Helping Clients with Criminal Defense in NC

It feels cool to be named one of the Top 25 attorneys in Charlotte (of any kind), and oen of the Top 100 attorneys in all of North Carolina of (of any kind) by Super Lawyers.

I have written this before, but what I like about the Charlotte legal community is that it is a merit-based town.  If you’re good, you prosper.  There are other towns in the Southeast where it matters more what your name or pedigree is.

In 1994, when I decided to hang my own shingle and try to be a criminal defense lawyer, I called the prominent defense lawyers in town and asked to pick their brains.  Every single one of them — Eben Rawls, Theo Nixon, Jim Cooney, Harold Bender, Jim Gronquist and others — graciously met with me and answered all my basic questions.

So nowadays I am trying to be a good mentor to the younger crop of criminal defense lawyers in Charlotte, who are tackling the task of defending the Constitution one client at a time.



And here’s the legalese we have to post when we are named:

Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.)


Back in the pandemic summer of 2020, we longtime criminal defense lawyers quietly wondered how long it would take for a wave of federal PPP loan fraud investigations to arrive. Now that tide is coming in. Federal agents from the Small Business Administration and the Secret Service are in Greater Charlotte knocking on doors of small and medium-sized business owners.

The laws and rules of the PPP Loan program under the CARES Act were hastily written (by necessity) and were changed midstream (also by necessity). Proof of loan fraud usually requires specific intent – that the borrower knew he or she was breaking the law when the application was submitted, or when the funds were used for a particular (unapproved) purpose.

Good faith mistakes are not a crime.

We often hear people say, “But if I get a lawyer won’t the police think that means I’m guilty?” I have a long speech why that mindset is just wrong. But let’s try this: in what other situation would you freely talk to a stranger who knocked on your door and asked to come into your home and pummel you with questions about something you did two years ago, without letting you re-group and look at underlying documents?

Good businessmen and women wouldn’t do that, but somehow a federal badge jars loose common sense. So remember this: the 5th Amendment is your right and your friend.

Plus, federal prosecutors seem to be charging people with making false statements to federal investigators more these days, in addition to or instead of the underlying crime that was being investigated. I wish more businessmen and women would politely but firmly decline to answer questions out of the blue.

But of course, if this happened, I might be out of a job, I guess.
All right, thanks for letting me vent. Back to work…


On November 5, 2020, Fialko Law, PLLC received a Metro Tier One ranking in the 2021 Edition of U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” in Criminal Defense: General Practice and White-Collar in Charlotte.

U.S. News explains, “This year we reviewed 15,587 law firms throughout the United States – across 75 national practice areas – and a total of 2,179 firms received a national law firm ranking. We are proud that the ‘Best Law Firms’ rankings continue to act as an indicator of excellence throughout the legal industry.” Check out the U.S. News release here.

Around 15 years ago I decided to adopt the strategy of over-informing my clients.  It seems like a simple and obvious idea, but it’s not.  There are drawbacks.

First, having a detailed discussion of sentencing guideline punishments can make the client worry that his lawyer assumes he’s guilty.  I don’t.  But I’ve learned, especially in federal cases, that the client really needs to understand what she’s up against.

Second, the client may become discouraged.  I give my client what I call …

The Roller-Coaster speech:  Defending a criminal investigation will be a long and scary ride.  Some days will have good developments, and we’ll feel at the top of the ride, and some days bad things will occur, and we’ll feel down at the bottom.  It’s important to try like hell to keep an even keel.

Defending a criminal case requires making many decisions along the way, and the client and I need to keep a level head at each decision point.

I’ve found the strategy of keeping my client very informed of the law, the process, and the facts helps us reach the best result.