News Roundup

A big case was argued this week before the United States Supreme Court. You’ve probably been following it, right? Continue reading

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Weapons Probationers Can’t Have

Probationers generally cannot have guns. What other weapons can they not have? Continue reading

Do Implied Consent Procedures Apply to the Withdrawal of Blood Pursuant to a Search Warrant?

In most DWI cases, the State obtains evidence of a defendant’s alcohol concentration from a breath-testing machine.  In order for the results of such a breath test to be admissible at trial, the State must follow the procedures set forth in the implied consent statutes, G.S. 20-16.2 and G.S. 20-139.1. Those statutes require, among other things, that a suspect be advised of his right to refuse testing and the consequences of such a refusal and that he be afforded an opportunity to contact a witness to observe the testing. Less frequently, a law enforcement officer will request that a person charged with an implied consent offense such as impaired driving submit to a blood test. Like the breath test results, the analysis of the defendant’s blood sample obtained pursuant to such a request is admissible at trial only if the State follows the procedures set forth in the implied consent statutes.  If the request for a blood test follows an earlier request for a breath test, then the officer must re-advise the suspect of his implied consent rights before asking for consent.  None of these rules apply, however, when blood is withdrawn pursuant to a search warrant.

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Book on Digital Evidence Now Available

I’m happy to announce that my book on digital evidence is now available. There are five chapters, covering (1) search warrants for digital devices, (2) warrantless searches of digital devices, (3) law enforcement access to electronic communications, (4) tracking devices, and (5) the admissibility of electronic evidence. Continue reading

Can the Person Protected by a DVPO Be Charged with Violating the Order?

Here’s a question I get occasionally: What language should I use to charge aiding and abetting a violation of a domestic violence protective order (DVPO)? Here’s a similar one: If someone is arrested for aiding and abetting a violation of a DVPO, is the person subject to the 48-hour pretrial release law for domestic violence offenses? I know the scenario immediately. Continue reading

News Roundup

Durham native Loretta Lynch was confirmed yesterday as the nation’s first female African-American Attorney General. I believe that she is only the second female Attorney General, after Janet Reno. WRAL has the basics here. Continue reading

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Nystagmus in the Courts

Jurisprudence over whether officers may testify about defendants’ horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) in impaired driving trials has failed to follow a smooth path. In fact, one could fairly note that more than the defendants’ eyes have jumped all over the place. First, our state supreme court said that testimony from a police officer regarding the results of an HGN test performed by the defendant was inadmissible without the evidence establishing that the HGN test was scientifically reliable. State v. Helms, 348 N.C. 578 (1998). The legislature responded by amending Rule 702 in a manner that, according to the court of appeals, “obviat[ed] the need for the state to prove that the HGN testing method is sufficiently reliable” and permitted law enforcement officers trained in administering the HGN test to testify about the defendant’s performance. State v. Smart, 195 N.C. App. 752 (2009). But forget admissibility for a moment. Does HGN evidence prove anything much anyway? A recent unpublished case from the court of appeals indicates that it does not. Continue reading

Supreme Court Rejects “De Minimis” Extension of a Traffic Stop to Deploy a Drug Dog

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Rodriguez v. United States, an important traffic stop case that changes North Carolina law as it pertains to certain drug dog sniffs, and perhaps other investigative techniques as well. Continue reading

DAC’s Auditing Authority

Many of you have received one of those letters: a notice from the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction (DAC), Section of Combined Records, seeking “clarification” of a judgment. Combined Records audits judgments as they come in, identifying issues and sentencing errors and bringing them to the attention of the court system. Today’s post considers the legal basis for this review, and some of the issues it raises. Continue reading

Hair Analysis Under a Microscope

Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran a story that begins as follows:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. Continue reading