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

News Roundup

For the last day or so, the headlines have been dominated by the multiple murder at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Law enforcement arrested Dylan Roof, 21, in Shelby, North Carolina. Roof is white, while the nine victims were black. Race appears to have been part of Roof’s motive. WRAL has the story here. Continue reading

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Which Sex Offenders Can’t Go Certain Places

The premises restrictions of G.S. 14-208.18 have been in the news again lately. Here in Chapel Hill, a registered sex offender charged with being unlawfully on the premises of the public library had the charge dismissed on constitutional grounds. Meanwhile, the Graham County Sheriff made national headlines went he sent a letter to every registrant in the county prohibiting them, under the 300-foot rule, from going to church. The constitutional issues raised by these scenarios are interesting, but my first reaction in both cases was this: That law doesn’t apply to all registered sex offenders! Continue reading

The DWI Year in Review, Part II

Whether there was probable cause to arrest the driver is a hotly litigated issue in cases involving impaired driving. Unfortunately, there aren’t all that many appellate opinions addressing the hard calls in this area. Instead, many resemble State v. Tappe, 139 N.C. App. 33, 38 (2000), which found probable cause based on “defendant’s vehicle crossing the center line, defendant’s glassy, watery eyes, and the strong odor of alcohol on defendant’s breath.”  It is difficult to imagine a court ruling otherwise. A few years ago, the court of appeals decided a tougher issue in Steinkrause v. Tatum, 201 N.C. App. 289  (2009), aff’d, 364 N.C. 419 (2010) (per curiam), concluding that the “fact and severity” of the defendant’s one-car accident coupled with a law enforcement officer’s observation that she smelled of alcohol provided probable cause to believe she was driving while impaired.  This past year, the court issued two significant published opinions on probable cause for impaired driving—State v. Overocker, __ N.C. App. __, 762 S.E.2d 921 (Sept. 16, 2014), and State v. Townsend, __ N.C. App. __, 762 S.E.2d 898  (Sept. 16, 2014),—as well as opinions in State v. Veal, __ N.C. App. __, 760 S.E.2d 43 (July 1, 2014), and State v. Wainwright, __ N.C. App. __, 770 S.E.2d 99 (2015), better defining the threshold for reasonable suspicion of DWI.

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The DWI Year in Review, Part I

Don’t call the School of Government next week. We’ll all be out. Next week is conference-time for many of the court officials we serve, and we will be traversing the state (driving the speed limit at all times, of course) to speak at various legal conferences. Case updates are a perennial staple of these conference agendas, so I’ve been reviewing last year’s cases with a particular focus on impaired driving.  A number of opinions address issues that are frequently litigated in DWI cases, so I thought I’d share the highlights with you in a two-part post.  This post reviews the past year’s jurisprudence on implied consent testing and compelled blood draws.  Tomorrow’s post will review the recent case law on reasonable suspicion and probable cause for DWI. Continue reading