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Criminal Defense

Skilled North Carolina Lawyer Provides Vigorous Criminal Defense

Robust representation at an affordable rate

An arrest can be a harrowing experience. Your life is disrupted, and suddenly you’re facing charges that could destroy your future. At the Law Office of Anthony R. Morrow in Rutherfordton, we understand the gravity of your situation and we treat your case with the urgency it deserves. Moreover, we have the knowledge and skill, developed through intensive advanced training and experience, to help you obtain a favorable outcome. When you retain our services, you get highly responsive counsel and determined advocacy at a rate you can afford. Although no attorney can promise specific results, you can be confident in our ability, our focus, and our sincere desire to secure the best possible outcome.

Criminal defense from a thoroughly trained and experienced trial lawyer

Anthony Morrow’s commitment to providing highly professional criminal defense can be seen in his training and education. He holds an advanced legal degree — an LL.M. in trial advocacy, specializing in federal criminal defense — and served an internship with a prominent private Criminal Justice Act (CJA) attorney defending clients against serious federal charges.  What followed was the CJA Trial Skills Academy, an intensive trial practice course taught by some of the best defense attorneys in the country.  Additional experience includes the Judge Advocate General’s Corps of the U.S. Air Force, which earned him the Defense Meritorious Service Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal. Today, with Mr. Morrow’s added experience in private practice, the firm is fully prepared to manage your case.

Protecting your rights under North Carolina’s structured sentencing laws

Since the mid-1990s, North Carolina has operated under a system of structured sentences for felony and misdemeanor crimes. Structured sentencing is designed to advance important goals, such as consistent sentencing for similar crimes and similar offenders and a rational basis for the severity of each sentence. The structure itself is a grid formed by two axes representing the foremost factors that judges should consider when sentencing a convicted offender:

  • Severity of the crime and the harm done
  • Prior criminal history of the offender

For felonies, the axis of severity has ten levels, rising from the least severe to the most severe. Examples of crimes at each level follow.

  • I — Possession of small amounts of cocaine; credit card theft
  • H — Embezzlement of less than $100,000; hit-and-run accident resulting in injury
  • G — Second-degree burglary; second-degree arson
  • F — Involuntary manslaughter; participating in prostitution of a minor
  • E — Assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer drug sales in a school zone
  • D — Armed robbery; drug sales to someone between the ages of 13 and 16
  • C — Second-degree rape; assault with a deadly weapon
  • B2 — Second-degree murder
  • B1 — First-degree rape
  • A — First-degree murder

The second axis contains six levels based on the number of points an offender has accumulated due to prior convictions. These run from 0 points for someone with no priors to 19 or more points for a repeat felon with multiple convictions. This means that for any crime, there are six possible boxes that could be assigned to an offender. Each box contains three ranges of sentences given in months. For example, an offender who had previously been convicted of possessing a small amount of cocaine would have two points from that prior. If he is now convicted of assault with a deadly weapon, his box on the sentencing grid would contain three options:

  • Aggravated range — 83 to 104 months
  • Presumptive range — 67 to 83 months
  • Mitigated range — 50 to 67 months

The next step requires the judge to consider aggravating and/or mitigating factors to decide whether to exercise discretion and depart from the presumptive range for sentencing. If there are only mitigating factors or if mitigating factors outweigh aggravating factors, the judge may choose the mitigated range. An example of a mitigating factor would be if the offender was under duress or compulsion to commit the crime. If there are only aggravating factors or if aggravating factors outweigh mitigating factors, a judge may choose the aggravated range. An aggravating factor would be if the offender had induced others to participate in the crime. The judge must then set the minimum and maximum sentence for the offender to serve.

Sentencing for misdemeanor crimes operates under a similar grid.

North Carolina’s structured sentencing law makes it very important for defense attorneys to be vigilant at every step of the legal process. We always hope to get charges dropped or win an acquittal if the case goes to trial, but the facts of a case often make that hope unrealistic. What we can do is:

  • Guard against our client being overcharged — Because the sentences are linked to the charge, it’s useless to argue after a conviction that the client should have faced lesser charges. This fight has to happen early in the proceedings.
  • Present the court with evidence of mitigating factors — If there is any chance of a lenient sentence upon conviction, the court must be made aware of mitigating factors and reminded whenever appropriate, so those facts are not forgotten.
  • Protect against aggravating factors — Defense attorneys who are only focused on the elements of the case may allow prosecutors to introduce evidence of aggravation without properly challenging that evidence. We are alert to any maneuver that might damage our client at sentencing.
  • Attempt to persuade the judge to exercise discretion in our client’s favor — Even when aggravating or mitigating factors exist, a judge’s departure from the presumptive range is optional. The judge also exercises discretion in choosing the minimum and maximum sentences within the selected range. We make every effort to persuade the judge to deliver a sentence that is fair under our client’s circumstances.

When you retain our services, you get a criminal defense attorney who understands the system and how to work within that system for your benefit.

Fighting for positive results against a variety of criminal charges

We defend clients facing a full range of misdemeanor and felony charges, as well as civil offenses, including:

  • Traffic offenses and DUI — If you are ticketed for speeding or arrested for DUI/DWI, we are prepared to defend your liberty and your license.
  • Federal crimes — We have extensive experience with serious federal charges, such as securities fraud, money laundering, drug trafficking and various types of white collar crime.
  • State crimes — We defend clients accused of state misdemeanor and felony crimes, including assault, drug crimes, theft, gun crimes, and homicide. Our experience litigating child protective services cases provides us with a strong background for addressing charges of domestic violence.
  • Military court — Drawing on our JAG experience, we represent accused service members in court-martial proceedings.
  • Post-adjudication issues — We assist with various post-arrest or conviction issues, such as expungement of arrest records, and parole or probation violations.

As your determined advocate, our goal is to protect your civil rights throughout the process and deliver the best results possible. In many cases it’s possible to get charges dropped or win an acquittal at trial. In other cases, where the weight of the evidence is against our client, a positive outcome can include a reduction in charges, more lenient sentencing, or a sentence that avoids jail time.

To help protect your rights in any encounter with police, we suggest you download and print the American Civil Liberties Union “bust card” and carry it with you always.

Contact a highly trained trial lawyer to fight your criminal charges

The Law Office of Anthony R. Morrow has the knowledge, skill and experience to deliver high-quality, determined criminal defense to state and federal charges. To schedule a free consultation, call us at 828-919-9590 or contact us online. Our main office is located at 185 N. Main Street, Suite L, Rutherfordton, off U.S. 221, but can come to you if circumstances require.

On a case by case basis, we accept clients facing serious criminal charges in California and Illinois. Contact us today to determine if we are able to assist you in your time of need.

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Office Location
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    P.O. Box 145
    Rutherfordton, North Carolina 28139
    Phone: 828-919-9590
    Fax: 855-679-2323