U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Child’s Statements to Teachers Are Non-Testimonial

On June 18th the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ohio v. Clark, 576 U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 2173 (2015), holding that a child abuse victim’s statements to his preschool teachers were non-testimonial under the Crawford confrontation clause analysis. As the first Crawford case addressing statements by a child victim, Clark is an important decision for child abuse prosecutions. Also, because it’s the Court’s first case assessing the testimonial nature of statements made to persons other than the police or their agents, it has broader significance for the Crawford analysis. Continue reading

News Roundup

The highly publicized escape of two murderers from a New York prison came to an end this week as Richard Matt was shot and killed and David Sweat was shot and captured. Sweat has been telling investigators about the escape and has apparently revealed quite a few interesting details. CNN has the latest here. For whatever reason, even our local media paid much less attention to the escape of a murderer from a North Carolina prison last weekend. Like the incident in New York, North Carolina’s escape involved romance between an inmate and a female guard, as WNCN reports here. The escapee has been recaptured.

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Proper Procedure for Aggravating Factors

Not many sentences come from the aggravated range—four percent in Fiscal Year 2013/14, according to the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission. But when you use the aggravated range, you want to make sure to do it correctly. Some recent cases offer a reminder about the proper procedure for alleging and proving aggravating factors. Continue reading

It’s Time to Register Your Moped

Beginning tomorrow, mopeds must be registered with the Division of Motor Vehicles to be lawfully operated on the state’s roadways. This post addresses several questions that have arisen regarding this new requirement.  Continue reading

The North Carolina Criminal Self-Dealing Statute: Five Things You Should Know

My colleague Frayda Bluestein recently wrote a post with the above title on the School of Government’s local government blog. Her post begins as follows:

In North Carolina, it is a crime for certain public officials and employees to contract with the units of government they work for or represent. G.S. 14-234 makes it a misdemeanor for a government official or employee who is involved in making or administering a contract to derive a direct benefit from that contract.

Questions about this prohibition on self-dealing come up from time to time in corruption and public integrity investigations. Frayda’s post explains several important points about the statute, and is available in full here.

News Roundup

There were several major criminal law stories this week, none of them especially cheery. Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had his sentencing hearing. The result was not in doubt, as a jury had already returned a death verdict. But the judge spoke, several victims spoke – and the defendant spoke, offering an apology that seemed sincere to some and rang hollow to others. CNN’s extensive coverage of the story is here. Obviously, apologies are better suited for things like hurting another person’s feelings than for things like killing and maiming innocent victims, but I for one am glad that Tsarnaev showed the decency and humanity to express regret. Continue reading

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State v. Elder: DVPO Cannot Authorize Search for Guns

A judge who issues an emergency or ex parte domestic violence protective order must order the defendant to surrender all firearms in his care, custody or control if the judge makes certain findings about the defendant’s prior conduct. Among the findings that trigger the weapons-surrender requirement is a finding that the defendant used or threatened to use a deadly weapon or has a pattern of prior conduct involving the use or threatened use of violence with a firearm. A defendant served with such an order must immediately surrender his firearms to the sheriff. If the weapons cannot be immediately surrendered, he must surrender them within 24 hours. But what if the defendant does not turn over any firearms? May the protective order authorize the sheriff to search the defendant, his home, and/or his vehicle for such weapons?

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The Death Penalty, Intellectual Disability, and Warrick Dunn

The United States Supreme Court just decided a capital case about intellectual disability, formerly known as mental retardation. In some ways, it’s an “error correction” case that doesn’t break new doctrinal ground. But it stands out for two reasons. First, it may be indicative of the current Court’s attitude towards the death penalty. And second, Justice Thomas wrote a dissenting opinion focused in large part on former professional football player Warrick Dunn. Continue reading

Proper Place of Confinement for a Probation Revocation

Last year I posted a chart summarizing the proper place of confinement (jail, prison, or Statewide Misdemeanant Confinement Program) for various types of imprisonment. The chart covers active sentences, split sentences, CRVs, quick dips, and incarceration for nonpayment of a fine. One thing it does not explicitly cover, though, is the proper place of confinement for a sentence activated upon revocation of probation. In response to a flurry of questions, I’ll take that issue up today. Continue reading

Cyberbullying Law Upheld Over First Amendment Challenge

The court of appeals just upheld North Carolina’s cyberbullying statute over a First Amendment challenge. The result is especially noteworthy because it contrasts with a ruling last year in a similar case in New York. But the opinion does leave at least one important issue open. Continue reading