Can the Person Protected by a DVPO Be Charged with Violating the Order?

Here’s a question I get occasionally: What language should I use to charge aiding and abetting a violation of a domestic violence protective order (DVPO)? Here’s a similar one: If someone is arrested for aiding and abetting a violation of a DVPO, is the person subject to the 48-hour pretrial release law for domestic violence offenses? I know the scenario immediately. Continue reading

News Roundup

Durham native Loretta Lynch was confirmed yesterday as the nation’s first female African-American Attorney General. I believe that she is only the second female Attorney General, after Janet Reno. WRAL has the basics here. Continue reading

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Nystagmus in the Courts

Jurisprudence over whether officers may testify about defendants’ horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) in impaired driving trials has failed to follow a smooth path. In fact, one could fairly note that more than the defendants’ eyes have jumped all over the place. First, our state supreme court said that testimony from a police officer regarding the results of an HGN test performed by the defendant was inadmissible without the evidence establishing that the HGN test was scientifically reliable. State v. Helms, 348 N.C. 578 (1998). The legislature responded by amending Rule 702 in a manner that, according to the court of appeals, “obviat[ed] the need for the state to prove that the HGN testing method is sufficiently reliable” and permitted law enforcement officers trained in administering the HGN test to testify about the defendant’s performance. State v. Smart, 195 N.C. App. 752 (2009). But forget admissibility for a moment. Does HGN evidence prove anything much anyway? A recent unpublished case from the court of appeals indicates that it does not. Continue reading

Supreme Court Rejects “De Minimis” Extension of a Traffic Stop to Deploy a Drug Dog

Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided Rodriguez v. United States, an important traffic stop case that changes North Carolina law as it pertains to certain drug dog sniffs, and perhaps other investigative techniques as well. Continue reading

DAC’s Auditing Authority

Many of you have received one of those letters: a notice from the N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction (DAC), Section of Combined Records, seeking “clarification” of a judgment. Combined Records audits judgments as they come in, identifying issues and sentencing errors and bringing them to the attention of the court system. Today’s post considers the legal basis for this review, and some of the issues it raises. Continue reading

Hair Analysis Under a Microscope

Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran a story that begins as follows:

The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.

Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country’s largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. Continue reading

News Roundup

Partisan judicial elections may be returning to North Carolina. House Bill 8, which passed its second reading with a 64-49 vote, mostly along party lines, would make appellate court elections partisan. Trial court elections would remain non-partisan. The News and Observer has the story here.

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We are NOT Ferguson

Being married to me is hard. My husband makes an off-hand comment about how the city must need money since the police are pulling people over left and right for speeding on the road he travels to work. What does he get in response? A lecture on the state’s uniform court system and the fines and forfeitures clause of our state constitution. Thankfully, he is a patient man. He took it so well that I thought I’d share the finer points of that discussion with you. Continue reading

How Many Charges Can One Charging Document Contain?

How many charges can be placed on a single charging document, such as a citation, an arrest warrant, or an indictment? Old hands use the rule of thumb, no more than two charges per citation, no more than three charges in any other pleading. But where does that rule come from? And is it even correct? Continue reading

Does a DWI Conviction Bar a Person from Possessing a Gun?

The maximum punishment for driving while impaired in violation of G.S. 20-138.1 increased from two to three years in 2011. As a result, defendants convicted of misdemeanor DWI and sentenced at the most serious level—Aggravated Level One—are prohibited from possessing firearms by federal law. That’s because federal law prohibits firearm possession by a person who has been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, though state law misdemeanors that are punishable by a term of imprisonment of two years or less are excluded from this category of disqualifying convictions. Because North Carolina law sets out a single offense of driving while impaired, which may be punished at varying levels, rather than six separate offenses, there is a question as to whether any defendant convicted of misdemeanor DWI on or after December 1, 2011 may lawfully possess a firearm, regardless of the level at which the defendant was actually punished.

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