State v. Williford:  Gumshoes, Trash, Parking Lots and DNA

Kathy Taft was bludgeoned and raped on March 5, 2010, as she lay in the bedroom of a friends’ home in Raleigh recovering from surgery.  She died four days later.  Raleigh police tracked down her killer, Jason Williford, through what then-police chief Harry Dolan called “gumshoe detective work”:  They collected and tested trash discarded by neighborhood men who refused to provide samples of their DNA. Continue reading

Updated Paper on Traffic Stops

I’ve recently updated my paper on traffic stops. As before, it covers stops from start to finish, including the legal standard for making a stop, the length of a stop, and investigative techniques that may be used during a stop. I may need to update it again after the Supreme Court decides United States v. Rodriguez, but it is current for now and is available as a free PDF here.

New and Improved Sentencing Handbook, Now Including DWIs

A new publication, the North Carolina Sentencing Handbook with Felony, Misdemeanor, and DWI Sentencing Grids, 2014–2015, is available from the School of Government.Sentencing_handbook_cover The booklet updates last year’s North Carolina Structured Sentencing Handbook. Like its predecessor, it contains instructions on felony sentencing (including drug trafficking) and misdemeanor sentencing, the sentencing grids themselves, and various appendices that may be helpful in your work. Continue reading

When Reasonable Suspicion Is Dispelled

A traffic stop is valid if it is supported by reasonable suspicion. During a valid traffic stop, an officer may demand the driver’s license and registration, may run a computer check based on those documents, and so on. But what if the reasonable suspicion supporting the stop dissipates soon after the stop is made? Continue reading

News Roundup

President Obama delivered the annual State of the Union address this week, and the Washington Post reports here that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg seized the moment to take her annual State of the Union nap. Hopefully this news roundup will keep everyone awake! Continue reading

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Beards Behind Bars

My choice of topic for today’s post may or may not have been influenced by the fact that I’m growing a beard. Reviews are mixed, ranging from nonspecific acknowledgment (“You have a beard!”) to good-natured derision (“Did you lose a bet?”). Jeff says I’m a pair of skinny jeans away from becoming a hipster. Kidding aside, today’s post is about the serious subject of whether prison officials must permit an inmate to grow a beard in accordance with his sincere religious beliefs. The Supreme Court held this week in Holt v. Hobbs that they must. Continue reading

What to Do with the Impaired Drivers We’ve Stopped—And the Ones We Haven’t

DWI arrests in North Carolina’s capital city are on the rise. The Wake County district attorney’s office expects to prosecute around 7,000 DWI cases this fiscal year—2,000 more than it handled in 2013-14.  The increased arrests result from beefed up patrol activity made possible by federal grants. And there is some speculation that the decline in fatal alcohol-related accidents in Raleigh from the previous year may be related to the additional arrests. Yet people continue to drive while impaired in Raleigh and elsewhere in North Carolina, sometimes with tragic consequences. And every DWI charge adds a court case to an already crowded district court docket. I wonder: Can we prosecute away the risks posed by impaired drivers? Continue reading

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New Limits on Forfeiture

On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced major new limits on asset forfeiture. In a nutshell, he put a stop to the federal civil forfeiture of assets seized by state and local law enforcement and “adopted” under the Equitable Sharing program. The details are a little fuzzy, but this may be a very big deal in the world of forfeiture, for reasons I discuss below. Continue reading

News Roundup

Last Friday, the Criminal Justice Section of the North Carolina Bar Association presented its annual awards for excellence in prosecution and criminal defense. The prosecutor award went to Assistant United States Attorney Sandra Hairston, who serves in the Middle District of North Carolina and who regularly outlawyered me when I was doing federal criminal defense work. The defense attorney award went to Mark Owens, Jr. of Greenville, who this NCBA press release describes as the “elder statesman” of the Pitt County bar. Congratulations to both winners. Continue reading

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New Probation CRV Centers Open

Have you ever eaten cake decorated with the name of a prison facility? I hadn’t until a few weeks ago, when I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Division of Adult Correction’s new CRV Center in Robeson County. CRV_cake1I’m glad I made the trip down to Lumberton—not just because of the cake (which turned out to be pretty good), but also because of what I learned about DAC’s vision for its new form of confinement for probation violators. Today’s post is intended to pass some of that information along to the judges and prosecutors who will send probationers to the CRV centers, and to the defense lawyers who will advise their clients about what to expect there. Continue reading