News Roundup

I’m back in the office after a day playing in the snow with my family working from home. I am sure that Chief Justice Mark Martin has been at least equally hard at work, preparing for his upcoming State of the Judiciary address before a joint session of the General Assembly. According to this News and Observer story, the address will be the first of its kind since 2001, is likely to take place on March 4, and is expected to focus on funding for the courts.

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2015 Sentencing Commission Statistical Report Available

It’s a snow day across much of North Carolina. If your power is on (and your internet connection is working), today’s post will give you something to read by the fire. Allow me to make my annual plug for the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission’s Structured Sentencing Statistical Report for Felonies and Misdemeanors. Continue reading

I’ve Been Arrested . . . But Committed No Crime

[Author’s Note:  This post has been substantively edited to make corrections in response to helpful comments from readers.]

A person generally may not lawfully be arrested unless there is probable cause to believe he has committed a crime. But there are several exceptions to this rule. Most involve arrests made pursuant to an order for arrest issued by a judicial official. A judicial official may, for example, issue an order for the arrest of a defendant who fails to appear in court or who violates conditions of probation. See G.S. 15A-305(b). And there is one circumstance in which a law enforcement officer may, without a judicial order or warrant for the defendant’s arrest and without probable cause to believe a crime has been committed, arrest a defendant. That’s when the officer has probable cause to believe the defendant has violated a condition of pretrial release. G.S. 15A-401(b)(1),(b)(2)(f.). Continue reading

Sentencing Whiteboard: How Consecutive Felonies Are Served

Today’s post explains the “single sentence rule” of G.S. 15A-1354(b), the law that tells the prison system how to administer consecutive felony sentences. Knowing the rule is essential to figuring out the release date and post-release supervision term for a defendant who receives consecutive sentences.

The video is longer than I would generally like for these things to be, but it takes a little time to spell out the full rule. One thing it does not address is the related question of whether a judge should take the single sentence rule into account when advising a defendant of the maximum possible sentence for his or her convictions. Jessie discussed that issue here.

Knives and the Right to Bear Arms

There’s been a great deal of litigation recently about firearms and the Second Amendment. But guns aren’t the only “arms” sometimes carried for self-defense, and there have been several recent cases about the status of knives under the federal Constitution and state constitutions. Continue reading

News Roundup

Catharine Arrowood, the president of the North Carolina Bar Association, recently wrote this piece about court funding in North Carolina. It’s received considerable attention. The thrust of the argument is this: “[W]hile our population has been increasing by double digits and the technology and tools available to better serve a large and widespread population have been improving, we cut spending on our courts from 3% of our state budget to 2.2%. No wonder too many of our court personnel work extra jobs to make ends meet. No wonder we have been unable to implement a statewide electronic filing and case management system. No wonder we have insufficient money to conduct jury trials and pay court reporters.” The article indicates that the General Assembly may address the funding problem, but contends that structural reforms should also be considered, including moving to a regional, rather than county-based, system. It’s worth a read. Continue reading

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Recent Case on Authentication of Surveillance Video

More and more criminal cases involve video evidence, whether from patrol car dash cameras, store surveillance cameras, witness cell phone cameras, or, in the near future, wearable cameras. It’s important to know the authentication requirements for such evidence. A recent court of appeals case sets a high bar for admissibility. Continue reading

Sentencing Whiteboard: How Class B1-E Felonies Are Served

I recorded another whiteboard-style presentation on sentencing law. Today, the focus is on how active sentences for Class B1–E felonies play out in practice.

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North Carolina Supreme Court Upholds Warrantless Seizure of Drugs on a Home’s Curtilage

The Fourth Amendment protects the home as well as its curtilage, which is defined as the area immediately surrounding the home and associated with it. Recently, the North Carolina Supreme Court in State v. Grice, 2015 WL 304075 (Jan. 23, 2015), was confronted with a Fourth Amendment issue involving the curtilage. The court held, reversing the court of appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 733 S.E.2d 354 (2012), that officers who were validly on the curtilage of a residence to conduct a knock and talk did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they saw marijuana plants 15 yards away on the curtilage and warrantlessly seized them. Continue reading

News Roundup

Shea wrote yesterday about the top news around here: the killing of three Muslim university students by a man who lived in the same Chapel Hill apartment complex as the victims. It’s part of a string of tragic events for university students in the state, including the deaths of nine Appalachian State University students since September, the murder of UNC student Faith Hedgepeth in 2012, and, farther back, the killings of student body president Eve Carson of UNC and graduate student Abhijit Mahato of Duke in 2008. Terrible for the students, obviously, and of course crushing for their parents. Tough times. Continue reading

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