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News Roundup

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.

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New Bulletin on Pretrial Release in Criminal Domestic Violence Cases

I recently finished a new Administration of Justice Bulletin on Pretrial Release in Criminal Domestic Violence Cases. It is available here as a free download. Through a series of questions and answers, the bulletin discusses pretrial release generally; examines the special rules of pretrial release for domestic violence cases; and explores the mechanics of the 48-hour rule, the impact of violations of these special pretrial release rules, and questions on limitations of authority.

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A Closer Look at the New Misdemeanor DV Crime and the 48-Hour Rule

I previously blogged about the new misdemeanor crime of domestic violence, which will take effect on December 1, 2023. For the new offense, codified as G.S. 14-32.5, a person is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor if that person uses or attempts to use physical force, or threatens the use of a deadly weapon, against another person. The person who commits the offense must have a covered relationship with the victim, as specified by the statute.

While both the new misdemeanor domestic violence statute (G.S. 14-32.5) and the existing domestic violence pretrial release statute (G.S. 15A-534.1) require both a covered offense and a qualifying relationship, the requirements do not mirror one another. This post explores the interplay between the relationships listed under G.S. 14-32.5 and G.S. 15A-534.1.

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Probation Violations and the Pretrial Integrity Act

The Pretrial Integrity Act has been in effect for one month now and has generated several questions about the implications of the new provisions. Some of the most frequently asked questions stem from probation violations, particularly how arrests for probation violations are treated under the new law. This post briefly addresses the two most common questions in this context.

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News Roundup

The Colorado Supreme Court upheld the search of Google users’ keyword history to identify suspects in a 2020 fatal arson fire. The Court cautioned it was not making a “broad proclamation” on the constitutionality of such warrants and emphasized it was ruling on the facts of just this one case. At issue before the court was a search warrant from Denver police requiring Google to provide the IP addresses of anyone who had searched over 15 days for the address of the home that was set on fire, killing five people.

According to this AP News article, one suspect asked the court to throw the evidence out because it violated the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable searches and seizures by being overbroad and not being targeted against a specific person suspected of a crime. The Court ruled that the suspect had a constitutionally protected privacy interest in his Google search history even though it was only connected with an IP address and not his name. While assuming that the warrant was “constitutionally defective” for not specifying an “individualized probable cause,” the Court said it would not throw out the evidence because police were acting in good faith under what was known about the law at the time.

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Pretrial Release Guide Available

The School of Government has published a new resource on initial appearances and pretrial release. Although any judicial official is authorized to preside at an initial appearance, in most cases that official is a magistrate. This guide addresses pretrial release only in the context of magistrates’ authority and limitations.

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News Roundup

On Monday, Illinois became the first state to eliminate cash bail. A provision of the state’s criminal justice reform law was supposed to eliminate the use of cash bail across the state on January 1, but was put on hold after prosecutors and sheriffs in 64 counties filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the law. In a 5-2 ruling in July, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a Kankakee County judge that the law ending cash bail was unconstitutional.

The bill does not limit its application to those newly charged with crimes. Defendants who are currently being held on cash bail are entitled to request a hearing to determine if they should be released. In fact, according to this story, a woman—who is alleged to have assaulted four Chicago police officers on Sunday—was released from custody on the day the cash bail was eliminated.

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More on the New Pretrial Integrity Act

Last month, my colleague Jeanette Pitts blogged about the new Pretrial Integrity Act enacted under S.L. 2023-75 (H 813). Since the bill was passed, I have gotten a few questions about potential issues that might arise once it goes into effect on October 1. This post addresses some of those concerns.

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News Roundup

I am saddened to share news of the tragic shooting that took place on the UNC’s campus Monday, which led to the death of Professor Zijie Yan. Reports of shots fired led to an hours-long lockdown on the campus and public schools nearby. UNC graduate student Tailei Qi, who was a member of Yan’s research group, has been charged with first-degree murder and carrying a gun on an educational campus in connection with the shooting.

Thank you to all who have reached out to us here at the School of Government.

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Midyear Review of Criminal Law Legislation

The North Carolina General Assembly has been hard at work this legislative session, having already passed several bills affecting criminal law and procedure. There are a handful of laws that have already taken effect. As is typically the case, most of the other laws have an effective date of December 1 to allow the courts to prepare for the changes. This post provides a brief summary of the criminal law and related legislation enacted thus far during this legislative session.

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