Wilmington Violent Crimes Lawyer

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Being convicted of a violent crime can have a lasting impact on your life. You could have trouble finding meaningful employment, lose relationships, and have a permanent criminal record for the rest of your life. Because the consequences and penalties for a violent crime conviction can be so severe in Wilmington, NC, it is important to seek the assistance of a Wilmington violent crimes lawyer who can protect your rights.

At W. James Payne Law Firm, our talented criminal attorney has the knowledge and skill needed to defend anyone accused of a violent crime. We make it our mission to fight for our clients’ innocence and ensure their rights are fully protected. You can count on us to be professional, communicative, and completely transparent when it comes to your case.

What Is a Violent Crime?

A violent crime is a serious criminal offense that involves using force or violence or threatening the use of force or violence against another person. Oftentimes, these crimes can result in the victim being seriously physically harmed or injured. They can range anywhere from considerably minor offenses, such as simple assault, to more severe crimes, such as homicide.

Common Types of Violent Crimes

Various types of violent crimes can happen in Wilmington, NC. Some may be more severe than others, but they can all have severe consequences for the person who stands accused of the crime.


Homicide is the general term used to describe all criminal acts of killing another person, whether accidental or intentional. This category of violent crime encompasses a few degrees of unlawful killings, such as first and second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter, and voluntary manslaughter. Each one has different legal repercussions.

  • First-Degree Murder – Also known as premeditated murder, first-degree murder is the unlawful and intentional killing of another person. It is the most serious form of homicide charge you can face. In North Carolina, not every killing has to be premeditated to be charged as a first-degree murder. Anyone who kills someone while committing a felony can still be charged with first-degree murder, even if the killing was an accident. This crime is a Class A felony.
  • Second-Degree Murder – Second-degree murder, unlike first-degree, is not premeditated. However, it is still the unlawful and intentional act of killing another person. This crime is charged as a Class B1 or B2 felony. Second-degree murder is a Class B2 felony if there is malice based on reckless behavior or omission or if the murder is the result of unlawful drug distribution.
  • Voluntary Manslaughter – Voluntary manslaughter can also be referred to as a “heat of passion” crime. It does not involve premeditation or malice. Instead, it is the intentional killing of another person while under great emotional distress or with an imperfect right to self-defense. Voluntary manslaughter is a Class D felony.
  • Involuntary Manslaughter – Generally, a person commits involuntary manslaughter when they unintentionally kill another person due to recklessness or negligence. This qualifies as a Class F felony. However, the crime cannot be committed in the process of committing another felony.


Kidnapping is the unlawful confinement, restraint, or removal from one place to another of a person under the age of 16 without the consent of their parent or legal guardian or of a person 16 years or older without their consent. The confinement, restraint, or removal can be for the purpose of any of the following:

  • Holding a person hostage or for ransom
  • Holding a person for the purpose of involuntary servitude
  • Subjecting a person to sexual servitude
  • Trafficking a person to be held in involuntary or sexual servitude

There are two degrees of kidnapping that can be classified as two different felony types and, in turn, punished differently.

  • First Degree – You may be charged with first-degree kidnapping if the kidnapped individual was either not released in a safe place, sustained serious bodily injury, or was sexually assaulted. This is a Class C felony.
  • Second Degree – A second-degree kidnapping charge results when the kidnapped person is released in a safe place and has not been seriously harmed or sexually assaulted. This is a Class E felony.

Possible defenses for this crime include consent, duress, or mistake.


Robbery is the taking of another person’s property using violence or the threat of bodily harm. This crime, although similar to theft, is considered more serious than theft because it happens while the victim is present. There are two common forms of robbery that tend to be prosecuted differently: robbery at common law and armed robbery.

  • Robbery at Common Law – Taking someone else’s property from them or while they are present by using intimidation, threat of force, or violence. This form of robbery is classified as a Class G felony.
  • Armed Robbery – A person who commits or attempts to commit robbery using a firearm or another kind of dangerous weapon, thereby endangering or threatening another person’s life, is committing a Class D felony.

Possible defenses for this crime include duress, lack of intent, and mistaken identity.

