Same Sex Marriage and Domestic Violence

Same sex marriage has been permitted in North Carolina for a couple of weeks. Shea blogged here about one potential criminal law implication: the possibility, discussed in a memorandum from the Administrative Office of the Courts, that magistrates could be charged criminally for refusing to marry same-sex couples. As noted in this recent news article, a number of magistrates have resigned as a result. But the issue I’ve been asked most about is how same-sex marriage relates to our domestic violence laws.

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Tracking Court Cost Waivers

Earlier this year National Public Radio ran a series on court costs entitled Guilty and Charged. The general point of the series was that “the costs of the criminal justice system in the United States are paid increasingly by the defendants and offenders”—a population that is mostly poor. Missed payments often lead to more fees, interest, probation violations, and eventually incarceration.

North Carolina is no exception to the national trend. Continue reading

Ebola, Quarantines, and Criminal Law

Ebola’s been in the news lately, with several infected individuals on American soil. New York and New Jersey have begun to quarantine individuals arriving from West Africa who have had contact with infected people, and a nurse subjected to quarantine threatened a legal challenge. So, what’s the law? And what are the potential criminal law implications? Continue reading

News Roundup

Remember Shea’s post about same-sex marriage and how the AOC has advised magistrates that they could face criminal prosecution if they refused to marry same-sex couples? State Senator Phil Berger has announced plans to file a bill to allow officials with religious objections to opt out of performing such marriages. The News and Observer story about the matter makes clear that if such a bill is enacted, it will be challenged in court. Continue reading

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Collateral Attacks on Probationary Sentences

Sometimes a good defense to an alleged probation violation is not about the violation itself, but rather about the underlying conviction or sentence. Continue reading


This weekend, the Charlotte Observer ran this article, entitled Charlotte Police Investigators Secretly Track Cellphones. The article concerns the use of so-called stingrays, also known as IMSI catchers or cell site simulators. They are machines that simulate cell towers and connect with the cellular telephones located nearby. Officers frequently use them to triangulate the location of a suspect – or more precisely, the location of a suspect’s phone. There’s a controversy about the legal status of these devices, which I’ll summarize in this post. Continue reading

Does Graduated Licensing Make Teens Safer Drivers or Just Postpone the Risk?

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. That’s why states no longer grant unrestricted driver’s licenses to teens once they turn 16, as they did when I was a kid. Instead, states grant driving privileges to teenagers under 18 only after they have been driving under a permit with supervision for a lengthy period of time, and, even then, only by degrees. Driver’s licenses issued to such teens typically restrict nighttime driving and/or the number of minors who may be present in the vehicle for some period of time after initial licensure. While many people readily accept the notion that teens are safer during the graduated licensing period–either because they aren’t driving unsupervised at night, because they don’t have a gaggle of friends in the car, or because they aren’t driving at all given the hassle associated with becoming licensed–they wonder whether the effects vanish once the teens are on their own. Continue reading

Summary of the 2014 Legislative Session

I’ve been meaning to highlight this for some time now: the School of Government’s annual summary of legislation of interest of court officials is available here as a free PDF. It includes sections on criminal law, motor vehicle law, and juvenile law, as well as other sections that may be less relevant for readers of this blog. Below, I note one important legislative change that will come into effect soon.

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News Roundup

I would like to think that the blog is influential, but events this week called that hypothesis into question. Wake County Superior Court Judge Don Stephens ruled that concealed handguns may be prohibited at the State Fair, notwithstanding my suggestion here that the better reading of the law is otherwise. The AP story is here. In other news: Continue reading

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Goin’ to the Courthouse and We’re Gonna Get Married

The impediments to same-sex marriage in North Carolina have fallen like dominos over the past ten days. On Monday, October 6, the United States Supreme Court denied certiorari review in Rainey v. Bostic, No. 14-153, 2014 WL 3924685 (U.S. October 6, 2014), thus declining to reconsider the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ conclusion in Bostic v. Schaefer, 760 F.3d 352 (4th Cir. 2014), that Virginia’s same-sex marriage bans, which are substantively identical to the constitutional and statutory bans in North Carolina, violate the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.  The Fourth Circuit issued its mandate in Bostic later that day. Four days later, United States District Judge for the Western District of North Carolina Max. O. Cogburn, Jr. ruled that North Carolina’s laws prohibiting same-sex marriage were unconstitutional and enjoined the registers of deeds named as defendants in the action pending before him from enforcing the state’s marriage laws to the extent that they prohibit a person from marrying another person of the same gender, prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages lawfully solemnized in other U.S. jurisdictions, or seek to punish clergy or other officiants who solemnize the union of same-sex couples. Minutes after Judge Cogburn issued his ruling—after 5 p.m. on a Friday—registers of deeds issued marriage licenses to eager same-sex couples, and the courthouse weddings began.

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