Offense Date for Habitual Felon Indictments

A recent conversation reminded me about a question I’ve received several times over the years: On a habitual felon indictment, what should be listed as the offense date? The two main choices are (1) the date of the substantive felony with which the defendant is charged, and (2) the date of the last of the defendant’s previous convictions, i.e., the date that the defendant became a habitual felon. Continue reading

Pattern Jury Instructions Now Available for Free Online

Yesterday, I received the following announcement from a colleague here at the School. I thought that it was worth sharing in its entirety:

The North Carolina Pattern Jury Instructions (PJI) are now available, for free, in PDF Format in an Online Library from the UNC Chapel Hill School of Government. The Pattern Jury Instructions also remain available in hard copy and software formats. Continue reading

State v. McDonald Provides Useful Primer on Checkpoints

2Was the Checkpoint Reasonable

The facts. A detective with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department writes a plan for a checkpoint to be conducted later in the evening. The plan states that the checkpoint will be established at the intersection of Ashley Road and Joy Street in Charlotte, NC. The plan states that the2Was the Checkpoint Reasonable checkpoint’s purpose is to increase police presence in the targeted area while checking for driver’s license and vehicle registration violations. The plan further states that all vehicles traveling through the checkpoint must be stopped unless the officer in charge determines that a hazard has developed or an unreasonable delay is occurring. If that situation arises, all vehicles must be allowed to pass through until the hazard or delay is cleared.

The checkpoint is conducted from 12:34 a.m. to 1:52 a.m. on the designated evening. Every vehicle that travels through the checkpoint is stopped, and the officers ask every driver for his or her driver’s license.

The question. A passenger in a car stopped at the checkpoint moves to suppress evidence obtained during the stop and subsequent search of the car, alleging that the checkpoint was unconstitutional.

If you were the court, how would you rule?  Continue reading

Restitution for Rewards

Suppose a crime victim offers a reward related to a crime—money for information leading to the return of stolen property, or perhaps information leading to the apprehension of an assailant. If the reward works and leads to a person’s conviction, may the court order the defendant to pay the victim restitution for the reward? Today’s post considers that question, and the related question of whether it is proper to order restitution to third parties that offer rewards, like crime stoppers. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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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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