New Jail Credit Rules Signed Into Law

Two revisions to North Carolina’s primary jail credit statute, G.S. 15-196.1, will kick in on December 1, 2015. Both of them benefit defendants. Continue reading

Class is in Session–But Not Driver’s Ed

School is back in session across North Carolina, but many high school students and their parents may be disappointed that driver’s education is not. Driver’s education has long been a staple of the high school experience in this state. I vividly recall my afternoon class in the Northwood High School auditorium with driving instructor Ed Kitchen. I can see him now with his foot perched by the passenger-side brake as we drove the rural roads of Chatham County. What has interrupted this rite of passage at some North Carolina high schools? Continue reading

Advice to Officers After Graham

As I discussed here, the Fourth Circuit recently ruled in United States v. Graham, __ F.3d __, 2015 WL 4637931 (4th Cir. Aug. 5, 2015), that an officer who obtained two suspects’ cell site location information (CSLI) without a search warrant violated the Fourth Amendment. (The officer used a court order based on a lower standard, as purportedly authorized by the relevant federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 2703(d).) I’ve had a number of practical questions about Graham from officers, agency attorneys, and judges, and I thought that I would collect some of the questions here. Continue reading

Challenging a Plea

Suppose that after judgment is entered a defendant wants to challenge a plea. Maybe he alleges that the plea wasn’t knowing and voluntary. Or maybe he claims that the judge imposed an illegal sentence. Can the defendant do this? I like to break this question into two parts: (1) Does the claim survive the plea? (2) If so, what procedural mechanism can be used to assert it? This post addresses both issues. Continue reading

News Roundup

All eyes are on Charlotte this week. Former CMPD officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick is on trial for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell. I have not followed the trial closely but some have suggested that the evidence came in more favorable to the defense than was generally expected pretrial. The jury has now deliberated for more than two full days without reaching a verdict. However, no Allen charge has yet been given. The Charlotte Observer has a useful Q-and-A about the case and the prospects for a verdict here. If the jury hangs, the next question would be whether the State would retry Mr. Kerrick. Continue reading

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Deferred Prosecutions and Guilty Pleas

Local procedures vary when it comes to deferred prosecutions. In general, there’s nothing wrong with that; the district attorney has broad discretion in the deferred prosecution realm. Lately, though, several people have asked me a particular question related to deferred prosecution procedure: Does the defendant actually plead guilty when the deferral is entered? Continue reading

Can 24/7 Sobriety Programs Fix the DWI Problem?

The Wall Street Journal published an opinion piece last Friday that, according to the headline, offered “A Simple Fix For Drunken Driving.”  I was intrigued because, frankly, I didn’t think there was one. As it turns out, the headline over-promises. The author, Stanford University psychiatry professor Keith Humphreys, does not purport to have a solution that ends impaired driving once and for all. Instead, Dr. Humphreys reports on the “stunning” results of South Dakota’s “absurdly simple” 24/7 sobriety program for repeat DWI offenders.

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School of Government Launches New Website

The School of Government has just launched a redesigned website. It’s better looking, plays well with mobile devices, and is driven more by searches than by click-through navigation. I’m sure it has plenty of kinks that we will need to work out but it is a major effort to revamp the website in accordance with current best practices and usage patterns. Continue reading

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Book Review: Unfair

I’ve just finished Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice by Drexel University law professor Adam Benafordo. The reviews I’ve seen online have been positive. For example, the Boston Globe opines that the book “succinctly and persuasively recounts cutting-edge research testifying to the faulty and inaccurate procedures that underpin virtually all aspects of our criminal justice system.” And the book has attracted enough attention for Professor Benafordo to be interviewed on NPR’s hit show Fresh Air. This post briefly summarizes the book and then offers a few thoughts about it. Continue reading

News Roundup

It’s a bird, it’s a plane . . . no, it’s a drone over the skies of North Carolina.  And soon it may be operated by law enforcement.  The News and Observer reports that the General Assembly is poised to enact S 446, which flew through the House yesterday and has been returned to the Senate for concurrence with relatively minor amendments.  The bill repeals the prohibition on governmental use of unmanned aircraft enacted in 2013 and authorizes the State’s Chief Information Officer to approve the procurement and operation of unmanned aircraft systems by State agencies and local governments. Continue reading