This post summarizes the published criminal opinions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on December 5, 2023. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to the present.
Looking to solve court appearance issues in your jurisdiction? Find tools that work for you with the Court Appearance Toolbox! This new, online resource from the UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab has off-the-shelf tools to promote court appearance and improve responses to missed appearances. You’ll find implementation guides, videos, templates, fact sheets, and much more.
The Toolbox includes examples from North Carolina and across the country. Its resources can be adapted for any jurisdiction.
To learn more about the Toolbox and how to use it, join the Lab’s FREE 30-minute webinar on Friday, December 8th at 12:30pm. Register here.
A Wisconsin official who posted a photo of his marked ballot on Facebook during the April 2022 election had felony charges against him dropped Monday. Paul Buzzell, a member of a local school board, faced maximum penalties of 3.5 years behind bars and $10,000 in fines and would have been barred from holding elected office if convicted. Ozaukee County Judge Paul Malloy dismissed the charges against Buzzell, expressing that a state law prohibiting voters from showing their marked ballots to anyone else is in violation of the constitutional right to freedom of speech.
According to this AP article, there has been movement in other states in favor of allowing “ballot selfies.” In New Hampshire, a federal judge held that a state law barring an individual’s right to publish their ballot violated the First Amendment. Legislators in Michigan changed state law in 2019 to make ballot selfies legal. The Wisconsin Senate passed a bill in 2020 to legalize ballot selfies, but the proposal died in the state Assembly.
Keep reading for more criminal law news.
One of the central differences between delinquency matters and criminal matters is that juvenile records are not subject to public inspection. This includes juvenile court records (G.S. 7B-3000(b)); all law enforcement records and files concerning juveniles, unless jurisdiction has been transferred to superior court (G.S. 7B-3001(b)); and all records and files maintained by the Division of Juvenile Justice (G.S. 7B-3001(c)). Part II of Session Law 2023-114 adds a new G.S. 7B-3103 to the Juvenile Code to establish a limited exception to the confidentiality of juvenile records. It allows the release of juvenile information to the public under certain circumstances. This new law applies to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2023.
Consider a fact pattern that takes place every day, all across the country: a police officer stops a motorist for a traffic infraction, runs the motorist’s license through a computer database and finds nothing exceptional, and returns the driver’s license and registration, perhaps along with a warning or a citation. The officer then asks the driver for consent to search the driver’s car. The driver consents and the officer finds drugs. Did the officer do anything wrong in this situation? Are the drugs subject to suppression? The answers depend on whether the traffic stop ended when the officer returned the driver’s license. As a recent case shows, that can be a complex determination.
My colleague Jeff Welty recently wrote about S.L. 2023-123 and changes to our death by drug distribution laws. He mentioned changes to the mandatory drug trafficking fines for certain drugs there, but I wanted to follow up on that point with the details. The new law, with new fines for certain controlled substances, takes effect on December 1, 2023. This post examines the coming changes to drug trafficking fines. Consistent with my defender-focused role, it also explores potential constitutional issues defenders might consider raising in cases where the new fines apply.
The Supreme Court announced on Monday its adoption of a Code of Conduct setting out the ethics rules and principles that guide the justices. In a statement accompanying the rules, the Court stated that for the most part, the provisions were not new as the Court historically has been governed by “common law ethics rules” derived from a variety of sources. The Court stated that it was adopting the Code to “dispel” the “misunderstanding” that justices regard themselves as unrestricted by ethics rules. Adoption of the ethics rules did not quell the criticism related to recent reports of gifts and benefits bestowed on some justices and critics were quick to point out that the new code lacks an enforcement mechanism.