired driving, causing serious injury, or having a passenger under the age of 18.
  • Aggravating factors include having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least 0.15, causing an accident, driving recklessly, driving with a revoked license due to other traffic offenses, or having prior convictions for other traffic offenses.
  • Mitigating factors can result in lower punishment levels, and they include things like having a BAC of 0.09 or below, driving safely at the time of impairment, having a safe driving record, being impaired by a prescribed drug, and complying with mental health or substance abuse assessment and treatment.

The Five DWI Levels

Based on the court’s assessment of these factors, they will assign one of five punishment levels, as follows:


Smithfield, NC criminal defense attorney marijuana possession

Although the majority of U.S. states have legalized cannabis consumption in some form, both the medical and recreational use of marijuana is prohibited in North Carolina. Possessing, cultivating, and distributing marijuana is punishable by heavy penalties -- including jail time in some cases. If you or a loved one have been charged with a marijuana-related crime in North Carolina. It is important to know what you are up against. Do not assume that because public opinion regarding marijuana has shifted that you do not need to take these charges seriously.

Consequences for Possession of Cannabis Vary by Quantity

It is unlawful to possess any amount of marijuana or marijuana-containing product in North Carolina. If you possess less than half of an ounce of cannabis, you face a misdemeanor charge that is punishable by a maximum fine of $200. However, possession of greater than half of an ounce of marijuana can land you in jail. Penalties for possession of 0.5 ounce – 1.5 ounce of marijuana include up to 45 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Possession of 1.5 ounces – 10 pounds is a felony offense punishable by 3-8 months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.


Wake County criminal defense attorney

Being accused of a crime can be a shocking and overwhelming experience to go through. Whether you were charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI), possessing illicit drugs, theft, a weapons crime, or another offense, you have rights. Knowing your rights is a crucial component of avoiding self-incrimination and building a strong defense against the charges. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can help you understand your legal options after being arrested and charged with a crime. Your lawyer can also ensure that your rights are not violated during the proceedings.

Remain Silent to Avoid Incriminating Yourself

Anyone who has watched a police television show has heard the recitation of the Miranda Rights. Among the rights listed in the Miranda Warning is the right to remain silent. Many people underestimate how crucial this right actually is. By staying silent, you avoid accidentally saying something that may be used against you during and in future criminal proceedings. Police are permitted to use various strategies to get criminal defendants to talk – including lying. Do not allow police to interrogate you without an attorney present. Remain silent and ask for your lawyer.

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