Sex Crimes

Sex crimes occur when a person engages in sexual activities with another person against that person’s will and using force or with someone whom they are aware, or should reasonably be aware, lacks capacity. One type of sex crime is a forcible sexual offense, which can be charged in two ways in North Carolina:

  • First Degree – A person may be charged with a first-degree forcible sexual offense if they engage in a sexual act with someone else against their will or by using force. They must also use a deadly weapon, cause serious harm, or have one or more people to aid and abet them. This is classified as a Class B1 felony.
  • Second Degree – A person commits the same crime in the second degree if they use force and it is against the other person’s will. It could also occur if the other person does not have the capacity to consent to or reject advances. This is a Class C felony.

Possible defenses for this crime include consent (unless consent was revoked) and innocence.

Assault and Battery

Assault and battery is a crime that involves the physical harm of another person. Although assault and battery can be two separate offenses, the state of North Carolina classifies them as one charge in some cases.

  • Simple Assault/Assault and Battery/Affray – Anyone who commits or participates in any of these crimes may be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor. If against a sports official of any kind, it becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor. These crimes can also become a Class A1 misdemeanor in certain cases, such as when they are committed against a child under 12, when the perpetrator inflicts serious harm using a deadly weapon, or when a male of at least 18 assaults a woman.
  • Felony Assault With a Deadly Weapon – A person may be charged with a Class C felony if they assault someone with a deadly weapon, intend to kill them, and cause them serious harm. If the intent to kill or serious harm is not present, a defendant may be charged with a Class E felony. Those who assault emergency workers with deadly weapons and cause them serious injury, as well as those who assault emergency workers with a deadly weapon and an intent to kill, may be charged with a Class D felony.

Possible defenses for this crime include self-defense.

Importance of Hiring a Violent Crimes Lawyer

When you are facing violent crime charges, it is in your interest to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer. Attempting to navigate the legal system alone or without the assistance of a talented legal professional can not only be an overwhelming process, but it can also be damaging to your case. There are several more reasons why it is important to work with an accomplished violent crimes lawyer:

  • A violent crimes lawyer has extensive knowledge of state laws and procedures regarding violent crimes, as well as the legal system as a whole. They can make sure you understand the charges against you, the potential penalties, and possible defense strategies.
  • During the entire legal process, a lawyer can protect and defend your constitutional rights. They will ensure you receive due process and are treated fairly by the court.
  • To increase your chances of seeing a favorable outcome, you will need the help of a lawyer who can build a strong defense for you. Your lawyer can assess your case thoroughly, consider all evidence and mitigating factors, and create a defense strategy designed specifically for you.
  • An experienced lawyer will be able to negotiate with the prosecution to potentially minimize penalties, reduce the charges against you, or have the entire case dismissed. Oftentimes, the prosecutor will offer a plea bargain. Your lawyer can explain the pros and cons of accepting the deal.
  • Facing criminal charges is always a stressful and emotionally draining experience, especially for those charged with a violent crime. Your violent crimes lawyer can help alleviate some of these burdens, offering reassurance and providing the proper guidance during such a difficult time.

The efforts of a good violent crimes lawyer can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case and any future prospects.

Possible Penalties for Violent Crimes in Wilmington, NC

The penalties for violent crimes tend to vary based on factors such as the specific crime, the circumstances of the incident, and the criminal history of the accused. Certain factors of an incident can result in a harsher punishment for the defendant, and other factors can have the opposite effect. If you are convicted of a violent crime, you could face the following penalties:

  • Imprisonment – Depending on the violent crime you are convicted of, there is a possibility of receiving some prison time. Sentences can range significantly in length. In the most severe cases, such as first-degree murder, a defendant who is found guilty may receive a life sentence or the death penalty.
  • Fines – The court can impose substantial fines on those who are convicted of violent crimes. The amount can vary depending on the specific offense.
  • Probation – Depending on the offense and whether there are any mitigating factors, a person convicted of a violent crime could potentially receive a probation sentence in place of imprisonment or as an additional penalty.

This may be considered for a first-time offender. With probation, the court will usually require the convicted individual to meet specific conditions and remain under close supervision of a probation officer for the duration of the probation.

