News Roundup

195 new bills were filed in the North Carolina Senate yesterday, the deadline for filing new bills in that chamber this session. I haven’t reviewed all the new bills – or all the bills filed before yesterday, for that matter.  But a few items of interest include:

  • SB 520, which would expand the state’s indecent exposure law, possibly in response to the recent incident in Charlotte that I noted here
  • SB 579, which would allow the Commissioner of Agriculture to regulate concealed carry at the State Fair
  • SB 589, which would amend the habitual felon laws in a way that appears to be intended to clarify that previous convictions from New Jersey, which uses the term “crime” rather than “felony” as discussed here, would count
  • SB 613, the short title of which is “Prohibit Discriminatory Profiling”
  • SB 619, “Grey’s Law,” which would make various changes related to impaired driving and which I surmise is named after the DOT employee struck and killed just a few days ago
  • SB 641, which would expand eligibility for concealed handgun permits and limit sheriffs’ authority to investigate applicants and to impose application requirements not set forth in the statute
  • SB 684, which would require a judge considering a defendant’s proposed waiver of a jury trial to ask for and consider the State’s position, and determine whether the waiver is being “tendered in good faith and is not a tactic to procure an otherwise impermissible procedural advantage”


Of course, I should not omit mention of SB 559, which would make the Linville Caverns Spider the official state spider. Continue reading

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The Fuel Efficiency of Law Enforcement Vehicles

I live in Durham, where the ELF is built. The ELF is a pedal-and-electric-powered reverse tricycle with an egg-shaped body and a solar panel roof. It is certainly unique. A 360-degree view is available here. Organic Transit, the company that builds the ELF, states that it “gets the equivalent of 1800 m.p.g.”

What does this have to do with criminal law? Well, the company recently introduced the Tactical ELF, designed to “give[] [law enforcement agencies] the tactical advantage for community policing.” An endorsement from Duke’s campus police comments that “It’s like a small patrol car.” I doubt that the ELF is going to be a mainstream law enforcement vehicle anytime soon, but it did get me thinking about the fuel efficiency of law enforcement vehicles generally. This post summarizes what I learned. Continue reading

Discovery and Testimony about an Expert’s Experience with Sexual Abuse Victims

The rules of thumb about expert testimony in child sexual abuse cases are (1) that an expert can’t testify that a child was, in fact, abused absent physical evidence, and (2) that an expert can testify to common characteristics or “profiles” of sexual abuse victims. A recent court of appeals case holds that even if the State doesn’t give notice of an expert’s opinion regarding victims’ characteristics, the expert has the leeway to discuss his or her own experiences with survivors of sexual abuse. Continue reading

Two-Timing on the Weekends is Allowed  . . . and Other Rules for DWI Sentences

Spring is upon us, and today’s post addresses the top five DWI sentencing questions of the season.  Continue reading

When Probation Begins

When a defendant is convicted of more than one crime, there are decisions to be made about how the sentences for those convictions will fit together. Generally speaking, they may be consolidated for judgment, allowed to run concurrently, or set to run consecutively. If at least one of those judgments suspends a sentence and places the defendant on probation, the judge has an additional decision to make regarding when probation begins. Continue reading

News Roundup

I’ve had a couple of inquiries about this WRAL story, which begins: “A Charlotte man who stands at his front door naked is upsetting his neighbors, but police say he is not doing anything illegal.”

Granted, the indecent exposure statute, G.S. 14-190.9, requires that the exposure be in a “public place,” while this individual is inside his own home. However, without commenting on the specific facts of this case, I do not think that being inside one’s own home is necessarily a complete bar to being charged with indecent exposure. Cf. State v. Williams, 190 N.C. App. 676 (2008) (unpublished) (affirming an inmate’s conviction of indecent exposure where he exposed himself using “a food slot visible from the outside walkway” because “a reasonable probability existed that members of the general public [present in the jail] . . . might have witnessed defendant expose himself”); State v. King, 268 N.C. 711 (1966) (holding that the defendant’s car was a “public place” when it was parked in a business’s parking lot). Out of state cases, though of course decided under other statutes, also could support a charge under appropriate facts. See, e.g., State v. Blair, 798 N.W.2d 322 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011) (a defendant who was “facing forward in front of a bay window with the blinds partially pulled up while masturbating” was properly convicted of indecent exposure; “[b]eing in one’s home does not insulate a person from criminal liability for indecent exposure”); Wisneski v. State, 921 A.2d 273 (Md. 2007) (ruling that exposure to casual acquaintances in a living room was sufficiently public to constitute indecent exposure and collecting cases).

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New Crimes Supplement Now Available

North Carolina Crimes is one of the School of Government’s most indispensable criminal law titles. The latest and greatest annual supplement to the book is now available. The new cumulative supplement covers legislation enacted and case law decided from January 1, 2012, through December 31, 2014. Jessie Smith, the author of the main volume, prepared the supplement as well. Continue reading

Not So Fast:  Dismissal of DWI Charges for Failure to Schedule Trial in 30 Days  

Defendants who drive while impaired while their licenses are revoked for another impaired driving offense or who drive while impaired without a license and without car insurance risk more than criminal prosecution. The vehicles they drive must be seized, and, if they are convicted, will be ordered forfeited. To speed up the forfeiture process, DWI cases involving vehicle forfeitures must be scheduled within 30 days of the offense. But they rarely, if ever, are. Are defendants entitled to relief when the statutory scheduling directive is ignored?  And can that relief come in the form of the dismissal of criminal charges? Continue reading

Time Actually Served

A defendant is sentenced to 10–21 months for a Class H felony. How much time will he or she actually serve? What about a Class D felon sentenced to 59–83 months? Continue reading

The State Bar Addresses Lawyers, Judges, and Social Media

The North Carolina State Bar recently adopted 2014 FEO 8, an ethics opinion concerning lawyers’ and judges’ use of social media. The opinion answers some questions, but raises others. Continue reading