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Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC

Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC

By Kristie Darling
Photos by Liza White Photography

On the cover–Heather Higgins, Defense Attorney with
Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC

Right–Nicole VanRyen, Legal Assistant; Crystal Krapish, Paralegal; and Dilmun Holsclaw, Paralegal

Attorney Higgins and her paralegal, Dilmun Holsclaw,
reviewing a Domestic Violence client file.

Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC

Helton, Cody & Associates, PLLC


Criminal Defense Lawyer: an attorney whose focus is protecting the rights of defendants and helping them build defenses that reduce the negative consequences of being charged and arrested.

“One of my core beliefs is that everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” Heather Higgins told me when she shared her story. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all description of people who seek out my services as a defense lawyer. I know that each of us, at some time, could need a professional advocate on their side in a legal situation, and my experience and commitment make me highly qualified to do just that.”

Indeed, Heather finds that her practice is built upon her experience, even as a relatively young attorney. She’s been in practice in Catawba County for over five years as a licensed attorney, and she knows her stuff. “I’m not afraid to have a trial—I won’t put off a trial,” Heather said, “and my clients appreciate that I attempt to expedite their cases. It can be critical to them, of course, and it’s always a priority for me.” Most legal clients would rather not be in court…they don’t want matters to drag on. Often, delays can worsen someone’s situation with their job, housing, custody of their kids…many aspects of life are improved when legal issues are settled expeditiously. “I pride myself on being thoroughly prepared at every court date because I’ve gathered the documents and researched the case law that enables us to proceed with a successful outcome as our goal,” Heather said.

By specializing in very specific areas, Heather has the time to establish a strong knowledge and experience in her defense against these types of charges. Heather is a private practice attorney, as well as a public defender and specialty courts contract defense attorney for Catawba County. Most of Heather’s cases are private practice criminal defense or civil domestic violence cases. As the defense attorney for specialty courts, specifically Catawba County’s Drug Recovery Court and Veterans’ Treatment Court, Heather gives back in the community through her support of veterans and those in need.

These unique programs of the court serve certain populations—veterans and non-veterans who have been charged with a crime and whose substance abuse or mental health issues contributed to their criminal charges. “These personal challenges are actually the root cause of their criminal activity, and for some, mental health issues play a significant role,” Heather explained. “We pull them out of the criminal court system so they can get their life in order, get back on track, get sober, clean, financially stable, perhaps find housing or get their GED. With veterans, we’re able to help them get VA treatment. For others, entering an in-patient or detox program can get them to a place where criminal behavior needn’t be an option anymore.”

Shane Parris is one of Heather’s clients. He’s a Marine veteran and recently needed her services for a minor charge. “I’m not just a name on a piece of paper to Heather,” he shared. “She knows me personally and goes above and beyond to make sure I have what I need to stay on the right path…best lawyer I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.”

With a holistic approach, both of these special treatment programs change lives. Catawba has the second largest Veterans’ Treatment Court in North Carolina, one of five such specialty veteran’s courts in the state, and awareness about this critical need in communities grows every year. In our area, counselors and therapists at Cognitive Connections provide programs and services. They are specialists in behavioral intervention and substance abuse treatments. Last June, Catawba County had the largest veteran population in VA services. In her role as advocate, Heather is able to work with the judge and prosecutor on her client’s behalf with positive results. “I like the professional rehabilitation aspect and peer support method of helping people help themselves.”

“My criminal defense practice is my largest caseload with domestic violence (DVO) practice being my second largest caseload. My clients are both men and women of different ethnic, socio-economic, and domestic backgrounds. Generally, they have a criminal issue or have been served with a domestic violence protective order.”
In addition, Heather represents adults and juveniles in criminal cases and handles no contact orders, name changes, legitimation actions, expungements, and small claims actions. She and her paralegal, Dilmun Holsclaw, work with clients in Catawba, Burke, and Caldwell counties. “I pride myself on using the abundance of case law that North Carolina offers,” Heather continued. “I mainly practice in district court, and many attorneys don’t use case law because district court can be very mechanical. If I can distinguish a client’s case through research, I will spend the time doing so because it can be very beneficial.” Heather is readily available to her clients—they have her email and office phone and know they can reach out at any time—she is always prompt with feedback on their matter.

Dilmun is a NC certified paralegal and the man who keeps everything running. “He knows my cases inside and out. When I’m unavailable, he answers calls and emails. He knows what I will need sometimes before I do,” Heather said. “We’ve been working together about four years…I would be lost without him.”

Heather understands the importance of the work she does and takes it very seriously. She is dedicated to a positive outcome for her clients. “The last two years in a row, 2020 and 2021, I’ve been in the courthouse hunting down judges the day before Thanksgiving,” she remembered. “There wasn’t another attorney in sight to get signatures to ensure that clients, whose cases had been handled, could be properly released from jail in time for Thanksgiving. It means a lot when I can make a difference like this.”

In both district and superior court, Heather is frequently called to the bench by the judges themselves and asked if she would be open to helping a pro-se or unrepresented defendant as a ‘friend of the court.’ “Many times, I’ve stepped in to help advise or plead a client in court to enable the process to run more smoothly and ensure that everyone who needs it can have adequate and competent counsel. Defense clients should be afforded the best opportunity to handle their case.”

Heather has a passion for helping people in the Hickory area. She grew up in Catawba County and graduated from St. Stephens High School. She’s proud to call this community home. In 2013, Heather graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science/Pre-Law with a minor in History from Campbell University. She graduated from Wake Forest University Law School, and while there, worked with clients in both the Child Advocacy Clinic and Wake Forest Law’s Veteran’s Legal Clinic.

Heather, her husband, Alex, and their daughter, Reagan, live in Hickory with their rescue dachshund, Bobo. In her spare time, Heather enjoys spending time with family and friends, hiking the North Carolina mountains, and watching the Carolina Panthers and Hurricanes. She is proud to make a positive impact on the lives of our local residents.

As an attorney with Helton, Cody & Associates in Hickory, Heather Higgins shares the high values and honest approach that this dedicated team of attorneys is known for. Integrity is her trademark.

Helton, Cody
& Associates, PLLC
827 Highland Ave. NE, Hickory, NC

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© 2009 Last update December 15, 2021