  • Restitution – In some cases, a person convicted of a violent crime may be ordered to pay restitution to their victims. This is so that the victim can recover any financial damages they incurred as a result of the offense.

It is important to note that there are times when a violent crime will fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. A federal court may impose harsher penalties for certain violent crimes.

Mitigating and Aggravating Factors for Violent Crimes

In many cases, a violent crime is charged as a felony, with the exception of offenses like simple assault and battery, which are generally charged as misdemeanors. There are many factors that may contribute to the severity of the defendant’s charges, as well as the penalties they could potentially face. With violent crimes, the circumstances of the offense, including the mitigating and aggravating factors, can greatly affect the resulting charges and penalties for the accused.

Mitigating factors include the following:

  • No criminal history – Depending on the crime that is committed and its severity, a defendant who has no prior criminal history may be granted leniency from the court.
  • Mental health – If the defendant has mental problems that were a contributing factor to the execution of the crime, this could be a mitigating factor.
  • Provocation – In some violent crime cases, a defendant could potentially receive reduced charges and lighter penalties if they were provoked by the victim.
  • Expression of remorse – A defendant who shows genuine signs of remorse and expresses empathy for the victim may receive more sympathy from the court.
  • Coercion – If the defendant was coerced, under duress, or under threat of harm when they committed the criminal act, this may reduce culpability and mitigate penalties.
  • Limited capacity – A defendant may have reduced blame because of their age, because they are mentally immature, or because they have some form of mental incapacity.

Aggravating factors include the following:

  • Prior criminal record – A defendant is more likely to receive a harsher punishment if they already have a criminal record, especially if they were previously convicted of violent offenses.
  • Use of a weapon – Penalties may be increased if the defendant used a weapon, especially a deadly weapon while committing the crime.
  • Gang affiliation – A defendant who is a gang member, committed the crime for a gang or was even participating in the crime with multiple other people may be sentenced more harshly by a court.
  • Vulnerable victim – In cases where the victim was in some way vulnerable, like a disabled person, an elderly person, or a child, the defendant may be given harsher punishments.
  • Cruelty and extent of harm – A crime that was especially cruel, violent, heinous, or caused the victim severe harm can result in more severe penalties for the defendant.
  • Possible hate crime – The presence of a hate crime when committing a violent offense could affect the defendant’s sentencing and penalties in some cases. If the defendant committed the crime because of the victim’s race, religion, sex, etc., they could be charged more harshly.

It is crucial for anyone who is charged with a violent crime to work closely with a skilled criminal defense lawyer. An experienced lawyer can present your case in a way that is favorable to you.

Factors to Consider When Seeking a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Choosing the right defense lawyer for your case is immensely important, especially when you are facing charges for a violent crime. The lawyer you select must be able to properly handle your case, defend you in court, and negotiate with the prosecution. Here are some essential things to consider when seeking a lawyer:

  • Experience: Make sure that you are looking for a lawyer who has experience handling violent crimes and has also had a significant amount of success with those cases.
  • Reputation: You should seek a lawyer who has a good reputation in the legal community, and with clients, for effective representation and advocacy, professionalism, and integrity. A lawyer who is well-respected can help your case.
  • Communication: A good defense lawyer should not only be able to effectively communicate with a judge, jury, and opposing counsel but with you as well. Your lawyer should be able to explain legal concepts to your understanding, address your concerns, and answer your questions in a timely manner.
  • Personal rapport: The relationship between you and your lawyer is crucial because you will be working closely with them. Make sure that you are comfortable with them and that you feel supported.
  • Fees and billing: Ensure you understand the lawyer’s fees and billing structure before committing. You should be comfortable with any financial arrangements.
  • Defense strategy: Be sure to discuss potential defense strategies to make sure they align with your goals for your case.

Contact W. James Payne Law Firm for a Consultation

Facing violent crime charges in Wilmington, NC, can be a terrifying experience. It is of the utmost importance to obtain legal representation as soon as you become aware of any potential charges against you, whether you have been formally charged or not. Contact our Wilmington office today to schedule a consultation and take the first step in building your defense.