News Roundup

The General Assembly passed a $23 billion state budget bill this week that includes provisions likely of interest to blog readers.  In what would be a significant change to the criminal justice system, the proposed budget raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction such that most cases against 16- and 17-year-olds will be handled in the juvenile system, rather than the adult system, beginning in December 2019.  The News Roundup previously noted that the proposal to raise the age had broad support from law makers and criminal justice system stakeholders.  A more controversial provision of the bill cuts roughly $10 million from the administrative and legal services budget of the Department of Justice.  Keep reading for more news. Continue reading

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North Carolina’s Commercial Social Networking Ban for Sex Offenders Is Unconstitutional

In Packingham v. North Carolina, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down G.S. 14-202.5, North Carolina’s ban on sex offenders accessing commercial social networking websites. The law violates the First Amendment. Continue reading

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When is Ignorance of the Law an Excuse?

An ancient maxim of the law is ignorantia juris non excusat, or ignorance of the law does not excuse. Put another way, it is presumed that the public knows the laws, and a defense of ignorance is typically not allowed. This principle is at the heart of the recent decision by the state supreme court in State v. Miller, ___ N.C. ___, (June 9, 2017). Continue reading

Bill Cosby and the Lack of Rule 404(b) Evidence

Over the weekend, the judge presiding over Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial declared a mistrial after the jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict. I hadn’t followed the case very closely and my knee-jerk reaction was, “wait, fifty women have accused this guy of sexual assault and he didn’t get convicted?” As I thought more about it, I began to wonder how many accusers — other than Andrea Constand, the alleged victim in the case — were allowed to testify against Cosby. It turns out that it was only one. Continue reading

News Roundup

On Wednesday, a man with a rifle ambushed Republican members of Congress at a park in Virginia as the lawmakers held a morning baseball practice in preparation for the annual Congressional Baseball Game, which was held yesterday.  Five people were wounded, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was in critical condition at the time of writing.  Two Capitol Police officers engaged the gunman in a shootout where he was fatally injured.  The gunman, James T. Hodgkinson, seemingly was motivated by political animus – he reportedly asked whether the lawmakers were Democrats or Republicans before the attack.  The Washington Post has comprehensive coverage of the incident.  Keep reading for more news.

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SORNA Tier Chart

Over two years ago I said I would someday try to sort North Carolina’s reportable sex crimes into the tiers set out in the federal Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA). Today’s the day. Continue reading

State Supreme Court Issues Significant Rulings on HGN Evidence and Blood Draws in DWI Cases

Two of last week’s opinions from the North Carolina Supreme Court address significant legal issues arising in impaired driving cases. In State v. Godwin, the supreme court reversed the court of appeals, holding that the trial court was not required to explicitly recognize a law enforcement officer as an expert witness before the officer could testify to the results of a Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test.  In State v. Romano, the supreme court upheld the court of appeals’ determination that the withdrawal of blood from an unconscious impaired driving defendant violated the Fourth Amendment, notwithstanding a state statute authorizing this practice. Continue reading

Must a Trial Judge Act as a Gatekeeper Even if Not Asked to Do So?

Here’s a question that arose during a recent class: Suppose that a party in a criminal case seeks to introduce forensic evidence from a discipline of questionable validity, such as bite mark analysis. The lawyer on the other side isn’t aware that the technique has been the subject of scientific criticism and doesn’t object. Must the trial judge nonetheless assess the reliability of the proposed testimony before admitting it? Continue reading

North Carolina Statutory Requirements Concerning How to Conduct Lineups and Show-ups

Live and photo lineups and show-ups implicate constitutional and statutory requirements. This post will focus on the statutory requirements. For constitutional requirements, see pages 594-98 in Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina (5th ed. 2016). Continue reading

News Roundup

Former FBI director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee regarding the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election is without question the biggest news of the week.  CBS News says that bars across the country opened early to serve drinks to customers while they watched the testimony live.  The Chicago Tribune says that workplace productivity was expected to plummet Thursday, much as it does during March Madness, as workers tuned into the testimony at their desks.  Keep reading for more news.

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