In December, the North Carolina Supreme Court decided State v. Atwell, 2022-NCSC-135, ___ N.C. ___ (2022)—its third time weighing in on the issue of forfeiture of counsel. The defendant had had five court-appointed attorneys when the trial court determined that the defendant was engaging in delay tactics and entered an order of forfeiture. A majority of the Court of Appeals found no error. In reversing this decision, a majority of the Supreme Court concluded that the record did not show that the defendant engaged in the level of conduct sufficient to warrant a finding of forfeiture.
This post discusses State v. Atwell, forfeiture guidelines as set forth by the state Supreme Court, and suggested practices in dealing with forfeiture of counsel issues. Continue reading →
It’s the most wonderful time of the year: legislative summaries are now available.
Though the North Carolina General Assembly has not yet adjourned, it does not expect to have votes during any of the sessions held for the remainder of the year. Nevertheless, there can always be surprises.
For now, you can read summaries of all of the criminal law and related legislation enacted during the 2022 legislative session here. Each summary provides a brief description of the act in question along with a link to the text of the act and, where available, links to blogs my colleagues and I wrote.
If any new bills are chaptered before the year is out, I will update the document accordingly. In the meantime, feel free to email me with any questions or comments.
What do you typically think of when you hear the word “strangulation”? If you are like most people, the word probably triggers a mental image of hands around someone’s throat. Thinking forward to the aftereffects of strangulation, you might imagine bruises around a person’s neck, redness, scratches, or other visible signs of injury.
Although those are common results, it is not uncommon for a person to present with no external injuries after having been strangled. Rather, a person could potentially be suffering from serious internal injuries. If overlooked, internal injuries can result in severe or permanent conditions.
North Carolina’s strangulation law requires both that the perpetrator “strangle” the victim and inflict “physical injury.” This post explores the meaning of those elements, the potential issues that may arise in applying them, and the approach other jurisdictions take toward the crime of strangulation. The post closes with some observations about whether North Carolina’s current definition of strangulation adequately addresses the ways in which the crime may occur.
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I’m happy to announce the publication of my new bulletin, Units of Prosecution: Charging Multiple Counts for the Same Conduct. The bulletin explores a common issue that arises in various contexts: when does conduct constitute one continuing offense and when does conduct constitute more than one offense? Continue reading →
The North Carolina General Assembly recently passed S.L. 2022-30 (S 766) which increases the penalties for organized retail theft, provides additional penalties for damage to property or assault of a person during the commission of organized retail theft, and clarifies the procedure for the return of seized property to the lawful owner. The new criminal provisions go into effect on December 1, 2022 and apply to offenses committed on or after that date. Continue reading →
The North Carolina General Assembly recently passed S.L. 2022-8 which makes various changes to the existing arson laws. The new criminal provisions go into effect on December 1, 2022 and apply to offenses committed on or after that date. The law includes a savings clause which provides that prosecutions for offenses committed before the effective date are not abated or affected by this act, and the statutes that would be applicable but for this act remain applicable to those prosecutions. Continue reading →
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on May 17, 2022. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present. Continue reading →
I am an avid watcher of television legal dramas—although I can’t say whether that is because of or in spite of my profession. Even so, it is easy for me to pick up on the unrealistic portions of those shows: the ease of gathering evidence, the speed with which perpetrators are caught, the overall swiftness of the trial—the entire process usually being completed within 45 minutes. I also tend to pick up on some of the more realistic, practical aspects of the shows: the differing types of offenses, the potential constitutional issues that may arise, and the corollary offenses that attach during the process.
One of the most common and possibly most overlooked corollary offenses is witness intimidation. The perpetrators almost always engage in some sort of interference but are rarely charged in the shows. That may be because there is already so much content to fit within a 45-minute time frame. But in real-world practice, it could also be because witness intimidation is not always as straightforward as one might think. This post analyzes North Carolina’s witness intimidation law as proscribed by G.S. 14-226, as well as other issues and nuances that may arise in this context.
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This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on March 1, 2022. These summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present. Continue reading →
I am excited to announce the release of a new guide on Defining “Injury” for North Carolina Assault and Other Offenses. Continue reading →