This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on July 20, 2021. As always, these summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present.
The case is ready for trial and all parties are present. From the bench, the judge makes a final attempt to resolve the case by saying “if we need to do a trial that’s fine, and I can call for a jury right now — but I’m just letting you all know that if the defendant was willing to plead to count 1 and state was willing to dismiss count 2, I’d be inclined to give supervised probation and we could get this case wrapped up today.”
Of course every county and every judge is unique, but most criminal attorneys have at least occasionally experienced some type of participation from the bench in working out a plea. So we know that it happens, but is it actually authorized by our statutes? Should it be? If it is, what are the limits, and what’s fair game for negotiation? Are the judge’s terms binding?
Blame it on the pandemic, I suppose, but somehow I missed this interesting article from March of last year that looked into how often (and why) search warrants are sealed in North Carolina. Former SOG faculty member Michael Crowell was quoted in the article, and his blog post discussing the significance of In re Cooper, 200 N.C. App. 180 (2009) for sealed warrants is available here. I highly recommend reading both, if you haven’t already seen them
Those articles reminded me of a similar issue that I’ve occasionally had questions about, but I don’t think we’ve ever covered on this blog. What about sealed indictments?
Last week, President Biden announced several new executive actions on firearms, including: calling for an updated report on firearms trafficking; nominating a new director for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and ordering the Department of Justice to draft new regulations that will treat handguns equipped with pistol braces as short-barreled rifles under the National Firearms Act, along with publishing a model “red flag” law for states to use as a guide. Jeff Welty and Shea Denning have previously written about red flag laws here and here.
One order in particular seems to be getting a lot of attention: instructing the DOJ to issue a proposed rule within 30 days to address “ghost guns.” I’ve gotten a few questions recently from law enforcement officers and prosecutors about ghost guns and the applicable law, so this post provides a summary of three topics: (i) what are ghost guns; (ii) why are they coming up as an issue now; and (iii) what do our existing state and federal laws say about them?
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on April 6, 2021. As always, these summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present.
Several prior posts on this blog have addressed authenticating and admitting digital evidence like social media posts and text messages (see here, here, here, and here) and we’ve also previously covered the basic rules and requirements for using the business records hearsay exception (see here, here and here), but we’ve not yet explored the questions and issues that arise when those two topics collide.
For example, if the state obtains a complete copy of a suspect’s account records from Facebook, Twitter, or AT&T, including user-generated content such as messages, chats, texts, and posts, can that evidence be admitted as a business record? I recently had an opportunity to talk about digital evidence with prosecutors in several other states, and there are opposing views in different jurisdictions about the correct answer to this question. This post looks at the conflicting interpretations, the North Carolina guidance we have so far, and an interesting alternative approach.
I was recently updating a list of review questions for a course on larceny offenses when I came across a version of this scenario: a woman tells her friend that she left one of her items behind in the store and asks the friend to go retrieve it for her, but in fact the woman never purchased it. If the friend goes back and gets it, what’s the crime and who gets charged?
The question usually prompts a good discussion about conventional charging options like conspiracy, acting in concert, aiding and abetting, or being an accessory. Phil Dixon wrote this helpful post summarizing the most common theories of principal liability and their pleading requirements, but none of those are a perfect fit for these facts. The woman wasn’t present at the scene and didn’t personally take the item, and the friend was unaware of what was happening so there was no common purpose or criminal intent on her part.
I think the best answer is the rarely mentioned “other” theory of principal liability we have in North Carolina: Acting Indirectly, also known as the Innocent Agent doctrine.
As I write this post, news headlines continue to be dominated by coverage of the violence that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Dozens of people have been charged with crimes so far, and many others are being actively investigated for offenses including curfew violations, property crimes, assault, and possessing unlawful weapons or explosives. Perhaps the most striking allegation, and the one which will serve as the basis for a new article of impeachment against the president, is “insurrection.”
The criminal courts, or Congress in the case of impeachment, will decide whether the defendants are guilty of those offenses. But it made me wonder, particularly in light of new warnings about similar events occurring at state capitols in the days ahead, what does our law say about insurrection in North Carolina?
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on December 31, 2020. The summaries were prepared by Shea Denning, Jamie Markham, Chris Tyner, Gabrielle Supak, and Jonathan Holbrook. As always, these summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present.
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Supreme Court released on December 18, 2020. The summaries were prepared by Shea Denning, Chris Tyner, and Jonathan Holbrook. As always, these summaries will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present.
This is the final post for 2020. The blog will return after January 4, 2021.