How’s a Magistrate to Know Whether a Confidential Informant Is Reliable?

Search warrant applications are often based on information from confidential informants. Whether the informant is reliable is critical. Information from a reliable informant is often sufficient to establish probable cause, while information from an informant whose reliability isn’t established is often insufficient. So how’s a magistrate to know whether an informant is reliable? A recent opinion from the court of appeals provides an opportunity to examine that question. Continue reading

News Roundup

Earlier this week the SBI executed a search warrant at a Hoke County administrative office, taking control of the building Monday afternoon and searching it for several hours.  County officials quoted in the Fayetteville Observer suggest that the investigation involves an issue with employee time sheets, but Sherriff Hubert Peterkin said that time sheets aren’t the exclusive focus.  Another article from the Observer says that one county employee resigned on Tuesday and a Sherriff’s deputy was fired.  Keep reading for more news.
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When Is There Sufficient Evidence that a Check Writer Knew that He or She Had Insufficient Funds?

If a person writes a check and the check bounces, is that enough to charge the person with the misdemeanor offense of writing a worthless check? What about if the recipient of the check notifies the check writer that the check bounced and the check writer doesn’t pay off the check? This post explores when a criminal charge is a permissible response to a worthless check. Continue reading

Rollover Jail Credit

When a person has pretrial jail credit shared between multiple charges, and those charges result in consecutive sentences, the shared jail credit gets applied only once. Does it matter which individual sentence gets the credit? Continue reading


Rule 404 and Evidence of Prior Incarceration

In a recent decision, the Court of Appeals granted a new trial on the ground that improper and prejudicial character evidence regarding a prior incarceration of the defendant was admitted at trial. The case presents a reminder about the distinction between North Carolina Rules of Evidence 404(a) and 404(b) and sheds light on the admissibility of evidence of a defendant’s incarceration.

Facts. In State v. Rios, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Dec. 20, 2016), law enforcement obtained a warrant to search the residence of the defendant, where he lived with the homeowner and another roommate. The search revealed nearly sixty pounds of marijuana and a host of other evidence of drug distribution activity. The police found about seven pounds of marijuana in the defendant’s bedroom, most of which was in a large box. Fifty more pounds were found in the garage. A latent fingerprint found on drug-packaging material in the homeowner’s room was matched to the defendant. Continue reading


Counsel’s Unconsented-to Admission to Elements Isn’t a Harbison Error

In State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985), the North Carolina Supreme Court held that when defense counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent per se ineffective assistance of counsel occurs. The Harbison Court reasoned that when counsel admits guilt without consent, it is essentially the same as entering a guilty plea on the defendant’s behalf without the defendant’s consent. It concluded: “ineffective assistance of counsel, per se in violation of the Sixth Amendment, has been established in every criminal case in which the defendant’s counsel admits the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s consent.” Id. at 180. Continue reading

News Roundup

Late last week President Donald Trump signed three Executive Orders that a White House blog post says are intended to “fight crime, gangs, and drugs; restore law and order; and support the dedicated men and women of law enforcement.”  A press release from the White House says that one of the orders directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers; that the second order establishes a task force led by Sessions to reduce crime and restore public safety in American communities; and that the third focuses energy and resources on dismantling drug cartels and other transnational criminal organizations.  Keep reading for more news.

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2017 Cost Waiver Reports Available

The Administrative Office of the Courts recently submitted two reports on criminal cost waivers to the General Assembly. The first report covers court cost waivers under G.S. 7A-304(a). The other is about costs remitted upon remand from superior court to district court under G.S. 15A-1431(h). Both reports sort waivers by district or county and by individual judge. Continue reading

The Role of Race—and Brain Science—in Pedestrian Fatalities

A pedestrian enters a crosswalk. A car approaches. Does the race of the pedestrian influence whether the driver stops the car or continues to drive through the crosswalk? Continue reading

Fourth Circuit Sets Out Authority to Frisk When a State’s Law Permits Possession of Concealed Firearm

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, on a rehearing of a case en banc, held in United States v. Robinson, 2017 WL 280727 (Jan. 23, 2017), that an officer had the authority to conduct a frisk of a lawfully-stopped person whom the officer reasonably believed to be armed with a concealed firearm, regardless of whether the person may have been legally entitled to carry the firearm. This post discusses the ruling and its possible influence in the development of the law of frisk in North Carolina state courts. [For those who received my summary of this case as a subscriber to the criminal law listserv, this is the same summary but with the addition of an analysis and comment section at the end of this post.] Continue reading