News Roundup

The AOC announced here that 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of North Carolina’s unified court system, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and the district courts.  Next year, the Court of Appeals celebrates its 50th anniversary while the superior court marks 240 years of existence.  The Supreme Court will have been around for two centuries in 2019.  For the few who forgot these important milestones, shame on you but there’s still time to do something nice for the court or administrative office that holds a special place in your heart – maintain proper decorum in the courtroom, strive to preserve the record for appellate review, clarify and reorganize those statutes that the court has been grumbling about.  Here’s to all the folks who work hard to keep our court system running smoothly.  Let’s roundup the other news of the week:

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All the Possible Sentences

Let’s brainstorm all the possible sentences for a Prior Record Level I defendant convicted of two Class H felonies. I’ll go first, listing my thoughts roughly from most to least severe (from the defendant’s point of view). Continue reading

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Put Down that Mobile Phone

There is a ban on hand-held mobile phone use by drivers in North Carolina. And there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of it.

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Interpreting Sex Offender Consequence Laws: Contact with Minors

A few years ago I began tracking and compiling the consequences that attach to an offense subject to sex offender registration (a registrable offense). In preparation for an upcoming course, I just updated my Consequences Paper.

The list of consequences continues to grow. So, too, has litigation over them. A recent court of appeals decision, State v. Barnett (Jan. 19, 2016), considered the limits on the court’s authority to enter a no-contact order against a person convicted of a registrable offense. (Jamie Markham wrote a blog post about another aspect of the decision—whether attempted rape is an aggravated offense and subject to stricter registration and monitoring requirements. It isn’t.) Continue reading

Body Cameras and the Mosaic Theory of the Fourth Amendment

Many law enforcement officers, including those in five of North Carolina’s six largest cities, are or soon will be wearing body cameras. The prevailing view is that the use of such cameras doesn’t constitute a Fourth Amendment search because the cameras record only what an officer is already able to see. This post considers whether the increasing adoption of body cameras and other data-collection technologies could eventually result in body camera recordings being considered searches under the so-called mosaic theory of the Fourth Amendment. Continue reading

News Roundup

The anti-government occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge appears to be winding down this week with The Oregonian reporting here that the “ragtag remnants” of the occupying group seem to be surrendering or leaving.  The dissolution of the occupation follows the arrests earlier this week of the group’s leaders and the killing of the group’s de facto spokesman.   In other news:

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So You Want to Be a District Court Judge?

A few election seasons ago, a campaign sign advocating “Denning for Judge” was posted in our neighborhood. My son noticed it on the way home from school and said, “Mom:  Is Dad running for judge?”  “No, he isn’t,” I said.  Then, in a moment of pique, I said, “Actually, your dad isn’t qualified to be a judge. But I am.” Since I’ve obviously done such a great job teaching civics (and equal rights) to my children, I thought I’d share a bit with you about the selection, qualifications, and work of a North Carolina district court judge—a group of judicial officials with whom I frequently work. Continue reading

Update on U.S. Supreme Court’s Ruling in Rodriguez v. United States Concerning Extension of Traffic Stops

Last April, the United States Supreme Court in Rodriguez v. United States, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015), significantly limited the scope of a traffic stop. The officer in Rodriguez completed a traffic stop for driving on the shoulder of a highway after checking the vehicle registration and driver’s licenses of the driver and passenger, conducting a warrant check, returning all documents, and issuing the driver a warning ticket. The officer then asked the driver for consent to walk his drug dog around the vehicle, but the driver refused to give his consent. Nonetheless, the officer told the driver to turn off the ignition, leave the vehicle, and wait for a second officer. When the second officer arrived, the first officer walked his drug dog around the car, and the dog alerted to the presence of drugs. A search of the vehicle revealed methamphetamine. Seven to eight minutes had elapsed from the time the officer issued the written warning until the dog’s alert. Continue reading

Miller v. Alabama Applies Retroactively (and Then Some?)

The Supreme Court held Monday that the rule from Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012), applies retroactively. In Miller, the Court held that a sentencing regime that makes life without parole mandatory for a murder committed by a defendant under the age of 18 is cruel and unusual punishment. In Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. __ (2016), the Court said that rule likewise applies to defendants whose cases were final before Miller was decided on June 25, 2012. Continue reading

Fourth Circuit Issues a Major Opinion on the Use of Tasers

On January 11, 2016, the Fourth Circuit decided Armstrong v. Village of Pinehurst, a major case concerning the use of tasers by law enforcement officers. The opinion is here. This post summarizes the opinion and explores its implications. Continue reading