Habitual Habituals

North Carolina has a lot of habitual offender laws: habitual felon, violent habitual felon, armed habitual felon, habitual breaking and entering, habitual impaired driving, and habitual misdemeanor assault. A question that comes up is the extent to which these laws may permissibly interact with one another. Today’s post considers a few of the combinations I get asked about from time to time. Continue reading

Plea Bargaining: What Can and Can’t Be on the Table?

Can a prosecutor threaten more serious charges if the defendant refuses to agree to a plea bargain? Can a plea bargain include a promise by the State to be more lenient on the defendant’s wife? Read on for answers. Continue reading

News Roundup

Michael Brown. Eric Garner. Walter Scott. Freddie Gray. The past year has been dominated by news of encounters between police officers and unarmed black citizens that have resulted in tragedy. Sandra Bland is the latest name on the list. She died in jail from what is reported to be a self-inflicted hanging, but the videotape of the traffic stop that led to her arrest has many questioning why the encounter, which began with an officer stopping Bland for failing to use her turn signal, ever resulted in her arrest.

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 Ohio v. Clark: What Does It Mean for Child Protective Services?

[Editor’s note: This post was originally published on the SOG’s civil law blog, On the Civil Side. Nonetheless, given its coverage of Confrontation Clause issues arising from a criminal case, we thought that it would be of interest to many of our readers.]

Last month the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ohio v. Clark, 135 S.Ct. 2173 (2015). The Court determined whether a teacher’s testimony of a child’s statements to her was barred by the Confrontation Clause. My colleague, Jessica Smith, wrote a blog post about the holding and its impact in criminal cases. But, what about the world of child protective services? Continue reading

Hurry Up and Have that DWI Expunged

If you’ve been dragging your feet about having an old DWI expunged, you had better hurry up. A law enacted last week removes convictions for offenses involving impaired driving from the types of convictions that may be expunged. The change is effective for petitions filed or pending on or after December 1, 2015. So if you are eligible for such an expunction, your window of opportunity is closing fast.  Read on to find about the other changes S.L. 2015-150 makes to the state’s DWI laws. Continue reading

NC Court of Appeals Holds that DMV Records Are Non-Testimonial

In my 23-year career as a lawyer no case has had more impact on the criminal justice system than the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Washington. That case radically revamped the analysis that applies for confrontation clause issues, holding that “testimonial” statements by people who don’t testify at trial are not admissible unless the prosecution establishes both unavailability and a prior opportunity to cross-examine. More than 10 year after Crawford, courts are still struggling with the meaning of the key term “testimonial.” In one recent case the Court of Appeals had to decide whether DMV records are testimonial under the new Crawford analysis. Continue reading

Juvenile Code Reform Legislation (HB 879) Becomes Effective December 1, 2015

In a prior post, I wrote about SB 331, which proposed several changes to the delinquency subchapter of the Juvenile Code. That bill didn’t make it. Instead, it became HB 879 (enacted as S.L. 2015-58), which includes several new laws intended to either increase due process protections for juveniles, reduce further entry of juveniles in the delinquency system, or reduce juvenile confinement. Although it’s similar to the prior Senate bill, there are some important differences that you should know about before the new laws become effective on December 1, 2015. One of these laws involves a juvenile age increase, although it’s not quite the change for which “raise the age” advocates were lobbying. Continue reading

News Roundup

I was captivated this week by the escape of drug billionaire Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a maximum-security prison in Mexico. He walked out through a mile-long tunnel that led from his shower to a building beyond prison walls. You can see the inside of the tunnel here. The DEA is saying all the right things but must be just a little miffed about the whole thing, since (1) this is Guzman’s second escape from a Mexican prison, and (2) Mexico denied the United States’ request to extradite Guzman to face charges in the United States, claiming that it was able to ensure his continued confinement.

By coincidence, I recently finished The Cartel, a novel by Don Winslow about Mexico’s war on drugs. It starts with a Sinaloan kingpin’s escape from a maximum security prison in Mexico, so it’s timely and topical. It’s also bloody and riveting. Continue reading

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Limits on Defendants’ Courtroom Attire

Shea and I have blogged before about and lawyer attire and juror attire. I’ve even touched briefly on defendants’ attire, but none of us have ever addressed a judge’s ability to set minimum clothing standards for defendants. That issue has reared its head in Fayetteville, where a district court judge recently held a defendant in contempt for wearing several large voodoo necklaces. The local news story, with a picture, is here, and a transcript of a recording of the incident is here. Continue reading

Writs for Incarcerated Defendants: Who Drives?

Sometimes a person who is already incarcerated for one crime needs to be prosecuted for another crime. A surprisingly common question, usually from a sheriff’s office, is who is responsible for getting the defendant-inmate to trial? The county that wants the inmate (the requesting county)? Or the county that has the inmate (the custodial county)? Continue reading